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To most guys, getting bigger biceps equals doing more curls, but if it were really that simple, everyone would have guns like Mr. Olympia. The curl may be the king of the biceps builders, but it’s not the only way to work them hard—and we’re not about to suggest more chin-ups or rows, either. There’s a gymnastics move called the Maltese cross hold that, with a little modification, absolutely smokes the biceps, and works the chest, too.
The normal Maltese hold that gymnasts do has you suspend yourself on rings, parallel to the floor, with your arms extended by your sides. Obviously, this is brutally difficult and requires tremendous strength and years of practice. But performing the move standing gives you plenty of benefits.
While it may look like a chest exercise alone, the modified Maltese cross hold stresses the biceps, as they prevent your elbows from extending. Various straight-arm holds like this are one of the reasons gymnasts have such impressive arms, and, of course, they provide some extra work for your chest and shoulders.
Attach rings or a suspension trainer overhead and set the handles at shoulder width, just above hip height. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, grasp the handles. Tense your whole body—particularly the lats, abs, and glutes— and reach your arms out to your sides. Keep a slight bend in your elbows and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your pecs. It will look like the bottom position of a flye. Try to hold it for 3–5 sets of 10–30 seconds.
Make sure you’re warmed up, then start with your body on a steep angle. You can risk an elbow injury if you try to push it too hard on Maltese cross holds.
Two more unconventional biceps builders:
1. KETTLEBELL CURL
Hold a kettlebell in each hand and squeeze the handles as you curl so the bell doesn’t hang during the curl but stays in the same plane as your wrist. When you get tired, let the kettlebell drop against the back of your wrist and continue curling as normal.
2. DRAG CURL
Hold a barbell at arm’s length and draw your elbows back as you curl so that you drag the bar up the front of your body. The movement should be very strict.