September 26, 2014

Training Your Biceps Effectively

By: Geoff Rubin, Fitness Propelled, CPT/CIFT/TRX II

I think it would be fair to say that many of us training fanatics are “Biceps” obsessed.   “Over the past several years , biceps exercises have ranked among the Top 10 most searched moves on Google’s annual Zeitgeist list” (Idea fitness Journal). With such an obsession over that bulging bump in our right and left arms, I felt it interesting to report on a study that examined the effectiveness of eight of the most popular movements used to work the biceps brachii.

The Study, conducted by John Porcari, PhD at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, compiled a listing of exercises that targeted the biceps. These exercises were the cable curl, barbell curl, concentration curl, chin-up, EZ curl (both wide and narrow grip), incline curl and finally the preacher curl.

Examining, 16 healthy female and male volunteers ages 18-24. Researchers set a baseline by having the subjects complete a one-repetition maximum (1RM) for each movement. Electrodes were fixed onto the biceps brachii, anterior deltoid and brachioradialis of each subject as to measure the total muscle activity via a wireless electromyography (EMG) machine. Then, subjects completed a maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) by performing an isometric one-arm cable curl. Finally, researchers randomly assigned four more biceps exercises for the subjects to complete in order to garner the data for their study.

The Results:

Compared to the rest, the concentration curl came out on top, eliciting nearly 90% MVC, with the preacher curl showing as the least effective. According to Porcari, it is important to note that when training the biceps, other muscles such as the anterior deltoid and brachioradialis can become recruited in the lift, effectively taking a portion of the load away from the biceps and hence reducing the effectiveness of the lift. This is where teaching proper lifting form while promoting each type of biceps curl is essential.

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  • Idea Fitness Journal – September 2014
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About Geoff Rubin