This should come as no surprise, but if you want to develop awe-inspiring biceps, you have to curl. Unlike every other bodypart, with the exception of calves, biceps can be built with only one type of exercise: curls. There are, however, a number of variations to the curling movement, each one providing a unique type of resistance and each one good for developing the biceps in a different way. Using three exercises, you can hit the biceps from every angle and focus on building mass, density and shape.
When it comes to building sheer mass, there is no better exercise than the barbell cheat curl. I would start the movement with a barbell at thigh level, shoulder-width grip, and nudge it into motion with a slight “kick” from my body. I’d choose a weight that was too heavy for me to curl using strict form, but not so heavy that I had to rely solely on body English to get the weight from point A to point B. The idea behind cheat curls is to get the barbell past your sticking points and let your muscles get stressed fully at the points where they would normally find the exercise easy. Because you’re stronger during the negative phase of a lift, the heavier weight used for cheat curls also lets you work the biceps during the all-important downward half of the movement.
INCLINE DUMBBELL CURL
Dumbbell curls performed on a bench set at a 45-degree angle are great for making the biceps grow. Unlike cheat curls, you feel tension throughout the entire range of motion when doing incline dumbbell curls. This exercise should also be performed more slowly and in a more controlled manner than cheat curls. When you get to the top of the movement, really squeeze your biceps and hold for a second. Envision your biceps as boulders as you flex them, knowing that the harder you flex, the denser they will become.
If you’ve seen the film Pumping Iron, then you’ve seen me performing this exercise. It has long been one of my favorites because of the way it enables me to isolate my biceps. Also, because of the downward angle of the working arm, the exercise produces an incredible pump. Some people prefer to do these sitting on a bench with an arm draped across an inner thigh. This is fine, as long as you don’t lean back too far to assist the movement of the dumbbell.
When I perform these, I stand and brace myself with one hand on a bench and the working hand holding the weight hanging free. For me, that’s the optimal way to perform concentration curls. It ensures that I can fully contract my biceps at the top of the movement, which is the main goal of this exercise.
With these three curling movements in your arsenal, you can’t help but build the kind of biceps that look as good onstage as they do on a beach. Remember: for big biceps, you’ve got to curl, curl, curl! - FLEX
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER'S CURLING ROUTINE
BARBELL CHEAT CURLS (warm up): 1 set; 15 reps
BARBELL CHEAT CURLS: 5 sets; 8-12 reps
INCLINE DUMBBELL CURLS: 5 sets; 8-12 reps
CONCENTRATION CURLS: 5 sets; 8-12 reps