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Health and Fitness Tips
Biceps of Steel
Now that the New Year is upon us, I want to help you focus on making your arms look their best for shorts sleeve shirts and tank-tops this Spring and Summer. So let's workout biceps this month.
Without a doubt, biceps building is the favorite subject of virtually all body sculptors. There are over 40 commonly used biceps exercises, we will focus on three that work the entire muscle.
Understanding the Biceps Muscle
There are two muscle groups located at the front of the upper arm, and they both contract to flex the arm fully from a straight position. The smallest of these muscles is called the brachialis, a thin muscle between the biceps and triceps when you display your upper arm from the rear. The brachialis muscle runs only about halfway up the humerus bone above the elbow. It can best be contracted when you have your palm toward the floor doing barbell reverse curls.
The biceps are much larger in mass than the brachialis muscle, and it is the primary muscle group responsible for bending the arm. With an origin near the shoulder joint and insertions on the forearm bones, the biceps can contract to fully bend the arm from a straight position.
The other important function of biceps contraction is to supinate the hand. Bend your right arm so your forearm is parallel with the floor; this is called a pronated hand position, and the act of rotating your hand is called pronation. Next, rotate your wrist so your palm is facing upward; this is called a supinated position, and the act of rotating your hand to this position is called supination. Supination, of course, is the second function of your biceps.
Before tackling your biceps workout remember to perform ten minutes of stretching exercises and twenty to thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise. I encourage my clients to perform lower cardiovascular exercises, like the stairmaster or stationary bike, to save the upper body strength for lifting.
Standing Barbell Curls
The squat of biceps exercises, standing barbell curls are the most basic, and possibly the most effective,
of all biceps movements. Not only do they strongly stress the biceps muscle, but also the powerful flexor muscles on the inner sides of the forearm.
Take a shoulder-width undergrip on a moderately heavy barbell. In the starting position, this grip has the palms facing away from the body. With your lifting belt on and feet set about shoulder-width apart, stand erect with your arms hanging straight down at sides and the barbell resting across your upper thighs. Press your upper arms against the sides of your torso and hold them in this position throughout the exercise.
Moving only your forearms, use biceps strength to move the barbell across your upper thighs in a semicircular arc to a point just below your chin. For the entire movement, you should keep your wrists straight. Lower the weight slowly back to the starting point and repeat the movement for a total of ten reps, and do three sets.
Dumbbell Concentration Curls
The entire biceps is stressed, with additional results seen in the center peak of the biceps.
Grasp a relatively light dumbbell in your left hand. Stand near a high, flat bench or dumbbell rack. Place your right hand on the bench or rack to brace your torso at about a 45-degree angle in relation to the floor. Hang your left arm directly down from your shoulder and straighten it completely. Be sure to keep your upper left arm completely motionless throughout the exercise.
Being sure to fully supinate your hand, slowly curl the dumbbell up to your shoulder. Pause for a second in the peak contracted position. Lower the dumbbell back to the starting point, and repeat for ten total reps and do three sets.
Preacher Barbell Curls
All variations of this movement are tremendous for filling-in the lower biceps. Secondary stress is felt by the brachialis and forearm flexors.
Take an undergrip on a barbell with your hands set slightly wider on each side than the width of your shoulders. Bend your arms fully, then lean over the top of a preacher bench and run your upper arms directly down the angled surface of the bench. Your forearms should be placed on the bench a little narrower than your width of grip on the bar. Slowly straighten your arms.
Use your biceps strength to slowly curl the bar from the starting point to a position just at the base of your throat. Deliberately lower the weight back to the starting point and repeat for 10 total reps, and do three sets.
In a survey conducted by Men's Health magazine, the majority of those surveyed said that next to a sculpted chest, big and toned arms were the most important body part to have "in-shape."
So, keep working on those biceps for a grand reveal this Spring.
Rick Gusler is a certified personal trainer and diet nutritionist who serves his clients through Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center in central Denver. To schedule a free consultation, or to learn more about the Gusler method of body sculpting, spin yoga, or Rick's Boot Camp, please contact him at 303.860.7131 or online at www.guslerbodysculpting.com.
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