Anatomy of the Biceps
The muscle most prominent when someone flexes their guns in the classic “which way is the beach?” pose is the biceps brachii. It belongs to a group of muscles comprising what’s called the anterior compartment of the upper arm. There, you’ll also find the brachialis and the coracobrachialis. We’re going to focus on the first two, which are the prime movers in bending, or flexion, of your elbow.
The biceps brachii is by far the larger of the two flexors, but the brachialis, located underneath it toward the outside of the upper arm, is actually the stronger flexor. That’s due to its proximity to the elbow, making it the prime mover during a biceps curl.
While stretched over the humerus, the biceps brachii isn’t actually attached to it. It’s comprised of two heads — short and long — that flex the arm at the elbow and the shoulder, as well as rotate, or supinate, the hand into a palm-up position. Both heads attach at the scapula, fusing together toward the bottom of the humerus at the upper forearm.
The two muscles are so intermingled, any moves you would perform to hit your biceps brachii will also qualify as brachialis exercises.
1. Standing Curl
The standing curl is the foundation of a biceps-building routine. Start with feet together or with one foot in front and one foot in back if you need more stability. With your arms fully extended at your sides holding a barbell or dumbbell, keep your elbows tucked in close to your body, and slowly curl the weight(s) up. At the top of the curl, squeeze your biceps and slowly lower the weight(s) back down. Make sure to keep your elbows close to your body and don’t let them move at all during your rep.
2. Alternating Dumbbell Curl
Stand (torso upright) with a dumbbell in each hand held at arms length. The elbows should be close to the torso and the palms of your hand should be facing your thighs.
While holding the upper arm stationary, curl the right weight as you rotate the palm of the hands until they are facing forward. At this point continue contracting the biceps as you breathe out until your biceps is fully contracted and the dumbbells are at shoulder level. Hold the contracted position for a second as you squeeze the biceps. Tip: Only the forearms should move.
Slowly begin to bring the dumbbell back to the starting position as your breathe in. Tip:Remember to twist the palms back to the starting position (facing your thighs) as you come down.
Repeat the movement with the left hand. This equals one repetition.
Continue alternating in this manner for the recommended amount of repetitions.
3. Hammer Curl
Stand up with your torso upright and a dumbbell on each hand being held at arms length. The elbows should be close to the torso.The palms of the hands should be facing your torso. This will be your starting position.Now, while holding your upper arm stationary, exhale and curl the weight forward while contracting the biceps. Continue to raise the weight until the biceps are fully contracted and the dumbbell is at shoulder level. Hold the contracted position for a brief moment as you squeeze the biceps. Tip: Focus on keeping the elbow stationary and only moving your forearm.After the brief pause, inhale and slowly begin the lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.
This compound exercise works your biceps, latissimus dorsi, and abdominal muscles, among others. With your palms facing you, put your hands on a chin-up bar, shoulder-width apart, engage your lats, and pull your body up so that your chin goes over the bar. Lower yourself back down so that your arms are completely extended. Repeat. While doing a chin-up, make sure to keep your muscles engaged so that you don’t stress your skeletal structure and its connective tissues.If you cannot do a chin-up on your own, do not fret! Try using the P90X Chin-Up Max, which allows you to adjust the amount of support you get so you can work your way up to unassisted reps.
5. Supinated Bent-Over Rows
The supinated bent-over row works the biceps, the latissimus dorsi, the hamstrings, and some of the muscles in the back. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on a barbell or with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing away from your body. Bend over so that you feel your hamstrings engage. Keep your back flat and chest expanded and pull the barbell into your body until it is just below your chest as if you were rowing. Lower the weight(s) back down and repeat.