Build Killer Biceps
Who knew the smallest of muscles can summon some of the greatest workouts? Try these killer sessions and watch your biceps grow by bounds.
By Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS
Photos of Steve Cook by Robert Reiff
Shock and awe. For most major muscle groups, crushing the bodypart with heavy weight is enough to spark serious change. But when it comes to the smaller muscles like the biceps, load will only get you so far down the road of progress. After all, we’re talking pretty small muscles compared to the “majors.” It’s for that reason that we’ve designed this month’s killer series. We take load seriously, no doubt, but we deliver it with techniques and tactics you’ve never tried. Elements of training that when combined with intensity actually produce better results than you imagined. We’ve even taken methods that sound familiar to you into uncharted territory. And “uncharted territory” is exactly how you’ll describe your arms when you’re done.
KILLER BICEPS “BUDDY STYLE” WORKOUT NO. 1
Getting creative with biceps can serve as a rude awakening for one of the smaller muscles in the body. But since it’s a muscle that has such a huge impact on your overall physique, let’s allow creativity to do its work. Grab your training partner and get started. Our first killer workout is steeped in an old-school tactic: buddy style.
If you’ve never done buddy curls before, it basically has you perform a 1:1 ratio of reps to rest. For example, on a standard buddy set of barbell curls, you’ll select a weight with which you’ll reach failure at around 10 reps. Do one rep, then pass the bar to your training partner. He’ll do his rep, then hand the bar back to you for two reps. Hand it back to him for two reps, then it’s back to you for three reps, and so on and so forth, until you reach 10 reps on your last set. After a brief rest period, you then work backward, starting with a set of 10 and working downward to one rep. If you do the math, that’s a lot of work. Probably more work for biceps than you’ve done in quite some time, if ever.
Similar to the rest-pause method, the buddy system is a simple (and brutal) concept that takes advantage of your body’s rapid-recovery energy systems. When you start a heavy set of curls, you rely primarily on phospho-creatine (PC), the primary energy source stored in skeletal muscle that fuels short, powerful bursts of activity. PC depletes rapidly, but fortunately it also replenishes rapidly, usually in 10 to 20 seconds. The main benefit of employing the buddy system is that you’ll have lifted more total pounds in a given set simply by mixing in these calculated rest periods.
Now, for most of the moves in this killer workout, you don’t have to hand over the weight to your partner. You can be on one bench and your partner can be on another. Verbal and nonverbal cues can be used to initiate or signal when it’s your turn to go.
For this buddy-system biceps blitz, each exercise will only be performed up to 10 reps each and then back down to one. After you’ve both arrived back at one rep, it’s time to switch exercises after a two- to three-minute — and well-deserved — rest. Finally, because of the number of killer reps you’re hitting, select a weight that equals roughly 50 percent of your 10 RM.