Bombing the Biceps With High Intensity Training

Article by Dave Groscup, IART/Med-Ex HIT Trainer

The Biceps are the most trained muscle group and are the standard when it comes to demonstrating muscular development. Just ask any bodybuilder to show you their muscle and they will no doubt flex their arm in a Biceps pose. New weight training enthusiasts spend hours performing endless sets and reps to try and build arms like their favorite bodybuilding champion. Unfortunately they are severely overtraining, which is going to give them poor results, if any.

The arm muscles receive plenty of stimulation from their involvement in back, chest and shoulder training which needs to be taken into consideration to avoid excessive training. The key is to determine the proper amount of exercise sets/reps to use for maximum muscle growth. There are different training protocols; I favor the HIT, High Intensity protocol. This is the most efficient method for building arms, or any muscle group, fast.

Which exercises are best? I recommend a combination of isolation, or single joint, and compound, or multi-joint exercises. Select exercises that will focus efforts on different areas of your arm muscles. For Triceps, do overhead extension movements, short range exercises like kickbacks and pressing movements like close-grip bench presses.

Biceps benefit from training them with concentration curls, barbell curls, machine curls, preacher curls and various rope handle curls. Some great compound exercises are palms-facing pull-downs and palms-forward barbell rows.

The Too Easy Ez-Curl

The Biceps are responsible for two important functions, bringing the forearm up to the shoulder and pronating the wrist. Pronation is the action of bringing your pinky finger out to your shoulder while curling. The ez-curl bar is a popular bar to use for curling. The problem with this bar is elimination of wrist pronation, which short-circuits your Biceps training results. Use an ez-curl bar for Triceps training as it eases stress on the wrist but avoid it for Biceps training.

My training routines require intense effort because each set is carried to muscular failure and some of them past this level using HIT variables like forced reps, negatives and the like.

Weight Selection

Generally, the heavier the weight used in an exercise the greater the muscle growth. If poor form is used to allow heavier weights, there is a much greater chance of injury because of the increased pressure on the joints and ligaments. A better method of weight selection is to use a resistance that allows the desired rep count or time under tension using perfect form. Concentrate the weight on the muscle by focusing on training the muscle and not on lifting the weight. Remember , we are bodybuilding and not weight lifting. In the following routines all sets should end at the point where no additional reps can be completed.

Some great routines to build your arm muscles fast with HIT are:

Routine #1

  • Machine Curls-1×10 reps plus 4 forced reps
  • Palms-facing Pull-downs-1×12 reps plus 6 static holds at several different locations in the exercise

Routine #2

  • Incline Dumbbell Curls-1×10 reps plus 4 negative-only reps
  • Use a partner to lift the dumbbells so you can lower them, only at the end of the set.
  • Palms-facing Bent-over Barbell Rows-1×8 reps Rest-Pause Style

Use a weight that allows a 1RM and do a series of 8 single, max reps with a 10-second rest in between.

Benefits of Each of the HIT Variables

  • Forced Reps- These are great for extending a set past the point of muscular failure. By completing reps with the assistance of a partner after hitting failure, you thoroughly exhaust the muscle.
  • Negative-only Reps- Negatives allow you to use weight 40% heavier than during typical sets. Negatives cause greater micro-damage to a muscle, which leads to greater strength and size increase.
  • Rest-Pause Reps- This technique was designed to allow the use of maximum poundages while avoiding the buildup of lactic acid in the muscle, which would lead to premature ending of the set.
  • Static Holds- These are great for generating a deep contraction in the muscle and maximizing the recruitment of muscle fibers. Since there is little movement, maximum weights can be used to tax the muscle. Experiment with different hold times such as 10, 15 and 20 seconds.

Give these routines a try and you’ll experience new strength and muscle growth if enough effort is put forth.

David Groscup has more than 30 years of training experience on HIT (High Intensity Training). He is also certified by IART and a wealth of experience training people using this methodology. He’s also published various books on this topic of HIT, which you can check out below:

You can read his blog on High Intensity Training at:

Steve Shaw
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