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A large number of bodybuilders and gym rats alike, whose biceps have reached behemoth proportions, favor cheat curls over strict isolations and machines for biceps growth, contrary to what you may have learned at the last "health fair."
Look no further than Arnold Schwarzenegger, the pioneer who broke the mold and implemented cheat curls in his training. Most of his peers felt he was crazy! Since then, cheat curls have played a role in helping to develop the biggest, strongest arms of all time, including Bill Kazmaier and Ronnie Coleman.
This is not taking a bizarre twist, though, as chin-ups and cheat curls have some similarities that are a catalyst for biceps growth.
While performing a chin-up, the back will assist you and the biceps are in flexion at the end of the movement. This provides a huge biceps overload at the top portion of the movement, like a heavy cheat curl.
Since we are after the overload at the top of the movement, look no further than the Hercules chin-up. The Hercules chin-up is a creation of the Jailhouse Strong system that uses partial movements to build sleeve-busting biceps.
How to correctly perform a Hercules chin-up:
- Grasp a chin-up bar with a supinated (palms-facing-you grip)
- From a dead hang position pull chin over the bar and hold it for two seconds
- Descend to the half-way point and hold for two seconds
- Repeat movement for the prescribed number of repetitions
- Finish with arms fully extended at the bottom
IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Cory Matthew Hitting Some Hercules Chin-ups
Generally, the rule of thumb is full range of motion for full development; this is an exception. Partials are used to overload a specific range of motions for strength building; in this case, overloading this range of motion with this movement builds behemoth biceps!
Make sure to start from a full hang and end in the starting position. Barring injury, keep the supinated grip for the greatest biceps overload.
One Arm Eccentric Barbell Curls
Dorian Yates, six-time Mr. Olympia winner, has repeatedly stated that the biggest mistakes bodybuilders make are not utilizing the negative. Numerous studies show that eccentric/negative contractions are a catalyst for muscle growth.
Instead of just slowing down the negative a little on the normal, run-of-the-mill movements, to truly maximize muscularity, you have to train eccentric emphasis movements. Eccentrics allow for preferential fast-twitch muscle fiber recruitment (a.k.a., the largest muscle fibers with the most potential for growth), prolonged time under tension, and much heavier loads can be used.
Since your arm is supinated the entire time and you have to balance an Olympic-sized barbell with one hand, your supinated muscles are forced to work overtime. Remember, the concentric portion of the lift is not what we are emphasizing.
Because of the prolonged time under tension, I would recommend supplementing with Pro Source's Beta Alanine powder.
How to correctly perform a one-arm eccentric barbell curl:
- Sit or stand behind a preacher curl station
- Rest your upper arm on the pad in front of you, arms supinated
- Start at the top position of the curl
- Slowly lower the bar for a count of eight seconds to full extension
- Pause briefly at the bottom
- If you have a training partner, have him help you back up. If not, self-spot with the other hand
IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Performing One-Armed Eccentric Barbell Curls Prior to his 2012 Arnold Classic Victory
Incline Dumbbell Curls
For decades, powerlifters have increased strength with extended range of motion movements like deficit deadlifts, cambered bar bench presses and Olympic pause squats. Smart bodybuilders have maximized muscularity by including extending range of motion movements. These movements prolong time under tension and cause greater muscle damage (a good thing for hypertrophy).
For the biceps, use the incline bicep curl for extending your range of motion.
Prolonging time under tension and range of motion will make it more difficult to recover, so I suggest supplementation with ProSource Glutamine.
How to correctly perform incline dumbbell curls:
- Lie back on a 45-degree bench
- Keep your palms supinated the entire time
- Your arms should hang straight down to the floor, fully extended
- Your arms are angled behind your body, so this requires a larger range of motion than a normal curl; it's a great stretch movement
- Keeping your arms stationary, curl both arms up toward your shoulders or as high as you can go
- Lower the weight to starting position, then repeat
Important note: This movement is meant to increase your range of motion; do not shorten it. It is important to keep your palms supinated the entire time. This movement can also be done in an alternating fashion.
To truly maximize muscular development, a variety of rep ranges, ranges of motion, and angles of attack must be utilized. Never sacrifice technique for additional weight on the bar. Train the movements as heavy as possible, maintaining technique, and your biceps will have no choice but to grow.
In addition to Josh's suggestions above, you may want to consider to of the legendary strength and size support agents available to bodybuilders: Genuine German Creapure Creatine, as found in ProSource Creatine Monohydrate and the clinically validated mass-builder, MyoZene from BioQuest.