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Trigger growth in every direction on your lagging biceps
with this multiple-angle tri-set

Goals: Size & Strength
Bodypart: Biceps

Bodybuilding gurus may tell you that bigger biceps start and end with the venerable barbell curl. While we wouldn't go so far as to say that they're wrong, we think that having a more diverse training curriculum can help you build stronger, shapelier peaks. So it's fine to hold on to your love of the barbell but it may be time to work in a fling with the dumbbells.

What exactly are the defining attributes of an Arnold-like set of biceps? Think in geometrical terms: length, width and height. You want to have biceps that are meaty from origin to insertion (length) that have the width to fill even the largest shirt sleeve and the height to draw double-takes from the ladies. To do this, you have to allow for some diversity of movement, meaning you have to curl from multiple angles.

Standard barbell curls allow you to hit the entire biceps complex with maximum weight, which is what makes it a staple move. But by slightly altering the angle of your upper arm, you can change the manner in which the biceps are recruited. Enter dumbbells. According to studies, training one limb at a time forces muscles to produce up to 20% more force to complete the move which equates to greater growth in the long run.

But another benefit of dumbbells is that they allow for easy transitions between moves in a tri-set, such as the one outlined here. This giant set takes you through three moves that target your biceps slightly differently, ultimately giving you a pair of biceps that even Arnold can be proud of.

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Incline curls. Though it may be one of the most avoided biceps exercises in existence, the merits of the incline dumbbell curl make it worth revisiting. By setting yourself on a bench with a set of dumbbells hanging at your side, you are putting the biceps at a pre-stretch. This position forces the outer head, or peak, of your biceps to do the lion's share of the work.

Seated curls. The seated dumbbell curl has a recruitment pattern similar to the barbell curl, except that the seated position limits your ability to cheat. The greater force recruitment of dumbbell work and stronger mechanical position of seated curls allows you to train hard through this portion of the set, even though fatigue is beginning to set in.

Standing hammer curls. Removing yourself from the bench, you place yourself in a familiar and mechanically advantageous position. While it is still not advisable to swing your way through this portion of the set, a little body English will help you reach your target number of reps. Also, the neutral grip now brings your brachioradialis into play. This muscle runs beneath your biceps and, when trained regularly, can give your biceps peak more height.

This three-part curl provides a deep burn and a soreness that you won't soon forget. Plow through this tri-set four times as a stand-alone routine once every four weeks to trigger new growth, or muddle through it once at the end of your existing biceps routine as a pump-crazy finisher. Select a weight that's about 60% of what you'd normally curl for 10 reps. For example, if you normally use 50s for 10 reps, reach for the 30s for this tri-set and use the same weight throughout.

Exercise Sets/Reps
Incline dumbbell curl 4/10
Seated dumbbell curl  
Standing hammer curl  
(Rest 1-2 minutes between tri-sets)