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Military Muscle: 3 exercises for buff biceps

Jul. 19, 2012 - 04:41PM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 19, 2012 - 04:41PM  |  
(Tom Brown / Staff)
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"Guns." Everyone has a favorite workout for the favorite muscle on the body. The biceps is a two-headed muscle comprising the long head (outer biceps) and short head (inner biceps). Biceps muscles flex the arms, whereas the opposite muscles, the triceps, extend the arms.

Following are some must-do biceps drills and a simple biceps stretch. As always, warm up the muscle you're training by doing some reps at a lighter weight.

A tip: Consider using a cable machine for some of your exercises. Cables give more consistent tension across the entire lift than free weights and bands.

For a simple biceps stretch, hold one arm out palm up and pull your fingers toward the floor for 20 seconds, then switch arms.

Now, hit the gym and get pumped.

Barbell curls (standing)

1. Shoulder-width grip the gold standard: This lift hits both heads of the muscle. You are stronger in the down (eccentric) phase; lowering the bar slowly somewhat mimics additional weight.

Stand erect, back straight. For more emphasis, stand against a wall and keep your scapulae (shoulder blades) flat against it throughout the repetition.

Hold the barbell with palms up, arms extended and the bar against your upper thighs, hands at shoulder width.

Curl the bar in a semicircular motion until your forearms touch the biceps.

Lower to starting position using the same path.

2. Narrow grip: Move your grip to about hip width. This grip works the long head (outer biceps) more intensely.

3. Wide grip: Move your grip wider to work the short head (inner biceps) more intensely.

Hammer curls

These don't work the biceps as intensely as a standard curl, but you do work the forearm muscles, too, and the exercise more closely resembles functional lifting activities. You will find that you can lift more on this exercise than the barbell curls because you're involving more muscles.

Stand and grasp a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inward.

Curl the dumbbells to your shoulders. You can do this either simultaneously or alternately.

Preacher curls

These are usually done at a machine or a seat with a vertical bar at one end with a pad fitted on top. It produces the most tension in the biceps and allows you to fully feel the action of the biceps muscles.

Sit and take an underhand grip on the bar.

Your armpits should be on the top edge of the pad and arms down the pad.

Do not extend your arms completely; it can cause tendinitis.

Curl the bar until your forearms touch the biceps.

Bob Thomas is director of the Navy Wellness Center in Pensacola, Fla. Email him at

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