When I was a kid my friends and I used to look at the biceps that Arnold had and be amazed that so much muscle could be built on a human arm. Of course the monsters of today have surpassed Arnold’s accomplishments but it was Arnold who made bodybuilding popular and it was his biceps that probably got me started lifting weights in high school. My friends and I would discuss what he probably would do to grow those arms to such ridiculous proportions. We had it all figured out though: the EZ Curl Bar was what built huge biceps and specifically preacher EZ Curl Bar curls.
Our logic was sound. Just look at the bar. It has all those bends and angles in it and those are obviously there to make doing curls more effective than just a plain and inferior straight bar. If you were really serious you did your EZ bar curls on a preacher bench. This took the science of building muscle one step further because you combined the superior design of the bar with a bench that put you in the advantageous position to build slabs of new muscle almost instantly.
All of what you have just read is why teenagers aren’t put in charge of ruling the world, or even themselves for that matter. There may be some truth to the above assumptions but what really will build bigger biceps? Is it the standing EZ Curl Bar curl, the preacher EZ Curl Bar curl, or is it plain and simple barbells and dumbbells that will yield the greatest results?
Let’s first look at the difference in the choice of bar used. The EZ Curl Bar when held in your hands is a very comfortable bar to hold. It feels like it was built to take the stress off of the wrists and elbows during the curling motion. That’s probably because it was and anyone serious about muscle-building will definitely take comfort into consideration as their first option when choosing an exercise. That’s why instead of doing squats I use a Thigh Master while sitting in my La-Z-Boy in the reclined position watching Bay Watch reruns (where is the sarcasm font when you need it?).
In order to build the biggest biceps possible you want to be the opposite of comfortable, as in uncomfortable. The straight, old-fashioned Olympic bar, even without all of the new fangled angles and bendy bits, will stimulate your biceps best as your hands will be facing the ceiling the entire time. This means that the tension remains on your biceps due to the wrist in the supinated position throughout the movement. When holding an EZ Curl Bar your wrists are allowed to rotate inwards and that serves to remove the tension from the outer biceps head. Just the simple act of rotating your wrist all the way, also known as supinating your wrist, causes your biceps to flex. Without using any weight at all try holding your arm at a 90-degree angle and rotate your closed fist until it is facing straight up. This simple wrist rotation causes your biceps to flex.
That answers the first part of the question. A straight bar is a more effective biceps builder than is an EZ curl bar. What about the preacher curl though, even with a straight bar or a dumbell? Is that the best way to build eye-popping arm muscles?
Changing angles definitely causes the muscle to work in a different manner and therefore will cause an increase in muscle mass. That much we know. The preacher curl places your arms in front of your body and allows you to work your biceps with a great degree of isolation. Isolating your biceps is of course useful to focus your mind in order to achieve a great contraction which will serve to build new muscle.
The dumbbell curl performed on an incline bench offers similar advantages in that the angle of the arm is similar to that when performing a preacher curl. The bench needs to be at a 30 to 45 degree angle to allow for a great enough pull on the biceps to be similar to the preacher bench and not too great that an unusual amount of stress is placed on the shoulders in the starting position. Where both of these movements have an arguable advantage over the standing barbell curl is that they eliminate any swinging of the body that will remove the stress from the targeted biceps muscles.
The fact that you can do alternating dumbbell incline curls as opposed to barbell preacher offers a further advantage regarding iso-lateral training and the resulting increased amount of focus each arm can then be given. Of course you can do the same thing by performing alternating dumbbell preacher curls as well. By doing so you can determine and eliminate muscular imbalances between your arms and create greater symmetry which is important to any bodybuilder.
Where the dumbbell curl on an incline bench has the upper hand over the preacher curl option is that the peak of the biceps, which is the long head of the biceps muscle and the larger of the two, is targeted more efficiently due to the stretch that is placed upon it at the bottom of the movement and this is removed entirely when doing preacher curls. Secondly, the long head of your biceps is under considerably less stress during the preacher curl because your arms are in front of your torso. You can argue that the smaller, inner head is more effectively worked during the preacher curl, but that isn’t enough to declare it superior to the incline dumbbell curl.
Obviously all of these exercises will serve to build a giant set of biceps that will have people looking your way anytime you’re in a short sleeve shirt. The two that pack the most punch by a sizable margin are the straight barbell curl and the incline dumbbell curl and those are the exercises that you should be building your biceps routine around in order to build yourself some Arnold like arms. Until next time my friends,
This article was researched and written by Matt Taylor
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