Editor’s Note: We were very sorry to hear of the passing of Charles Poliquin in September 2018 aged 57. He was responsible for popularising so many of the training methods used today in gyms the world over and, as much as anyone, changed the way we all lift weights for the better. For that, we will be forever grateful.
Charles Poliquin is one the world’s most successful strength coaches, having coached Olympic medalists in twelve different sports. He is based in the Rockies, Colorado.
If you’re serious about your physique, then you probably know the measurement of your arms – flexed, of course, no one measures a relaxed muscle – and you probably have a ton of biceps moves in your workout arsenal. But how much do you really know about your biceps? Because the more you know, the quicker they grow.
Let’s go back to anatomy class. The biceps brachii is a two-headed muscle – a long head and a short head – with both heads arising at the scapula and joining together to create a single muscle belly attached to the upper forearm. Although it crosses both the shoulder joint and the elbow joint its primary function is at the elbow, which it flexes, and to supinate the forearm.
This workout focuses on developing size in the the long head of the biceps, which is the outer portion of the muscle.
It comprises just two supersets – the first with two moves, the second a three-part variation on incline dumbbell curls – but don’t let that fool you. This routine will quickly fatigue your biceps when you stick to the reps, tempo and rest protocols detailed. But then building bigger biceps needs to be hard, otherwise everyone would be walking around with pythons coming out of their shoulders rather than pipecleaners.
Here’s what you need to know.
Superset one: Seated barbell curl and standing close-grip barbell curl
Yes, you read that right. This superset starts with seated barbell curls. It’s a move most people haven’t even heard of, let alone ever considered doing, because being seated seriously restricts the range of motion you can perform. But for this superset, that’s the exact reason for its inclusion.
You can typically curl about 20-30% more weight during seated barbell curls compared to the far more popular standing version. This move consequently allows you a greater overload for that range of motion that is never fully overloaded by the traditional move. Following up this partial-range move with a full range-of-motion standing close-grip barbell biceps curls is a highly-effective start to the workout to rapidly overload and fatigue your biceps.
Superset two: Multi-angle incline dumbbell curl
The second and final superset in this workout is the same move – incline dumbbell curls – but instead of a drop set, where you reduce the weight you lift, you increase the angle of the bench as you fatigue to give you a greater mechanical advantage to make each set slightly easier.
Be warned: this is a nasty superset because you are exposing your biceps to a huge amount of time under tension, and the the lactic acid build-up will become incredibly intense. Keep your palms supinated at all times so that the elbow flexors are well-stretched, and keep each rep controlled, sticking to the right tempo, and through a full range of motion – squeezing your biceps at the top, and flexing your triceps at the bottom – to fully exhaust as many muscle fibres as possible.