Form & Func­tion

Use one or both th­ese bi­ceps ex­er­cises to build a strong, buff set of pipes — just in time for tank-top sea­son.

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Use one or both of th­ese bi­ceps ex­er­cises to build a strong, buff set of pipes — just in time for tank-top sea­son.

FORM: TWO ARM IN­CLINE DUMB­BELL BI­CEPS CURL

It’s safe to say that men are the arm-ob­sessed gen­der, but a great set of girl guns def­i­nitely turns heads. This ex­er­cise tar­gets the long head of your bi­ceps, which is re­spon­si­ble for the “peak” — that lit­tle moun­tain of mus­cle that pops up when you flex your el­bow. Be­cause it’s done with dumb­bells, it also helps equal­ize any strength im­bal­ances you have be­tween your two sides.

Set the bench in­cline be­tween 30 and 45 de­grees, which places your arms slightly be­hind you when they’re ex­tended. This ac­ti­vates the stretch-short­en­ing cy­cle, a phe­nom­e­non in which a mus­cle stores elas­tic en­ergy when it length­ens, then uses that stored en­ergy when the mus­cle short­ens im­me­di­ately af­ter­ward. Stud­ies have found this can lead to a more pow­er­ful con­cen­tric con­trac­tion and bet­ter re­sults long term.

Al­low your arms to hang down com­pletely straight from your shoul­ders to the floor with your palms turned for­ward and slightly out­ward. Pin your up­per arms to the sides of the bench to keep the fo­cus on your bi­ceps by elim­i­nat­ing the as­sis­tance of your shoul­ders and the pos­si­bil­ity of mo­men­tum.

Use a lighter set of dumb­bells than you nor­mally would for a bi­ceps curl. Be­cause of your unique start­ing po­si­tion, your bi­ceps are work­ing from a deficit: You have less lever­age than nor­mal and are thereby de­creas­ing your strength po­ten­tial. And be­cause you’re elim­i­nat­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of mo­men­tum, ev­ery mus­cle fiber has to work that much harder to move the weight.

Sit back firmly against the seat with your feet planted for sta­bil­ity, your lower back arch­ing nat­u­rally and your head in con­tact with the bench at all times. Some peo­ple tend to lift their heads when do­ing this move, but this puts a lot of strain on your cer­vi­cal spine, so avoid this tur­tle-like ac­tion at all cost.

Curl the weights up slowly, rais­ing them as high as you can with­out mov­ing your el­bows from their locked po­si­tion. Note: The weights may stop short of your nor­mal range of mo­tion be­cause of your al­tered arm po­si­tion. Squeeze your bi­ceps hard at the top, then slowly lower all the way to the start.

At the bot­tom, try flex­ing your tri­ceps. This not only en­sures a full ex­ten­sion of your arms and a good stretch through your bi­ceps, but it also in­creases the stretch-short­en­ing cy­cle re­ac­tion and con­trac­tile po­ten­tial for the next rep.

FUNC­TION: STRICT CLOSE GRIP CHIN UP

Your bi­ceps work in concert with your back and chest to push, pull, climb and lift, and they also play a role when run­ning, help­ing pro­pel your arms for­ward and back, im­prov­ing power and speed. Though pull-ups are pri­mar­ily con­sid­ered a back ex­er­cise, flip­ping and nar­row­ing your grip for a chin-up puts your bi­ceps in the di­rect line of the pull, in­creas­ing their en­gage­ment as a pri­mary mover when pulling your body­weight up­ward against grav­ity. With chin-ups, you also have to travel far­ther than with over­hand pull-ups, in­creas­ing your time un­der ten­sion, fur­ther tax­ing your mus­cles.

Take an un­der­hand grip on a pull-up bar with your hands in­side shoul­der width but spaced no less than 6 inches apart. Any nar­rower and your chest mus­cles be­gin to take over some of the work and your wrists might feel strained.

As­sume a dead hang — al­low your body to hang straight down to­ward the floor, scapu­lae spread apart, torso as ver­ti­cal as pos­si­ble. This elim­i­nates the pos­si­bil­ity of all mo­men­tum and max­i­mizes mus­cu­lar en­gage­ment dur­ing the con­cen­tric con­trac­tion.

If you have room, al­low your legs to hang straight down. Oth­er­wise, you can cross your feet be­hind you so long as your torso re­mains ver­ti­cal and your abs stay en­gaged, core tight.

Ini­ti­ate the move by draw­ing your shoul­der blades in to­ward one an­other, then drive your el­bows down and back to pull your chin up and over the bar, keep­ing your el­bows close to your sides and your torso ver­ti­cal.

Main­tain a tight, braced core to keep your hips steady and pre­vent you from swing­ing back and forth.

When your chin clears the bar, pause a mo­ment and squeeze your mus­cles hard, then slowly lower all the way to the dead hang be­fore go­ing into your next rep.

Can’t do a sin­gle chin-up? Ei­ther prac­tice chin-up neg­a­tives for a few weeks or do chin-ups us­ing a re­sis­tance loop se­cured over the pull-up bar to coun­ter­bal­ance some of your body­weight. Both moves will etch the proper body me­chan­ics into your brain, and the neg­a­tives will help de­velop strength. Af­ter a few weeks of us­ing one or both th­ese tech­niques, try do­ing chin-ups again — we bet you get at least three!

Your bi­ceps work in concert with your back and chest to push, pull, climb and lift, and they also play a role when run­ning, help­ing pro­pel your arms for­ward and back, im­prov­ing power and speed.

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