Biceps Question

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mattk25
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Biceps Question

Post by mattk25 » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:46 pm

Hey my name is Matt and I'm a newbie! I have a question, I've been working out about 4 times a week since July. In that time I've seen alot of improvement in strength in all muscle groups, except my biceps. I'm still lifting about the same amount of weight for biceps exercises that I started with. Any idea why, I'm not seeing an improvement in strength for biceps? Thanks!

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Post by hoosegow » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:54 pm

They are probably exausted by the time you get to them. Don't do specific arm work. If you row, they are getting plenty of work already. I don't do arm work unless I am bored and just want to hang out at the gym on an off day after cardio.

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Post by stuward » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:56 pm

They're also a small muscle group. Most of your strength gains will be in the larger muscle groups.

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Post by Alfred » Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:51 pm

I respectfully disagree with hoosegow. People who start isolating their arms will start getting much bigger arms much faster. Rows do very little for your biceps or arms in general,the only pulling movement with hope of transfer is the pull-up or chins. I would advice against dumbbell curls because there can be some leverage differences each time you lift; this time you may have the weight positioned so or so way etc. without realizing and with such a delicate move, small weight differences can throw you off. So I would say use the barbell. And do not cheat; cheating will cause imbalanced if any decent strength development and your strict curls may sadly stay the same.

Maybe if you could describe your routine it might help us make sense of your problem.

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Post by KPj » Fri Dec 05, 2008 5:38 pm

Some people need isolation and some don't, it's an individual thing. It's widely thought that most people do too much isolation, though. I agree with Hoosegow, atleast to an extent anyway. I think lifters should stick to rows etc and see how arm development goes. If everything else grows and arms don't, then start isolating... That's my opinion anyway. Because of my goals, my preference is the same as Hoosegow - actually, the only reason i do curls is to balance out elbow extension when i've been pressing a lot! But i'm not a BB so bi's don't come into it. However, I see a lot of PL types with big arms who (obviously) don't isolate them. My arms now are bigger now than when i used to have an arm day.... But some people do some isolation and their arms get blatantly bigger.

I'm not sure why pull up variations would work your bi's but rows wouldn't?

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Post by pdellorto » Fri Dec 05, 2008 5:46 pm

stuward wrote:They're also a small muscle group. Most of your strength gains will be in the larger muscle groups.
Yeah. Your curls will go up, but go up more slowly than your other movements, simply because they use fewer, smaller movements.

I wouldn't worry too much, as long as your strength s increasing overall. Your bicep strength may be going up, but not enough to fit within the pretty big weight jumps of dumbbells - each one goes up 5#. Even half that is a big jump for a small muscle acting in isolation.

Also, you say you're working out 4x a week. Do you work your biceps all 4 times? Or are you doing an Upper/Lower/Upper/Lower split, or 4 full body days, or something of that sort? You might be pushing yourself too hard. Your biceps need time to recover after you work them...all your muscles do.

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Post by Alfred » Fri Dec 05, 2008 9:27 pm

KPj wrote:Some people need isolation and some don't, it's an individual thing. It's widely thought that most people do too much isolation, though. I agree with Hoosegow, atleast to an extent anyway. I think lifters should stick to rows etc and see how arm development goes. If everything else grows and arms don't, then start isolating... That's my opinion anyway. Because of my goals, my preference is the same as Hoosegow - actually, the only reason i do curls is to balance out elbow extension when i've been pressing a lot! But i'm not a BB so bi's don't come into it. However, I see a lot of PL types with big arms who (obviously) don't isolate them. My arms now are bigger now than when i used to have an arm day.... But some people do some isolation and their arms get blatantly bigger.

I'm not sure why pull up variations would work your bi's but rows wouldn't?

KPj
In lat pulldowns,upright,rear delt or bent over rows it's pretty easy to isolate the back,and helping with the biceps is quite futile.The bicep also won't go through near its natural full range of motion. In pulls/chins the bicep is a legitimate synergist.Some amount of limit bicep strength is necessary to complete the motion.

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Post by Matt Z » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:39 pm

Upright Rows isolate the back? They're a shoulder exercise. Rear Delt Rows are also primarily a shoulder exercise.

The biceps are involved to some extent in almost all upper-body pulling movements. Also, the biceps are just one of three muscle groups that flex the elbow.

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Post by Jungledoc » Fri Dec 05, 2008 11:51 pm

Alfred wrote:Rows do very little for your biceps or arms in general,the only pulling movement with hope of transfer is the pull-up or chins.
What? This is the first I've heard this idea. I'll remember to ask my arms after the next set of face pulls what they think. They'll probably be too exhausted to answer, though. If rows do very little for your arms, what is moving the weight?

One reason that some people's biceps may not be changing is that they have already worked them a lot. For many people the bis are ahead of the rest of the body, and when they start doing full-body work the weights they move at first don't challenge the bis much. As the rest of the body catches up, the bis will be challenged more and start to grow.

And if you are going to do bicep isolation, use DBs. They'll keep you ballanced better, and allow more grip variation. Yeah, don't cheat, at least not in public. It looks dorky.

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Post by Stephen Johnson » Sat Dec 06, 2008 7:32 am

The biceps isolation question has come up before:
tyler wrote:Does anyone here get better results with compound movements for the bigger muscles, and better results with isolation for small muscles? Like- compound for legs and chest and back, and isolation for arms? That seems to be the only way I can put any mass on my arms...I wonder if anyone else is the same.
You might want to consider this article:

All of us fall into the muscle-isolating trap, to some extent. But if you're a skinny guy, with a body that's reluctant to put on muscle mass, you may have the most to lose when you waste energy on isolation exercises.

Isolation exercises don't use a lot of muscle mass — an obvious point when you consider that the goal of an isolation exercise is to not use the muscles you aren't trying to isolate.

But here's a not-so-obvious point: When you do a biceps curl or triceps extension, you aren't even recruiting the most important fibers within the muscles you're isolating. That's because you rarely use a lot of weight when you do those exercises. Your body's biggest, strongest muscle fibers, the ones with the most growth potential, simply don't come into play unless you're using heavy weights in low-repetition sets.

I can't recall ever seeing anyone do low-rep sets for their biceps and triceps, for one simple reason: As soon as you start lifting near-max weights, you can't even pretend to isolate muscles. You have to "cheat" by using less-strict movement patterns, which brings bigger muscles into the exercise.

So why bother trying to isolate? If you lift the heaviest possible weights during exercises that use the most muscle mass, you'll employ your body's biggest muscle fibers while doing the exercises safely and correctly
I agree with the author. Building big muscles with isolation moves is much harder than using compound exercises.

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Post by Jungledoc » Sat Dec 06, 2008 7:38 am

And that's not even considering the hormonal effects of using large masses of muscle versus using relatively small muscles.

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Post by Alfred » Sat Dec 06, 2008 10:05 am

Matt Z wrote:Upright Rows isolate the back? They're a shoulder exercise. Rear Delt Rows are also primarily a shoulder exercise.

The biceps are involved to some extent in almost all upper-body pulling movements. Also, the biceps are just one of three muscle groups that flex the elbow.
Sorry I was a little dizzy when writing but back of the body anyway,except for upright rows,which do not do much for biceps either. I'm still of the same opinion that all manner of rows will keep your arms small. They can be a nice aftertouch after your normal and reverse curls and all the tricep work.

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Post by Alfred » Sat Dec 06, 2008 10:26 am

Stephen Johnson wrote:The biceps isolation question has come up before:
tyler wrote:Does anyone here get better results with compound movements for the bigger muscles, and better results with isolation for small muscles? Like- compound for legs and chest and back, and isolation for arms? That seems to be the only way I can put any mass on my arms...I wonder if anyone else is the same.
You might want to consider this article:

All of us fall into the muscle-isolating trap, to some extent. But if you're a skinny guy, with a body that's reluctant to put on muscle mass, you may have the most to lose when you waste energy on isolation exercises.

Isolation exercises don't use a lot of muscle mass — an obvious point when you consider that the goal of an isolation exercise is to not use the muscles you aren't trying to isolate.

But here's a not-so-obvious point: When you do a biceps curl or triceps extension, you aren't even recruiting the most important fibers within the muscles you're isolating. That's because you rarely use a lot of weight when you do those exercises. Your body's biggest, strongest muscle fibers, the ones with the most growth potential, simply don't come into play unless you're using heavy weights in low-repetition sets.

I can't recall ever seeing anyone do low-rep sets for their biceps and triceps, for one simple reason: As soon as you start lifting near-max weights, you can't even pretend to isolate muscles. You have to "cheat" by using less-strict movement patterns, which brings bigger muscles into the exercise.

So why bother trying to isolate? If you lift the heaviest possible weights during exercises that use the most muscle mass, you'll employ your body's biggest muscle fibers while doing the exercises safely and correctly
I agree with the author. Building big muscles with isolation moves is much harder than using compound exercises.
Let's see what the most famous compound movements are:
-deadlift
-squat
-bench
-cleans
-overhead lifts
-different types of rows

Except for bench and overhead,none of these do much for arms, and the bench and overhead press won't touch the arm flexors. A few compound moves can take care of several large muscle groups at once but are not sufficient alone. Might,say,the bicep be a synergist in some row? I guess so,but so the lateral delt, or the traps can be synergists in overhead pressing but basing all of the lateral delt or trap development on that can be wishful.

It is perfectly possible to do low rep sets for the smaller muscles,all it requires is a little bit of self-control. I'll probably do a few singles in the curls tonight.

And this is going to be an easy answer but if isolation with higher reps is that useless,why do strength athletes (assistance work for powerlifters) and bodybuilders do that? Actually,the general idea is to use HIGH reps for all isolation work and with larger lifts it's free game. Few go high in reps with tricep pushdowns etc. It is the stuff of hypertrophy. Also the only way to train the triceps in isolation is to use the isolation exercises,otherwise you're going to bring in some delts and who knows what else.

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Post by Matt Z » Sat Dec 06, 2008 12:27 pm

Well, I haven't done curls or triceps extensions for years now and I haven't seen any loss in size or strength.

Still, I think isolation work can have some value, provided they're used sparingly in addition to the major compound lifts.

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Post by Stephen Johnson » Sat Dec 06, 2008 12:40 pm

Alfred wrote:Let's see what the most famous compound movements are:
-deadlift
-squat
-bench
-cleans
-overhead lifts
-different types of rows

Except for bench and overhead,none of these do much for arms, and the bench and overhead press won't touch the arm flexors. A few compound moves can take care of several large muscle groups at once but are not sufficient alone. Might,say,the bicep be a synergist in some row? I guess so,but so the lateral delt, or the traps can be synergists in overhead pressing but basing all of the lateral delt or trap development on that can be wishful.
For genetically average, non drug using lifters, the easiest way to get bigger arms is to get bigger overall. If the average person gains about 10 pounds of solid weight, he will most likely gain an inch on his arms. Gaining size using isolation exercises is much harder for most people than using compound movements. It can be done, but you'll find drug using bodybuilders for the most part doing it. For other people - especially those concerned with sports performance - it's a waste of time.

But to each his own.

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