Add Mass to your Biceps and Triceps with these 10 exercises - The Fitness Cafe

November 16, 201713220

We use our biceps every time we push or pull. These muscles get worked a lot during compound movements. So while working them out in isolation, it’s important to limit the number of sets. We will focus on fewer sets with higher intensity.

To train your arms effectively, it’s important to first understand the anatomy. Contrary to popular belief, the upper arm is made up mostly of your tricep muscle. In fact, your triceps make up roughly two-thirds of your upper arm.

The triceps is named so because of its three heads. The main function of this muscle is to extend the elbow. The long and lateral heads of the triceps create the “horseshoe” shape everyone aims for. The medial head is the deep muscle. All three heads originate at different places but all insert into the elbow.

The biceps are made up of two heads and it’s major function if elbow flexion and forearm rotation. The two muscle heads have different origins but merge into one tendon which attaches to the radius. Your biceps can fatigue easily and rely on your front deltoid and anterior forearm muscle for aid.

Now moving to the exercises to train these muscles.

Biceps Exercises

1. Barbell Curl

3 Sets – 10 reps each

Instructions:

  • The standing barbell curl is the cornerstone of many bicep building routines. Grasp a barbell or Olympic bar at around shoulder width apart using an underhand grip (palms facing up).
  • Stand straight up, feet together (you may be more comfortable putting one foot back for stability), back straight, and with your arms fully extended.
  • The bar should not be touching your body.
  • Keeping your eyes facing forwards, elbows tucked in at your sides, and your body completely still, slowly curl the bar up.
  • Squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the movement, and then slowly lower it back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for desired reps.

Tips

  • The single biggest mistake lifters make on this exercise is swinging the body back to assist in moving the weight up. This is cheating! Your body should remain fixed and only your biceps should be used to move the weight.
  • Another mistake is not keeping the elbows fixed and in at the sides. You should not let your elbows come forward when moving the weight up.
  • And finally, you need to control the weight throughout the set. This means not letting it drop quickly!

2. EZ Bar Preacher Curl

Dropset to failure

Instructions:

  • The EZ bar preacher curl is a great exercise to isolate the biceps, while minimising the strain on your wrists. Adjust the seat on the preacher bench so that your upper arms sit comfortably on the padding when seated.
  • Load the desired weight on the barbell.
  • Sit on the preacher bench and grip the EZ bar with your hands shoulder width apart using an underhand (palms facing up) grip. (note: You can use a wide or narrow grip on this exercise)
  • Keeping your back straight and eyes facing forward, take the weight off the rack so that you’re supporting it with your arms slightly bent. This is the starting position.
  • Slowly bring the weight up until your forearms are at a right angle to the floor.
  • Squeeze the bicep at the top of the movement, and then slowly lower it back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for desired reps.

Tips:

  • Keep the motion slow and controlled throughout the set.
  • Don’t “rest” at the top of the movement.
  • Squeeze the biceps as hard as possible as your get the weight to the top.
  • Use a wide grip to work the inner biceps and a close grip to work the outer biceps.

3. Incline Dumbbell Curl

3 Sets – 8 reps each

Instructions:

  • Set up for the incline dumbbell curl by setting the bench at a 30-45 degree incline and sitting a pair of dumbbells at the end. The lower the incline, the more challenging the exercise will be so 30 degrees is preferred.
  • Sit on the bench, pick up the dumbbells and lay back with your back flat on the padding.
  • You should be holding the dumbbells with an neutral grip, palms facing up towards the ceiling.
  • Take up the slack in your arms by slightly bending them, as this will put tension on the biceps. This is the starting position for the exercise.
  • Keeping your elbows fixed, slowly curl the dumbbells up as far as possible.
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the movement, and then slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for desired reps.

Tips:

  • Your elbows should not move throughout the movement. Only your forearms should be moving.
  • Keep the rep timing slow and control the dumbbells on the way down.

4. Reverse Barbell Curl

3 Sets – 8 reps each

Instructions:

  • Stand up with your torso upright while holding a barbell at shoulder width with the elbows close to the torso. The palm of your hands should be facing down (pronated grip). This will be your starting position.
  • While holding the upper arms stationary, curl the weights while contracting the biceps as you breathe out. Only the forearms should move. Continue the movement until your biceps are fully contracted and the bar is at shoulder level. Hold the contracted position for a second as you squeeze the muscle.
  • Slowly begin to bring the bar back to starting position as your breathe in.
  • Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Tips:

  • You can also perform this movement using an E-Z attachment hooked to a low pulley. This variation seems to really provide a good contraction at the top of the movement. You can also use an E-Z bar as well.

5. Hammer Curls

3 Sets – 10 reps each

Instructions:

  • Stand up with your torso upright and a dumbbell on each hand being held at arms length. The elbows should be close to the torso.
  • The palms of the hands should be facing your torso. This will be your starting position.
  • Now, while holding your upper arm stationary, exhale and curl the weight forward while contracting the biceps. Continue to raise the weight until the biceps are fully contracted and the dumbbell is at shoulder level. Hold the contracted position for a brief moment as you squeeze the biceps. Tip: Focus on keeping the elbow stationary and only moving your forearm.
  • After the brief pause, inhale and slowly begin the lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Tips:

  • The single biggest mistake lifters make on this exercise is swinging the body back to assist in moving the weight up. This is cheating! Your body should remain fixed and only your biceps should be used to move the weight.
  • Another mistake is not keeping the elbows fixed and in at the sides. You should not let your elbows come forward when moving the weight up.
  • And finally, you need to control the weight throughout the set. This means not letting it drop quickly!

Triceps Exercises

1. Tricep Pushdown

4 Sets – 12, 10, 8, 8 reps

Instructions:

  • Attach a straight or angled bar to a high pulley and grab with an overhand grip (palms facing down) at shoulder width.
  • Standing upright with the torso straight and a very small inclination forward, bring the upper arms close to your body and perpendicular to the floor. The forearms should be pointing up towards the pulley as they hold the bar. This is your starting position.
  • Using the triceps, bring the bar down until it touches the front of your thighs and the arms are fully extended perpendicular to the floor. The upper arms should always remain stationary next to your torso and only the forearms should move. Exhale as you perform this movement.
  • After a second hold at the contracted position, bring the bar slowly up to the starting point. Breathe in as you perform this step.
  • Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Tips:

  • There are many variations to this movement. For instance you can use an E-Z bar attachment as well as a V-angled bar that allows the thumb to be higher than the small finger. Also, you can attach a rope to the pulley as well as using a reverse grip on the bar exercises.

 

2. Seated Tricep Extension

3 Sets – 10 reps each

Instructions:

  • Select the desired weight from the rack and position an adjustable bench at 90 degrees.
  • To get into position, sit in an upright position and lift the dumbbell to the top of your shoulder. Take a deep breath, overlap your hands around the dumbbell, then press it into position overhead.
  • Maintain an overlapping grip and slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head by unlocking your elbows.
  • Once your forearms reach parallel or just below, drive the dumbbell back to the starting point by extending the elbows and flexing the triceps.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips:

  • Don’t overextend through the lumbar spine, keep your ribcage down by maintaining tension through the abs and glutes.
  • Using a slow eccentric (lowering portion) of the exercise can help to improve tension and mind muscle connection.
  • Keep the head in a fairly neutral position, don’t allow the neck to jut forward as this may place excessive pressure on the cervical spine.

 

3. Lying Dumbbell Tricep Extension

3 Sets – 8 reps each

Instructions:

  • Grasp a pair of dumbbells and sit on the end of a flat bench with the dumbbells resting on your thighs.
  • Lie back on the bench and extend the dumbbells above your head. The dumbbells should not be touching and you should be using a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
  • Bending at the elbows only, keeping your elbows fixed and pointing at your hips, slowly lower the dumbbells down beside your head until they are about level with your ears.
  • Pause and squeeze the triceps. Then raise the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  • Do not lock the elbows out, and then repeat for desired reps.

Tips:

  • It’s important to keep your elbows in and facing toward your hips. Don’t let them flare out as you lower the dumbbells down.
  • Keep the rep timing slow and control the weight throughout the set.

 

 

4. Close Grip Bench Press

3 Sets – 12, 10, 8 reps

Instructions:

  • Lie flat on a bench and set your hands at shoulder width.
  • Set your shoulder blades by pinching them together and driving them into the bench.
  • Take a deep breath and allow your spotter to help you with the lift off in order to maintain tightness through your upper back.
  • Let the weight settle and ensure your upper back remains tight after lift off.
  • Inhale and allow the bar to descend slowly by unlocking the elbows.
  • Lower the bar in a straight line to the base of the sternum (breastbone) and touch the chest.
  • Push the bar back up in a straight line by pressing yourself into the bench, driving your feet into the floor for leg drive, and extending the elbows.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips:

  • Technique first, weight second – no one cares how much you bench if you get injured.
  • Keep the bar in line with your wrist and elbows and ensure it travels in a straight line. To keep the wrist straight, try to position the bar as low in the palm as possible while still being able to wrap the thumb.
  • If you want to keep more tension through the triceps and chest, stop each repetition just short of lockout at the top.
  • The elbows will be tucked more than a normal bench due to the decrease grip width but if you experience shoulder pain during this variation you may have to slightly tweak grip width and elbow tuck to provide more space within the shoulder capsule.
  • Arching may be advisable depending upon your goals but ensure that most of the arch comes from the mid to upper back and not your lower back. If your lower back is cramping as you set up for the lift, you’re out of position and putting yourself at risk for potential injury.
  • The bar should touch your chest with every single repetition. If you want to overload specific ranges of motion, look into board presses or accommodating resistance with chains or bands.
  • As the bar descends, aim for your sternum (breastbone) or slightly below depending upon the length of your upper arm to promote a linear bar path.
  • Intermediate and advanced lifters may use a thumbless or “suicide” grip but for the majority of lifters, it would be wiser to learn how to bench with the thumb wrapped around the bar at first.
  • Fight to the urge to allow the wrists to roll back into extension, think about rolling your knuckles toward the ceiling.
  • Experiment with grip width – if your have longer arms you may need to use a slightly wider grip. However, if you’re feeling pressure in the front of the shoulder during the exercise, you may need to widen your grip, improve scapular retraction, or slightly lessen the range of motion via exercises such as floor or board presses.
  • Squeeze the bar as tightly as possible to help enhance shoulder stability.
  • Some lifters prefer to tuck their toes while other prefer to keep the feet flat to optimize leg drive – experiment with both and see which one feels and allows for greater power production.
  • Ensure the shoulder blades remain retracted and don’t allow them to change position as you press.
  • The bar should descend under control and touch the lifter’s chest – no bouncing or excess momentum.
  • Think about trying to push yourself away from the bar instead of pushing the bar off of you.
  • Tightness through the upper back should be one of your main priorities throughout the course of the lift.
  • Ideally, use a spotter to help assist with the lift off in order to maintain tension through the upper back.
  • Keep the feet quiet throughout the lift and utilize leg drive by pushing your feet into the floor and squeezing your glutes to stabilize the pelvis.
  • Focus on pulling the bar apart or trying to “bend the bar” to activate some of the intrinsic stabilizers in the shoulder.
  • The glutes and shoulder blades should maintain contact with the bench throughout the entirety of the movement.

 

5. Bent Over Dumbbell Tricep Kickback

3 Sets – 8 reps each

Instructions:

  • Select the desired weight from the rack and stand in an open area.
  • Hinge forward, row the dumbbells into position, then extend the elbows while flexing the triceps.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips:

  • Hinge forward from the hips, there shouldn’t be excessive curvature within the lumbar spine.
  • Don’t overextend through the lumbar spine, keep some tension through the abdominals.
  • Exhale as you extend the dumbbell behind your body and flex the tricep.
  • Keep the head in a fairly neutral position, focus on a spot on the floor and complete all of the assigned repetitions.
Add these exercises to your arms workout once a week and watch your biceps and triceps gain mass. Make sure to keep the intensity high. Good Luck!

About us

The Fitness Cafe started out when a couple of guys set out on a fitness goal that many believed to be impossible. One of the founders lost 48lbs in one year and is on his way to completing his first half marathon!


CONTACT US