Ah, the hallowed arm training day. Ask a child to flex their muscles and what do they do? Flex their guns! No matter what muscle group you favor, the bicep and tricep training combo holds a special place in most trainee's heart. The question is are you getting the most out of your endless bicep curls and tricep extensions? A quick primer on the anatomy and biomechanics of the muscles taking residence between the elbow and the shoulder will revolutionize your training regimen.
There are a great deal of muscles that govern arm movement, but for the sake of this article I will stick to the superficial muscles controlling major flexion and extension of the elbow. The triceps are just as the name implies, a group of three muscles split into lateral, medial, and long heads (see figure 1 below). The biceps, including the long and short heads, as well as the brachialis make up the major muscles of the front of the upper arm (see figure 2 below). While there are many other muscles, the aforementioned are the heavy hitters that most all trainees seek to build.
The angles and hand grips used will greatly affect what muscles of the arm is used. Both the biceps and brachialis flex the elbow and the biceps also plays the additional role of supinating (turning the palm up) the wrist. The short head of the biceps assists the deltoid in shoulder flexion (raising the shoulder) as well. On the other side of the humerus lies the triceps group which extend the elbow. The long head of the triceps is maximally activated when the arm is raised during extension exercises, such as an overhead dumbbell extension. In addition, the long head of the triceps assists in shoulder extension, as seen in a pullover movement. The medial head of the triceps is best recruited with a pronated grip (palms down) during pressdown exercises, and the lateral head is emphasized with a supinated grip (palms up) or neutral grip (hands facing). With all these angles and grips in mind, why don't we get a program put together!
Arms Done Right Program
|1A||Preacher Biceps Curl (Short head of biceps)||8-15||3-4|
|1B||Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extension (Long head of triceps)||8-15||3-4|
|2A||Incline Bench Dumbbell Biceps Curl (Long head of biceps)||10-15||3|
|2B||Rope Triceps Extension (Lateral head of triceps)||10-15||3|
|3A||Overhand Cambered Bar Biceps Curl (Brachialis)||12-15||3|
|3B||Cable Triceps Pressdown (Medial head of triceps)||12-15||3|
*A and B signify a superset, which means exercises will be done in back and forth fashion
Written By Adam Bisek