One underestimated key to training biceps is this: You want your biceps to feel a solid "pump". This mythic feeling, of blood rushing into your biceps, is sometimes lost when you train with overly heavy weights, but if you rush through reps with light weights, you won't always get it either. But this pump also helps develop a strong mind-muscle connection.
To get that pump, says Men's Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., it's often good to put away the giant weights and work with loads you can control. "Then work with precision," says Samuel, "and focus on piling up quality time-under-tension with dropset ideas."
That's exactly what you're doing in the Perfect Curl Biceps Dropset, a devastating biceps finisher from Samuel. Essentially, you're working through a unique dropset, the moves getting slightly easier as you go. You begin by doing perfect-form biceps curls, rotating your palms to the ceiling every rep. Then you shift right into hammer curls, a slightly easier curl variation since you no longer need to turn your wrists. You follow that by ditching curls entirely when you're most fatigued and just twisting your wrists. "You get biceps work on every phase of this," says Samuel, "but we're increasingly making the biceps more of a complementary piece as we go."
This does two things. First off, it means plenty of time-under-tension for the biceps you're trying to build. Second, it lets you hit other sections of arm muscle too. Your brachialis, a muscle that helps give your arms much of their size, dominates the hammer curl. Meanwhile, your smaller forearm muscles take the lead on the final twisting phase of the series, but your biceps remain involved. "Your biceps are responsible for turning your wrists to the ceiling, so they're getting work in that final phase," says Samuel, "and they also have to maintain that isometric hold in the parallel pause."
It's an ultra-versatile curl series and the best part: You only need light dumbbells to attack it. Here's the game plan:
Start holding two dumbbells at your sides. Tighten your core and glutes. This is the start.
Without rocking, do 8-10 curl reps, rotating your palms toward your torso every rep. Pause at the top of each rep.
Immediately transition into hammer curl reps. Do as many good-form hammer curl reps as you can.
Take a deep breath, then immediately curl up until forearms are parallel to the ground. Do as many twists as you can, turning palms to the ceiling then returning them to neutral.
Do 3 sets.
The Perfect Dumbbell Biceps dropset can fit into your workout in a variety of ways. It can easily be the sole biceps move you do on either a total-body day or an upper-body day. It's also a devastating finisher on the back end of any arm day workout. "You're challenging every function of your biceps," says Samuel, "so it can work for you no matter what." And you're almost always guaranteed a vicious biceps pump from the move, too.
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