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7 Incline-Bench Curl

Why it made the list: An exercise that emphasizes just one of the two biceps heads isn’t going to score high on total biceps EMG activation—and it didn’t in the ACE study—but this one may theoretically hit the long head particularly well. The incline-bench curl elongates the biceps and increases the stretch, creating an inefficient starting position for the muscle fibers. This means a greater amount of effort must be applied to the load to generate speed and initiate a contraction. Theoretically, the long head gets the benefit of the less-efficient starting position, with greater muscle recruitment necessary than in other arm positions.

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In your workout: Perform these after an exercise like standing curls, in which both biceps heads are targeted with heavy weight. Because of the “overstretched” arm position at the bottom of the movement and its inefficiency, you won’t be able to toss up the really big weights, so it’s best done later in your training session.

8 Concentration curl

Why it’s on the list: Hey, there’s a reason the concentration curl fares so well on muscle-activation studies. The position of the torso has something to do with that, but likely so does the increased mind-muscle connection many people report experiencing. There is actually some emerging evidence surrounding the ability of the mind-muscle connection to garner greater increases in hypertrophic training adaptations.

In your workout: Because of the restricted loading capability, it will be best to push this toward the end of your workout, when you’re already somewhat fatigued. Pick a weight just heavy enough that you’re failing at 10-12 reps.

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