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Weightlifting question

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34 replies to this topic

#1 of 35 Mark Schermerhorn

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Posted July 10 2003 - 01:25 AM

I've been weightlifting fairly regularly for about 5 months or so, ever since I moved to the Boston area. I've generally made good gains in all areas.

However, I'm having trouble with my biceps. I haven't been able to increase my reps for about 2 months. I've sometimes been stuck for maybe a week on other exercises, but nothing like this. It concerns be because my triceps are advancing along and I don't want to get any part of my body out of balance. It will also impact my ability to exercise my back at some point.

I had been using dumbbells to do bicep curls initially. When this started happening, I figured I was cheating too much (even with the mirror discipline can be hard). So I switched to a curl machine for better isolation. That helped for a few weeks, then development stopped again.

Anyone have any ideas? More reps, less weight? Vice versa? Do 10 sets scattered throughout my workout? I'm at a loss. Remember, my body is making gains overall, so my general weightlifting approach probably isn't the main issue.

On an unrelated note, anyone ever notice that the guys with the worst form in the gym tend to be quite muscular? I wonder how they got muscular in the first place, when they're doing things like using their lower back for 90% of the effort on pull downs.

#2 of 35 Dustin B

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Posted July 10 2003 - 02:02 AM

You could try some infinite resistance curls if you have a partner to lift with. Use what you would consider a rather light dumbell. Rest your are on an inclined bench. Curl it up and have your buddy grab on. Have the your partner slowly pull the dumbell to the extended position while you fight him as hard as you can (have him make it take 30-60 seconds). When extended he lets go and you raise it again yourself. 3 or 4 reps on each arm with 2 or 3 sets. If that doesn't get you past your hump I don't know what will Posted Image

Another option is even though you can't complete the sets up the weight anyways for a week, then go back to the old weight and continue your normal advancement.
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#3 of 35 Tom-G



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Posted July 10 2003 - 02:34 AM

It concerns be because my triceps are advancing along and I don't want to get any part of my body out of balance. It will also impact my ability to exercise my back at some point.

Everyone is "out of balance" with some muscle group. The solution is to either stagger your exercises, i.e. work that muscle group in between other sets. You could also increase the number of times per week are you working your biceps.

Mark, the best thing you can do is vary your bicep exercises. The biceps are the muscles that are fastest to recover therefore it's very important to always shock them into growing. Try some negative-resistance curls, although you do need a partner to lift the weight for you. I do them every time I've hit a plateau and they work the hell out of my bis.

If you need some ideas on different exercises, check out ABC Bodybuilding. It's an excellent website. If you have never visited it before, check it out.

#4 of 35 Zane Charron

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Posted July 10 2003 - 02:43 AM

I could probably think of 4 or 5 things to suggest you try. Let's see:

1) Try more weight with less reps, down to 4 reps.

2) Make sure your form is perfect and really give those biceps a good squeeze at the top of the rep.

3) Take your time. A good 1-2 seconds bringing the weight up, squeeze and a good 2-3 seconds bringing it back down. The resistance on the way down is quite important, I've found.

4) As soon as you finish with your last set, drop the weight down to the weight you started at and do as many reps as you can until you go into muscle failure ans simply can't do anymore. For example, say you start with 10 reps of 20lbs, then 25lbs, then 30lbs, drop back to 20lbs and do as many as you can. It's an extra measure of total exhausting the muscle. But it has to be done RIGHT as you finish the last set with no rest time.

Everyone's body is different. I have trouble making my triceps grow. Sometimes simply working them as much as possible is the only way (with ample rest days in between muscle groups, of course).

Hope this helps.

#5 of 35 JoshF


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Posted July 10 2003 - 04:25 AM

1) Go heavier with fewer reps. Try to eke out 3 set of 6 at a weight that will kill you by the final set. That's the only way to achieve hypertrophy.

2) Look into your diet. If you're not making gains, even in one area, there could be a nutrition problem.

3) Look into your routine. What exercises are you doing on the same day as biceps? Are you, perhaps, doing heavy bench presses or dips beforehand, and burning out your arms before you have a chance to work them?
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#6 of 35 Mark Schermerhorn

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Posted July 10 2003 - 04:46 AM

Tom G:

I did not realize the biceps recovered that fast. I have noticed varying recovery rates for various muscles, but not that pair. I'll pay close attention to it from now on.


The ideas you outlined are a good, more involved version of what I was thinking of myself. I think this is what I'm going to go with.


As far as diet, I didn't mention that I'm being half-assed about focusing on weight loss and muscle gain at random intervals. I've been going back and forth every 3 weeks or so. I'm just about down to the weight I want, so I think I will start focusing on weight training exclusivly in a few weeks. I'm sure expending less energy doing cardio combined with more caloric intake (especially protein) will help.

As far as routine, I tend to do the single muscle group exercises before the big compound exercises. The exception being bench press right before tricep extension, which I actually like because it really exhausts the triceps. That could be a hint, I suppose.

Thanks for all the ideas, guys. Posted Image Posted Image

#7 of 35 AaronMg


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Posted July 10 2003 - 07:22 AM

Try curving your wrists as you raise the bar/dumbbells

#8 of 35 Joe Szott

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Posted July 10 2003 - 07:47 AM

I used to have a system that could increase any single muscle group very quickly, very similar to what Zane said above. I would actually use it quite a bit for chest (bench) and biceps.

Let's say you normally curl 30 lb weights 4 sets 10 reps. Try this instead:

* Get both a set of 40 lb weights and a set of 15 or 20 lb.
* Curl the 40 lb weight 10 reps (or until you hit fatigue in any rep)
* Immediately drop the 40 lb weights, pick up the lighter set and pump out (quickly) as many reps as you can. You'll probably get 10-15 off before your bicep just can't go on.
* Rest for 5 mins
* Do it again, up to 4 sets. 3 sets is fine as well, but might as well do the 4th for total fatigue, even if you can only do 2-3 reps of heavy and 5-10 reps of light.
* Ask someone to carry the weights back to the holder for you (j/k Posted Image)
* Don't do any bicep workout for at least one day after, let them rest. Have a shot of protein as soon as your workout ends so the muscle can get what it needs ASAP.


#9 of 35 Mike__D


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Posted July 10 2003 - 08:20 AM

Everyone has given some great advice. The best is to vary your workout. I noticed my biggest gains by switching from straight bar curls, to a curl burl using a narrow grip.

Also, try 21's: Inclined curl bench, with a curl bar. Do 7 reps from bottom to middle of your range, then 7 reps from middle to top of your range, followed by 7 full range reps... do 3 sets. Talk about burn Posted Image

#10 of 35 Chris Lockwood

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Posted July 10 2003 - 11:44 AM

> I tend to do the single muscle group exercises before the big compound exercises.

That's probably what's wrong right there. Posted Image

#11 of 35 JonZ


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Posted July 10 2003 - 01:29 PM

"Do 10 sets scattered throughout my workout"

Posted Image Posted Image Sure, if youre on the juicePosted ImageBiceps are a smaller muscle group and IMHO 4 good sets TOPS is more than enough.

A few things:

1.You should work biceps after back - Biceps come into play for all back exercises. If u do back one day and then biceps another,youre overtraining your biceps.

Heres 2 GREAT biceps exercise I highly recommend.

1.Do one arm at a time to complete failure when its impossible to lift one more rep.Alternate which arm you begin with each week.
-Sit on a bend on chair to do concentration curls.
-Pick a weight that u can do 8 reps,struggling at 10-12.
-Add 10 pounds to that weight.
-Bend over as doing concentrations,Place your elbow on the inside of ur thigh and curl the weight as close to ur leg as u can without touching it.This will strech the bicep more than lifting it away from ur body.
-Place ur free hand on the back of ur hand just enough to help u raise the weight.Just a slight touch to help push the weight up.DONT let the free hand lift the weight.
-Do full motion.Lower the weight completley and hold for 3 seconds before u do the next rep
-Once u get up to 10-12 reps go up in weight

I got some strange looks when doing this at first now there are about 10 guys in my gym doing it.

2.Curls on incline bench
-Get a incline bench used to incline bench presses
-Bring the bench up enough so that when u curl it, shoulders DONT come into play - this will take a few times to get corect
-Do curls the same way you would with Preachers only do one arm at a time.
-Do the same as u did with concentrations - use your free hand to help you just enough to get the weight up.

Theres another that is just a great but Im at a loss as to how to explain it.Ive been doing the 2 exercises above plus a machine setto finish(the one I cant explain)and thats it.3 sets for biceps.If I feel especially energetic I may do a extra set as a superset to set3

If you do these one after the other you wont belive the pump and how fast ur arms will get tired.After back and then the second exercise listed above, my arms are usually exhausted and I cant do alot for the second exercise. Usually 35 or 40 pound dumbells are all I can lift and Im a prety strong guy. Its not as easy as it looks if done correctly.

Something else to keep in mind.What I read years ago was you should expect 1 inch added to ur biceps for every 8 pounds of muscle u gain. I dont think thats concrete correct but its probally close. Your triceps make up2/3 of ur arm so great triceps are a must for impressive looking arms.

These work really well.Good Luck

#12 of 35 Steve_Tk



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Posted July 10 2003 - 02:47 PM

I had the same problem. I increased the amount of sets and varied to a lot of different exercises. Using a cable machine, dumb bells, a preacher bench, straight and Ezbars. Also don't always just stand there and curl the same. If using a bar, a closer grip works the outside of your bis, a wider grip works the inside. Do curls while on a incline bench sometimes also. Every exercise works it a little different.

And something that really worked for me, when you curl the weight to the maximum point, contract the bis really hard. If you really pump them at the top, then you really feel the burn around the 8 rep. It's like when you do concentration curls, they really burn. Try and get that burn with all sets.

But everyone's body is different. Change can be good but you might have hit a wall. It took me 2 years to finally find a rhythm for my body and a monthly routine that was most beneficial, then I gained around 30 lbs in a year.

#13 of 35 Cary_H


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Posted July 10 2003 - 05:23 PM

At the risk of being rebellious here again, if you are getting results from your back training I say you're overtraining your biceps if they are not growing.
Try finishing off your back/bicep workout with just one heavy set for biceps. That is, do the couple or three exercises as usual for your back, and then just the one single set for biceps. Make it something like seated preacher curls or standing barbell curls with an Olympic bar in a rack. The preacher curls might require a spotter just to get you through a sticking point in the movement, so you don't shortchange the set. I might suggest using a curl machine for preachers, by that I mean one with a weight stack and cable. Why? At the top of the movement you can hold the stack at full contraction. On barbell curls the stress starts coming off as the bar moves from a vertical path into the horizontal near the end of the rep.
Also try to restrict your use of an EZ-Curl bar for curls. They take a major portion of the bicep out of the movement. Just compare the difference in the feel in your biceps when you curl with a straight bar versus the EZ bar. The bicep not only pulls the forearm toward the shoulder, but is responsible for supinating the wrist, that is, rotating your hand from palm down to palm up.
Resist the urge to do more, and give doing less a try.

#14 of 35 Mark Schermerhorn

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Posted July 11 2003 - 12:23 AM


I have given that some thought. I'll take the idea of overtraining into consideration as I experiment with different methods. Initially, I think I'm going to go with the opposite assumption.

Again, thank you all for your input. I'll report back in a few weeks and maybe a month.

#15 of 35 Mike__D


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Posted July 11 2003 - 01:04 AM

Also try to restrict your use of an EZ-Curl bar for curls. They take a major portion of the bicep out of the movement. Just compare the difference in the feel in your biceps when you curl with a straight bar versus the EZ bar.
I have to disagree with that statement. As I mentioned in my post above, I recieved better gains using the EZ-curl bar, using a narrow grip. My arms were much more pumped (and exhuasted) after using the curl bar, as opposed to the straight bar. It also took strain off my wrists.

If it does take out a major portion of the bicep (which I can not agree with), I make up for that with hammer curls and concentration curls.

Mike D.

#16 of 35 paul_v


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Posted July 11 2003 - 01:34 AM

Yeah it does sound like you're overtraining. I've read that resting the muscle group a little longer than normal (like rest it four 3 days instead of 2, 4 days instead of 3 etc) may shock it back into development.

Also, dont the triceps make up like 65% of your arm? Shouldn't they look more developed than your biceps? I'm just a casual weightlifter so I was just wondering Posted Image
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#17 of 35 Mark Schermerhorn

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Posted July 11 2003 - 02:01 AM

Paul, my triceps are certainly stronger and bigger than my biceps, but that wasn't my basis for thinking my upper arms could get out of balance. It was the fact that I have been able to increase weight / reps with my triceps whereas I haven't been able to with my biceps.

This is the plan I am formulating in my head for biceps, and probably some other exercises as well (still need to decide on reps):

1 set at X lbs and Y reps, 1 set at x+10 lbs and Y reps, 1 set at X+10 lbs to failure, 1 set at X lbs to failure, 1 set at X-10 lbs to failure, 1 set at X-20 lbs to failure, etc...

A few people here have suggested something along these lines. Some of the guys I work with to this as well, one coworker of mine who does bench press reps at 250 takes off plates and does sets to failure all the way down to about 60 lbs. He's kinda crazy though...

#18 of 35 Mark Schermerhorn

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Posted July 11 2003 - 02:02 AM

Oh in addition, my assumption that I am not overtraining the biceps comes from the fact that I only work them twice a week.

#19 of 35 Reid_d



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Posted July 11 2003 - 02:36 AM

If the main focus is to get bigger biceps stay away from the e-z curl bar. Mike_d is right you will see in increase in size using one. It is not from the biceps getting bigger. When you use an e-z curl bar it puts your hand in a pronated position and stresses the brachialis. This muscle runs between the tricep and bicep. There are better exercises for this zottoman curls and hammer curls to name a few.
If your just starting out I would not be concerned with any of these yet.
The major function of the biceps is to curl the arm from down to up, and to supinate the hand ( stop at the half way point of a curl and turn you wrist from facing the floor to facing the ceiling, watch what happens to the bicep). Try excercises like alternate dumbell curl, barbell, incline, preacher,etc....
Variation is one of the keys to beat plateaus. When you workout you are placing stress on your body. The body adapts, and grows muscle. Like anything else your body will grow accustomed to the stress and stop growing. So change something. It doesn't have to be drastic. You can change the tempo, hand postion, reps, sets, duration...the list goes on and my espresso is done....good luck
Btw in weight training less is more. Don't overtrain

#20 of 35 Cary_H


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Posted July 11 2003 - 04:10 PM

It's disrespectful and sheer folly of me to debate something your own experience proved to be fact, Mike.
I do concur with what Reid said, however. The change you introduced moved the stress to a different part of the bicep, hence the growth spurt. Perhaps the comfort the EZ bar extends to you changed the way you approached your bicep workouts.
By all means, use the EZ bar, but whether you agree or not, curls with it only works part of the bicep. At some point you should cycle what you do to rotate the load around the various parts of the bicep.
And contrary to conventional thought, I don't suggest everybody run out and add a couple of more exercises to what they already do. Stick with one for awhile, then swap a different one into it's slot.
I believe most people work out for too long, doing too many set and reps, at a far less than optimal level of intensity. Going to the gym too often for too long a time makes a chore out of it all. When that happens you'll be back on the couch in no time.

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