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The bicep is arguably the flashiest upper body muscle. It gets much more attention than the tricep and is often the muscle that people flex when showing off their gains. However, it’s a tricky muscle to develop. Many of us have difficulty building a full bicep with balanced height and width. Here’s how to get wider biceps and develop the pair of guns you’ve always wanted.
Evaluate Your Bicep Genetics
Before changing your workout routine, you should first evaluate your bicep genetics. Some people are blessed with natural bicep peaks, while others get the short end of the stick. Look at your biceps in the mirror from every angle.
These are the telltale signs of good genetics:
- The muscle looks long and full when relaxed.
- No significant gap forms between the bicep and the forearm when contracted.
- No bumps or divots in the muscle when contracted.
- The bicep peak is tall with notable definition.
These are the characteristics of bad genetics:
- The muscle looks thin and flat when relaxed.
- A significant gap forms between the bicep and forearm when contracted.
- The muscle has bumps and divots when contracted.
- The peak is shallow or flat, with poor definition.
- No vascularity
If you exhibit more signs of lousy bicep genetics, you might be out of luck. No matter how long they train, some people just can’t get wider biceps and develop that highly-desired peak. However, that doesn’t mean your biceps can’t look good.
For example, the current Classic Physique Mr. Olympia Chris Bumstead has objectively terrible bicep genetics. They’re short, shallow and don’t have a great peak. He overcame his bad genetics and made noticeable improvements to the muscle in the last several years by performing a few unique exercises with high frequency. Let’s explore the best exercises you can do to get wider biceps.
Exercises to Get Wider Biceps
We will review five exercises that Bumstead and many others have used to defeat their poor genetics and build a round pair of biceps. No matter which exercises you add to your routine, make sure you apply these fundamentals:
- You must control the negative/eccentric portion of the rep. That means you need to humble yourself and use manageable weight.
- Squeeze the bicep at the end of each rep to increase blood flow and stimulation.
- Do the exercises at least twice a week. Biceps are small muscles that can handle more frequent training than bigger muscle groups like the back and legs.
- Rotate between doing the exercises at the beginning, middle and end of your workouts. This strategy ensures that your biceps get stimulation when they’re at their weakest and strongest.
When regular training doesn’t work, you have to come up with new ideas. These details will help you get the most out of every bicep exercise. Now let’s get into the specifics of each movement.
1. Hammer Curl
The hammer curl targets the long head of the bicep on the outer arm and the biceps brachialis (forearm muscle). It will help your biceps look wider while relaxed and make the peak more rounded. Having stronger forearms is also highly beneficial for fitness overall. Forearms are often the first muscles to get tired, so developing their strength and endurance will make your workouts more productive in the long run.
You can use dumbbells or a rope cable attachment for this exercise. Just make sure you maintain a neutral grip throughout the movement to keep the tension on the long head. Focus on squeezing the outside of the bicep with each rep, and you’ll feel the burn in no time.
2. Wide Grip Dumbbell Curl
The wide grip curl has the same set-up as a standard underhand dumbbell curl, but with one significant difference. Just do your dumbbell curls like you usually would, but widen your hands as you go through the positive/concentric portion of the rep. Your hands should be a little wider than shoulder-width apart at the end of each rep.
This adjustment makes the movement more natural for the bicep and helps you get a better squeeze. A longer range of motion and a full contraction lead to more gains!
3. EZ Bar Curl
If you’re having trouble adjusting your dumbbell curl, the EZ bar curl is a sufficient alternative. It keeps your hands and wrists in a fixed position, allowing less opportunity for error. The EZ bar is also better than a traditional barbell because its thin frame and slight angle make the grip feel more natural.
Set your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and take your time with each rep. You won’t get the same range of motion as dumbbell and cable exercises, but the contraction at the top is almost unmatched. Almost.
4. Waiter Curl
The waiter curl is an unorthodox exercise that only requires one dumbbell. You hold the dumbbell with the palms of your hands like a waiter carries a large tray, hence the name. The contraction you get from this curl feels noticeably different from other curling movements, but that’s the beauty of the exercise. It recruits different muscle fibers, which leads to fuller biceps.
Although the contraction for this exercise is phenomenal, it shouldn’t be the first bicep exercise you do. You want to pre-exhaust the biceps with other movements and then do the waiter curl to activate every last muscle fiber.
5. Cable Concentration Curl
The cable concentration curl is perhaps the most underrated biceps exercise. It’s not flashy or complicated. You just curl with one arm at a time and focus all of your attention on one individual muscle. This exercise specializes in one thing: developing the mind-muscle connection.
If you’re asking how to get wider biceps, you probably don’t have the best connection with those muscles. As the name suggests, the cable concentration curl forces you to concentrate on controlling the weight throughout the movement. The cable puts the bicep under constant tension from start to finish, making each rep more beneficial than the last. Add this exercise to your routine and watch your bicep control improve with every workout!
Want Wider Biceps? Do the Work.
It might not be fair, but some of us can’t learn how to get wider biceps. Some people have the proper genetics and others don’t. However, even those with poor genetics can build an impressive set of guns. They just need to do more work. Add these five exercises to your routine, remember the fundamentals we discussed and get to work!