In my last post I made a case for including curls in your training programs. Biceps have gotten a bad rap over the years, dismissed by “experts” as being superficial & non-functional. This, of course, is ridiculous. Are triceps superficial and non-functional? What about calves?
The fact is, biceps — though synonymous with GymBro Douchebaggery — are no less important to a well-rounded and high-performing body than any other body part. Your goals will dictate how you train these much-maligned muscles, but train them you must. What follows is a brief rundown of the different methods for training your biceps and how your grip (or hand position) influences the outcome.
Performed with your palms facing each other, neutral grip emphasizes one of the great, unsung muscles of the body — the brachialis. Biceps may get all the headlines, but the brachialis is the real hero of the day. Lying deep beneath the bicep, when properly developed the brachialis pushes the biceps high, creating an appearance of width around the circumference of the upper arm.
Even if you don’t care about having wicked guns, the brachialis deserves some extra attention for one very practical reason: by generating approximately 50% more force than the bicep, it’s the prime mover of elbow flexion. The stronger your brachialis, the better your chin-ups and dumbbell rows. That’s form AND function, all packed into one muscle.
Performed with your palms facing upwards, supinated grip is what 99.9% of people think of when they think of arm curls. This is the grip that builds the biceps, though there’s a little more to getting jack arms than simply rotating your palms.
As the name indicates the biceps are made up of two heads, the long head and the short head. The long head sits on the outside of the upper arm and forms a prominent peak when properly developed. The short head sits on the inside of the upper arm. And while both heads contribute when performing supinated curls, your arm position and hand placement will dictate which of the two gets the most love.
Performed with your palms facing downwards, the pronated grip (also called reverse grip) doesn’t work the biceps all that well. It does, however, work wonders for developing crushing grip strength and forearms that would make Popeye drool.
Your grip can never be too strong. When deadlifting — or performing most pulling exercise — your grip is going to be the main limiting factor (tell that to the next person who says curls aren’t functional!). By incorporating pronated curls into your training, you’ll strengthen the brachioradialis, a lovely looking muscle that sits on the lateral side of the forearm, as well as all of the finger flexors and extensors that run from the wrist to the elbow.