What could be simpler than working on your biceps and doing an arm workout?
Whether you’re a guy or a girl, just grab a couple of dumbbells and do as many biceps curls as you can, right?
Most biceps exercises focus on just one arm movement that the biceps are responsible for: Flexing at the elbow. As shown in the picture below, a straight arm (in a position known as “elbow extension”) allows the biceps to lengthen and relax. The biceps muscles aren’t doing any work while your arm is in this position.
Then the biceps muscles fire as the elbow bends (as shown below). This movement is known as “elbow flexion” and it tends to get all the attention when it comes to biceps workouts.
The Missing Ingredient for Better Biceps Workouts
Elbow flexion is just part of an ideal biceps and arm workout though. Your biceps are actually responsible for a second movement, one that very few people focus on when training their arms.
It’s called “supination” and it’s the movement that happens when your forearm rotates so that your palm faces upwards (like a soup bowl — see the picture below).
To fully engage your biceps muscles you MUST create elbow flexion AND palm supination simultaneously, otherwise you aren’t putting your biceps through their full range of motion.
Don’t believe me?
Try the experiment in the video below and feel what happens when you perform an ideal biceps curl. You will quickly see why supination is so important in order to achieve the best results during your biceps workouts.
This means that exercises such as hammer curls or biceps curls using an “EZ curl” bar are NOT your best choices. They allow the palm of your hand to remain neutral (i.e. facing inwards) and therefore can’t give you the best results.
How to Apply This Principle For Better Triceps Workouts
Triceps are the “antagonist muscle” to your biceps. They create the elbow extension movement we talked about earlier and they relax when your elbow is flexed. Basically, they create the opposite movement to your biceps.
So, it’s likely not surprising to hear that your triceps are only fully engaged when your palm faces…
Downwards! (You knew that, right?)
When your forearm rotates so that your hand faces downwards, this movement is called “pronation” — see the image below and you will likely be able to guess how to incorporate pronation into your triceps exercises.
Putting It All Together for a Superior Arm Workout
Your biceps get an ideal workout when you add supination to your curls, and your triceps are fully targeted when you add pronation to your triceps extensions. Watch the video below to see how you can accomplish both of these ideal movements in a quick two-exercise dumbbell arm workout:
Dumbbell Arm Workout
As demonstrated in the video, an amazing arm workout can be performed with a single set of dumbbells using the following superset:
Exercise #1: Double Supination Biceps Curl (from knees) x 15 reps max
Exercise #2: Triceps Pronation Skull Crusher x 15 reps max
Repeat the superset five times with no break between sets.
Aim to squeeze out as many reps as you possibly can without ever getting more than 15 reps. Again, if you can get more than 15 reps on your first set, then you know you need to add more weight.
Go for it! —Dave Smith