Well-conditioned biceps will help you do pullups, enhance the strength of your back muscles and reduce your risk of injury if you play a racket sport or throw a ball repetitively. Training your biceps with another muscle maximizes your workout time and will help you balance the strength of your upper body muscles.
Training your biceps should depend largely on your intent. A baseball pitcher or tennis player does not need to spend an exorbitant amount of time building maximal biceps mass or maximal biceps strength. Instead, an athlete would need only a few sets of biceps exercises included with a regular conditioning program for all muscle groups. If your goal is to tone your arms, build big muscles or increase the number of pullups you can do, then yes, you should focus on your biceps by pairing it with one or two other muscles. Vary your muscle pairings to continue to stimulate muscle growth and strength improvements.
Resistance and Volume
The amount of weight you lift and the number of sets and reps you do depends on your goal. If you just want to tone your biceps, you should lift a light enough weight so you can complete three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions. To build bigger muscles, you must use a weight heavy enough that you can perform only six to 12 repetitions per set for four to six sets per exercise. If you want super-strong biceps, lift very heavy weights for four to six sets of one to five reps. Complete three exercises for your biceps.
Biceps, Triceps and Abdominals
The most common muscles to pair your biceps with are your triceps and abdominals. Working opposite and nonrelated muscles together enables you to rest one muscle while you train the other. This means you can work your biceps maximally because they are not pre-exhausted from workouts of your triceps or abdominals. Pair alternating dumbbell curls with triceps barbell presses and double crunches; EZ-bar curls with one-arm dumbbell extensions and weighted decline situps; and concentration curls with triceps rope press downs and hanging leg raises. Do a set of each exercise in a pair one right after the other, then repeat for multiple sets before moving on to the next trio of exercises.
Biceps and Back
Workouts may also be designed by grouping muscles by whether they push away from your body or toward your body. For example, when you do dumbbell curls and barbell curls for your biceps or dumbbell rows and lateral pull downs for your back, you are pulling weight toward you. In contrast, when you do barbell bench presses and triceps extensions you are pushing the weight away from you. Anytime you perform a back exercise, your biceps are the secondary or assisting muscles. Hence, your biceps will be pretty exhausted after you do a back exercise. Pair lateral pull downs with dumbbell curls, one-arm dumbbell rows with cable curls and seated cable rows with hammer dumbbell curls. Incorporate push and pull workouts for two weeks as a way to vary your training every four to six weeks, engaging your biceps in a different way to prevent training plateaus.
- Personal Trainer Manual; American Council on Exercise
- ACSM.org: Quantity and Quality of Exercise
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; Thomas R. Baechle, et al.