It's not uncommon to see gym-goers flexing their biceps as a litmus test for how "buff" they're becoming. Lower bicep workouts, when done correctly with a strict regimen, could propel you to that next level of strength and fitness.
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Where Are Your Lower Biceps?
To understand where the lower bicep is located, it's important to first understand the anatomy of the biceps. The Sydney Local Health District in Australia provides an overall definition of the biceps as a muscle with two parts in the arm: one part attached to the forearm and the other to the shoulder.
The "long head" enters the shoulder joint, while the long and "short head" intersect to form a tendon at the elbow. The tendon at the shoulder is referred to as the proximal biceps tendon. The one at the elbow: the distal biceps tendon. The distal area is the "lower" bicep region. Therefore, the lower bicep is technically the distal bicep.
Bicep Workouts for Muscle Growth
If your aim is to get bulkier biceps, you'll want to know about some of the best workouts for bicep muscle growth. Exercises range from a simple bicep curl to a curl that engages several other parts of the body.
Move 1: Bicep Curl
The bicep curl is the classic bicep workout. Mayo Clinic lays out a set of steps to execute the proper bicep curl with a set of dumbbells.
- Begin with your knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart.
- Have the dumbbells in your hands, palms facing upward, elbows firmly against the body, while you curl the arms upward hinging at the elbow.
- Gradually lower the weights to the starting position, and repeat. Make sure to keep the arms stiff and steady.
Move 2: Lunge With Bicep Curl
If you're looking to mix up the classic bicep curl, the State of Queensland Department of Health in Australia provides steps for a bicep curl lunge exercise.
- Holding weights in your hands, step one foot forward and bend the knee. Make sure your knee stays in line with your toes.
- Once the lunge is complete, do a bicep curl, keeping the arms against the body and hinging at the elbows.
- Lower the weights down and step back up to standing positioning.
- Repeat with the other leg.
Move 3: Seated Biceps Curl
Imagine doing a classic bicep curl, but doing it while seated. According to the American Council on Exercise, there are just a few things to keep in mind while performing a seated biceps curl.
- Keep your back against the backrest and feet plastered to the ground.
- Keep your body rigid as you bring your arms up at the elbow, and avoid shrugging your shoulders as you lift.
As a variation on this exercise, you can turn your palms toward your sides and rotate them upward as your forearm moves toward a horizontal position, then rotate them back to the sides during the downward motion. You can also curl the dumbbells higher during the upward movement by allowing your elbows to move forward and your upper arm to be horizontal with the floor.
Move 4: Reverse Biceps Curl
The reverse biceps curl will be like the classic bicep curl, but with the palms facing down instead of up.
- ACE recommends holding the barbell with your hands about shoulder width apart and then lifting the bar toward the shoulders while keeping the elbows bent and close to the body.
- Lower the weight to the starting position and repeat.
The “Best” Bicep Workout
In a 2014 study by ACE, researchers set out to determine the most beneficial exercise for activating the biceps. The researchers first compiled a list of the most commonly used bicep exercises, such as cable curls, chin-ups, incline curls, barbell curls, concentration curls, etc.
The researchers recruited 16 female and male volunteers between the ages of 18 and 24 and secured electrodes to their biceps to measure total muscle activity with a wireless electromyography machine. The subjects then performed the different exercises with a rest period between exercises.
When the researchers compared the exercises, they found that the concentration curl produced significantly higher muscle activation of the biceps than the other exercises tested. They believe this could be because the concentration curl isolates bicep muscles more than the other exercises.
So what is the concentration curl anyway? ACE lays out the steps:
- Sitting with your legs spread apart, hold a dumbbell in your right hand and let it hang between your legs.
- Then, resting the back of your upper right arm against the right inner thigh, do a bicep curl.
- After the desired number of reps, repeat on the opposite side.
Read more: How to Get Defined Biceps
Tips for Arm Workouts
If you're concerned that your lower bicep won't grow and want to make the most out of your lower bicep workout, you'll have to follow a strength training regimen that allows for maximal muscle growth. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' MOVE! program has a few recommendations for strength training:
- Do strength training exercises, such as bicep curls, at least twice a week, but no more than three times a week.
- Don't exercise the same muscle group two days in a row.
- If you're a beginner, start with a lighter weight, and then gradually build up to a heavier one.
- Do about two sets of eight to 12 reps on each side per workout.
Lower Bicep Pain
Lower bicep pain may occur when there's a rupture to the bicep. According to UW Health, a rupture can arise when the elbow is being forced into an extended position while it's trying to move in the opposite direction. This can happen while lifting weights that are too heavy or while doing one-arm water-skiing.
Signs and symptoms of a lower bicep rupture include:
- Loss of strength at the elbow
- Fatigue and pain in the elbow
- Swelling and bruising around the elbow
A ruptured bicep can be treated with surgery within three to six weeks of the injury. If the tear is not complete, surgery may not be necessary, though patients who want normal use of their arm might opt for surgery even if the tear is partial. Generally, you won't be permitted to fully straighten your elbow until about six weeks after surgery.
Light lifting may begin after six weeks and full usage allowed between three to six months, though it's important to check in with your doctor before making any changes to your recovery routine.
- Sydney Local Health District: "Distal Biceps Rupture"
- State of Queensland Department of Health: "Lunge With Bicep Curl"
- Mayo Clinic: "Weight Training Exercises"
- ACE: "Seated Biceps Curl"
- ACE: "ACE Reveals Best Biceps Exercises"
- ACE: "Build Your Biceps Workout"
- UW Health: "Rehabilitation Guidelines for Distal Bicep Tendon Repair"
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs MOVE!: "Sample Strength Activity Plan for Beginners"