Most of us, especially when starting out, don’t pay too much attention to our exercise selection.
We select some “basic” exercises for each body part, and away we go. Usually, we make these selections based on articles or books that we read. Which is fine, we have to get our knowledge base somewhere. But eventually, if you want to make optimum progress, you need to take a more critical look at your program, and this includes your exercise selection. Of course, the basics are best, but even they may be able to be improved if we take a closer look.
Here’s a great example I like to use when discussing exercise selection with a client. If you’ve been working out for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve read numerous articles on training your arms, right? Sure you have, especially if you are a guy. It’s the show muscle. If anyone asks a man to flex, what does he do? That’s right; he flexes his bicep.
Now, a lot of these bicep training articles will tell you to base the program around a basic exercise and then say to do barbell curls with a straight bar or EZ curl bar. It’s always one of the other as if it doesn’t matter which one.
Best Biceps Exercises
Well, guess what? It does matter. That’s a big decision because there is a big difference between how these biceps exercises will affect your biceps.
Stick with me here, as I briefly discuss the function of the biceps. Boring stuff, I know, but it can be helpful to your progress. Hold your arms at your side, palms facing back. Now, raise them at the elbows until your forearms are parallel to the ground with your palms facing down.
Flex your bicep. Now rotate your hand until your palm is facing up. Feel your bicep contract more tightly? Twist your hand to the outside as far as you can go and you will feel your bicep contract even more. This is the natural function of your bicep.
Still with me? Didn’t nod off, did you? I’m sure a lot of you already knew that but here is why it’s important. Imagine your grip on an EZ Curl bar. What position does it put your bicep in? Right, one that is further away from contraction than a straight bar. It does not provide as good a stimulus/contraction as the straight bar.
Now, some people seem to have wrist discomfort with a straight bar and prefer the more comfortable grip of the cambered EZ Curl bar. There are a couple of things you can do. First, check the width of your grip on a straight bar curl. If it is too wide or too narrow, this may be the cause of the wrist pain.
Relax your arms close against your side. Reach down and grab the bar where your hands are. When you are at the bottom position of the curl, the inside of your hands, most likely will be brushing the outside of your thighs.
If this is still uncomfortable and you just can’t do straight bar curls, no problem. But don’t do them with an EZ Curl bar. Use dumbbells instead. Dumbbells actually provide a better bicep contraction than a straight bar anyway, because you can rotate your hand outward to achieve more of a contraction in the muscle.
There are some exercises for which the EZ Curl bar is ideal. They just aren’t curl exercises. Go figure. The poor bar has been misnamed. But it does put your hands and wrists in a great position for lying tricep extensions and seated overhead extensions do. I guess the EZ Extension Bar just didn’t have the same ring to it.
Remember Something May Sound Right But May Not Be!
Remember, just because something sounds right on the surface, doesn’t mean it is. Take a closer look. And hey, I encourage you to do so with me, too. That’s why, in this article, I took you through the boring process of bicep function, for you to go ahead and examine the bicep contraction with the different pieces of equipment.
Here’s another quick example of what I mean. This is a quote from a current supplement ad, talking about arm training. “Supersetting the biceps and triceps is an old-school technique that really blasts the arms and takes them to complete failure.” Sounds good, right? Too bad, it’s absurd. No exercise technique takes a muscle to complete failure. The only thing that can do that is you, and more specifically, your mind.
Let’s say I do a set of curls for five reps and superset it with a set of tricep pushdowns for five reps. Well, according to the ad, I’ve taken my arms to complete failure because I supersetted. The only problem is, I chose a weight for each exercise for which I could do 15 reps. Oops, I guess the ad was wrong.
Remember, most of what you read and hear is appealing to your emotions. And that’s fine. For most of us, it is our emotions that get us to take action. Just remember to take a second pass at the information and look at it logically. If it appeals to you emotionally and makes sense logically, you’ve got yourself a winner!