Don Long's Bicep Training
Top Ten Tips for Maximizing Biceps Development
From Flex Magazine, August 1995

I train biceps once a week as part of the following bodypart split:

WednesdayBiceps & Triceps
SundayCardio work & abs

I complete a heavy session in the morning followed by a lighter schedule in the afternoon. I work a major bodypart in the morning, and then Monday through Friday afternoon, I go back to the gym and do what I call touch up work on certain bodyparts, the ones that I feel need a little attention.

The absolute cornerstone of my biceps training from the start has been the routine shown in the accompanying chart. It's a routine that can be used by beginners and advanced bodybuilders alike, within the boundaries of their strength capabilities (the poundages shown in the chart are for informational purposes only.

Don Long's Biceps Routine
Standing dumbbell curls1162x45
1 82x75
Barbell curls11680
1 8180
One arm cable curls11675
1 8120
Rope hammer curls11690
1 8150

The range of exercises I employ ensures that every aspect of the biceps muscles receive full stimulation: dumbbell curls for peak; barbell curls for all around mass; one arm cable curls to enhance shape; and rope hammer curls for forearm and brachialis tie in development.

I'm not too macho to admit that the descending reps design of the program is one I first saw outlined by a woman bodybuilder. It made such good sense to me that I immediately adopted it.

My Top 10 Tips for Maximizing Biceps Development

  1. Prior to the actual biceps workout, stretch the target muscles, then warm up thoroughly with a couple of light high rep sets. I have bone that from day one and have never experienced any injury problems.

  2. Find your own strength levels in line with the descending reps program. (Again the poundages shown in the chart are for informational purposes only.)

  3. For growth, you have to train as heavy as possible within the recommended rep range.

  4. For the first two sets (16 and 12 reps, respectively), use a weight that allows you to just complete the required rep range without failure occurring.

  5. For the last two sets, use a weight for which failure occurs at the 10th and eight rep marks, respectively.

  6. Don't go past failure into the forced rep zone. Not doing forced reps is another reason (besides warming up thoroughly) why I feel I've remained uninjured.

  7. Use strict style without bending your torso. During a real heavy set of barbell curls, you may have to cheat a little to complete the last two reps or so, but don't cheat until it's impossible to complete the set without doing so.

  8. As you complete each rep, visualize the biceps working, make mental contact with the muscle as it rolls into a contraction, and form an image of the peak swelling.

  9. Particularly during the last two sets of each exercise, aim for the maximum pump and a killer burn.

  10. Rest between sets only as long as it takes your partner to do his set. One arm cables are an exception.

Benefits of Cable Work

I use cables because they offer the opportunity to exert stress and, therefore, greater muscle stimulation during the negative (downward) phase of a rep. During this downward phase, you can control the weight and release it slowly in a way that free weights just don't allow.

When I do my single arm cable work, I complete one set with my left arm and then go straight back to my left and so on until I've completed four sets with each arm. Basically, I'm curling nonstop. The rest periods allowed each arm equate to only the time it takes to work the other arm.

Curling in this nonstop manner ensures that I get a great pump, and the mechanics of the cable apparatus makes the rhythmic completion of sets very easy to do. With free weights, I'd have to gather four sets of dumbbells around me, but with cables, I just alter the pin in the machine and proceed from one poundage to the next.

Going for the Peak

I attribute my biceps peak to the way I perform standing dumbbell curls. I execute them in alternate style; one rep with my left arm, then one rep with my right arm, back to my left arm and so on. At the start of each rep, my palm faces toward my side. As my forearm approaches the point where it is parallel to the floor, I rotate my wrist so my palm faces upward. I also lean a little to the side as I complete the second part of the upward phase of the rep; this really hangs the biceps 'out there' and makes it do all the work.

As I reach the midpoint of the rep, I push my elbow forward a little and then, while visualizing the biceps peak rising, I flex the muscle for a full contraction. This last action is like doing a one arm biceps pose while holding the dumbbell. I have been doing standing dumbbell curls in the aforementioned style since I started training, and I know that they're the reason I've developed my biceps peak to the max.

Lagging Biceps

If your biceps are a weak bodypart, don't be afraid to train them several times a week. Getting the blood and nutrients into the muscle more regularly will spur them into growth, and your mental desire to improve will outweigh any considerations of not allowing what is normally considered to be adequate recuperation time. Biceps are one of the smaller muscle groups, and they don't need the same period of recuperation as a large muscle group like quads or back. With regard to recuperation, I think the most important factor is getting eight hours of solid sleep a night. The bottom line with biceps; if you want them badly enough, you'll get them!