“F%$& the legs, let’s bench!”
A common adage among the batch of men who prioritize a jacked upper body over the quads, hamstrings, and ass.
(Considering the number of men I come across with chicken legs to go along with their massive pecks and biceps, clearly, there’s something to that training style.)
Then along came CrossFit, or functional fitness, or whatever we’re calling it now—a crowd of posterior chain enthusiasts who have never once neglected the legs. I remember going on my first date with a CrossFit man and his first compliment to me was: “You have a good hamstring line.”
Certainly not what the "f%$& the legs, let’s bench dude" would have told me.
All of this posterior chain work, however, meant that the functional fitness folk, especially in the earlier CrossFit days, pretty much neglected the bench press entirely. Meanwhile, bicep curls were the laughing stock of the community.
Biceps matter, and not just for aesthetics. They matter for real, functional movements. Like pull-ups and muscle-ups. There’s a reason the 2013 CrossFit Games Champion Sam Briggs’ (known for her pulling strength) IG handle is BicepsLikeBriggs.
When I worked with gymnastics coach Louise Eberts (@louiseebertsgymnastics) to improve my muscle-ups a couple of years ago, she added bicep curls to my program and they made all the difference. Muscle-ups were never my strong suit, but they got a whole lot better once I started working on my biceps.
Alas, if you’re looking to build your biceps, here are five exercises beyond just traditional bicep curls that will translate to more than just looking great on the beach.
1. The Zottman Curl
This is kind of like a bicep curl, but with a twist. It involves doing a bicep curl as usual with a supine grip but then rotating your palms downward by flipping your hands 180 degrees at the top of the curl and slowly lowering the DB with a prone grip. This is great for not just the biceps, but also for your forearms.
2. Hammer Curl
During this curl, keep your palms facing your torso and raise the DB until your forearms and upper arms are at an approximately 90-degree angle. Make sure you keep your elbows close to your body and minimize cheating by keeping it at strict as possible.
3. Narrow-Grip Strict Chin-Ups
Though we often consider chin-ups to work the lats, they also have great benefits for the biceps, especially if you practice them with a narrower grip.
4. Bent Over Barbell Row
Once again, we think of rowing as being more for your lats than your biceps, but if you’re pulling, then your biceps are active. The barbell row is great for the biceps as you’ll be able to lift considerably more on this movement than with a traditional bicep curl. As you pull, think about pulling your elbows behind you and then hold for a second at the top before controlling the weight back down.
5. Flexed Arm Carries
Kind of like a farmer carry, but with a flexed arm. They’re great not only for building the biceps but also to bulletproof your joints, which will help when you get into movements like pull-ups, as they can be strenuous on the shoulder and elbow joints.
Biceps matter. Not just at the beach, but in life. So, don’t forget about them.