How To Build Big Biceps Without Elbow Pain
To the dedicated bro, arm day is equal to or greater than God’s day of rest. Some guys will say you only need to do weighted chin up and barbell curls for your guns to grow, but I’m not buying it. If that’s the case why aren’t there more dudes with impressive arms?
Big arms call for direct arm work. Case closed. Before you slam your computer shut and knock the barbell out of your buddies hand finish reading this first.
There is more to building your arms than countless barbell curls. Sure you can do it that way but a little bit of science, smart programming, grunting, and lots of motion that involve your wrist moving towards your shoulder, will get you there faster.
It amazes me how some bros never get hurt. It also amazes me others won’t acknowledge they’re hurt and what got them hurt in the first place. In the quest for bigger arms most guys end up with severe elbow pain from too much heavy barbell curls.
The article isn’t meant to demonize the barbell curl, in fact, I love the exercise. I even give you recommendations at the end of the article if you aren’t in pain and still want to keep it in your workout.
The rest of this article will give you exercise variations and recommendations to dodge cranky elbows while building nice ass biceps.
The keys to healthy elbows and big biceps
- A warm-up of some sort
- Picking good exercises
- Manage volume, intensity, and frequency
- Check your form
- Recovery (rest periods, nutrition, sleep, active, massage, etc)
Picture this, the zombie apocalypse takes over and for some odd reason the zombies flock to all barbells. You can:
- A) Risk fighting off bicep eating zombies who will stop at nothing to prevent you from doing barbell curls
- B) Find a safer alternative that not only feels better on your joints but is effective and saves your life (and gains) from bicep eating, zombies
I choose ‘B’. A bro with no pain is able to train more, with a higher intensity and will have a longer curling career. This will allow him to have better biceps, compared to if he was never injured.
There are countless benefits of a good warm-up before working out. In this case, it decreases the chances of elbow pain by warming up your muscles, tendons and ligaments and getting them ready exercise.
Think of your warm up as throwing the some WD-40 on a creaky door. If you try busting through an old door with rusty hinges it’s going to be rough. If you throw some lube on it before, it will make for a much smoother open.
If you have a dynamic warm-up that is great. If you don’t like dynamic warm-ups you can do something more specific.
For example: perform 3-4 warm up sets of your first exercise at a controlled speed. Ramp up the weight and use heavier weights on each set.
Choose Good Exercises
This hack alone has decreased elbow pain in many of my fellow bros on the quest for bigger guns. A trick I learned from John Meadows is to train your brachialis first.
My favorite way to do this is to use lighter weights with a forceful contraction at the top.
One of my favorite exercises to pre-pump my arms is a slower tempo hammer curl with a forceful squeeze at the top of the movement. If you have access to Fat Gripz, feel free to use them here.
Use a light weight with a strict slower tempo and forceful squeeze at the top. This will get a lot of blood into the elbow and get it ready for a good workout.
*This is also a great thing to do before your bench. You will feel much more stable when performing the exercise. Give it a go and let me know how it feels. I learned this trick when I was interning at Westside a few years back and it made a huge difference how strong I felt when I would bench heavy.*
I put together this video of 11 different bicep exercises so your training won’t go stale. Mix and match these exercises with the different intensity techniques I give you later in this article. You’ll be busting out of your shirt in no time.