Monday, May 20, 2013

Dat Dere Biceps

It's everyone's favourite muscle group. The biceps (strictly, biceps brachii; you also have biceps on your legs) are funny muscles. They have two origins, giving them a long head and a short head up at the shoulder, and an insertion down onto the forearm. Specifically, the long head travels through a sheath in the front of the shoulder then attaches back into the glenoid tubercle, the short head attaches onto the coracoid process, and the distal end attaches onto the proximal end of the radius. Here are some pictures to point out where the thingamjigs attach to the doohickeys.

Now that I've turned you into a braindead mullet with that anatomy lesson, here are the implications for the above information:

1) The origins of biceps are on the scapulae, so, while they aren't very good at it, the biceps are involved in shoulder flexion.
2) The insertion is on the forearm bone that likes to rotate. Specifically, the biceps are an important muscle in supination.

When it comes to exercise, this tells us that when we do curls (for the gurls), a supinated grip will create a greater peak contraction than a neutral of pronated grip (these grips, in turn, cause other elbow flexors to get a good workout; this isn't a bad thing). Moving from neutral or even pronated throughout the ROM might (on paper) be even better, although that hasn't been my personal experience. Keeping the shoulders slightly flexed throughout the ROM will also allow a greater contraction.

This also means that, while pull ups and rows are great compound exercises that work the biceps, some form of isolation exercise would be good to polish things off, because pull ups use a pronated grip and move the shoulder into extension rather than maintaining flexion.

Use this information dump wisely. Goodnight.


  1. Or do really stupid things with kettles or similar to hit all of the both of the bicep and brachialis and lots of other muscles you will have forgotten about until the following day.
    I know and totally accept that isolation work is good and using totally compound exercises as I do will mean missing out some movements that would be good for me. But until I have retired and can dedicate my life to training and other hobies again I will likely continue to do so.
    Understanding the anatomy and kineseology behind exercise is important, many people want to build muscles yet somehow see no point understanding what the muscle actually does. Shockingly they don't tend to do as well as better read individuals. The gentleman in your picture is a classic example, he played ignorant parts on a number of occasions, but is far from dumb or uneducated.

    1. I think for most people, an 80% focus on compounds and 20% on isolations is a fairly reasonable mix, but I definitely treat my isos as expendable when pressed for time. Had it not been midnight while I was writing this (and me writing it half just to use up some brain power to help knock myself out), I probably would have written about elbow flexors rather than just biceps -- brachialis and brachioradialis need some love, too. I used to have reverse grip curls and reverse grip tricep pushdowns as my primary isolation exercises in order to build up brachioradialis and my forearm extensors; there's something quite humorous in the appearance of being all flexor and no extensor.

  2. The humerus is in the leg dear boy, good lord I thought you knew this stuff.
    It is very amusing to see the bicep boys though. Impressive bis no tris, bad posture and no strength anywhere useful.
    I have in tha past been asked to turn around to improve the view, suggesting my butt was prettier than my face, possibly just as amusing effexct of less cometically focused training.

    1. What did the shoulder say to the arm?
      You're very humerus.

      What did the head of the femur say to the acetabulum?
      We're so hip!

      My gluteal goal is to give Beyonce an identity crisis.


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