Few men in pro bodybuilding today can lay claim to shoulders as impressive as those on Dennis Wolf, who recently was the runner-up at his first Arnold Classic and went on a week later to score his second pro career win in Australia. While it’s tough to see a downside to having incredibly developed deltoids, it can interfere with building your arms. Competitive bodybuilding rewards complete, balanced physiques over those with a couple of freaky body-parts that overshadow all the others and make them appear weak. The Big Bad Wolf faced that issue early on in his training. His shoulders grew faster than anything else, and they had a tendency to take over on biceps movements in particular. Eventually, Dennis figured out how to remedy the situation, as is evidenced by the 21-inch guns he proudly flexes onstage today. These were the main solutions:
Cut the weight, tighten up the form. “When I started training at a small gym in Germany, I just imitated what I saw all the other guys doing,” he says. Unfortunately, the universal instinct for men in any nation when it comes to biceps seems to be throwing up far more weight than they can handle via horrendous form. Eventually, frustrated by the lack of growth in his arms, Dennis tried using less weight and emphasizing quality contractions and stretches. “I was using not much more than half the weight I had been before, but I saw 10 times the results,” he reports. That was all the evidence he needed to confirm that he would have to use better form if he was going to get his biceps to grow.
Take the shoulders out of the movement. While Dennis never stopped doing traditional biceps builders like barbell and dumbbell curls, he also learned to include exercises that braced the working arm and locked it in place, such as barbell and dumbbell preacher curls and concentration curls. “For anyone with big and powerful shoulders that always want to do the work, it’s critical to do one of these at all your workouts,” he notes. “They don’t have the same reputation for adding mass to the biceps, but I give them a lot of credit for my biceps development today.”
Let the biceps recover. Common quick-fix suggestions for lagging biceps often involve working them twice or even more each week and assaulting them with excess volume on the order of 20 to 30 sets per workout. Dennis dismisses those ideas as well-intended but misguided advice. “The biceps are a small muscle group, and you also have to remember that they work very hard when you train your back on everything from chins to pullups, rows and deadlifts,” he explains. “Any muscle must recover fully between workouts to grow, and working biceps more often and with many sets is going to prevent most guys from seeing gains, the exact opposite of what they want.”
Here is Dennis Wolf’s biceps workout:
One-arm dumbbell preacher curls 3 x 12
EZ-curl bar preacher curls 3 x 12
Standing EZ-curl bar curls 3 x 12
EZ-curl bar reverse curls 3 x 15
Editor’s note: Ron Harris is the author of Real Bodybuilding, available at www.RonHarrisMuscle.com.