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Train to Gain: Strong-arm Tactics

Strong-Arm Tactics. Are powerful shoulders preventing your biceps from growing?

Never would most of us suspect that being particularly strong in one muscle group could compromise the growth of another. Over the last year I was forced to reexamine my biceps training because nearly everything else on me was about as developed as it needed to be. But those darned bi’s seemed to have a mind of their own.

For many years I had bombed them heavy with the basics’barbell curls and standing alternate dumbbell curls’and their progress had been less than spectacular. Their lagging development became even more pronounced as my shoulders grew thicker and rounder over the years, practically dwarfing my biceps.

Something had to be done. I scoured every book, magazine and Web site for articles on biceps training to find an answer to my problem. Believe it or not, it was the revised edition of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding that provided the breakthrough. Arnold talked about how certain bodybuilders with very powerful shoulders often worked mostly their front delts in standard curling exercises. Their shoulders were simply too powerful to let the smaller biceps do the work.

That hit me like a sledgehammer. I’ve pressed 315-pound barbells overhead for reps many times and performed incline dumbbell presses with 160s. But biceps? I’d never been very strong on bi’s’now I knew why. Arnold suggested doing all curling movements with the elbow stabilized, such as in preacher curls, machine curls and concentration curls.

Over the next several months that was all I did. The movements were totally strict and controlled, I squeezed every rep out with feeling and never once let my front delts join the party. The weights were lighter than before, but the pumps and soreness that followed led me to believe that was not of consequence.

My bi’s have grown only half an inch, but my upper body looks far more balanced after just five months. And since my arms hadn’t made any significant improvements in a couple of years, that half-inch suits me just fine. Most guys who’ve been training more than 15 years rarely see any new muscle growth’anywhere!

So if your biceps could stand to be a little bigger and you suspect your strong shoulders may be the culprit, don’t despair. Try doing all your curls with your upper arm stabilized, and I bet those bi’s will be bulging with some fresh new mass very soon.

‘Ron Harris

Editor’s note: Check out Ron’s Web site,

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