The Bicep-Blasting "In-Set" Superset
The biceps can be, at the very same time, one of the most rewarding and most frustrating muscle groups in the body...rewarding because who doesn't want to have great biceps! Frustrating because it can be extremely difficult to make them great!
That's about to change! I'm going to share with you a technique that I came up with very recently that hits the biceps so effectively, you'll have trouble reaching up to scratch your nose without shaking.
The technique is called an In-Set Superset.
Supersets are, in a nutshell, when you do two exercises in a row without taking any rest inbetween, e.g. bench press then immediately to flyes. The purpose of this is to increase the stress to the target muscle. The In-Set Superset is slightly different than a regular Superset in that you alternate single reps of two different exercises WITHIN a set.
The example I used for triceps was combining Lying Triceps Extensions with Close Grip Bench Press. Basically, you would do one rep of the extension then immediately do one rep of the press, then extension, then press, etc., until you couldn't do any more extensions with the weight. You would then finish by burning out on the presses until you couldn't do any more reps. This blows the triceps up like crazy!
Now, those exercises are very easy to transition between. You don't have to move anything or do anything to go from one to the other. And, they're different enough to stress the triceps from different angles.
For biceps, it's a bit trickier as there are not many exercises that are practical to switch between AND which are different enough to stress the bicep muscle fibers differently than just two types of curls.
The solution: Barbell Curls and Close Grip Chin-Ups.
What we're going to do is alternate between doing a Barbell Curl (with an Olympic bar) then using that same barbell as a Chin-Up bar to do the chins on. The best place to perform this technique is in the power rack (a dip station can work if you don't have a rack available).
In the rack, set the racking hooks (the small hooks that you set the bar on for the start of an exercise) at about shoulder height. Set a bar on those hooks and load it with a weight you could curl for about 10 to 12 reps. If you're using the dip station, set the bar on top of the dipping bars (everything else about the execution is exactly the same - you're just using the dip bars instead of the racking hooks to support the barbell).
Now stand directly in front of the bar (you should be inside the rack), step underneath it and turn around. You should be standing outside the rack facing in. The direction you face here is critical for the most natural execution of the two exercises.
Grip the bar with about a shoulder-width grip (we don't want a wide grip for the chins - also, the closer grip is better for biceps activation on barbell curls).
Lift the bar off the hooks and do a single barbell curl rep. Without removing your grip from the bar, set it back down in the hooks, lift your feet off the ground and pull them up into a cross-legged position in front of you. This position is necessary to keep your feet and knees from touching the ground during the chin.
Lower yourself down until your arms are straight then pull yourself back up. Keep your torso vertical to maximize the tension on the biceps (this is one of the other benefits of the cross-legged position - holding your legs up in front of you keeps your torso vertical without even trying).
If you are unable to do chin-ups on your own, here's another great benefit of this exercise - you can keep your feet on the floor and use your legs to spot yourself as you come up! Just make sure that you're using as much bicep tension as possible and only using your legs just enough to keep the movement going.
Setting your feet down and helping with your legs is also VERY valuable for stronger trainers as the biceps start to give out. You can really push your biceps hard by helping out with your legs as much as you need to.
At the top of the chin, set your feet back down on the floor, and without releasing your grip on the bar, immediately go into the next rep of the barbell curl.
Repeat this process until you can't do any more barbell curls in good form (it is permissible to use a bit of swinging to get a few "cheat" reps of the barbell curl to really push your biceps to the limit). When you're finished on barbell curls, you can either stop with your final chin-up rep or burn out with as many chin-ups as you can do.
At this point, I can promise that your biceps will be screaming! The emergency response from your body will send a rush of blood to your arms, resulting in one of the strongest pumps you'll ever experience. You will probably also find that your grip is being VERY strongly worked as well.
In addition, if you want to try this exercise from another angle and target brachialis development, do reverse-grip barbell curls alternated with reverse-grip chin-ups. You will need to lighten the weight to perform the reverse curls but the execution is exactly the same.
You can even alternate between sets of regular grip In-Set Supersets with sets of reverse-grip In-Set Supersets (resting in between Supersets, of course). When you're done and you can't touch your nose because your biceps are so pumped up, you'll only have me to blame.
One of the main reasons this technique works so well is that you are going from a strong isolation exercise for the biceps (the Barbell Curl) immediately into a compound exercise for the biceps (when doing the chins, the back works with the biceps to complete the movement). Your back will help push your biceps to a whole new level!
Give this technique a try in your next biceps workout. As a person who has had to overcome poor genetics for biceps, I can tell you from experience, this exercise combination will make a HUGE difference in how your biceps respond to training.
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