For some reason, biceps are just an iconic muscle group. It’s really sort of strange when you think about it from an anatomical standpoint; They’re relatively small and play a comparatively minor role when looked at side-by-side with other muscle groups. And, yet, we love them.
The bicep flex is a go-to move for anyone looking to show off and men are always concerned with improving the appearance of their arms. It’s really not surprising then, given their popularity, that there are all sorts of different theories out there about the best way to work the biceps. Thanks to a study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), we have a definite answer.
For the study, the researchers recruited 16 volunteers (8 men and 8 women) to perform 8 of the most popular bicep exercises. To make sure that the movements were done correctly, all of the subjects had some form of weightlifting experience. The movements used in the study included:
7 Best Bicep Exercise
1. Cable curl
2. Barbell curl
MO Supplement’s recommendation: US Weight Duracast Barbell Weight Set, 55 lb
3. Concentration curl
5. EZ Curl (with both wide and narrow grip)
6. Incline curl
7. Preacher curl
Before the actual study began, each of the subjects performed a 1-rep max test on each exercise to set a baseline. A cable curl was also used, along with electrodes attached to biceps brachii, anterior deltoid, and the brachioradialis, to measure the maximum contraction of the muscles. The same electrodes were then used to measure the contraction during each of the other exercises.
Once the numbers were crunched the winner was clear: The concentration curl. Looking at the competitors, though, this isn’t really a surprise. The concentration curl effectively isolates the biceps, while the other exercises used in the study incorporate other muscle groups for support – essentially taking some of the load off of the biceps.
It might seem like the lesson from this study is pretty straightforward, but that all depends on your goals. One of the leaders of the study John Porcari, Ph.D. put it an interesting way, telling ACE that “The upside of doing a concentration curl is that you pretty much totally isolate the biceps. The downside of the concentration curl is that you pretty much isolate the biceps.”
Isolation exercises, like the concentration curl, are an excellent way to build that target muscle group. Which is perfect for bodybuilders or those concerned with aesthetics. If you’re looking for a more functional kind of fitness, though, isolation exercises are not the most effective use of your time.