T Nation

Weak Bicep Contraction

Wondering if anyone has or ever had this problem specifically with biceps.

It is the ONE muscle group I cannot get a solid contraction for. Although I’ve only been in the gym seriously for 2-3 years now, I’ve done curls my whole life and its the one muscle I have that has almost no rigidity to it when flexed. Not even during a heavy curl.

I don’t carry my fat in the arms, so it isn’t that. My triceps when flexed are plenty rigid, same as the pecs, quads, glutes, abs, etc.

The harder I try to squeeze the Bi’s, it almost feels like tendon pain (cracking sensation) in the elbow. Mostly left side, but effectively both sides.

I know alot of people hate training arms directly so I wonder if this is common.

[quote]giograves wrote:
… its the one muscle I have that has almost no rigidity to it when flexed.[/quote]
Can you toss up a pic?

Even with no resistance? Is there pain when you just “make a muscle” and flex in the mirror?

Does hand position effect what you feel? Like if you do an imaginary hammer curl vs imaginary supinated curl vs imaginary reverse curl, or if you actively rotate the palm up and down while flexing?

Pain or pain-like feelings shouldn’t be common, but not being able to feel a muscle working can be fairly typical. Couple things to consider trying, presuming there’s no actual underlying injury.

Standard time under tension stuff - not just trying to squeeze each peak contraction, but slowing down the positive and negative when curling. One arm stuff where the fingertips of the non-working hand touch the working bicep throughout the rep. We were just talking about this in a recent thread.

Maybe spend some time really focusing on mostly one-arm stuff, to further increase the attention. Also, not sure what your arm training looks like now (how were your results of the arm specialization a few months ago?), but I’d certainly drop the poundages in favor of more moderate-rep range work, cable stuff, and exercises that lend themselves to “feel” rather than “moving weight.”

i find that happening with my left bi,feels like its about 95% there but never full there like my right


Much like Davy above said. His left is like 95% of his right. I feel like my left is 65% of my right, but my right is like 85% to begin with!!

I should clarify is isn’t really pain per say, just that I try to squeeze the dam thing so hard even without resistance, the tendons seem to feel the brunt more than the actual bicep. The biceps generally have no issue getting stimulated with partial reps, incline curls, cable curls and heavy BB cheat curls with negatives. Just they are very “flat” to the touch even contracting weight.

The specialization was a failure IMO. To the naked eye my arms look like they shrunk. After backing of direct arm stuff, they look back to “normal”.

I’ve never tried these, but it’s from CT so…

I have the same problem op. I’ve found stretching my hands and forearms helps to a degree. If you find a solution please post it.

I’ve been thinking about a related problem I have - see if this is familiar. I’ve added strength and size to my legs, chest, shoulders, and back in the last few years. On the big lifts I can push myself easily to failure if I want to and everything responds normally (but I get DOMS worse than most I think). The one area that just feels different is my biceps.

They are getting slightly bigger, but they’re just very smooth and undefined. When I train them directly I feel like they don’t activate fully (mind muscle connection is weak). They can do light weight for tons of volume though, so my rows and pullups are really good (I use plenty of lats). Maybe they just have long bellies and a lot of slow twitch fibers, I don’t know ??

My “solution” so far has been to focus on compound lifts primarily and just throw in some quick curls at the end of each workout. I have to admit I’d love to enjoy direct bicep training and have a muscle that is peaked and defined more in proportion to my other ones. It is just a bit strange to have decent traps, lats, delts, and triceps and then have relatively no bicep.

I use rope cable curls to warm up and improve MMC. When curling up, twist your forearms and flex the biceps like doing normal dumbbell curls. Try this and see how it feels.

Keep your grip loose.

ah, this annoyed the shit out of me. I often found that my shoulders and forearms were primed for most of the work during any curl exercise. What helped me kinda put this in the rear-view was to decrease the load and increase the burn, but also to stabilize the body and truly isolate the bicep itself.

I like to do incline-dumbbell curls, similar setup as for an incline bench press, and then find that perfect plane-of-motion that lets me isolate the bicep, with a nice twist at the peak of the movement.

Then I grab a barbell(personally i started with 30lbs and bang out like 12-15 reps and work all the way up to uncomfortableness), stand on the ‘wrong-side’ of a preacher bench, and support my arm-pits on the preacher pillow, then curl with a wide(to medium) grip.

I think stretching the forearms helps tremendously in establishing a better MMC.

[quote]dt79 wrote:
Keep your grip loose.
[/quote]

I disagree, just like any other exercise, personally I recommend that you grip the shit out of the dumbbell/barbell and keep your grip tight, while keepning your hand positioning rigid.

Keep in mind, during any given exercise, the hands are simply ‘hooks’, and to me, it feels easier to ‘ignore’ my hands/forearms if I’m stiff as a dick in all the places that aren’t supposed to have any impact.

Do supinated bicep curls with a limp wrist.

By relaxing the wrist and just holding the weight lightly with your fingers instead of squeezing at it, it stretches the forearm muscles and lessens their ability to contribute. By doing them supinated rather than say neutral grip, it doesnt allow that big ass brachialis muscle to take on the work.

I am fairly arm dominant so I don’t need tons of direct arm training, however if you try to do a supinated DB bicep curl and notice your palms starting to rotate toward a neutral grip, then I would imagine relaxing the forearm in the aforementioned way could help, it does for me.

I can’t think of any muscle other than your forearm that can help mechanically pull your arm up in lieu your bicep provided you aren’t swinging your humerus

[quote]Claudan wrote:

[quote]dt79 wrote:
Keep your grip loose.
[/quote]

I disagree, just like any other exercise, personally I recommend that you grip the shit out of the dumbbell/barbell and keep your grip tight, while keepning your hand positioning rigid.

Keep in mind, during any given exercise, the hands are simply ‘hooks’, and to me, it feels easier to ‘ignore’ my hands/forearms if I’m stiff as a dick in all the places that aren’t supposed to have any impact.
[/quote]

I recommended the exact opposite as the palms would be wedged between the balls at the end of the rope and the rope itelf as he twists the forearms while curling. Oh well, at least he hs more stuff to try out.

[quote]c.m.l. wrote:
Do supinated bicep curls with a limp wrist.

I can’t think of any muscle other than your forearm that can help mechanically pull your arm up in lieu your bicep provided you aren’t swinging your humerus[/quote]

Exctly.

Mind muscle connection is important for any exercise. I’ve spent a lot of time helping people bring up lagging body parts and 90 % of the time the key is getting it into a maximally shortened position as a warmup or first exercise. A maximally shortened position is what makes leg extensions cramp your quads so well because the quad performs both knee extension and hip flexion.

What is a maximally shortened position for thebicep? Try this simple test and you should see fir yourself.

  1. Put your right hand behind your head like your trying to scratch it.

  2. Now contract your bicep back there , behind your head. You should feel a much tighter feeling and great activation of the bicep. Give it a few trys, it has worked 100% of the time with dozens of bicep lagging people.

Do a warmup or few working sets of these (with a cable )first every arm workout and your mind muscle connection should improve dramatically.

Because this is hard to illustrate online,maybe none of the above worked for you. What I would do then is 8 sets of 8 body drag curls with 30 seconds rest squeezing at the top and contracting the tricep at the bottom. By contracting the tricep at the bottom you ensure your bicep is maximally lengthened.

Also remember your biceps primary trainable function is elbow flexion, if your upper arm moves any it takes tension off the bicep.
Steve Reeves favorite arm exercise was the Incline curl, Arnold Schwarzenegger heard this tried the movement but couldn’t see why it was any use. Eventually he found out steve kept his elbows perfectly still and fell in love. If even the mind muscle king Arnold had trouble with his elbows moving…

Below CT covers the drag curl. I hope this helped , good luck!

1 Like

^I love this guy!

[quote]dt79 wrote:
^I love this guy! [/quote]

agreed lol! came out of nowhere recently and is demolishing each thread with extremely relevant advice and zero passive aggressiveness ! well done mane

[quote]Claudan wrote:

[quote]dt79 wrote:
^I love this guy! [/quote]

agreed lol! came out of nowhere recently and is demolishing each thread with extremely relevant advice and zero passive aggressiveness ! well done mane[/quote]

Thank you very much Claude and dt79.

Also, I was thinking about this thread this morning and thought giograves would benefit from my Robby Robinson interview on training mindset as that’s also important for the mind muscle connection. It’s over at Bret’s site as a guest post.

http://bretcontreras.com/iron-game-legends-robby-robinson-talks-training/

[quote]giograves wrote:
The biceps generally have no issue getting stimulated with partial reps, incline curls, cable curls and heavy BB cheat curls with negatives. Just they are very “flat” to the touch even contracting weight.[/quote]
It sucks, but this could also just be how your bis are shaped. Not everyone has an awesome peak. Some guys are “stuck” with relatively-flat biceps. Even Sergio Oliva, with his phenomenal genetics, had relatively-little biceps peak.

I’d still experiment with some of the tricks and tweaks mentioned so far, but in terms of getting your arms to grow, definitely stick with what you know works for you.

[quote]Claudan wrote:
came out of nowhere recently[/quote]
Nowhere? Let’s not forget Brad’s had a couple of solid articles up on the site the last year or two. Including the Nubret Pump Program that a bunch of people loved. I’m really glad to see him on the forums now. Good stuff.

[quote]Bradley Joe Kelly wrote:
Mind muscle connection is important for any exercise. I’ve spent a lot of time helping people bring up lagging body parts and 90 % of the time the key is getting it into a maximally shortened position as a warmup or first exercise. A maximally shortened position is what makes leg extensions cramp your quads so well because the quad performs both knee extension and hip flexion.

What is a maximally shortened position for thebicep? Try this simple test and you should see fir yourself.

  1. Put your right hand behind your head like your trying to scratch it.

  2. Now contract your bicep back there , behind your head. You should feel a much tighter feeling and great activation of the bicep. Give it a few trys, it has worked 100% of the time with dozens of bicep lagging people.

Do a warmup or few working sets of these (with a cable )first every arm workout and your mind muscle connection should improve dramatically.

[/quote]
My biceps lag horribly , they are by far my worst muscle group. They are strong, but they’re small. When I tried this, my bicep cramped. Is this normal? It happened on both sides.

[quote]SirTroyRobert wrote:

[quote]Bradley Joe Kelly wrote:
Mind muscle connection is important for any exercise. I’ve spent a lot of time helping people bring up lagging body parts and 90 % of the time the key is getting it into a maximally shortened position as a warmup or first exercise. A maximally shortened position is what makes leg extensions cramp your quads so well because the quad performs both knee extension and hip flexion.

What is a maximally shortened position for thebicep? Try this simple test and you should see fir yourself.

  1. Put your right hand behind your head like your trying to scratch it.

  2. Now contract your bicep back there , behind your head. You should feel a much tighter feeling and great activation of the bicep. Give it a few trys, it has worked 100% of the time with dozens of bicep lagging people.

Do a warmup or few working sets of these (with a cable )first every arm workout and your mind muscle connection should improve dramatically.

[/quote]
My biceps lag horribly , they are by far my worst muscle group. They are strong, but they’re small. When I tried this, my bicep cramped. Is this normal? It happened on both sides.
[/quote]

Very normal, that’s exactly what you wanted. Warm up your biceps by getting that squeeze every workout for a while and you should develop a great connection with the bicep itself.

And they are small but strong because of a lack of tension being placed during on them for a acceptable time under tension.

If you develop a solid mind muscle connection , place tension directly on them with tips I gave and train in a optimal time under tension (say 30 to 60 seconds) there is absolutely no reason they will not grow, it’ll be their only option.

Using that methodology for triceps and biceps is what took my arms from 14 to 19 inches.

I could go over exercise choice for them if you wanted.

[quote]Bradley Joe Kelly wrote:

[quote]SirTroyRobert wrote:

[quote]Bradley Joe Kelly wrote:
Mind muscle connection is important for any exercise. I’ve spent a lot of time helping people bring up lagging body parts and 90 % of the time the key is getting it into a maximally shortened position as a warmup or first exercise. A maximally shortened position is what makes leg extensions cramp your quads so well because the quad performs both knee extension and hip flexion.

What is a maximally shortened position for thebicep? Try this simple test and you should see fir yourself.

  1. Put your right hand behind your head like your trying to scratch it.

  2. Now contract your bicep back there , behind your head. You should feel a much tighter feeling and great activation of the bicep. Give it a few trys, it has worked 100% of the time with dozens of bicep lagging people.

Do a warmup or few working sets of these (with a cable )first every arm workout and your mind muscle connection should improve dramatically.

[/quote]
My biceps lag horribly , they are by far my worst muscle group. They are strong, but they’re small. When I tried this, my bicep cramped. Is this normal? It happened on both sides.
[/quote]

Very normal, that’s exactly what you wanted. Warm up your biceps by getting that squeeze every workout for a while and you should develop a great connection with the bicep itself.

And they are small but strong because of a lack of tension being placed during on them for a acceptable time under tension.

If you develop a solid mind muscle connection , place tension directly on them with tips I gave and train in a optimal time under tension (say 30 to 60 seconds) there is absolutely no reason they will not grow, it’ll be their only option.

Using that methodology for triceps and biceps is what took my arms from 14 to 19 inches.

I could go over exercise choice for them if you wanted. [/quote]
Hate to hijack someones thread with my problems, but if I’m understanding right, before I work my biceps I should go the behind the head contraction. About how many times would you think is sufficient?