Which exercises produce the highest degree of biceps engagement?
In an independent study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), researchers attempted to discover which of the most popular moves most effectively strengthen the biceps brachii. The researchers were drawn from the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse, and was led by John Porcari, PhD.
According to Cedric Bryant, Ph.D and ACE’s Chief Science Officer officer, the study helped the organization to identify the specific exercises that produced the highest degree of biceps engagement.
Study participants consisted of sixteen people – eight healthy female and eight male volunteers. Each individual had weight- lifting experience. They attended one pre-study session in order to allow researchers to evaluate their ability to perform each exercise correctly and were also acquainted with the testing procedures.
How was data collected?
Data was elicited via electrodes attached to the biceps brachii, anterior deltoid and brachioradialis muscles of each subject. Researchers studied muscle activity during the cable curl, barbell curl, concentration curl, chin-up, EZ curl (both wide and narrow grip), incline curl and preacher curl.
Results showed that the concentration curl produced significantly higher muscle activity in the biceps than any of the other exercises. Researchers theorized that when a body builder does the concentration curl, there is greater isolation of the biceps, since the humerus is pressed against the leg and does not allow the upper arm to sway.
In contrast, other exercises depend on muscles such as the anterior deltoid to support the lift. When the exercises are ranked by Maximum Voluntary Contraction (MVC), it can be seen that the cable curl and chinup come a close second to the concentration curl.
Cedric Bryant, ACE CEO, reiterated that “…several of the other exercises elicited more than adequate biceps muscle activation and can serve as viable options for improving biceps muscle strength and function.”
Muscle Activation of the Biceps Brachii
Implications for bodybuilders’ exercise routines
Researchers advocate that bodybuilders should include the concentration curl in every arm workout. However, since good arm function is dependent on other muscles, bodybuilders should activate other key muscles of the arms by including all of the other seven biceps exercises into the exercise routine.
How is the concentration curl performed?
Concentration curls are performed with the upper arm pressed against the leg, resulting in better isolation of the biceps muscle. During the other exercises movements, the upper arm is able to sway and contribute to the movement as indicated by a higher level of anterior deltoid muscle activity.