Build Bulging Biceps the Quebec Way!
by Christian Thibaudeau
I'll Answer You with the Mouth of my Cannons!
General Montcalm was surrounded. He'd been sent to the military command of New France (what would later become the Province of Quebec) and now he was surrounded by English troops who demanded his surrender. His response: "I'll answer you with the mouth of my cannons!"
A gutsy reply for someone on the brink of defeat, but that's what cannons or guns do — they make you courageous and confident in the face of adversity. Fast forward to 2003. While it's been a while since I've seen an English boat trying to conquer my backyard, I must confess that having guns, big guns, still works wonders as far as confidence is concerned. I'm obviously talking about the arms, more precisely, the biceps.
I must confess I've never been a big fan of training arms directly. However, now that I find myself in the Testosterone "spotlight," an Olympic lifter physique just isn't going to cut it. As much as I hate the fact, it's still true that in the strength-training world you can judge a book by its cover.
When I started writing for Testosterone magazine I'd developed my body mostly with the Olympic lifts. This made for a very powerful body, tree trunk legs, a back like a gorilla, and bowling-ball traps. The problem was that I ended up with the arm development of an anorectic pre-teen gymnast. While the biceps may not play much of a role in performance enhancement, they do have a great influence on how people perceive you (and how you perceive yourself), so I had to do something and do it fast!
Here's the biceps routine I used when I decided to build a physique better suited for my new role as a training "guru." It's a blitz routine that made a huge difference in the size, definition, and density of my arms. The program is designed so that all the fibers in the biceps receive an optimal level of stimulation, providing maximal growth.
The Canadian Cannons Program
This workout should take you between 30 and 45 minutes. It's very intense and will thoroughly annihilate the upper arm flexors. It should be performed once per week for four weeks.
A) Preacher curl
5 x 5 (5 sets of 5 reps)
90 seconds of rest between sets
This exercise is an excellent biceps and brachialis movement. It'll give girth and density to your arms.
*Checkout the FAQ section if you're unfamiliar with tempo prescriptions.
B) Extended Zottman curl
1 x extreme drop-set
Most of you already know about the Zottman curl. Basically, you curl the dumbbells with the palms up and lower them with the palms down, thus making the muscle work hard on both the concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement.
The term "extended" refers to extreme drop-setting. Start with a weight that you can do for three to four reps in good form, go to failure, pick up the next smallest dumbbell, again do reps to failure, and keep using lighter dumbbells until you're using the lightest possible dumbbells in the gym. After such a set, even the five pound pinkies should feel heavy!
Ideally, you want your biceps to hurt so bad that you can't contract your arm for 30 to 45 seconds after the completion of the set!
C) Rotated cable curl
4 x 15
60 seconds of rest between sets
What I like about cables when it comes to isolation exercises like the biceps curl is the fact that they put a constant and relatively equal tension on the working muscle throughout the whole range of motion. I call this exercise "rotated" because you go against the line of the cables: the cables will try to pull your arms down and away from your body. Resist this pull and try to keep the forearm as close to the body as possible.
I like to stop about one or two inches before the end of the maximum extension. This will place a lot of stress on the biceps when using cables and will provide for a fantastic growth stimulus. This is a great way to develop the "inner" portion of the biceps muscle.
D) Incline hammer curl
4 x 10
60 seconds of rest between sets
I first learned of this movement from a T-mag article written by TC and I immediately loved it! I feel it's the best brachialis exercise available and as such it's almost unparalleled in terms of increasing upper arm thickness! I also like the fact that you can't cheat on this exercise and it really forces you into a peak contraction.
I personally like to raise the dumbbells up only until the forearm is parallel to the ground and hold that position for three seconds. Once again, this puts tremendous stress on the biceps which will make them grow fast!
E) Extended machine preacher curl
1 x extreme drop-set
Using a curl machine, you're going to do one extended set. Start with a weight that you can handle for four to five reps. When you reach failure, lower the weight by one plate and do reps until failure. Repeat this for four to five drops, each time lowering the weight only by one plate. Ideally you want your biceps to be unable to contract for 30 to 45 seconds after the completion of the set.
This program should help you blast your biceps through a plateau and bring you up a few notches. Now, like General Montcalm, you'll be able to answer with the mouth of your cannons!
Note: Got a question for Coach Thibaudeau? Join him in his new forum — The Lair of the Ice Dog — exclusively at T-mag!
About the Author
Christian Thibaudeau is a strength and conditioning coach who works with a wide range of elite athletes. He has successfully trained athletes requiring a wide array of physical qualities ranging from strength and power (football players, Olympic lifters, strongmen competitors) and important energetic capacities (hockey players) to proprioception and stabilization/balance (figure skaters ). He's also a competitive Olympic weightlifter and a football coach. Christian is completing his M.Sc. degree in exercise science and has been a research assistant in that field for the past two years.
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