The Best Barbell Exercises for Bicep and Tricep Size
The exercises we are going to discuss in this blog are unique. The exercises will blow up the biceps and triceps; or as we like to say, bize and trize. The most beautiful thing about these unique exercises is that all that is needed to perform the movements is a barbell!
A lot of coaches struggle to figure out what movements can be done just using a barbell to target the biceps and triceps. Here at Garage Strength, we have put together a whole bunch of unique movements to try and solve various problems we see demonstrated by our athletes. Some of the different exercises we like to use can target problem areas. The exercises can help improve the bench press, lockout in the split jerk, and help keep the elbows healthy.
The unique methods and exercises we use and the way we put them together with reps and sets help make the exercises so effective.
We are going to discuss six movements as three pairings of two movements so we can show exactly how we program a very unique barbell bicep and tricep workout.
1st Pairing: Reverse Grip Bench Press With One Arm Barbell Curl
The first big exercise we love to utilize is the reverse grip bench press. We like to have athletes go a little bit wider than a close grip performing this movement. One of the big factors with the reverse grip bench press is that it kills the lateral head of the tricep; it absolutely blows it up. It can help with the tricep size and locking out.
Performing this movement requires a spotter. It is unsafe to perform the lift off without a spotter.
We like to have athletes perform four sets of seven to nine reps followed by at least two big drop sets of twenty to twenty-five reps. Take out word for it, the tricep pump on those drop sets is real. Puffy trize all day!
We pair the reverse grip bench press with the one-arm barbell curl because the grip is forced to be engaged. By super setting the movements together, not only will it kill the biceps, but it will also show where the athlete may be weak with their grip. Take notice if the barbell heads start to lean one way or the other. This will indicate where the weakness might be, especially if talking about the brachioradialis. The bar needs to be stabilized and kept as level as possible. We recommend a little forward lean to put the body in a slightly overhead position. Being able to see the bar helps create a better mind-muscle connection.
Superset the one-arm barbell curl by performing ten to twelve reps with each arm. Make sure at least one set during the drop sets is completed as an AMRAP.
2nd Pairing: Lasha Extensions With Hanging Barbell Curls
Performing Lasha extensions, we encourage our athletes to put their hands as close together as possible on the barbell. Touching is ideal. The reason this is a really great exercise is that this movement, with its lockout position overhead, is going to engage the thoracic spine, the triceps and help the triceps coordinate with the shoulders for more stability. It will lengthen the tricep as well.
We will have our athletes use a false grip gripping the barbell overhead. Athletes will stand performing this movement. Hug the triceps to the head, lower the bar behind the head and then extend. Start nice and narrow and as the athlete fatigues the elbows will get wider and the feeling will go to the medial head of the tricep.
We superset Lasha extensions with a hanging barbell curl. The hanging barbell curl requires bringing the grip in a little bit. Instead of standing upright, bend at the hip to almost ninety-degree hip flexion. This bend creates an almost overhead position. The biceps are nicely lengthened. Curl the barbell and pause at the top, almost right at the forehead. That contraction, that position of flexion is difficult to hold.
One little trick when doing hanging barbell curls is wrapping a band right around the middle part of the bar. Step on the other end of the band with the feet. This will require even greater muscular recruitment which will increase the strength of the biceps.
3rd Pairing: Horst Extension With Double Barrel Post Curls
This movement that Jake Horst invented. Jake is a multiple-time US National Champion in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, resident Garage Strength athlete, and coach. He is a freak athlete; watch videos of him jumping and find out!
The goal of this movement is to try and strengthen the tricep into the shoulder for a solid lock-out position. Any sport can use this, but we like it especially for wrestlers and swimmers. The barbell needs to be placed in a power rack at a level just above the knee. The athlete will take a false grip and put their hands on the barbell with their feet out. The feet will be angled away--think the reverse of a horizontal row, so instead of hanging from the bar with the feet out, the athlete is in a plank position with the arms extended as if performing the ab wheel movement. From there the athlete needs to try to get their head between their elbows. As the head drops between the elbows, the athlete engages the tricep to return to the starting position. This movement is really, really difficult.
Double barrel post curls is a favorite movement of ours at Garage Strength to smash the biceps. We have our standing athletes post up with their back against a support beam. Start with a slight extension with the wrist at the beginning. Flex the wrist to start to light up the bicep and do a quarter rep curl and lower back down. Then do a full range of motion curl all the way up to the forehead. Lower the bar a quarter of the way and then curl the barbell back up to the forehead and then lower it all the way back down. That’s a double-barrel rep.
The double-barrel post curl targets various areas for training. If an athlete needs strength endurance, this is a nice movement to not only blow up the bicep but will give athletes the capability to get better.
Unique exercises are fun to put into programming to create variety and neural noise to enhance the mind-muscle connection.
Utilize all six of these exercises at least once a week for some serious bize and trize gainz. In addition, it will increase the health of the elbow flexors and extensors. But let’s be serious, it will lead to bigger biceps and triceps.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.