Our blog this month is about the biceps (biceps brachii), a flexor muscle located between the elbow and the shoulder at the front of the upper arm. The biceps brachii is not to be confused with the biceps femoris found in the back of the thigh.
The word biceps comes from the Latin for “two heads”.
The origination and insertion of the biceps
The long head of the biceps originates at the coracoid process of the scapula and the short head at the supraglenoid tuberosity of the scapula. The two heads connect in the middle of the humerus and in some people the biceps has a third head, which originates at the humerus.
The insertion of the biceps is the radial tuberosity.
The action and basic functional movement of the biceps
The bicep has several functions but it’s main two are to supinate the forearm at the radio-ulnar joint and flex the elbow joint, however it also plays a lesser role in flexing the shoulder.
The biceps brachii works in conjunction with the brachialis, which is a deeper and equally powerful muscle helping to flex the elbow, as well as the brachioradialis which mainy invlolve din pronatio of the forearm.
Common exercises for the biceps
The biceps is one of the most frequently exercised muscles in the body, in particular by those who want to develop “guns” for show.
There are many exercises that a personal trainer can recommend to clients wanting to develop their biceps, for example:
- Standing dumbbell curls
- Barbell curls
- Bent over barbell rows
- Cable rope curls
- Resistance bands curls
For the best results, you should always ensure you work your antagonist (the tricep) in an equal volume / intensity to ensure muscular balance is maintained, as well as carry out a combination of compound and isolation exercises.
The benefits of biceps exercises
Whether you are looking to build muscle or have defined, toned arms, many people train the biceps as its one of the muscles most likely to be on view.
However, as the function of the biceps is to flex the arm at the elbow, developing strength in the biceps is beneficial for preventing injury and strain when carrying out many everyday functional movements.
- Picking things up
- Eating and drinking
- Opening doors
- Pulling anything towards you
An isolation exercise such as a biceps curl also requires you to use other muscles in the back and shoulder as stabilisers, which can benefit your strength and posture.
In sport, the biceps are used when throwing / catching a ball, swinging a bat, boxing and, of course, power lifting. However, very rarely will the bicep be used in isolation and due to this ‘ the curl’ would not be seen in most professional strength & conditioning programmes.
Dangers of overtraining
Overtraining the biceps can be quite common as many fitness fanatics go for looks over function. The key is to balance out training the biceps muscle with the brachialis and other surrounding muscles to ensure balance.
If you experience pain – especially sharp pain – at either the shoulder or the elbow, or when turning your palms quickly upwards, you may have a muscle dysfunction or even damaged your bicep muscle / tendon and should seek medical advice. This can be caused by incorrect training, lifting a weight that is too heavy or wear and tear over a period of time.
To ensure you put ont ther best ‘gun show’, ensure you consult a personal trainer or other fitness professional for further guidance.