Progression Exercises for the Biceps

medium shot of a muscular male as he flexes his bicep

Progression exercises are used to methodically build muscle mass and strength, or return a person to activity after injury. The biceps brachii is located on the front portion of the upper arm and is responsible for bending the arm and supporting weight. Due to the laws of physiology, muscle tissue adapts to progressive overload. Therefore, progressive exercises for the biceps is an effective way to strengthen, heal and tone this muscle.

Elements of Progression

In exercise, a variety of factors are altered to increase or decrease the challenge of an activity. Some of these factors include repetitions of an exercise, weight, speed, position, equipment used and resting time. Typically in resistance training, the repetitions of an exercise are increased as the work capacity of a particular muscle improves. The same principles apply for exercise rehabilitation; however, the progressions tend to be slower as they are determined by pain and function. To maintain safe and effective progressions, only change one factor at a time.

Isometric Bicep Contraction

An isometric muscle contraction occurs when the muscle generates force without its length changing. Isometric contracts are effective in maintaining muscle strength when the joints or surrounding muscles are too uncomfortable to move. Begin by sitting in a chair at a table. Place your right hand under the table with your palm facing upward. Add pressure to the underside of the table, allowing your bicep to contract. Hold for five seconds and release. Begin by repeating this exercise 12 to 15 times with each hand. To progress this exercise, increase either the holding time, the repetitions or the amount of pressure used to push your hand into the table.

Active Assisted Bicep Curl

A muscle contraction with dynamic movement comes next in the progression. An example would be a bicep curl in which the muscle shortens during contraction and lengthens during release. To practice, begin by holding a 2- to 5-pound weight with your right hand. Stand with your arm resting by your side, palms forward. With the assistance of a partner, raise the weight from your side toward your right shoulder and slowly lower it back down. Repeat eight to 12 times. The active portion of the exercise allows for a contraction, while the assisted portion provides a transition from isometric contractions to free weight movements. To progress this exercise, increase either the weight, repetitions or speed.

Free Weight Bicep Curl

Using a free weight, as opposed to a machine or an assistant, challenges the entire body to support the arm while it is in motion. Therefore, a standing free weight bicep curl also recruits the use of the core muscles, lower back and upper body. To begin stand tall with a 5- to 10-pound weight in both hands, palms facing forward. With one arm at a time, raise your hand to your shoulder and slowly lower. Repeat eight to 12 times. To progress this exercise, add additional challenges such as standing on one foot or an uneven surface. You can also increase either the repetitions, weight or speed.