It's interesting what a big difference simple tweaks to age-old exercises can make. In April this year, I had written about how George Zottman invented a form of dumb-bell biceps curls that not only added muscle to the biceps but also the forearms (see Treadmill, April 8, 2007).
In another instalment, I also wrote about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s trademark shoulder presses, which like the Zottman Curls also involve a little tweak to enhance an ancient exercise.Both the Zottman Curls and the Arnold Presses involve twisting the arms while doing the exercise that, in effect, have benefits not only for the muscle that is being exercised but also another one. For instance, as readers of Treadmill will recall, the Zottman Cs strengthen both—biceps as well as the forearms.
Simple modifications can go a long way in the gym. For those who want to develop their biceps, besides the usual dumb-bell and barbell curls, there is an exercise that isolates the biceps muscles and, therefore, is very effective in stimulating growth. It’s called the Spider Curl and you would need a preacher bench (the kind shown in the illustration) to do it. Using a regular preacher bench and either an EZ bar or regular barbell, rest your elbows on the straight side of the bench.
In this position, your arms holding the barbell should hang straight down, perpendicular to the floor. Your feet should be on the ground, shoulderwidth apart. ]Now, bring the bar up as you would in a preacher curl; pause at the end of the movement and then slowly go back to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Do 10 for a set and three such sets.
The Spider Curl, as you will find, isolates the biceps muscles and makes them do all the work when it is performed. Contrast that with simple standing barbell curls, where the entire upper body can help during the movement.
There are many other ways to spice up traditional exercises. One more way of tweaking the common garden variety dumb-bell biceps curls is to do them while lying on an inclined bench.
Your arms hang down straight on either side of the bench and the movement of curling is done without swinging your elbows forward or backward. Done with proper form, these inclined bench dumb-bell curls also isolate the biceps muscles well, aiding in stimulating them to grow. And, before I go, here’s a small tip for smart work-outs.
A cup of coffee before you train with weights can have a two-fold benefit: first, caffeine can trigger release of body fats into the bloodstream (thereby your body burns fats rather than carbohydrates first when you’re working out); and, second, coffee can help reduce postworkout tiredness. Try it.
Caveat: The physical exercises described in Treadmill are not recommendations.
Readers should exercise caution and consult a physician before attempting to follow any of these.