When weight training, you need to develop the arms to establish an important foundation for all other upper-body exercises. Even though many exercises target the chest, the shoulders, the back and the abs, almost every motion involves your arms in some way. Although the musculature of the arm is complex, there are two important muscle groups when it comes to weight training – the biceps and the triceps. Both of these muscles are oppositional, meaning that working one muscle doesn’t work the other. Two common exercises that work these muscle groups are triceps dips and biceps curls.
Dips target the triceps, and biceps curls work the biceps, but that’s not all of the affected muscle groups. Both exercises work secondary muscle groups using standard form, and with variations, you can expand the scope of targeted muscle groups. In addition to the triceps, standard dips work the lower and outer pectorals, the obliques, the posterior deltoids and the forearms. Standing barbell biceps curls work the biceps, the anterior deltoids, the traps, the lats and the upper support muscles around your core.
Sets and Reps
Biceps curls allow you a wide latitude for structuring your sets and reps, since the concentric free-weight exercise allows you to easily increase or decrease weight for the targeted muscles. Dips are an isometric exercise that limits you to your own body weight for every rep. To achieve gains doing standard dips, you’ll have to simply increase the number of reps you do, and the number of sets in which you do them. For biceps curls, you can use a pyramid rep structure to build mass, you can use standard flat sets for a balanced strength/endurance approach, or you can combine a set of 12 curls with a set of 12 dips in quick succession for a muscle-confusing super-set workout.
The biggest challenge to long-term weight training is that your body adjusts to even the toughest workout. Adjust the standard forms of dips and biceps curls every few weeks to continue achieving performance gains, and to expand the secondary muscles worked in each exercise. For example, leaning forward while performing dips will place greater stress on the lower chest and upper abs, while still giving the triceps a good workout. You can also attach a free-weight plate to a rope tied around your waist and do weighted dips for increased difficulty. For biceps curls, use a wider grip to work more of your traps and lats, or narrow the grip to concentrate on the middle portion of the biceps. Use an EZ-Grip barbell to reduce wrist fatigue, or use dumbbells instead of a barbell to work more stabilizer muscles.
If you’re engaged in a split routine schedule for weight training, you'll usually perform dips and biceps curls on different days, as each exercise can be grouped seamlessly into routines targeting different muscles. Triceps dips are best when grouped with shoulder and chest workouts, while biceps curls are best when paired with back and core workouts. However, the two exercises can be effective together when you do supersets, which work opposing muscle groups, or when you do full-body training sessions. For a full-body training session, work your muscles from large to small. Do your triceps work first, then your biceps.
- Strength Training Anatomy; Frédéric Delavier
- Getting Stronger: Weight Training for Men and Women; Bill Pearl
- Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images