Biceps Exercises for Building Mass vs Biceps Exercises for Peak: Myth or Reality?

Today’s Ask Lee question comes from is from George Johnson of Los Angeles:

QUESTION: “Lee, i’m trying to build bigger more cut biceps. Is it true that you have biceps exercises that build mass and others that build cuts and peak?”

Watch The Video To See Lee’s Answer


ANSWER: George, the size and shape of your muscles is largely determined by your genetics. That includes your biceps muscles. So, regardless of whether you build your biceps by performing sets of barbell curls or preacher curls, the final size and shape is predetermined.

Keep in mind however, that everyone can improve the development of their muscles, you never know how far you’ll be able to go, so you owe it to yourself to train hard, knowing that you will enjoy an improvement over where you are now.

Let’s look at the muscle fibers and your biceps. The muscle fibers in any of your muscles, including your biceps, must contract in order to complete the movement.

Muscle fibers work on the all or none principle, that is they either fully contract or they don’t contract at all. As you start a set of curls, a small percentage of the fibers in your biceps are recruited. With each succeeding repetition, more and more fibers are recruited in order to complete the movement. As you approach muscular failure in the last reps of a set, the majority of fibers in the biceps muscle will be activated. This is the point at which you get the most benefit from the exercise, because the signal is sent out that your biceps need to adapt in order to handle greater loads in the future.

So while I am not a big believer that any particular exercise can change the shape or the cuts of a muscle, I do believe that each exercise can offer a specific function, that can help you in reaching your potential.

For example, we know that by performing isolation dumbbell curls, the biceps are forced to work very hard without assistance from ancillary muscles such as shoulders and back. If you pre-exhaust your biceps with isolation curls, and then follow it up with a compound exercise such as barbell curls that provide assistance from the shoulders and back, you can really create overload in your biceps muscles which leads to growth.

Aside from the intelligent use of available exercises, you can also get great benefits from exercise techniques such as using full range of motion in all your exercises. This will maximize your opportunity for full development. And holding the peak contraction at the top of certain biceps exercises such as concentration curls can force the recruitment of even more fibers, again enhancing stimulation.

So in summary, muscle shape is largely determined by genetics, but development can be maximized by using all the available biceps exercises intelligently, to overload your muscles and stimulate growth.

I’m Lee Labrada, your lean body coach.

Yours for a Lean Body,

Your Lean Body Coach™
Houston, Texas

About the Author: One of the world’s most well-known and celebrated bodybuilding legends, Lee Labrada holds 22 professional bodybuilding titles, including the IFBB Mr. Universe. He is one of few pro bodybuilders in history to consistently place in the top four at the Mr. Olympia competition (the “Super Bowl” of bodybuilding) for seven consecutive years—a feat he shares with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He has appeared on the covers of more than 100 bodybuilding and fitness magazines and has been featured on CNBC, FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and ESPN as a fitness and nutrition expert.

Lee was also inducted into the Bodybuilding Hall of Fame, is an Internationally known best selling fitness authos and holds a Bachelors of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. For more about Lee please visit his page here: Lee Labrada’s page.