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Isolation exercises for biceps/triceps?


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Do you guys train your biceps/triceps in isolation? I've always thought that you should do compound movements to "get more bang for your buck", etc etc so that by training large muscles/multiple muscle groups you burn more calories and save time in the gym. Therefore I've definitely gotten stronger at chest press/pullups/squats but then when I did body pump the other day I was disappointed to see that I am still struggling with the same weights on the bicep/tricep tracks, and everything else has progressed so much!


So yeah basically:

1) Do you train your biceps/triceps in isolation

2) Is there any point in training them if I am making progress in everything else - I can't see an end point apart from being able to do a bicep curl with a bigger weight!


Perhaps this is also due to that rule that women find it difficult to 'bulk up' due to their lower testosterone levels, and this is why my biceps are slow to progress  :pride:

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We don't get very big but we can get very strong. You seem to be focused on pull(ie: bicep curl) over push(ie: push-up). If that's the issue there's many pulling exercises. Check out this Nerd Fitness blogpost on How to do a pull up. Less isolation, more functional fitness. ;)

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I'm no means an expert on this, just my two cents.


I rarely do bicep curls anymore, if I do it's because I'm waiting for space to use the barbells or I'm chatting (just being honest :-P) It wasn't because I didn't progress, it takes me longer to move up in bicep curl weight than other exercises.  I can do a pull row at 40# now, started this summer at 15#.  Bicep curls?  Started at 15# now at 20#. 


The main reason I stopped is I never noticed any difference whereas with other moves that use more than just one muscle I could feel and see the difference. 

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I do bicep and tricep isolation exercises in the hopes of getting some hypertrophy, because I want more muscular arms, and also because I have wonky arms. I have/have had pain issues basically everywhere, and my elbow joints especially are very hypermobile - they bend at least 10-15 degrees to the wrong direction, and they're also turned out more than normally when I keep my arm straight. The isolation exercises help the smaller muscles, tendons, joints etc. develop and prepare for the bigger weights. It was my physiotherapist that told me to do bicep curls to lessen my elbows' ability to go Mr. Fantastic.


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Have you tried the barbell row? (I think that's what it's called....)


I used to not be able to flex my triceps and see the muscle actually flex, but I've been doing those for about 2-3 months? And now I'm able to flex my tricep and visibly see it! Which is awesome. I now randomly flex for fun at random times, but it also motivates me to keep going with the rows. 

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I don't train them in isolation so much as I train them differently than stronglifts (the program I use) suggests. 


Theirs is every time you get your 5x5 reps, you add 5lbs. But I'm still at dumbbell stage (30-40 lbs) and I'm stuck there. My dumbbell then barbell rows are getting good quickly too, but not my OH press or my Bench. I decided to use the smaller weight with more reps for a while to try to build strength in my arms.


However, the lifting does change your strength, even just a little bit. I can do elevated pushups now, not just wall ones. Bad form ones, and it's a struggle that gives me ALL the DOMS, but it does help. 


For us girls, it just takes longer sometimes.

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You do get more bang for your buck doing compounds.


Biceps tend to be vanity exercises (in my opinion) - as you progress with the complex "compound" exercises, your biceps will grow/increase in power.  But you necessarily see the size/definition that you do in bodybuilders - folks trying to develop size/definition.  They tend to not play a large role in other exercises, but they're fun to flex in the mirror.


Triceps are more universally engaged, so you can see benefits to other exercises by adding supplemental training, particularly at the beginning of a new exercise.


If you want to isolate the bicep and train for power or increasing general weight, treat it like breaking any other plateau - use concentration curls with a heavier weight and aim for one or two reps until failure, or use negative contractions to force the muscles to adapt outside of their comfort zone.


If you want size and definition, you should look less at increasing weight and more at volume - more reps per set at lower weight.


You can also try different exercises that target the same area to create a sense of "muscle confusion" which can also spur growth/performance.  (term stolen unabashedly from the P90X guy)

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I do close grip bench press and bench dips, which are compound exercises but good for triceps. For biceps, I do curls but this is the first exercise I drop if I'm short on time.


I'm on an upper/lower split, 4 days a week. On OHP day, the CGBP is my main assistance exercise. At the end of my workout, I finish with tri-sets of barbell curls, band pull aparts, and bench dips. On bench press day, I finish with tri-sets of Zercher squats, hammer curls, and glute bridges. (I know that it seems weird to do ZS and GB on bench press day but I have my workouts set up to include some of the glute-centric stuff I learned through Strong Curves.) Like I said, if I'm short on time, I drop the curls from either tri-set. 

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I'm all about compound movements and don't tend to do any isolation. I do a combination of push ups, and then pull ups and chin ups + all the wacky acrobatic aerial stuff uses those muscles as well because climbing... I initially considered doing bicep curls or something for more definition but I'm getting it anyway just from doing the compound movements I work soooo meh.

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I do hammer curls to protect my elbows, some front/side raises for my shoulders because my OHP sucks, and I do some tricep stuff because I like it.  Like 1 set of 10 at a challenging weight once a week (I strength train 2 days a week, so one workout will be curls, the next triceps, etc.) at the end of the workout.  That's it.

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