I was recently asked for some advice on a gym exercise by a young rugby player. He had been at the gym and had been shown an exercise that concentrated on working his inner biceps.
Why? Why would anyone want to work their inner bicep? and what is it anyway?
The bicep does have two heads (bi – two, cep – head). They are usually called long and short but arguably one is more medial (closer to the centre line) and hence you could call them inner and outer, I suppose.
We will gloss over the naming and why someone would want to do this because there is a more important point coming up.
The exercises are below. They consist of holding a bar bell in either a narrow, normal or wide grip and then performing a bicep curl.
I have tried this and I can confirm that the wide grip version does feel like it is doing something to the inside of your arm. But what?
The elbow joint is a hinge joint. It is designed to hinge in such a way that your hand comes up to your shoulder. The ulna bone of the forearm has a large hook like structure at the end of it called the olecranon. This is the point of the elbow and it fits snuggly on the end of the humerus. The whole structure is surrounded by many ligaments that stablise the joint. It is not designed to have any sideways motion.
Try it yourself. Put your forearm out at 90 degrees and move your hand away or towards your body. What you will find is that the movement is actually happening at your shoulder joint. If you take your arm out to the side and then flex your elbow, your hand still comes up to your shoulder – your whole arm has rotated at the shoulder joint.
If we go back to the exercises – the narrow hold one, the humerus rotates in so that when you bring your hands up they are still fairly near your shoulder joint. The normal spaced grip brings your hands up to your shoulders.
The wide spread grip is another matter. If you were doing this with dumb bells then it wouldn’t be a problem. The whole arm would have rotated outwards and when you do the bicep curl the hand would still come up to the shoulder joint. But this is a barbell! The hands are fixed in a position wider than the shoulders. When you do a bicep curl in this position you are forcing the joint, trying to bring the hand up to some distance to the side of the shoulder joint.
It doesn’t like it. It hurts. You feel tension in all the structures you are trying to pull out of their normal position. Yes you can feel it up the inside of your bicep, but you aren’t working it – you are torturing it.
If you want to do this exercise (I guess its a bicep curls that also works on your shoulder area and your rotator cuff – if that is important to you) then please do it with dumb bells.
If you have any other strange exercises that need explaining please let me know.