There’s been a lot of talk about the pump over the years. From Arnold’s famous line from “Pumping Iron” to the popular rants and videos on social media today, it’s always been all about the pump.
What’s important to remember about the pump is that it doesn’t just leave you feeling good for that hour or so after you leave the gym. Nutrient-rich blood flooding your muscles will help you start recovering right away so you can maximize your growth potential and eventually make that temporary size gain permanent.
In other words, no matter how you train elsewhere in your workout—low reps or high, 5×5 or GVT—if you haven’t been finishing your routine by chasing that pump, now is the time to start.
The key to getting a great pump is two-fold: great muscle contractions on your biceps exercises and—of course—reps, reps, reps! That means ditching the barbell and your favorite chin-up routine (at least at the end of the workout) and focusing instead on pure isolation exercises that you can execute to a full range of motion for a lot of reps.
This biceps workout may look simple, but it will challenge your muscles and get you that upper-arm pump you need to grow. Use it as a finisher to your biceps routine or throw it in with your back session for a short and sweet extra pump in your week.
Machine Preacher Curl
If you’re only going to use one machine, make it the preacher curl machine! It keeps tension on the biceps from start to finish, which is important for getting high-quality contractions to help prioritize that pump. The reps decrease with each set of this workout, so add weight each time if you can. Some machines allow you to choose any distance between either a close grip or a shoulder-width grip with an EZ-bar setup. If that’s the case, choose the grip that feels most comfortable and allows you to fully contract your biceps on every rep.
Place each elbow on the pad and adjust the seat height to get into position. When you perform the rep, do so quickly, pausing at the top to squeeze the biceps as hard as you can. Perform the negative under control before doing the next rep. When you’re at the bottom of the curl, stop just short of letting the weight bottom out. Don’t go too heavy, and don’t let the weight drop from the top. The sudden stretch can increase your chance of an injury, and a pump from inflammation isn’t exactly what we’re going for.
Here’s one more bonus tip: Let the handle rest on your palms but don’t squeeze it with a full grip. This minimizes forearm recruitment and makes the biceps do more work. Don’t worry, your forearms will get plenty of work in the other move!
Seated Hammer Curl
Dumbbell curls are a great way to hit those target muscles in the upper arms, and since hammer curls work more than just the biceps, they are perfect for achieving a killer biceps pump. By switching from the standard supination grip, this muscle-building exercise activates the forearms in addition to the biceps brachii and the brachialis to really increase that pump. You can also get a lot more reps with a hammer curl than you can with a regular supinated curl using the same weight.
Have a pair of dumbbells close by while you’re doing the preacher curls so you can simply turn around on the same machine and start curling right away facing the opposite way in the seat. This minimizes downtime between your superset and keeps those muscles under tension. If you have the room to position an incline bench nearby, you can also perform this same exercise while lying back on the bench by letting each arm hang down and hinging at the elbow. This increases the range of motion for the curl.
Now that you’ve switched to dumbbells, you (of course) should hold them with a solid grip. Keep in mind that with this being the second exercise in a superset, you might not do as many reps as you normally would. That’s OK: The goal is reps, not lifting the heaviest weight you can.
Speaking of weight, choose a pair of dumbbells you can get 15-20 reps with on the first set. When you start each set, make it your mission to lift to absolute failure. Perform full reps until you can no longer do so with good form, then start doing half reps, and if you have to, switch to single-arm curls. Only when you’re no longer able to perform a half rep are you done with the set and able to rest.