As an example, one day I was in a gym and one of the gym’s personal trainers was working with a couple of clients close to where I was lifting. One of the clients asked the trainer why he was instructing them to turn the palm up when doing bicep curls with dumbbells. The trainer responded by saying that is how you can get a fuller contraction of the bicep. And that was enough for the client. Now, this might not seem a shocker to you but it certainly made me think about the way that I would answer the question. The bicep muscle’s primary job is supination of the forearm (turning the palm up and out, so the pinky finger is closest to the shoulder), not bending of the elbow. Actually, for the greatest contraction of the bicep, you would want to put the shoulder into a flexed position while you bend the elbow and supinate the forearm. You cannot effectively do this with dumbbells because the pull of gravity would then be more through the elbow joint….and somewhere, probably before this point, is where the client just stopped listening.
The point to this is not about the bicep nor about how much I continually have to learn. Rather, the point is that relevance matters more than fact. For instance, it is a fact that your muscles need a day of rest after lifting. But that rest is only to ensure the muscle will rebuild from an intense enough exercise that caused damage to the muscle. If, however, you are doing exercise for the purpose of correcting postural imbalances, retraining biomechanics or even just mitigating muscle loss then taking the day of rest could actually work against your goals.
From rehab to function to performance, the specifics of how you train the muscle depends on the goals that you are trying to achieve. Amount of resistance, type of resistance, speed of repetition, number of reps, length of rest, number of sets and frequency of exercise bouts are all considerations relative to your program. And all of these fall lower in priority than how you move your body to perform the exercise. To simplify, your goal is to activate the muscle with the appropriate dose to stimulate the desired response. Without focus on ensuring you are using the muscles that you are trying to get the response from, then your muscles will not be stimulated to give you the response you want.
For the biceps, this means that just rotating your hand while lifting will not give you the greatest contraction of the bicep. You actually have to focus on contracting the bicep to make that movement in the right position for that response. But, if you never knew that there was a deeper truth or in this case something that would be more effective, you might never think to ask more and go deeper.
While I know that not everyone has the fascination with the body that I have, I do believe that a greater understanding can enable people to be far more effective with the results they can achieve with their body.
Determine the goal. Design the plan. Focus on form. And, as alway, let me know how I can help.