Are Bicep 21s a good idea for bicep growth?

Before you do another set of Bicep 21s to build up those guns, you should read this article and decide whether this is in fact a good idea.

People love biceps!

If you have trained for a while and want to demonstrate to someone how much you’ve developed in the gym, you don’t drop your pants and show them your quads or calves, you go straight in with a classic double bicep pose! “BAM… Look at the twins!”

A lot of people will have heard of 21s for bicep growth. I have noticed that they are pretty popular in gyms that I have trained in. I’m not sure where this type of training has come from but I think I’ll leave it out of my training unless someone can convince me that it is worth doing.

For those who haven’t heard of bicep 21s for growth. This is when a barbell or dumbbells are curled with:

  • Partial reps from straight arms up to right angles 7 times
  • Partial reps from right angle to maximum contraction 7 times
  • Full range of movement for the final 7 reps

This set of 21 reps is performed with no rest between each variation of curl.

I am not a fan of these, mainly because I am a fan of full range of movement, especially when performing any exercise.

I have used this method before I knew what I was doing; yes, it is hard, but is it really doing what you want it to?
Most people use this to build bigger arms as it gives a good pump to the arm muscles, but is this really working?

Well, if you use heavy weights and low reps to build any other muscle group, why would you use 21 reps to build bigger arms? This, to me, sounds like it is more of an endurance exercise. So you will be training your muscles for stamina rather than size. But, again, will you really be training your biceps properly?

The bicep is a 2-headed muscle. It also only has just one range. This makes bicep training limited to curling movements. There are different variations of curls out there but these variations do not involve partial movements. The variation comes in the form of wrist position, e.g. hammer curls, supination curls.

21s for shoulders

I’m not sure of the name but I believe a body builder in the 50s or 60s invented 21s. He actually invented this method for the deltoids (shoulder muscles).

This, to me, makes much more sense.

As the deltoid is a 3-headed muscle group, you are able to do 7 reps rear delts (posterior), 7 reps for lateral delts and 7 reps for front delts (anterior).

You will notice that by targeting each head of the deltoid separately with an isolation exercise, you will develop a full capped set of shoulders.

I would suggest, if you are going to use the “21s method” in your training, that you do this for three-headed muscle groups. If you were doing shoulders, try the following instead:

  • 7x bent over raises with dumbbells or reverse pec dec
  • 7x lateral raises with dumbbells
  • 7x front raises with a barbell

I have used this in workouts before. Personally, I would recommend this kind of thing as a “pre-exhaust” exercise before doing your shoulder presses.

Pre-exhaust means that you do these as the first exercise on your shoulder days. This will get your muscles working harder on your presses. You might find, if you do this, that you are weaker on your presses but that’s why it’s called a “pre-exhaust exercise.”

This, in a nutshell, is my view on Bicep 21s for bicep growth. I am not a fan of this type of training and you won’t catch me in the gym training my biceps in this way any time soon.

I hope this has been useful? If you do have any questions about anything I have mentioned in this article, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer your questions in a reply.

Remember to keep strict form on the shoulder isolation exercises if you try deltoid 21s. It can be tempting to lift too heavy especially when training rear delts.

Good luck!

Pre exhaust sets

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