I completely agree. If you wish to grow your biceps specifically, it's the chin-ups, rows and other back-muscle-focused exercises that are going to be those big rocks, and isolation movements such as various types of biceps curls are the "pebbles and sand" that top up the bucket.
Next I spoke with Matt Jordan, a strength trainer and sport physiologist for Olympic and professional athletes based in Calgary. He agrees that what biceps do is "not an important prime movement."
"The arm is literally just an extension of the larger, core muscle groups," Jordan told me. "Even for something like a discus throw" — which involves significant elbow flexion — "it plays a secondary role."
However, Jordan notes that biceps play an important role in safeguarding the elbow joint. "A lot of sport movement involves rapid extension of the elbow, and biceps brachii protects it from overextending by decelerating the forearm at the end of a rapid extension."
I should note the importance of maintaining some sense of balance with the triceps brachii muscles, which are located at the back of the upper arm and serve to extend the elbow. You don't want to look … weird.
And even while tastefully showing off your arms, keep in mind that the intended effect may backfire. When 28-year-old Rebecca Darling, a happily married mother of a small child, sees a guy in a biceps-revealing T-shirt, she thinks the message he's sending is: "I can't afford a Ferrari, so this is the next best way to compensate."
Just FYI, go no more revealing than a T-shirt. My survey included a question about what women think of guys wearing tank tops, and the overwhelming response was, "Blech!"
Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, Canada