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What Is a Bicep?

An anatomical illustration showing many muscles in the upper body, including the bicep.
The bicep makes up approximately one-third of the mass of the upper arm.
Curls help strengthen the biceps and other muscles of the arms.
Weight lifting builds muscle strength.
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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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Perhaps the most famous muscle in the human muscular system, the bicep (Biceps Brachii) makes up approximately one-third of the mass of the upper arm. The muscle is actually part of a group of three muscles in the upper arm that work in unison with each other to lift the arm up toward the shoulder. As one of the most visible and impressive muscles in the body, the bicep muscle is often the subject of much attention in the weight room.

The bicep muscle is responsible for two primary movements of the arm. The first is the lifting up of the arm. Those who carry anything using the hand are likely engaging the biceps in the process, as some upward force must be exerted in the process of carrying and lifting. The second movement the bicep is responsible for is called supination, which is rotating the hand from the natural position of the palm down to the palm being up.

The muscle is built up through trauma that is often accomplished by weight lifting, such as curls or some other sort of bicep exercises. As the curls or other exercises are preformed, the muscle in the arm sustains some minor injuries. These injuries must then be repaired by a natural process. The repair process for the muscle, as a natural byproduct, will usually lead to muscle growth and increased strength, though this process may take weeks or months before noticeable results are seen.

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As a matter of practicality, very few exercises work the biceps, without engaging the other muscles of the upper arm. Therefore, there is no reason to worry that other muscles in the upper arm may be neglected if the focus is on the biceps. With that being said, there is always a chance that an individual could focus on specific major muscle groups at the expense of others. For example, some may focus exclusively on muscles in the arm, and nearly completely forget about leg muscles or muscles in the core.

The bicep, as one of the most commonly used muscles in the body, can certainly be injured. Though bicep injuries are not as common as some types of injuries, there is always a risk, especially among weightlifters. The most common type of injury is the bicep tendon injury. In this type of injury, the muscle is torn away from the tendon that attaches it to the arm in the bone known as the radius. Such injuries occur when the muscle is used suddenly or to such a level that the muscle cannot handle.

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