19 Best Biceps Exercises for More Growth

Let’s face it, if you’re planning a victorious post-isolation return to the gym, you’ll likely start with biceps. The meaty, forearm section is a highly concentrated muscle group that offers strength and demands respect, praise, and the best biceps exercises you can throw at them. After all, big muscles are the gym rat’s business card and can do wonders for your overall appearance.

Big biceps are signaling to the world that you’ve got some serious sweat parity in the gym. Biceps are small muscles, but growing them takes time, knowledge, and clever programming. Also, your biceps flex your elbows—which is pretty important work when you think about it. Otherwise, how do you lick that beer (ahem, protein shake) to your lips or lift your kid? Biceps don’t just look good; they serve a real function.

The good news for you is that biceps training is pretty simple—you’ll get a little squatter, twist, and curl. However, some exercises do the job better than others. To help you figure out which one is best for you, we’ve compiled a single list of the 19 best biceps exercises, along with more information about the muscle itself and how to incorporate biceps training into your routine.

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What are your biceps?


At a basic level, your biceps are a large muscle group in the front of your upper arm. Also known by its Latin name, biceps brachii (meaning “biceps of the arm”), which we often refer to as the biceps. The primary function of this muscle group is to rotate the forearm and flex the elbow.

As the Latin name suggests, your biceps are divided into two main sections; long head and short head. Both heads of the muscle emerge from the scapula (shoulder blade) and fuse to form a muscle mass in the middle arm. At both ends are connective tissues called tendons that connect muscle to bone. Both heads work together to move the forearm, allowing them to rotate 90 degrees. Let’s take a deeper dive into these two heads.

Long head
Without going into too much detail, the long head originates from a gap in the scapula called the glenoid. The head passes from the shoulder joint to the upper arm through a small section in the humerus.

Short head
At the other end of the spectrum, the short head originates from a projection on the scapula called the coracoid. It lies next to the long head on the inside of the arm.

Function
As mentioned above, the primary function of the biceps is to flex the elbow and rotate the forearm. However, contrary to what you might think, the biceps are not the strongest flexor of the forearm. Instead, the muscle group serves to support and stabilize the deeper brachialis muscle for a greater range of motion and strength.

19 Best Biceps Exercises for Men and Women


Anatomy aside, the best biceps workouts and exercises allow you to increase your muscle mass, strength, stability, and aesthetic appeal. Adding these moves to your overall fitness regimen can elevate your routine from a simple gym-goer’s attempt to one of the best on the planet.

Here are the best bicep exercises for men and women

1. Barbell Curl

The barbell curl is a classic biceps builder. This exercise targets the biceps and can add serious size and strength to the entire muscle when done right. When lifting a single tool with both hands, you can curl more weight with the barbell curl than with other curl variations. It’s also simple to do. Just load a barbell, hold it with both hands and lift it towards your chin. Rinse and repeat.

Benefits of Barbell Curl

  • It is simple and effective. The barbell curl offers a small learning curve that’s perfect for beginners, and more advanced lifters will continue to take advantage of the basic mechanics.
  • Because you can load your biceps with more weight, you’ll build stronger biceps faster.

How to Barbell Curl

Grab a dumbbell with an underhand grip that’s slightly wider than the shoulders. With the chest up and the shoulder blades tightly drawn together, pull the shoulders back into the socket, exposing the front of your biceps. Elbows should be under the shoulder joint or slightly in front of the ribs. Using the biceps, curl the barbell upwards (they should stay slightly in front of the shoulders), being careful not to allow the torso to lean forward, the shoulders to slump forward, or the elbows to slide to the side of the body.

2. Seated Alternate Dumbbell Curl

When discussing valuable biceps exercises, we neglect not to start with a tried-and-true dumbbell curl. Sure, it’s the foundation of every exercise on this list, but research published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine shows that it continues to be popular as it activates the biceps much better than other curl variations (not listed here).

Perform alternately to get the most out of your traditional biceps curl. Since the vast majority of athletes can lift when they curl both arms together, they can lift slightly more overall weight when curling one arm at a time. And the more your biceps curl, the stronger they become.

Benefits

  • Concentrates on one arm at a time.
  • Dumbbells permit natural wrist supination, unlike the barbell version.
  • Allows for momentary recovery in one biceps while the other contracts.
  • Simple way to build biceps size and strength.

How To: Sit on a 90-degree bench with a dumbbell in each hand, palms forward, arms straight toward the floor but not locked, and shoulders pulled back. From here, slowly lift a weight in front of your shoulder while keeping your back firmly pressed against the bench, elbow, and shoulder stationery. Pause, squeezing your bicep at the top, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start. Repeat on the opposite side.

3. Alternate Incline Dumbbell Curl

When you think of your biceps, you probably imagine your biceps brachii sitting above your brachialis (we’ll discuss this later) and is largely responsible for the bicep bulge we all crave, explains Matthew J. Capolongo, CSCS, Professional Athletic Performance in PES, New York. A sports performance coach at the Center. He adds that research has shown this move to be one of the best for developing the biceps brachii.

Benefits

  • Concentrates on one arm at a time.
  • Dumbbells permit natural wrist supination, unlike the barbell version.
  • Allows for momentary recovery in one biceps while the other contracts.
  • Simple way to build biceps size and strength.

How To: Lie back on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand, palms forward, arms straight toward the floor but not locked, and shoulders pulled back. From here, slowly lift a weight in front of your shoulder while keeping your back firmly pressed against the bench, elbow, and shoulder stationery. Pause, squeezing your bicep at the top, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start. Repeat on the opposite side.

4. Seated Alternating Hammer Curl

By curling your dumbbells with a neutral grip rather than an underhand grip, you automatically switch the main muscle that works from the biceps brachii to the brachialis, explains Capolongo. This is because your biceps brachii helps you rotate your forearms with your palms facing up. While the brachialis is a deeper, barely visible muscle, it helps give your biceps more shape and strength, she says.

Benefits of an alternate dumbbell curl

  • Concentrates on one arm at a time.
  • The barbell, unlike the barbell version, allows for natural wrist supination.
  • Allows instant recovery on one biceps and other contracts.
  • The simple way to improve biceps size and strength.

How To Do It: For this biceps exercise, sit on a 90-degree bench with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your body, arms straight toward the floor, but not locked, and shoulders pulled back. From here, slowly lift a weight in front of your shoulder while keeping your back firmly pressed against the bench, elbow, and shoulder stationery. Pause, squeezing your bicep at the top, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start. Repeat on the opposite side.

5. Standing Reverse Barbell Curl

According to a 2015 study from Frontiers in Physiology, this variation significantly increases activity in the brachioradialis, the third and final muscle that makes up your biceps. This is because when you curl a weight with an overhand grip (which is easiest to maintain with a barbell), you put the biceps brachii at a huge mechanical disadvantage, meaning that the typically underutilized brachioradialis has to come into play to take the slack. Minnesota-based exercise physiologist Mike T. Nelson, Ph.D., explains CSCS

It’s worth noting that compared to the other exercises on this list, you won’t be able to gain too much weight with this variation. Don’t be too proud to lighten up.

Benefits

Reverse curls activate muscle groups in your arms, including the biceps brachii and brachialis, the primary muscle used for elbow flexion. Larger biceps are another benefit of regularly applying reverse curls. Inverted curls increase your holding power.

How To: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a barbell in both hands, palms facing your body, arms straight toward the floor but not locked, and shoulders pulled back. From here, slowly raise the weight in front of your shoulders while keeping your elbows and shoulders stable. Pause, squeezing your biceps overhead, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start. Repeat on the opposite side.

6. Standing Cable Curl

Cable curls are great when paired with free-weight bicep exercises. Dumbbells and barbells exert the greatest amount of force on your biceps when your elbows are bent at 90 degrees, while cables keep resistance constant throughout the entire range of motion. With this variation, you’ll notice your biceps work much harder at the top and bottom of the movement than with dumbbells.

Benefits of Biceps Curls

  • Isolation: The biceps curl is a one-joint exercise—great for isolating the biceps.
  • Hypertrophy: Hammer curls help increase biceps size.
  • Strength: They help strengthen your arms, which can improve athletic performance and facilitate daily activities, picking up objects and carrying kids around.

How to: Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart, facing a cable station, with a straight handle fixed to the lowest setting. Hold arm with both hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing forward, arms straight toward the floor but not locked, and shoulders pulled back. From here, slowly raise the weight in front of your shoulders while keeping your elbows and shoulders stable. Pause, squeezing your biceps overhead, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start. Repeat on the opposite side.

7. Chin-Up

The chin-up is a bodyweight exercise that can induce serious muscle growth in the biceps (and back) with just one pull-up bar. If you have a door-mounted pull-up bar in your home gym, then this is all you need. Because the lifter pulls his own body weight, his biceps are often subjected to heavier loads than they can lift with a barbell. However, lifters can often work their shoulder and grip muscles by performing them incorrectly.

Benefits of Chin-Up

  • You only need access to one pull-up bar to perform the chin move, making it one of the most accessible moves on this list.
  • The chin lift allows you to lift your entire body weight and often loads the biceps with more weight than they can curl.
  • Your grip and shoulders will also gain some strength.

How is Chin-Up Done?

Hang from a bar with palms facing you and hands approximately shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. From a dead sling, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your body up, being careful not to let the body fold inward until your chin is on or above the bar (most people do).

8. EZ-Bar Preacher Curl

Curling up on a preacher bench extends the range of motion of the exercise. As a result, the biceps will be tense for a longer period of time, which usually equates to more muscle growth. Using an EZ bar that turns the hands inward makes movement more comfortable in the wrists and changes the angle of the exercise to target different muscle fibers in the biceps.

Benefits of EZ-Bar Preacher Curl

  • Using the preacher bench provides a longer range of motion and creates more muscle tension for greater biceps growth.
  • Using an EZ-bar is more comfortable on the wrists.

How to Make EZ-Bar Preacher Curl?

Sit in a preacher chair and rest the back of your triceps on the pad. Bring your body into the same position as the standard barbell biceps curl (chest up, shoulders back, and elbows slightly forward). Hold the EZ-bar handle on the inside angle parts. This will place your hands slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart and at a semi-inclined angle. With the body locked in place, curl the bar upwards while flexing the biceps, pausing briefly at the top of the curl to stretch the biceps. Lower the weight in a controlled manner.

9. Facing-Away Cable Curl

To perform the outward cable crimping, the lifter must stand facing away between the two cables of a functional trainer or cable tower. This setup, combined with the unique resistance of the cables, provides the same benefits of the incline dumbbell curl (a greater stretch due to a longer range of motion) that maintains tension on the muscle throughout the entire movement.

Benefits of Facing Cable Crimp

Barbells lock your arms in place. Cables are movable. Twisting with cables allows the lifter to align the resistance with their preferred arm path, providing less discomfort throughout the movement.
Curling with cables placed behind your back increases the range of motion of the movement while using cables creates more tension for a one-two hit of more general muscle stimulus.
This move is great for straining the biceps and loading them in their understated extended range.

How to Do the Facing-Away Cable Curl?

Set the levers of the cable reels to the lowest setting and attach the D levers to each reel. Take a handle in each hand. Stretch your upper back and allow your arms to be fully extended. Bend the weight towards your shoulders without moving your shoulders. Hold the upper part of the movement for about a second and then slowly lower the arms in a controlled manner.

10. Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row

You are right to think of this move as a traditional back exercise. This. However, similar to the chin-up, the supinated hold of this bent-up row variation heavily involves the biceps. You can manage more weight on the barbell compared to other biceps exercises. You will also develop your biceps along with your back muscles for greater overall muscularity.

Bent on Bent-Over Row with Reverse Grip

  • The reverse-grip bent row targets your back muscles in addition to your biceps.
  • You can lift more weights than other biceps exercises.

How to Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row

Grab an open, bottom-grip barbell shoulder-width apart. Take the right bent row position with the back straight and chest up. Pull the barbell towards the stomach. Pull with both back and arms, control the weight, and repeat for reps.

11. Concentration Curl

Concentration curl is all about feeling your biceps working. Sit on a bench, rest your elbow on the inside of your thigh, and curl a dumbbell from full extension to contraction. Lifting one arm at a time means you’re doing more work overall – so you burn more calories and let your weaker arm catch up. Plus, the isolated curling position really allows you to develop your biceps while curling a light dumbbell.

Benefits of the Concentration Curl

  • The ability to focus more carefully on your biceps.
  • Because you work one side of your body at a time, more calories are burned, effectively double the number of sets you do.
  • By focusing on one arm at a time, your weak side will become stronger.

How to Do Concentration Curl?

Sit on a bench with your elbow on the inside of your thigh, feet wide enough to allow your arm to hang in the middle. With a dumbbell in hand, slowly curl the dumbbell upwards at a controlled pace, focusing on contracting the biceps to move the load. At the peak of the movement, stretch as hard as you can, then slowly lower the load. The key is not to lose tension on the biceps at any point in the range of motion.

12. High cable bicep curl

This high cable curl variation allows the lifter to curl the cables while shoulders are flexed and palms are facing up (supination). When performing this exercise on a functional trainer or cable tower, the cables will be placed just above shoulder level. Curling up from a high, extended arm position is thought by many to target the shorter biceps head, which is what creates the coveted biceps peak.

Benefits of High Cable Curl

  • The ability to focus and train both arms at the same time.
  • Cable use on dumbbells challenges them in their contracted, shortened position, allowing the arm path to change, creating new stress on the biceps.

How to Make a High Cable Curl?

Set one cable reel to approximately shoulder height and attach D-arms to each cable reel. Grasp the bar with supination (palm facing up). Maintain tension on the biceps until the climax of the movement, then slowly lower the load to the starting position. The key to this exercise is to maintain your shoulder position throughout the range of motion, not letting your elbows drop—make it easier. Maintaining tension in the upper back increases the tension in the biceps, helping to keep the shoulders stable and the arm position stable.

13. Cable Rope Supinating Curl

This low cable curl variation features the lift with curl and twist, with a rope attachment that prioritizes both functions of the biceps brachii muscle – supination and elbow flexion. Because you stand further from the machine, your biceps will be tense throughout the entire movement. Bending your hands towards your face will create more biceps tension (which you will definitely feel.

Benefits of Cable Rope Supinating Curl

  • The ability to train both basic functions of the biceps brachii – supination and elbow flexion.
  • The addition of the Fat Gripz provides an object arm for your biceps to fight during supination compared to stringing alone.
  • The use of cables provides even resistance throughout the entire range of motion.

How to Cable Rope Supinating Curl

Stand in front of a single cable on a functional trainer or cable tower. With both sides of the rope attached in your hands (palms facing each other), set the cable to a lower setting. To complete the curl, start by flexing your elbows (raise hands toward shoulders) and rotating (supinate) hands up about a third of the way up while continuing to curl. The key to increasing the supination difficulty of this exercise is to wait for supination until you are one-third of the way to the rep – this allows the muscles responsible for supination to engage when over resistance.

14. Cable Hammer Curl

This variation, which lets you lift two D-handles with a neutral grip, allows you to lift more weight while keeping your hands in a neutral position while fully curling the arms up and down. Since you’re squeezing the arms hard, you’ll also activate many of the muscles in your forearms to increase grip. You can add Fat Gripz to the handles to increase the activation of the forearm muscles.

Benefits of Cable Hammer Curl

  • The ability to work the forearm muscles – specifically the brachioradialis – as well as the upper arm muscles such as the brachialis and short head of the biceps.
  • The use of cables provides even resistance throughout the entire range of motion.
  • It’s a great variation to use as part of a larger biceps superset or giant set.

How to Make a Cable Hammer Curl?

When cables are placed under the cable tower, the lifter will grasp each arm with a neutral grip (palms facing each other), take a step back, engage the upper back to add stability to the upper body and lift the weight up. Maintain a neutral grip (palms facing each other). Squeeze and contract when you reach the top of the movement, then slowly lower the load to the starting position.

15. Dual Cable Preacher Curl

This preacher curl variation uses a pair of wires built on a functional trainer. The preacher curl has many benefits—that is, the opposing force created by the preacher bench. This variation builds on this by adding the unique resistance of the cables, providing an even resistance throughout the entire range of motion. The lifter will hold each arm and place it on the pulpit. Once stable, the lifter will maintain the shoulder position, drive the back of the arm into the pad, and curl the weight upward, creating a large amount of tension in the biceps.

Benefits of the Dual Cable Preacher Curl

  • The ability to use stability throughout exercise increases the tension created and sustains it until fatigue.
  • The use of cables provides even resistance throughout the entire range of motion.
  • It can be used for multiple rep ranges, to build muscle and strength in the biceps.

How to Make a Dual Cable Preacher Curl

Set up a preacher bench about three to five feet from a cable tower with two cable reels. Set the rollers slightly lower than the counter. Sit on the pulpit and have a teaching partner hold both of you. Position your elbows to rest on the pad. Lower your arms until your elbows are almost locked, and then raise the weight back up.

16. TRX Suspension Curl

This curl variation is great for anyone with limited access to free weights, cables, and machines. Like other suspension-based exercises, you can easily adjust the difficulty of the exercise by adjusting your body position – the more upright your body position, the easier it is. Since you’re only using bodyweight for resistance, varying the rep tempo can increase the stretch time on the biceps.

Benefits of TRX Suspension Curl

  • The ability to use your body weight as resistance.
  • The TRX suspension trainer can be taken anywhere and allows you to train at home, in the gym or in the park.
  • You adjust your body position to increase the difficulty of the exercise. The further you lean back, the more your body weight resists during the movement.

How to Do the TRX Suspension Curl?

Once the TRX suspension is stabilized, grab the arms, take a few steps forward, lean back, and curl your body weight. To increase the difficulty of the exercise, simply adjust your body position. The further you lean back, the more your body weight resists during the movement. If you want to make the exercise easier, you can position your body to be more upright.

17. EZ-Bar Reverse Curl

This exercise allows the lifter to use a semi-oblique (oblique – palm facing down – and neutral – the midpoint between palms facing each other) grip on an EZ-bar. With your hands shoulder-width apart and in a semi-pronation position, grasp the bar and let it hang with your arms extended. The lifter curls the bar while maintaining the shoulder position and keeping the elbows at their sides. The only movement should come from the forearm and biceps muscles that flex the elbow. This curl variation trains the forearm and upper arm muscles—specifically the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles—and helps increase the size and improve grip strength.

Benefits of EZ-Bar Reverse Curl

  • The ability to work the forearm and biceps muscles with a pronate or semi-pronated grip position.
  • Curved EZ-bars are easy to find at gyms around the world, so they are a very accessible form of curling.
  • This variation can train the forearms and add dimension.

How is the EZ-Bar Reverse Curl Done?

Grasp an EZ bar with both hands while standing. Turn your wrists so that your palms are facing down (or best sit on the oblique part of the bar). Keep your arms at your sides and flex your elbows to curl the bar toward your shoulders. Lower the bar in a controlled manner.

18. Zottman Curl

This multi-movement piece is one of the best arm workouts for men that you can add to your arsenal. The Zottman Curl focuses on all three major muscles that make up the biceps – brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis

Benefits

The benefit of the Zottman curl is that the positive portion of each rep hits the biceps (biceps brachii and brachialis) and the negative portion targets the forearms (brachioradialis and brachialis muscles)

How to do zottman curl?

Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing forward. Bend the weights towards your shoulders, keeping your upper arms stationary, and rotate your hands so that your palms face up as you lift. Pause at the top of the movement and slowly rotate your grip with your palms facing down.

19. Cable Flex Curl

Another cable exercise, the Cable Flex Curl is a great way to keep tension on your bicep muscles while alternating flexed muscles. Even just holding your arms in this position will give you an arm workout, however, the added flex will throw your muscles into overdrive.

To perform Cable Flex Curls?

  • Stand between two weight stacks of a cable crossover station.
  • Grab a high-pulley handle in each hand.
  • Hold your arms out to the sides, parallel to the floor.
  • Curl one hand toward your head, without moving your right arm.
  • Slowly straighten your left arm.
  • Repeat the move with the opposite arm.

Tips for the Best Biceps Exercises


If you’re ready to hit the gym and get your arms back to their biggest and best form, adding these biceps exercises to the mix will definitely help you grow. However, this does not mean that the movements are flawless. To get the most out of your biceps workout, you should consider these important recommendations.

  • Warming up – We get it, nobody likes to get warm. It’s boring and adds more time to your workout, but you’ll see the difference if you choose to add a quick yawn sound. Warming up your muscles with gentle mobility moves or just stretching allows you to increase blood flow to your muscles, which means more oxygenation and a bigger pump.
  • Don’t Forget to Squeeze – As all exercise descriptions explain, it’s crucial that you squeeze at the top of each muscle contraction. This allows you to focus the tension on your biceps, working to break down muscle fibers and help you build muscle mass.
  • Get More Rest – Depending on your particular training style, your rest periods will play an important role in your biceps training. When it comes to smooth muscle growth, more rest is worth it. By resting for two to three minutes, you can make sure your muscles are fully repaired, meaning you can lift weights at full capacity and reach your bodybuilding goals.

How to Train Your Biceps


As for how often to work your biceps, you should aim for a total of 10 to 14 sets per week. If you’re a newbie to the gym, start with eight seats a week. Again, biceps are small muscles with only two primary functions, so they don’t need a lot of work to trigger growth.

We recommend working your biceps together with your triceps, as they are antagonistic muscles (your biceps flex the elbow and your triceps extend the elbow). You can also record your biceps workout after your back workout or if you watch your legs split after a day of pushing, pulling, pulling. Since your biceps are worked through most of the upper body pull-ups, they’ll already be a little tired, so it makes sense to hook them up for the day.

Exercise Selection

Choosing the right exercise for the goal is like choosing the right tool for the job – vital to your success.

You’ll have to do some math to figure out how many exercises to do per session. Let’s say you train your biceps twice a week with a maximum recommendation of 14 sets. You’ll do seven sets of biceps work per workout. You can do three exercises, performing three sets for the first two and two higher reps for the third exercise. Typically, aim to do three to four sets per move.

When choosing exercises to perform, you want to choose exercises that include:

  • Give the muscle adequate load without undue stress on the surrounding joints.
  • Aligns the resistance with the muscle(s) you want to train.
  • It allows you to train on pre-existing injuries or limitations.
  • It can be done with the equipment in your gym.

When it comes to biceps training, dumbbell and cable variations are typically ranked against fixed dumbbells because of the ability to tailor your setup and technique to your build. Bottom line: If it’s causing joint pain, there’s probably a better exercise to use to get the job done.

Sets and Reps

The number of sets and repetitions performed usually depends on the weight lifted.

For More Muscle
Training at a wide variety of rep ranges and training volumes is recommended to maximize muscle growth. Do three to six sets of six to 12 repetitions with medium weights. If you’re doing fewer reps, lift more weights. As you increase the number of repetitions, you usually need to lighten the load a little.

For More Endurance
To increase endurance or metabolic demand, you can do three to five sets of 12-20 repetitions at low to moderate weights.

For More Power
To maximize strength development, you want to train with higher loads and fewer overall reps per set. Do three to six sets of four to six repetitions with moderate to heavyweights.

Total Volume and Frequency

Training volume refers to the amount of exercise or work performed over a period of time, whether it’s a training session or a week’s workout. Frequency refers to how often you work for a certain muscle group each week.

Ten to 14 sets per week can be a great starting point for anyone looking to grow their biceps. More advanced trainees can potentially go over 14 sets per week if their goal is to grow their stubborn biceps. Keep in mind that you will also have overlapping volume from other exercises, such as pull-ups when training backs.

Remember, there is a limit to what you can do per workout while still being productive. If you notice that your performance is declining, dividing some of your training volumes later in the week may help. An exercise frequency of two to three sessions per week has been recommended to help maximize muscle growth.

How to Warm Up Before a Biceps Workout


A well-designed warm-up helps reduce the risk of injury and improves readiness as you begin your training session without causing excessive fatigue. Increased body temperature and an active (excited) nervous system and a prepared mental state can help increase preparation for the next training day – helping to increase concentration on exercise technique, skill acquisition, and overall coordination.

One of the most effective warm-ups for any muscle group is the exercises you do in that day’s training session. This ensures proper muscles and joints are prepared, reducing the risk of injury and improving your overall training performance. Other effective ways to warm up include increasing the readiness of the surrounding tissues – in this case, the muscles around the shoulders and elbows – and increasing blood flow.

Biceps Training Rules


Your biceps play an important role in everyday life and play a very important role in upper body training, especially back training. When working your biceps to grow or strengthen, there are a few guidelines that can help improve your performance while limiting the risk of further injury.

Rule 1 – Stabilize

Creating tension in the upper back (between the shoulder blades) during the setup of an exercise can help add stability to your upper body during biceps exercises. Increased stability – external (outside the body) or internal (inside the body) – can help you generate more tension during a workout, resulting in improved performance and higher quality training volume.

Rule 2 — Work the Muscles through a Full Range of Motion

To get all the benefits of working your biceps (or any muscle) you need to make sure you fully contract the muscle by lifting it through a full range of motion. Different exercises offer slightly different angles and ranges of motion—but a general rule of thumb is to fully extend your arm and then curl the weight toward your deltoid. The equipment you use is also important.

Free weights (barbells and dumbbells) usually work the biceps in a midrange position – because these tools are the heaviest when they’re furthest from the body.

Exercises using cables provide the evenest form of resistive tension by applying the resistance directly in line with the cable itself (and also by allowing you to adjust the height of the handle or inserts, further manipulating the resistance). Depending on the way the machines are built, the machines have a fixed resistance profile (where the exercise reaches the highest resistance in the range of motion). Depending on the machine or your body position in a cable variation, the resistance can be shifted from mid-range to extremes, adding variety and versatility to your workout.

To maximize your biceps training, you should use multiple training methods, including free weights, cables, and machines.

Rule 3 — Keep Your Elbows Straight

A common mistake made in biceps training is to allow the elbow to remain unsteady throughout the exercise, creating unnecessary momentum and shoulder movement. It can take away from the main functions of the biceps brachii (supination and elbow flexion), your overall upper body stability, and lead to a higher potential risk of injury.

Rule 4 — Use momentum (when appropriate)

If your goal is to build muscle and strength and even endurance, creating and maintaining a significant amount of tension in the target muscle(s) is imperative to stimulating positive muscular and neural adaptations. When you build momentum, you work yourself against the ultimate goal by skipping the rep part that puts the most significant amount of tension on the muscle.

So, is it ever okay to create momentum in an exercise? It certainly is. At the end of a fixed set, momentum can be used to squeeze in a rep or two. You can use momentum during high-load strength training and low-to-moderate strength training to help drive neuromuscular adaptations that help build strength and power.

If your goal is to grow your biceps, start slowly and then speed up for the remainder of the rep – tighten the tension and create a firm contraction in the biceps.

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References

  1. Tiwana MS, Charlick M, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Biceps Muscle. [Updated 2020 Aug 11]. StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519538/
  2. Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2016). Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 46(11), 1689–1697. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-016-0543-8

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