November 06, 2021 10 min read

When it comes to the first muscle noticed on most guys, it’s going to be the biceps. Big and strong biceps are a sure-fire way to tell everyone around you that you’ve been putting in the work in the iron temple.

Although biceps brachii are a relatively small muscle, they’re very important to both aesthetics and day-to-day activities. This muscle group works with your triceps to give you thick arms that are as strong as they look. With the best bicep workout and hard work, you’ll be busting through your shirt sleeves in no time.

What’s in a Pair of Biceps?

Another name for biceps is the brachii, which means “two-headed muscle” in Latin. These two muscles are the long head and the short head of the bicep, which work together to flex the elbow and turn the wrist. The biceps are an integral muscle in any movement that requires lifting or pressing something overhead, which means that developing them will also improve your functional fitness to some degree.

However, training the biceps is mostly about the aesthetic. The “bicep peak” is created by the long head of the muscle, and it makes up the bulk of it. After all, when trying to show off how jacked one is, the bicep is normally the first muscle to get flexed. Whether you’re strength training or bodybuilding, bigger biceps are a worthy objective. Down below we have ten of the best bicep exercises to bring your gun show to the next level.

1. Barbell Curl

The most classic of all bicep exercises, the barbell curl is one of the best ways to build size and strength in your biceps. Not only is it a simple exercise, but you’re also going to be able to load plenty of weight.

 

 

While many other bicep exercises use dumbbells, a barbell will allow you to use more weight since you’re going to be using both arms to lift it. And as we know, more weight equals more gains. Even though it’s a free weight movement with a relatively high amount of weight, it’s still a simple exercise to perform.

  1. Begin by loading your barbell with the desired amount of weight. If it’s your first time doing an exercise, it’s better to not use a heavy weight. Grab the barbell with an underhand grip, palms facing up with your hands just a touch wider than your shoulders.
  2. Bring your shoulders back and your chest up, which will put your elbows under the shoulder joint.
  3. Bracing your core, engage your biceps and curl the barbell up. Your body needs to stay in the correct position—torso up straight, shoulders pulled back, and elbows slightly in front of the shoulders.

2. Reverse Curl

While the classic barbell curl enjoys a lot of popularity, the reverse curl is rarely seen in gyms. As the name suggests, the only difference is that your wrists are turned the other way (or partly the other way, if using an EZ-bar).However, the reverse curl is a fantastic way to not only build larger biceps but also develop strength in your forearms and grip.

Although this may not seem like a big deal (especially since we’re looking at biceps), grip strength is the first point of failure for many other lifts. Improving your grip is a great way to improve other lifts, which will in turn benefit your overall gains.

 

  1. Begin with about half the weight you’d use for a regular barbell curl. You can either use an EZ bar or a straight bar. Grasp the bar at a shoulder-width distance with your palms facing down (pronated). If you’re using an EZ bar, grip the bar on the downward sloping part.
  2. Maintain a slight bend in your knees with your elbows close to your side. As you bring the bar upward, you’ll feel greater tension in your brachialis muscles.
  3. At the top of the movement, pause for a few seconds before reversing it back to the starting position.

3. Chin-Ups

Along with pull-ups, chin-ups are one of the most challenging and well-known bodyweight exercises. Using nothing more than the weight of your own body, you can get a great upper body and arm workout. Chin-ups are also a great option for home workouts. Most people are familiar with the pull-up, where you use an overhand grip on a pull-up bar to work the back muscles such as the rhomboids and lats.

Chin-ups switch things up by using an underhand grip, with your palms facing towards you. While the chin-up still employs the back muscles to a high degree, the rotation of your arms means you’re going to be relying on your biceps a lot more. Chin-ups are also a more natural movement pattern than pull-ups, and they’re great for improving posture—especially if you’re stuck in an office chair for most of the day.

 

  1. Jump or reach up to the pull-up bar and grasp it with an underhand grip. You want your hands either shoulder-width apart or a bit narrower. Pull your shoulder blades back so there’s no unnecessary pressure on them, and straighten your arms.
  2. Engage your core to prevent swinging, and pull yourself up until your chin comes above the bar, or is at least in line with it.
  3. Pause for a couple of seconds before slowly lowering yourself back down.

4. Dumbbell Hammer Curl

The hammer curl promises to hit the part of your bicep that matters most for size: the brachialis muscle. If you’re looking to rip some shirt sleeves, this is the muscle to be focusing on. The hammer curl happens to be the top-notch curl variation for hitting this part of your arm. Although this is mostly seen as a vanity muscle, you’ll see carryover benefits in your other lifts and day-to-day activities that require lifting or pulling. Additionally, you’ll also be training your grip strength and wrist stability.

 

  1. Begin with your legs straight but not locked, with your knees aligned with your hips. Your arms should hang by your side with a dumbbell in each hand and palms facing towards your body. Start with relaxed shoulders.
  2. Maintaining the positioning of your palms and wrists, bend at the elbow, lifting the weights up towards your shoulders. While the lower arm moves, the upper arm should stay perfectly still.
  3. Hold the position once you’ve reached the top of the lift, with your thumbs close to your shoulders. Slowly lower the weights back down to their starting position at your sides.

5. Preacher Curl

At first glance, preacher curls and regular bicep curls are pretty much the same kinds of movement, but they both fill their niche in the gym and the bicep workout.The big difference is that for a preacher curl, you’re going to need a preacher bench. Although you’ll probably have to hit up a gym for this equipment, it does come with some special benefits.

For one, they force you into a longer negative movement (or, eccentric contraction) which is where more muscle is engaged and developed. Another benefit is that the bench takes away a lot of your ability to cheat with momentum. During regular bicep curls, it’s easy to even involuntarily swing your body in a way that helps you bring the weight up. Since you’re unable to do this on a preacher bench, your muscles are challenged that much harder.

 

  1. Find a preacher bench and an EZ bar. You’ll want to hold the EZ-bar with an underhand grip on the inner handle, where your palms face up and slightly inward due to the shape of the handle.
  2. Rest your upper arms and your chest against the bench pad, holding the EZ bar at about shoulder length. Exhaling, flex your biceps to bring the weight upward. Continue until your biceps are fully contracted—the bar should be at about shoulder height.
  3. After you’ve fully contracted the biceps, slowly reverse the movement, allowing the eccentric motion to engage your biceps further. Continue for the desired amount of reps.

6. Incline Dumbbell Curl

Although the incline dumbbell curl only introduces a small variation to the conventional dumbbell curl, it’s deserving of its own place on this list because of its incredible bicep activation.When going through the movements of an incline dumbbell curl, your arms usually end up going behind your body. This effectively stretches the long head of the bicep, and when a muscle is able to stretch before contracting, it’s able to generate more force.

This makes the incline dumbbell curl the best lift for bicep activation, and for building the bicep “peak.” The incline also takes away all opportunities for using momentum to cheat. If you’re looking for a bang-for-your-buck movement when building your guns, the incline dumbbell curl is a must-have.

 

  1. Sitting on an incline bench angled around 60-degrees hold a dumbbell in each of your hands. Your arms should be fully extended and hanging down by your sides.
  2. Rotate your wrists so your palms face up as you curl the dumbbells upward. They should come up to your shoulders, which need to remain still throughout the lift. Breathe out as you curl the dumbbells.
  3. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the lift before slowly lowering the dumbbells back down into the starting position.

7. Cable Curl

Another simple twist on the classic bicep curl, using a cable machine introduces a new factor into your bicep training which can ramp up your arm width and size. Cable machines are terrific in that they introduce constant tension throughout a lift—this goes for more than just biceps exercises. During a regular, free weight exercise, the tension on the muscle changes over the full range of motion due to the mechanics of that particular movement.

With cables, the tension stays the same over the entire range. With the barbell curl, the lift starts off difficult and gets easier the closer you get to the top of the movement. The cable curl maintains the same amount of difficulty throughout the lift, meaning that you’re going to develop muscles in ways that are ignored with the conventional curl.

 The cable curl also provides a lot of different variety in your biceps workouts. Not only does the cable machine give you something new, but you can also curl in different ways (such as the overhead cable curl).

 

  1. Make sure that the pulley is attached at the bottom of the machine (unless you’re doing a different variation). The cable should extend far enough where you can comfortably grasp it with arms extended out, and palms facing up.
  2. Plant your feet on the floor and slightly bend your knees, also bracing your core.
  3. Slowly curl the cable up toward the chest, breathing out as you do so. Don’t move anything other than the forearms.
  4. Hold the top position for a second or two before slowly reversing the movement.

8. Concentration Curl

The concentration curl can get you very real results, but it takes absolutely perfect form if you’re looking to reap all of its rewards.It essentially comes down to a dumbbell curl, with your elbow resting on your upper leg. You only do one arm at a time with a dumbbell, so you’re not able to help your weaker arm with the stronger one.

The concentration curl removes all the shifting that might happen in the elbow during a regular curl, which allows for a greater focus on the biceps during the lift. This curl also removes all options for cheating with momentum, since you’ll be bent at the torso with your upper arm kept perpendicular to the ground.

 

  1. Sit down on a bench that allows your knees to be bent at 90-degrees, with both feet flat on the ground. Picking up a dumbbell with your hand, place the upper part of the arm on your inner thigh. Extend your arm out as you hold the dumbbell.
  2. With perfect form, slowly curl the dumbbell up. Since your upper arm is resting on your thigh, it’ll be kept still during the exercise while only your forearm is moving.
  3. Squeeze your bicep at the top of the lift before slowly lowering it back down to the starting position.

9. Reverse Grip Bent-Over Row

Bent-over rows are one of the most beneficial exercises you can include in your workouts. They’re more often used for building a strong and broad back, but their usefulness extends to developing bicep size and strength.The row primarily engages your rear delts, traps, and rhomboids, giving you the classic V-shaped torso. Not only will your aesthetics improve, but using a reverse grip also works your biceps to a much greater degree.

This makes the bent-over row a great exercise for balancing the development of your front and back muscles, which can often grow unevenly. Lastly, the row will also engage your abdominals and lower back muscles. The one drawback of the bent-over row is that it places a lot of stress on the lumbar spine. If this is an issue, the inverted row is a good alternative.

 

  1. Start off with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width with a barbell on the ground in front of you. Bend over keeping your back straight, and grab it with an overhand grip, palms facing down. Your arms should be extended with your knees slightly bent.
  2. Keeping your chest up, pull the barbell up to your stomach. Your shoulders should stay pulled back, even when the barbell is at the bottom of the movement.
  3. Pause at the top of the movement before slowly lowering the barbell down.

10. Drag Curl

The drag curl is another movement that’s rarely seen in conventional bicep-building repertoire. However, it’s a fantastic way for building bigger and stronger biceps. It places a special emphasis on the brachialis and the long head of the biceps.The reason it’s not seen very often is that it’s difficult to use the same amount of weight you’re used to lifting. It also requires very strict form to get the most out of the exercise, making it a not-so-popular option for lifters.

 

  1. Grab a bar with an underhand grip about shoulder-width apart. Begin with the barbell in contact with your thigh, keeping your shoulders, hips, and knees in the same plane.
  2. Initiate the movement by curling the bar upward—the twist is that it has to stay in contact with your body the entire time. Allow your elbows to go back as you bring the bar up.
  3. Since the range of motion is shorter than in a conventional curl, try to squeeze extra hard at the top of the movement. This is particularly a problem for those with larger arms, so make sure you’re properly engaging your biceps at the top of the lift. Reverse the motion back to the starting position and repeat.

The Right Nutrition for Bigger Arms

The ten exercises we looked at above are sure to put you on the right path towards sleeve-filling arms. With enough hard work and consistency, your biceps are going to be the envy of every lifter around you.However, lifting is only a small part of the overall game plan.

Eating enough high-quality protein, along with your other macros, is an absolute must when you’re trying to develop size and strength. A whey protein powder can help in this department, but a well-rounded diet is the only way to ensure long-term, consistent gains. Put all the pieces together and soon you’ll be shopping for shirts with bigger sleeves. 


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