Many lifters desire to have bigger upper arms, and despite the biceps not being a huge muscle group, they can be difficult to grow. Building bulging biceps requires a lot of time, patience, and knowing the right exercises and programming tips to follow
Before you curl your life away, we will give you a strategic approach to growing bigger biceps by giving you a list of the best bicep exercises plus tips on how to program your biceps training so you can yield better results!
Best bicep exercises
Before we give you tips on how to plan for an effective bicep workouts, here are the top exercises you should be doing...
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing forward).
- Let the barbell hang at arm's length in front of you.
- Keeping your upper arms stationary, exhale as you curl the weights while contracting your biceps. Continue to raise the bar until your biceps are fully contracted.
- Hold the contracted position for a brief pause as you squeeze your biceps.
- Inhale, and slowly begin to lower the barbell back to the starting position.
- Sit at a preacher curl bench and adjust the height so your armpits rest comfortably on the pad.
- Hold an EZ bar with an underhand grip.
- Extend your arms fully, and let your biceps fully stretch.
- Curl the weight up until your biceps are fully contracted.
- Slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forward (supine grip).
- Curl the dumbbells up as you would in a regular curl.
- At the top of the curl, rotate your wrists so that your palms are now facing down (pronated grip).
- Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position with the palms facing down.
- Rotate your wrists again at the bottom to return to the starting position with palms facing forward.
Rope hammer curls
- Attach a rope attachment to a low pulley cable machine.
- Stand facing the machine with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Grasp the rope handles with a neutral (hammer) grip, palms facing each other.
- Keep your upper arms stationary and curl the rope toward your shoulders.
- Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement.
- Slowly lower the rope back to the starting position.
Incline dumbbell curls
- Adjust an incline bench to about 45 degrees.
- Sit back on the bench and hold dumbbells in each hand, letting them hang at arm's length.
- Curl the dumbbells up while keeping your upper arms stationary.
- Squeeze your biceps at the top.
- Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
- Keep the barbell close to your body and your elbows behind you as you curl the barbell up, dragging it along your torso.
- Squeeze your biceps at the top.
- Slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.
Single-arm overhead cable curl
- Begin by attaching a D-handle or rope handle to the high pulley on a cable machine, and adjust the weight stack to an appropriate resistance level for your fitness level.
- Stand facing away from the cable machine with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Reach up and grab the handle with an underhand grip (palms facing upward).
- Your arm should be fully extended, and the cable should be directly above your shoulder. Stand up straight with your core engaged, chest up, and shoulders back.
- Begin the movement by bending your elbow and curling your hand towards your shoulder. Keep your upper arm stationary throughout the exercise.
- Exhale as you lift the handle.
- Continue to curl the handle until your bicep is fully contracted and your hand is close to your shoulder. Hold the contraction for a brief pause to feel the squeeze in your bicep.
- Slowly reverse the movement by lowering the handle back to the starting position.
- Hang from a pull-up bar with your palms facing toward you (supine grip) and your hands about shoulder-width apart.
- Pull your body upward by bending your elbows, bringing your chin over the bar.
- Lower your body back down with control, fully extending your arms.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Reverse grip barbell row
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell with a palms-up (supine) grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Bend at your hips and knees to lower your torso until it's almost parallel to the floor.
- Keep your back straight and your core engaged.
- Pull the barbell to your lower ribcage, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Lower the barbell back down to the starting position with control.
Now, how many sets and reps should you be doing?
That'll depend on the weight you're using! Complete 3-4 sets, and as for a lighter/easier weight aim for 12-15 reps, for a heavier weight aim for 6-10 reps. But it all depends on your fitness level and weight you're using. The key is to make sure you're pushing through as many reps as possible, typically until muscle failure.
Tips to effectively grow your biceps
Besides making sure to incorporate the bicep exercises above, follow these tips to get you on the right track to growing bigger biceps...
Complement compound exercises with isolation exercises
Because the biceps are a smaller muscle group, lifters tend to focus only on isolation exercises for growth. However, don't neglect compound exercises that can effectively build your biceps too! We've included two in the list above (chin-ups and reverse grip barbell row). These exercises not only help you build a stronger back, but also stronger upper arms. The biceps are the secondary muscle doing the work during back (pulling) exercises.
So, on back days incorporate exercises like pull-ups, chin ups, rows, and complement them with isolation exercises, like preacher curls, incline curls, etc.
Utilize different grips
Besides having a variation on your exercises, play around with different grips! Using a standard, shoulder-width grip on curls is a great starting point because it targets both the long (outer) and short (inner) head of the biceps fairly evenly. Once you've mastered that, change it up to a wider grip which will emphasize the short heard more, or a narrower grip to emphasize the long head.
This will ensure that you're hitting all areas of your biceps and even muscle growth.
Maximize the amount of stretch they go through
You want to make sure you're stretching the long head to allow it to contract with more force. What this does is it gives your arms better shape, it forms the biceps peak that pops when you flex. To maximize the amount of stretch they go through, simply incorporate incline exercises like seated incline dumbbell curls.
Focus on mind-muscle connection
When you're performing bicep (or any) exercises, really concentrate on the muscles. As you're lifting, concentrate on feeling your biceps squeeze and contract. Don't focus on your workout buddy or what's going on around you, that will distract you from really working on the movements.
It may sound silly, but focusing on the movements will help ensure you're maximizing growth. There's a study conducted in 2018 that compared two groups. One group focused on strong mind-muscle connection during biceps curls, while the other group didn't. The study found that the group who concentrated on feeling their biceps work saw almost double the gains!
Maximize your bicep growth
Follow the tips and exercises above and you'll be on the right track to growing bigger and stronger biceps! And don't forget to have a scoop of 373 Lab Protein Powder after to give your bicep muscles the nutrients it needs to rebuild and repair and grow stronger!
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