Best Dumbbells

We all want bigger biceps. Well, most of us do. They look great in a fitted white t-shirt, look even better out of them, and help compliment a well-defined torso. Yes, some people will say exercising your biceps in isolation is stupid. We understand, but some days we just long for the pump. And you know what? There’s no shame in that.

So rather than beat around the bush, let’s get straight to it. If you want to build bigger biceps, these 10 exercises will help get you there. Perform them properly, and it won’t just be your biceps that start to bulge, your overall health will see an improvement, too.

A recent UCLA study found that male heart patients with the most arm and leg muscle and the least belly fat were 68 per cent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease over seven years than thin guys with less arm and less muscle. Published in the American Journal of Cardiology, the researchers concluded that muscles promote better insulin function, which might play a role in slowing the development of heart trouble.

So there you have it: bulging biceps can actually improve your health. So tell that to the next person who smirks at you when they see you on your third set of curls.

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Now you know that there’s more to bigger guns than just fun, the next step is work out how to actually build them. And that’s where we come in.

Building bigger biceps doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s just that you’re probably doing it wrong – curls will only get you so far. Yes, we couldn’t believe it at first, either. In fact, there are loads of bicep exercises out there, more than enough to make all of your training sessions unique, and we’re going to show you the most effective ones.

human arm musculature, computer artwork


How to Get Bigger Biceps: Attack From All Angles

One of the main reasons people’s biceps don’t grow as big (or as quick) as they would like them to, is that they fail to recognise that the bicep is actually broken down into three parts: the biceps brachii – the part that makes up the main bump on the arm; the brachialis – the muscle that actually sits under the bicep; and the brachioradialis – the muscle than runs along the forearm.

Most guys tend to only focus on the brachii. But if you want thicker, fuller looking arms, you need to work all areas of the bicep.

best bicep curls for bigger arms


4 Rules That Are Key to Bigger Biceps

Follow these top tips to ensure you are maximising every rep and set. After all, if you’re going to work your biceps, you might as do them properly.

Build Bigger Biceps Rule 1: Warm Up

It sounds boring, but patience is a virtue, and besides, it’s bloody important. A warmed muscle is a more pliable one. In other words, it’ll work better. The increase in temperature will help reduce the risk of rips and tears and deliver more red blood cells – and therefore oxygen and nutrients – to the muscle while it is working.

You’ll be able to lift more, too. Research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that intense stretching after working a muscle group has the potential to increase its mass by 318 per cent in 28 days. That’s that, then.

best moves to bigger biceps


Build Bigger Biceps Rule 2: Change Up Your Workouts

Remember, every six workouts (give or take) your body has fully adapted and won’t get the same benefits. Quite simply, sitting there curling away each week won’t be doing much. Variety truly is the spice of life.

Build Bigger Biceps Rule 3: The Importance of Breathing

Think holding your breath during your big lift is helping? Think again. In fact, not breathing out can cause your blood pressure to spike and make you dizzy. Structured, rhythmic-like breathing will help you concentrate, calm you down and keep your tempo more controlled. An oxygenated body will also reduce the risk of passing out and help deliver that sweet, sweet air to your muscles, allowing them to ‘breathe’ and work harder.

But there’s more to breathing correctly than a few gasps of air. Engaging your diaphragm, a process known as ‘bracing’ by powerlifters, is key to explosive performances.

Bracing: Imagine you’re about to get gut-punched. Push your stomach into the belt as you breathe in, but also push out to the sides and back. This is how you need to brace when lifting.

This level of structured breathing may not be necessary for every bicep exercise – whereas for every compound move it’s a must – but keep this is mind when working out.

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Build Bigger Biceps Rule 4: Rest More

It’s often preached that you should rest for 30 to 60 seconds between sets. This isn’t really long enough for your muscles to recover fully. “Wait three or four minutes and your muscles will have a chance to return to full strength,” says exercise physiologist Ed Eyestone. “Then you can use more weight on your next set for greater muscle growth.”

If you don’t want to hang around for four minutes – time is of the essence, after all – train a different group of muscles during the rest. Work on your triceps with push downs, then work your (rested biceps) as your triceps recover.

“This reciprocity training will induce exhaustion and build muscle quicker,” explains sports physio Jonathan Lewis.

10 of the Best Bicep Exercise For Building Muscle

1. Standing Dumbbell Curl

Why: We can’t start any bicep exercise list without including this classic; it’s a fan favourite for a reason. Nothing targets your biceps more than the curl. But it’s important to manage your weights accordingly. Wildly swinging and arching your back in order to lift the dumbbell is a waste of time, and could cause injury. Keep is slow, keep it controlled and focus on squeezing your bicep as you lift.


  • Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging by your sides.
  • Ensure your elbows are close to your torso and your palms facing forward.
  • Keeping your arms stationary, exhale as you curl the weights up to shoulder level while contracting your biceps.

Best bicep exercises: hammer curls

2. Hammer Curl

Why: The difference is in the detail, specifically the way you hold the dumbbell. By flipping the dumbbell on its side helps transfer more of the work from your biceps brachii to your brachialis – that’s the muscle that makes your arms look thicker.

Progress: Cable Rope Hammer Curl

Why: The cable machine keeps a more steady and constant load on the biceps for longer which will elicit more growth.


  • Let a pair of dumbbells hang at arm’s length next to your sides with your palms facing your thighs.
  • Don’t move your arms. Instead, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as possible.
  • Pause at the top – remember to squeeze – before slowly lowering the weight back to the starting position.

3. Incline Dumbbell Curl

Why: Setting the bench to incline puts more pressure on the long head of your biceps brachii because you’re now working from a deficit. In other words, you’re starting from point where you have less leverage than normal. Note: as this exercise requires more effort, you will need to lighten the load.


  • Start by lying with your back against a bench that is set to a 45-degree incline.
  • Bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can.
  • Next, lower the weight (slowly) back to your starting position, ensuring you completely straighten your arms.

Best exercises to build bigger biceps: zottman curl  

4. Zottman Curl

Why: There aren’t many exercises that target the three major muscles that make up the biceps – the biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis. By rotating from an underhand to an overhand grip halfway through the move, the zottman curl hits all areas of your bicep.


  • With your dumbbells hanging by your side, turn your arms so your palms face forward.
  • Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells towards your shoulder.
  • Pause, then rotate the dumbbells so your palms face forward before slowly returning back to your starting position.

Best bicep exercises: how to perform decline dumbbell curl 

5. Decline Dumbbell Curl

Why: Lying down on your chest will help isolate your biceps as you have no weight running through your legs and core muscles. Change up your grip to help target different parts of your bicep.


  • Lie chest down against a bench that’s set to a 45-degree incline. Bend your elbows – don’t move your upper arms – and curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders.
  • Pause, then lower back to the start position.

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6. Barbell Bent-over Row

Why: According to research, your muscles, specifically your biceps are most active when they are pulling. As the row requires many muscles to perform, you’ll be able to use a much heavier weight than you would curling while still maintaining good form and function.


  • With slightly flexed knees, hinge over from the hips.
  • Maintain a neutral spine with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Think about pulling your elbows behind you and hold for one second before controlling the load back down.
  • Ensure the line of the pull is into the belly button not into the sternum.

How to perform chin ups: best exercise for biceps

7. Chin-up

Why: Not the easiest move to master but definitely one of the most effective. Do it properly, and, along with your arms, your shoulders and back will get a serious workout, too.


  • Grab the bar with your palms facing towards you and a grip that is narrows than shoulder width.
  • Pull yourself up until your head is above the bar. Slowly lower back to the start position.

Best muscle-building bicep exercises

8. Regular EZ Bar Curl

Why: The bar allows you to load more weight than you would with a curl while still maintaining good form and without putting too much pressure through your elbows and forearms.


  • Hold the EZ bar in front of your thighs with an underhand, shoulder-width grip.
  • As you breathe in, curl the bar until your hands are at your shoulders.
  • Squeeze your bicep then lower under control.

best bicep exercises

9. Underhand Seated Row

Why: By sitting down and rowing, your biceps are in the direct line of the pull so they work extra hard during each rep. Do it properly and watch your biceps and your back grow.


  • Bend your knees and hold the bar with an underhand grip, shoulder-width apart.
  • Lean slightly, keeping your back straight, then use your back to muscle to drive the bar towards your belly button.
  • Return the bar to the starting position.

build bigger biceps

10. Reverse Curl Straight Bar

Why: Often neglected because it works the brachialis, an invisible muscle lower down your upper arm — but one essential for bigger biceps. Train it well and the brachialis pushes the peak of your bicep muscle up higher, making for a more impressive flex and bigger looking arms.


  • Stand and grip a barbell at shoulder width with an overhand grip.
  • Flex the elbows and rotate the barbell upwards, only using your forearms, until your palms face out and the barbell is in line with your shoulders.
  • Return it back down slowly and repeat.

The Ultimate Bicep Workouts To Build Size

Now you know how to lift, give these workouts a go.

– The bicep blaster workout

– No-gym dumbbell arms workout

– The 400-rep arm building workout

– 5 moves that will guarantee bigger arms

Best Dumbbells to Buy

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Robert Hicks is the Executive Editor at Men’s Health.

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Last modified: 3rd August 2020