Arnold Schwarzenegger

Fitness

227 SHARES

Let’s face it, if you’re planning a triumphant post-isolation return to the gym, chances are you are going to start with the biceps. The beefy, front-arm section is a highly concentrated muscle group that suggests strength, and demands respect. Large biceps muscles are the calling card of the gym-rat and can work wonders for your general appearance.

You’ll also like:
17 Best Trap Exercises for Strength and Size
10 Best Shoulder Exercises for Men
10 Best Tricep Exercises & Workouts for Men

best bicep exercises 2

But regardless of whether you are training to become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger or just to look good in a cut-off tee, it pays to add a few of the best bicep exercises to your workout routine. Beefing up your biceps can help you to achieve that desirable triangular shape, adding some much-needed girth to your upper body.

Should you be new to the world of bicep workouts, you’ll soon find out that adding mass to the muscle group is a challenging premise. That does not mean that it’s impossible to develop a killer set of biceps, rather that it will require some strict commitment to specialised and isolated bicep exercises. But before we get into the best bicep exercises for you to build the ideal upper body, you should learn what to look out for.

bicep anatomy

What are Your Biceps?

On a basic level, your biceps are a large muscle group located on the front section of your upper arm. The are we common refer to as the biceps are also known by the Latin name biceps brachii (meaning ‘two-headed muscle of the arm’). This muscle group’s primary function is to rotate the forearm and flex the elbow.

As indicated by the Latin name, your biceps are split into two major sections; the long head and the short head. Both heads of the muscle arise from the scapula (shoulder blade) and combine in the middle arm to form a muscle mass.  At each end are connective tissues called tendons that anchor the muscles to bone. Both heads work in tandem to move the forearm, allowing them to rotate 90 degrees. Let’s take a deeper dive into those two heads.

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

One the other end of the spectrum, the short head originates from a projection on the scapula called the coracoid. It runs alongside the long head on the inside of the arm.

As mentioned above, the primary function of the bicep is to flex the elbow and rotate the forearm. Despite what you might think, however, the biceps are not the most powerful flexor of the forearm. Instead, the muscle group serves to support and stabilise the deeper brachialis muscle for greater movement and strength.

13 Best Bicep Exercise For Men

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

Here are the 13 best bicep exercises for men.

1. Alternating Incline Dumbbell Curl

If you really want to add some size to that bicep bulge, one of the best bicep exercises to test out is the Alternating Incline Dumbbell Curl. This variation helps to strengthen the upper section of your biceps brachii, helping you to achieve that large muscle growth you’ve been chasing. To perform the Alternating Incline Dumbbell Curl properly;

  1. On an incline bench, lie back with a dumbbell in each hand and palms facing forward.
  2. Keeping your elbow and shoulder stationary, slowly lift one weight to the front of your shoulder.
  3. Pause, squeezing your bicep at the top.
  4. Slowly reverse the movement to return to start.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

2. Seated Alternating Hammer Curl

While not necessarily the most well-known bicep exercise, the Hammer Curl is a favourite among bodybuilders and strongmen alike. This Seated Alternating Hammer Curl variation allows you to focus on each arm individually, concentrating on singular growth and isolation. Put simply, the Hammer Curl allows you to switch muscle groups, strengthening your biceps brachialis, a deeper muscle that will aid in overall strength and shape. To perform a Seated Alternating Hammer Curl;

  1. Sit on a 90-degree bench with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in toward your body and arms extended straight toward the floor.
  2. Keeping your elbow and shoulder stationary, slowly lift one weight to the front of your shoulder.
  3. Pause, squeezing your bicep at the top.
  4. Slowly reverse the movement to return to start.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

3. Standing Reverse Barbell Curl

You definitely would have attempted a Barbell Curl at some point in your gym career, however, incorporating a reverse grip can significantly bolster your bicep workout. When you curl a weight with an overhand grip, you put further strain on the often underused brachioradialis. The Standing Reverse Barbell Curl is a great way to get your bicep muscles working, but remember, you don’t need to go heavy with these ones. Light weights will definitely do the trick. To perform Standing Reverse Barbell Curls;

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms straight to the floor, shoulders back, while holding a barbell with both hands.
  2. Keeping your elbows and shoulders stationary, slowly lift the weight to the front of your shoulders.
  3. Pause, squeezing your biceps at the top
  4. Slowly reverse the movement to return to start.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

4. Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curl

When you’re making a list of the most important bicep exercises to add to your workout regime, you simply cannot ignore the dumbbell curl. One of the most iconic and simple movements, curls are great for activating your forearm and upper arm muscles. However, research published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine shows that the Seated Alternating variation is the best version of the iconic bicep exercise. This take reportedly activated your biceps far better than other curl variations.

As with most lifting, the heavier the weight, the stronger your biceps will get, however, it is important to make sure you contract at the top of the movement. To perform an a Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curl properly;

  1. Sit on a 90-degree bench with a dumbbell in each hand and palms facing forward.
  2. Keeping your elbow and shoulder stationary, slowly lift one weight to the front of your shoulder.
  3. Pause, squeezing your bicep at the top.
  4. Slowly reverse the movement to return to start.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

5. Standing Cable Curl

Forget what you think you know about cable-work. Cables are actually a great way to work out different sections of your body, in particular, the bicep brachioradialis. The Standing Cable Curl allows you to keep consistent resistance, increasing the strain on your muscles and giving you a far more efficient bicep workout. To perform Standing Cable Curls;

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart facing a cable machine with the machine’s handle on the lowest setting.
  2. Hold the handle with both hands palm facing forward and arms extended straight to the floor.
  3. Keeping your elbows and shoulders stationary, slowly lift the weight to the front of your shoulders.
  4. Pause, squeezing your biceps at the top
  5. Slowly reverse the movement to return to start.
  6. Repeat on the opposite side.

6. Standing Barbell Curl

Once you’ve got the more complex curl variations out of the way, you should return back to the old faithful. The Standing Barbell Curl is traditionally the most common bicep exercise, and for good reason. Barbells allow you to work both arms simultaneously and evenly, which is great for stability and control. To perform a Standing Barbell Curl;

  1. Standing tall, hold the barbell with a wide, underhand grip.
  2. Starting with the bar at hip height, squeeze your core and contract your biceps to curl the bar up to shoulder height.
  3. Keeping your elbows and shoulders stationary, slowly lift the weight to the front of your shoulders.
  4. Pause, squeezing your biceps at the top
  5. Slowly reverse the movement to return to start.
  6. Repeat on the opposite side.

7. Zottman Curl

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

  1. Hold arms at your side with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Turn your arms so your palms face forward.
  3. Bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells close to your shoulders without moving your upper arms.
  4. Pause, then rotate the dumbbells so your palms face forward again.
  5. Slowly lower the weights down in that position.
  6. Rotate the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat.

8. Decline Dumbbell Curl

When you lie down with your arms extended freely, it requires a lot more effort and stability to contract your muscles. The Decline Dumbbell Curl is a great example of how you can use this theory to bolster your best bicep workout. To perform Decline Dumbbell Curls;

  1. Using a bench set to 45 degrees, lie with your chest facing down.
  2. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can.
  3. Pause at the top.
  4. Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position, completely straightening arms at the bottom.

9. Concentration Curl

An isolated bicep exercise, the Concentration Curl allows you to focus solely on building significant muscle mass to the core section of your upper arm. You will need a dumbbell for this one and while going heavy is always helpful in building muscle, it pays to do as the name suggests and concentrate on the contraction. To perform a Concentration Curl;

  1. Sit on the bench and spread your legs.
  2. Rest the arm holding the dumbbell on the same side leg, just below the knee, with the weight hanging between your legs.
  3. Place your off-hand on your thigh to keep your torso upright and stable.
  4. Curl the weight up.
  5. Pause, squeezing your biceps at the top
  6. Slowly reverse the movement to return to start.
  7. Repeat on the opposite side.

10. Cable Flex Curl

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

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

11. Preacher Curl

A favourite of the Austrian maestro himself, the Preacher Curl zones in on your front-arm muscles, helping you add some serious size. This isolated movement is fantastic for stability and upper arm mobility. To perform Preacher Curls;

  1. Hold a barbell with your hands six inches apart.
  2. Rest your upper arms on the sloping pad of a preacher bench with your elbows slightly bent.
  3. Bend your elbows and curl the bar toward your shoulders, without moving your upper arms.
  4. Pause, squeezing your biceps at the top
  5. Slowly reverse the movement to return to start.

12. Seated Cable Row

This may seem like more of a back exercise than one of the best bicep exercises, however, it’s the upright position that really takes the Seated Cable Row over the top. When you sit and row, your biceps are in the direct line of the pull, meaning they have to work harder to maintain stability. To perform Seated Cable Rows;

  1. Placing your feet on the platform with knees slightly bent, sit at a seated cable row station.
  2. Hold a V-bar with your palms facing each other.
  3. Pull your shoulders back as you pull the bar toward your torso.
  4. Squeeze, before slowly returning back to the starting position.

13. Bent Over Row

Similarly, the Bent Over Row activates the bicep and upper body muscles due to its ‘pull’ movement. For this bicep exercise, it pays to add a bit more weight and try to go heavy. To perform the Bent Over Row;

  1. Hold a barbell at arm’s length with your hands just beyond shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend at your hips and knees, tensing your core for stability.
  3. Pull the bar to your ribcage.
  4. Pause, and then lower back to the starting position.

best bicep exercises 3

Tips for the Best Bicep Workout

If you’re ready to head into the gym and get your arms back to their biggest and best, adding these bicep exercises to the mix will certainly help your growth. But that’s not to say the movements are foolproof. In order to get the most out of your bicep workout, you should consider these key pieces of advice.

Warm-Up

We get it, nobody likes to warm up. It’s boring and adds a bunch more time to your workout, however, if you do choose to add a quick stretch-sesh, you’ll notice the difference. Warming your muscles up, with light weight mobility movements or simply through stretching allows you to increase the blood flow to your muscles, meaning more oxygenation and a bigger pump.

Remember to Squeeze

As all of the workout descriptions explain, it is pivotal that you squeeze at the top of each muscle contraction. This allows you to focus tension on your bicep, working to break down the muscle fibres and help you build muscle mass.

Rest More

Depending on your specific style of training, your rest periods will play a significant role in your bicep workout. When it comes to straight muscle growth, it pays to rest more. By resting upwards of two to three minutes, you can ensure your muscles are fully repaired, meaning you can lift at full capacity and achieve your bodybuilding goals.

You’ll also like:
17 Best Trap Exercises for Strength and Size
10 Best Shoulder Exercises for Men
10 Best Tricep Exercises & Workouts for Men

General FAQ

What is the best exercise for activating your biceps?

While the bicep curl is probably the most traditional bicep exercise, the concentration curl has been shown to activate more parts of the body, making it the ultimate bicep exercise.

How often should I train biceps?

While there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to training, you should allow for at least one day’s rest between muscle group sessions. You can train biceps on non-consecutive days.

Why are my biceps not getting bigger?

When it comes to a lack of size in one particular area, it generally comes down to one of two factors. The first is the lack of food. If you want to weight more, you have to eat more, thus eating more lean protein will aid in your muscle development. Second, you should work on breaking down the bicep muscle fibres. Lift heavier weights and focus on more intense workout regimes.

Source

Last modified: 3rd August 2020

Author