man using dumbbell for bicep curl

man using dumbbell for bicep curl

Biceps Workout with Dumbbells

Suns out, guns out! The biceps are generally the most visible muscles on your body. Most men I would imagine, would like to have sleeve busting, alpha male biceps. It’s true, larger well-defined biceps will get a lot of attention and respect from other lifters. What if you’re starting from scratch though? We’ll cover the 7 best exercises in a complete biceps workout with dumbbells. By incorporating these 7 movements on your pull days or arm days, you’ll be sure to add some size to your arms.

As mentioned above, all of these exercises will use dumbbells. We chose dumbbells because not everyone has access to a gym with dumbbells, or even want to go to the gym. That shouldn’t stop you. Getting a good set of dumbbells for the house can serve the same purpose.

There are other benefits to using dumbbells for your workouts too. Dumbbells are versatile and can be used for many different types of workouts, whether it’s a push or pull day.

According to ACE Fitness, a dumbbell workout session offers other benefits like metabolic muscle growth. Think heavy weight low reps, or lighter weight and more reps. Plus, you can isolate certain muscles while strengthening stabilizing muscles.

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Related: Arm Workout For Women: 10 Best Arm Toning Exercises For Women

bicep curls

bicep muscles fatigue

Muscles of the Biceps

If you want truly larger arms as a whole, you need to work the triceps too. However, today we focus on the front of the arm, right where the almighty bicep resides. From a purely anatomical point of view, the bicep of course is made up of two different muscles, hence the “bi”-ceps.

The bicep includes the long head and the short head. These two muscles work together, but there are specific ways to train and strengthen both the long head and the short head muscles utilizing a biceps workout with dumbbells.

The function of the long head and the short head working together can be summed up by imagining opening a bottle with a corkscrew (unscrewing the cork), then using the bicep to pull the cork out. These motions, called “supination” and “flexion” are the main functions of the biceps muscle.

Heavy or Light Weight?

man performing concentration curl

man performing concentration curl

The old debate rages on. Is it better to lift lighter weights for more reps, or heavier weight for fewer reps?

The goal here for bigger arms is muscle hypertrophy. What is that? Hypertrophy is the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells. In other words, hypertrophy = bigger muscles. With that goal in mind, how can I get me some of that hypertrophy then?

Generally speaking, heavier weights, even when lifted for fewer reps will lead to the most muscle building. Although studies have shown that lighter weight and a high volume of reps (think to failure) will yield similar results.

There is a very important concept to always remember for this biceps workout with dumbbells (or lifting weights in general): That is progressive overload.

It really doesn’t matter at all how many reps or how heavy the weight your lifting is, if you are not following a progressive overload mindset.

Don’t know what progressive overload is? Take a look at my post covering progressive overload and why it’s so important here.

How Many Reps for Bigger Biceps?

standing bicep curl with dumbbell

standing bicep curl with dumbbell

OK. We do know that heavier weight and lower reps is preferred for gaining and growing our biceps, but how many reps should we be doing?

The number of reps can be personalized but should generally be within the 4-6 rep range. You should also choose a weight that is challenging, but you are still able to finish the set.

7 Best Biceps Workouts with Dumbbells

1. Concentration Curl

The concentration curl will be one of the most important exercises you will do to build your biceps. As the name suggests, you are isolating and concentrating on just the bicep for this movement.

Proper form is key here, and there is no cheating in the form of swinging your whole arm or body, in order to lift the weight. Choose a weight that is not too heavy, but still challenging.

The key is to keep your arm perpendicular to the ground. You do this by bracing it against your inner thigh as you perform the movement.

To get the most out of this arm busting exercise, squeeze the bicep at the top of the movement and hold momentarily. For even more effectiveness, turn your pinky slightly toward the ceiling as you lift the weight. This will cause your arm to “supinate”.

The concentration curl, will most likely require a lighter dumbbell than you’re used to. For this exercise, try 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps each. Take a look at the video below for more instruction on how the concentration curl is done.

2. Standing Dumbbell Curl

When exercising the arms, most will gravitate toward an arm curl, or more specifically, the standing dumbbell curl. This can be done both arms at the same time, or alternating.

Here are some tips for an effective standing dumbbell curl:

  • Keep tension on the bicep.

Do not lock out and relax your arm when it’s at the bottom of the movement, This will ensure that there is constant tension on the muscle.

  • Do not swing your body.

Swinging your body when performing the curl will take away from the effectiveness of the exercise, as you will be recruiting additional muscles to move the weight. The focus should be on the biceps only.

3. Spider Curl

The spider curl can be described as a chest supported concentration curl. The bench is used at an incline to support your chest and put your body at the correct angle. The bench should ideally be at a 45 degree angle.

As always, the way to get the most bang for the buck is to go slow and focus on squeezing the bicep as you perform the curl.

4. Hammer Curl

The hammer curl is a variation of the classic standing curl, that will hit a small muscle of the arm that we didn’t talk about, called the brachialis.

I’m guessing you don’t know where the brachialis is located, or maybe you do? I definitely didn’t. The brachialis is located on the outside of the arm, right next to the bicep. If you are serious about wanting to increase and grow your arms, then the hammer curl is a must.

5. Incline Bench Dumbbell Curl

If you remember earlier, when we talked about the two muscles of the bicep, the long head and the short head. There are some exercises that will isolate either the long head or the short head. The incline bench dumbbell curl will work to isolate that long head muscle of the bicep.

What this means, is that you can increase the growth of what we call the “peak” of the bicep.

It’s worth noting, that changing the incline of the bench will allow you to hit different portions of the long head. Use these variations to your advantage, and to compound the effects of progressive overload when building up your guns.

6. Zottman Curl

This is a post about building biceps, which is true, but the ultimate goal is to grow the arms proportionately. The bicep is the star of the show, but the supporting cast like the brachialis and the forearms must be accounted for too.

That’s where the Zottman curl comes in. By rotating from an unnderhand grip to overhand during the course of the curl, you’ll be hitting the biceps and the forearms at the same time. The Zottman curl is a great compound-like lift for the arms.

7. Seated Dumbbell Curl

The seated dumbbell curls are nothing more than the standard bicep curl from a seated position. While this can be done simply by sitting on a bench, another variation is to place the bench at a 90 degree angle so you can even further isolate the biceps.

When you are seated, it keeps you from engaging the hips and waist to lift the dumbbells during the curl.

Bottom Line

Having bigger arms or bigger biceps is a goal for anyone wanting to gain muscle and change their tone and appearance, but there is definitely more than just hitting a couple curls once a week at the gym.

Using this guide for biceps workout with dumbbells two times a week you can be sure to increase the size of your arms and create the look that you are wanting with bigger, fuller biceps.


Last modified: 3rd August 2020