Specifically, these exercises are elbow-dominant flexion exercises.
But everyone knows these are really for the biceps.
Compound exercises are great for developing strength and overall muscle, but if you truly want big arms you need to do isolation work.
Below are the 6 best bicep moves using barbells, dumbbells, and cables.
1. EZ Bar Curls
Every gym has EZ Curl Bars and for good reason—they put your wrists in a comfortable position when using the bar.
Make sure you grab the bar so that your thumbs are higher/more forward than your pinkies.
If you use a shoulder-width grip you will hit both bicep heads evenly. If you use an inside/narrow grip you will work the outer head (long head) more intensely. An outside/wide grip will work the inner head (short head) more. Use a combination of these three grips to fully develop your biceps, and make sure you rotate the bar as you move your hands to the different positions to always keep your wrists in a comfortable orientation.
A key to these curls is to set your shoulders and keep your elbows glued to your sides. Make the weight pivot around the elbow instead of driving the elbows forward/up to finish the movement. This will keep tension throughout the exercise.
2. EZ Bar PReacher Curls
If you’re struggling keeping your shoulders set and elbows in place during the above exercise than EZ bar preacher curls will help you tremendously.
Throw your arms over the preacher pad (or a GHD pad) and sink it deep into your armpits. This will force your elbows to stay in place and pivot the bar around this point.
A key to these curls is don’t bring the bar up all the way. This will disengage the bicep and remove tension.
3. Rotating Dumbbell Curls
These curls are crucial to developing your arms. There’s a lesser-known muscle just to the outside of your biceps called the brachialis. It actually runs under the biceps and is a huge contributor to how high your biceps go (peak).
To target that muscle you need to do dumbbell curls with a twist.
Start with dumbbells at your sides (with your shoulders set of course) in a neutral grip (thumbs forward). As you curl (keeping your elbows in place) rotate the dumbbells out so at the top/finish the backs of your hands face forward. Rotate them back as you lower.
4. Dumbbell Concentration Curls
These are the single arm dumbbell equivalent of preacher curls.
They don’t allow you to cheat, and they will require you to go lighter than normal.
Grab a dumbbell and sit on a bench. Lean over and place your elbow on the inside of your thigh with the dumbbell hanging freely. Curl the dumbbell up while keeping your elbow glued to your thigh. The dumbbell won’t come up all the way and that’s fine.
5. Rope Cable Curls
These are a perfect finisher. Grab a rope and move the pulley on the cable machine all the way to the bottom.
Choke up on the rope so you grab it near the attachment in a neutral grip(thumbs up).
The technique for these is different than what we use for most curls. Instead of keeping your elbows glued to your sides you actually want to push them back as you curl and bring your hands to your pecs. This will help keep tension throughout the entire motion.
6. High Cable Curls
These are the coolest looking bicep exercise you can do. These can be done one-armed if you only have access to one cable, but if you want to feel like superman you’ll need two cables.
Stand between the two cable columns and set them to shoulder height. Bring your elbows parallel with your shoulders and curl the hands towards your head like you’re showing off your biceps (you are).
Bonus points if you can get sleeveless in front of a mirror for this one.
You need more Than Bulging Biceps
The exercises on this list are great, but they only make up a small part of a strength training program.
If you’re looking for a structured routine to develop your entire body then you need one of the Seriously Strong Training Programs.
Download The Seriously Strong Beginner Program
Download The Seriously Strong Intermediate Program
Download The Seriously Strong Advanced Program