Ah, the biceps. The guns. The pythons. The lethal weapons.
Everyone wants to grow their biceps, but few succeed. Why is that?
Well, for one, many people fail to train their biceps ineffectively. Instead of relying on solid training principles, they attempt to lift the most weight possible, only to end up swinging it back and forth.
But, aside from good training habits, trainees often struggle with bicep growth because their training lacks variety. Sure, they do some bicep work, but it mainly revolves around a couple of classic exercises.
To that end, we’ve put together this list of eight great bicep movements you can add to your training for mass and strength.
Let’s see what they are.
1. Barbell Curls
The first exercise on our list is simple, effective, and allows you to overload your biceps with more weight. Barbell curls are one of the classic gym exercises that have been around for decades and have helped numerous bodybuilders and strength athletes add serious mass and strength to their biceps.
What makes the exercise great is that you can lift more weight and cause significant mechanical tension in your biceps, allowing them to grow well. Plus, the movement offers a fantastic range of motion, which means you can stretch and contract the muscle well on every repetition.
The best part is that bicep curls are simple to learn and perform. All you have to do is grab a barbell, stand tall, and curl it repeatedly.
2. Dumbbell Hammer Curl
Dumbbell hammer curls are another effective exercise that allows you to overload your biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis muscles with more weight.
Unlike traditional curls, where your palms face the ceiling at the top, hammer curls are about maintaining a neutral wrist position. As a result, you’re able to train your biceps and forearms more effectively, causing both areas to grow and strengthen.
The great thing about hammer curls is that you can do them standing or seated, depending on your preference. You can also modify the movement by adding a slight pause at the top and lowering the weight more slowly.
3. Dumbbell Bicep Curl
Similar to the previous exercise, the dumbbell curl is a fantastic exercise that emphasizes your biceps. But, unlike hammer curls, this variation focuses on the biceps and brachialis without recruiting your forearm muscles.
The great thing about dumbbell curls is that the exercise can take advantage of wrist supination, which is one of the bicep functions. You begin the exercise with your palms facing your thighs, similar to a hammer curl. But, instead of keeping them in that position, you rotate them gradually to face the ceiling as you complete the repetition.
Then, as you lower the dumbbells, rotate your wrists back in a neutral position in preparation for the next rep.
Chin-ups might not seem like your traditional bicep-building exercise, but they are excellent for that objective. For one, the activity requires no equipment apart from a pull-up bar. Meaning, you can train your biceps well even if you’re in a crowded gym.
Second, chin-ups allow you to overload your biceps with more weight, causing significantly higher mechanical tension that leads to growth.
Third, chin-ups are a compound exercise that trains other muscles aside from your biceps. Most notably, the movement develops your upper back, forearms, and core.
5. Incline Bench Dumbbell Curl
Incline bench dumbbell curls are a slightly unusual exercise that works great for emphasizing the biceps. The objective is to place an adjustable bench at an incline of 65 to 70 degrees, sit on it, put your back against the support, and hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands. Once in position, bring your shoulder blades back, take a breath, and curl.
The movement offers two distinct benefits:
- Since you’re seated, and your back is against the bench, you’re less able to swing and use momentum to lift the weights. Instead, your biceps have to do all of the work.
- Having your arms slightly behind your torso allows for a greater stretch of the bicep, which can lead to a stronger growth stimulus.
6. Standing Cable Curls
Cable curls are a fantastic but often overlooked exercise for bicep growth. Unlike movements you perform with free weights, such as dumbbells, cables provide consistent tension from start to finish. The effect is possible because the cable isn’t influenced by gravity but by its attachment point. As a result, your biceps have to work hard from start to finish on every repetition.
Another great benefit of cable curls is that you can perform these in many ways. For example, attach a straight bar and train both biceps simultaneously. Alternatively, use a handle to train one side at a time. More advanced trainees can even turn their back to the cable machine and lean forward slightly while keeping their arms slightly behind. Doing so stretches the biceps well.
7. Preacher Curls
Preacher curls are those you perform while sitting down on a special bench and placing your upper arms against a pad. Doing so is a fantastic way to isolate your biceps and prevent other muscle groups from contributing to the exercise. By resting your upper arms on a pad, you’re also unable to swing back and forth, using momentum to lift the weight. Instead, your biceps have to do all of the work.
You can perform these curls with a straight bar, EZ bar, a dumbbell, or a cable, though the last one is a bit challenging to do in a traditional gym.
8. Reverse-Grip EZ Bar Curl
The last exercise on our list is less popular than the others, but it works well. Using an overhand grip (palms facing down) forces greater involvement from your forearms and leads to a more balanced arm development.
Aside from that, the reverse-grip EZ bar curl is a fantastic exercise because using a bar and training both arms simultaneously allows for more significant loading. As a result, you can cause more mechanical tension, leading to better growth down the road.
For more tips, techniques, and insights to elevate your workouts, be sure to browse our training articles.