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The 10 Best Bicep Exercises

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The Best Bicep Exercises

What are the best bicep exercises?

The best bicep exercises can be done in the gym, at home, and some even without much equipment or space. 

The biceps are small muscles, but they pack a big punch.

Not only do they send the message that you mean business in and out of the gym, but they’re also a key muscle in the upper body. 

Did you know the biceps’ main function is to help flex the elbow? They don’t just look pretty. They serve a pretty important purpose, too.

We’re breaking down 10 bicep exercises that will get you feeling swole, strong, and sculpted. Let’s get into the best bicep exercises for any athlete.

 

The Best Bicep Exercises

Our exercise lists are created by determining the best exercises for muscle growth, core strength, and overall health and well-being. 

Here’s our list of the 10 best bicep exercises:

 

10. Drag Curls

Best Bicep Exercises - Drag Curls

Great for:

A heavy biceps workout that isolates the muscle by removing deltoid movement through a shorter range of motion.

How to do it:

  1. Stand holding a barbell or EZ bar resting on your thighs; arms extended, palms facing up 
  2. Pull your elbows back and contract your biceps, curling the bar upwards toward your shoulders
  3. Squeeze your biceps for one or two seconds, and lower the bar back to your thighs 
  4. Repeat as desired

Why:

For boulder-sized biceps, drag curls should be a key move in your workout routine. 

Drag curls are intended to be free of any momentum, and they are a strict movement that requires sole participation from the biceps. 

If you need to drop weight, that’s perfectly acceptable because your upper arms will be more engaged than in other curl exercises. 

When:

Those new to drag curls should aim to complete this exercise two times a week during a normal arm circuit. 

Try completing 10 to 15 reps per set, with a max of 4 sets total. From there, add weight or reps as you build strength.

 

9. Concentration Curls

Best Bicep Exercises - Concentrated Dumbbell Curls

Great for:

Burning calories by working one arm at a time. Isolating the biceps means you can focus on the muscle itself and get a great burn.

How to do it:

  1. Take a seat on a workout bench with your feet out wide
  2. Place your elbow on the inside of your thigh 
  3. Curl a dumbbell slowly upwards, contracting the bicep
  4. Flex and squeeze when you’ve curled
  5. Lower the dumbbell and repeat

Why:

Keeping tension in the biceps during the curl makes your muscles work effectively through time under tension.

The burn comes quicker and feels more effective, resulting in hypertrophy (“gains”) because you’re doing double the reps as you lift one arm at a time.

When:

Concentration curls should be performed two to four times a week. 

If you’re just getting started, begin with a weight that feels comfortable, if not a bit on the heavy side.

Curls are one of the most effective bicep exercises for mass, and adding weight will only increase those gains.

 

8. Reverse-Grip Barbell Rows

Best Bicep Exercises - Reverse Grip Barbell Rows

Note: Image shows regular overhand grip. Switch to underhand grip for maximum impact on the biceps.

Great for:

Building bicep strength effectively by lifting heavier than normal because the weight distribution on a barbell is easier to lift than with dumbbells.

How to do it:

  1. Grab a loaded barbell with an underhand grip and with your hands about shoulder-width apart
  2. Position yourself in a bent-over row stance with your spine tall and your back straight
  3. Engage your core and tuck your chin
  4. Row the barbell to your stomach, with your elbows at your sides
  5. At the top of the move, squeeze your back and biceps
  6. Lower the barbell and repeat as desired

Why:

Not only do bent-over rows provide a killer bicep workout, but they also target tough muscles in your back.

Because of this, bent-over rows should certainly make a regular appearance in your bicep and arm workout training. It’s easier on the arms and shoulders, and you’ll be shaking in no time.

When:

While many would say this is a standard back exercise, rows target the biceps with such intensity that we love incorporating this move into arms training exercises. 

Challenge yourself with more weight on the barbell; because of your positioning and the weight distribution, you’ll most likely be able to lift more.

Start with reps of 8 to 10, and add weight or reps as you’re able.

 

7. Preacher Curls

Best Bicep Exercises - Preacher Curls

Great for:

Improving your range of motion by using the preacher bench, which helps to extend the amount of time the biceps are working time under tension. 

How to do it:

  1. Sit on a preacher bench with your upper arms resting on the pad 
  2. Hold a barbell with an underhand grip, with your back straight and your feet pressed into the floor
  3. Curl the weight up towards you, keeping your upper arms resting on the pad
  4. Pause at the top of the curl, then slowly lower the weight 
  5. Repeat as desired 

Why:

To boost muscle growth and see results faster, the preacher curl is a solid choice. It creates additional tension for the biceps and forces them to activate and work harder. 

Preacher curls hit the biceps in a different way, so they should be used in conjunction with the standard curl at any point in your arm workouts. 

When:

Because the preacher curl movement may be foreign compared to the traditional bicep curl, it’s important to focus on form and repetition before you add weight. 

You’re better off upping your reps and burning the biceps instead of adding too much weight and not being able to complete more than a few reps. 

Start with a lighter weight and complete this move at the beginning of your arm workout, so the biceps aren’t already drained.

 

6. Hammer Curls

Best Bicep Exercises - Hammer Curls

Great for:

Lifting heavier weights to achieve bicep hypertrophy while preserving the wrists in a more neutral lifting position. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand with a strong back and your feet hip-width apart
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your wrists turned in, facing each other
  3. Keep your arms close to your sides, elbows under the ribs
  4. Curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders, biceps flexing as you move
  5. Lower the dumbbells slowly and repeat

Why:

In order to build the sleeve-busting biceps you’re working towards, there’s one muscle that needs to be activated that often goes unnoticed in other workouts.

The brachialis muscle is part of the bicep and is the key muscle we use to flex the elbow.

Hammer curls are the most effective exercise to target and work the brachialis muscle, which in turn helps make bigger biceps and thicker forearms.

When:

Hammer curls are a low-impact move that can be completed anywhere with weights, so don’t limit yourself to only doing these at the gym.  

If you’re lifting a moderate weight, aim for 10 to 15 reps per set and scale up as you gain strength. 

We recommend working your biceps three to four times a week, depending on how heavy you’re lifting, with one or two days rest so your arms can have time to recover.

 

5. Reverse Bicep Curls

Best Bicep Exercises - Reverse Grip Barbell Curls

Great for:

Activating the biceps and forearm muscles with a different grip style than the standard curl.

How to do it:

  1. Grab an EZ-bar or Barbell with an overhand grip 
  2. Feet should be hip-width apart, and your chin is tucked
  3. Roll the shoulders out to engage your upper back
  4. Squeeze the biceps and bend your elbows upward, lifting your shoulders
  5. Pause at the top and keep your biceps engaged
  6. Slowly lower the bar and repeat

Why:

A variation in the standard curl means your arms are working in a different way; in the reverse curl, the forearms are engaged with the biceps. 

Reverse curls are a popular method of creating stronger biceps through repetition and consistency. 

This variation helps to improve your grip strength, which you’ll notice when performing other arm exercises like deadlifts or pull-ups.

This is thanks to strengthening the forearm muscles, which correlate with a stronger grip. 

When:
Reverse curls are meant to burn out the biceps and forearms, so repetition is just as important as weight. 

If you’re new to this movement, prioritize reps over heaviness. Try completing two sets of 8 to 12 reps, and add weight from there.

 

4. Chin-Ups

Best Bicep Exercises - Chinups

Great for:

Building strong arms and back muscles with a bar and bodyweight. Chin-ups force the biceps to lift more weight than they’re used to, resulting in a more challenging movement.

How to do it:

  1. Hang from a chin-up bar with your palms facing you, shoulder-width apart
  2. Pull your body up by squeezing the shoulder blades together and engaging your biceps
  3. Keep your body as straight as possible throughout the movement 
  4. Lower your body by slowly straightening your arms
  5. Repeat as desired

Why:

Chin-ups are one of the most challenging and effective exercises you can do.

They engage the arms, shoulders, back, and core in one motion, making them a full upper-body workout with just a single bar. 

Regardless of what you weigh, that is most likely more weight than your biceps are used to lifting, curling, or benching. 

When:

Got a chin-up bar at home? Great. Every time you walk by, try to get three solid chin-ups in.

Muscle memory and repetition is the name of the game when it comes to bodyweight exercises, and chin-ups are no exception. 

If you can only do chin-ups in the gym, we recommend performing this move three to four times a week, focusing on your form and adding reps in as you get strong enough.

 

3. Cable Curls

Best Bicep Exercises - Cable Curls

Note: Image shows preacher-style cable curls. You can also perform cable curls standing up without a preacher bench.

Great for:

Keeping consistent tension on the biceps to promote more muscle mass while protecting the joints in the elbow from strain or injury. 

How to do it:

  1. Set a cable machine to a low weight 
  2. Grab the cable handle with both hands and step back, so you feel resistance on the cable 
  3. Curl the bar by pulling it up to your chest along your biceps 
  4. Lower the bar and repeat

Why:

Cable curls are one of the best bicep exercises for mass because they keep consistent tension on the muscles, even with a lower weight, while protecting the joints in the elbow.

To build muscles in the upper arms, cable curls should be consistently implemented into strength training arm workouts. 

When:

Cable curls create time under tension for the biceps and upper arms, making the move a beneficial one for bicep isolation. 

They can be completed during any arm circuit; just take precautions with the weight you’re using and make sure to give your arms time off.

For particularly heavy lifts, we recommend 48 hours of rest so your muscles can recover.

 

2. Incline Dumbbell Curls

Best Bicep Exercises - Incline Dumbbell Curls

Great for:

Removing momentum from the arms, so the biceps have to act solely on strength and form. 

How to do it:

  1. Take a seat on an incline bench, angled at about 60 degrees
  2. Grab a dumbbell in each hand, and fully extend your arms at your sides
  3. Curl the weight up to your shoulders, squeezing the biceps as you go 
  4. Pause at the top of the movement, then slowly lower your arms to your sides
  5. Repeat as desired

Why:

The benefit of curls on an incline bench is because the angle removes all opportunity for the lifter to rely on momentum to help curl. 

Because the momentum is removed from the equation, you’re relying solely on proper form and strength to curl the dumbbells, and it can be a real challenge for those muscles. 

In this movement, the arms are fully extended at your sides, so the range of motion is much larger than a standard curl, requiring the biceps to lift for an extended period. 

More range + more work = more muscle mass!

When:

Since you need an incline bench to complete this move, you’re most likely going to be in the gym when doing it. 

Try including these curls twice a week as you work your arms, leaving room for a rest day in between.

As you gain strength, you can add weight or reps, just be sure your form sticks and your elbows don’t feel any strain.

 

1. Barbell or EZ-Bar Curls

Best Bicep Exercises - Barbell Curls

Great for:

A classic, effective muscle-building exercise that applies the basic mechanics of weightlifting for any fitness or skill level. 

How to do it:

  1. Hold a barbell or EZ bar with an underhand grip, palms facing up
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together and curl the weight towards your chest
  3. Pause for one or two seconds at the top of the movement, then slowly release your arms
  4. Repeat as desired

Why:

If using the EZ bar, you may feel that the wrist and hand positioning feels much more natural, allowing for a more effective lift. 

EZ bars can be helpful for beginners because they enforce proper form and are easier on the joints.

The movement is the same as a standard barbell, so you’ll be able to transition to that when you feel comfortable. 

When:

For strength gains, start with five sets of five reps for a few arm days and then add weight or reps.

 

FAQs About Bicep Exercises

Looking for some additional information on how to get jacked biceps without all the fuss and drama?

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about bicep exercises.

 

Q: What does the bicep muscle do?

The bicep muscle is responsible for the flexing of the elbow — a pretty important movement! 

The biceps also participate in flexing the shoulders.

 

Q: Why are bicep exercises important?

Bicep exercises build strength in the upper arms and sculpt impressive sleeve-busting muscles there. 

Bicep exercises are essential for activities that include throwing or swinging, as these movements engage the forearms and biceps simultaneously.

 

Q: How many bicep exercises should I do on bicep day?

The standard recommendation for bicep days per week is between two and four. Exercises per bicep day should vary from four to six exercises. 

Make sure you are prioritizing rest days to let your biceps recover and to avoid muscle strain or injury.

 

Q: Is it ok to do biceps every day?

Even if you’re working with a lower weight and not burning out the muscles, we don’t recommend working the biceps every day. 

Arm exercises should be done two to four times a week.

 

Q: What bicep exercise is most effective?

Barbell or EZ curls are the most effective bicep exercise; they target the biceps without overcomplicating the movement and are great for any skill level. 

 

Summary 

The biceps are a key muscle in the upper body, and they help many people feel confident and strong. 

Incorporating bicep exercises into your upper body workouts is the most effective way to build confidence and swagger in your arms.

Suns out, guns out! 

Here’s a quick recap of the 10 best bicep exercises:

  1. Barbell or EZ-Bar Curls
  2. Incline Dumbbell Curls
  3. Cable Curls
  4. Chin-Ups
  5. Reverse Bicep Curls
  6. Hammer Curls
  7. Preacher Curls
  8. Reverse-Grip Barbell Rows
  9. Concentration Curls
  10. Drag Curls

If you enjoyed this article, check out some of our other exercise lists:

What’s your favorite bicep exercise? Leave a comment below. 

Hanna has been a fitness fanatic for most of her life. She grew up on the soccer field and volleyball court and credits those sports with her determination, passion for fitness, and leadership off the field. She is currently studying to become a personal trainer and hopes to begin coaching in 2022.

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