Biceps Exercises

Building massive biceps is often the first goal of bodybuilders. What do you need? Just an inexpensive used set of weights! Please don’t waste money on new weights, you can get dumbbells used for pennies on the dollar from craigslist. Your muscles don’t know if they are lifting used, rusty, dumbbells or new, expensive, shiny, chrome ones! I prefer the individual metal weight plates that you put onto bars with spinlocks, like these because they are versatile.

I know you want big biceps, but please don’t overlook the fact that if you want big arms, then triceps exercises are even more important than biceps exercises because the triceps is a larger muscle and it responds better to training for most people.

biceps exercises

Biceps exercises to build huge arms

You can make your own arm workout by mixing and matching the above exercises, but unless you are really advanced, it’s better to use one of my existing home workout plans that puts these biceps exercises into a well rounded workout plan for you. Please checkout my beginning workout plan, my intermediate workout plan and my advanced workout plan.
Before I go into the individual biceps exercises, lets look at two complete arm workouts.   The first workout is an intermediate arm workout with three supersets each consisting of a biceps and a triceps exercise:

Superset 1:Dumbbell curls and skull crushers
Superset 2:Twenty-ones and narrow grip bench press
Superset 3: Reverse grip barbell curls and dumbbell kick backs

Repeat the above five times, the complete workout should take about 45 minutes.  Below is a video showing how to do this complete workout.

The following is an unusual arm workout and its good for busting thru plateaus.  Most people make the mistake of going heavy all the time, this is a good way to break that trend.  It is extremely high volume with no rest at all.  Literally just go from one exercise to the next without rest.

bodybuilder arm

Build muscular biceps with these two complete arm workouts.

Superset 1:Skull crushers and barbell curls
Superset 2:Skull crushers and dumbbell curls
Superset 3: Skull crushers and hammer curls

If you can, perform each superset for 10-15 minutes which will make the total duration of the workout 30-45 minutes. Below is a video showing you how to do this torturous workout.

Barbell Curls

Barbell curls (down position)Barbell curls (up position)

If you have a barbell, this is a great basic mass builder.  Form is key on this, most folks at the gym use terrible form.  You must do these standing to get enough range of motion but do not bounce with your legs!  This exercise is best done with an EZ-Curl bar as shown here, using a straight bar is possible but it results in wrist and elbow pain for many.

Starting Position: Arms down along sides, elbows pinned to your sides slightly ahead of your centerline.  Knees are slightly bent, abs flexed to support your spine.  Grab the bar with whatever grip width prevents your wrists and elbows from hurtion.  In the starting position, you still feel tension on your biceps, this is not a relaxed position.
Ending Position: Slowly raise the bar all the way to the top in a slow motion.  It should take at least a count of “one one thousand, two one thousand” for you to get them up.  Your legs are motionless, no bouncing.  Your shoulders and upper arms are motionless with your elbows remaining pinned at your side.  Do NOT let your elbows move forward or backward!  Your torso is motionless, no leaning backwards!  If you cant lift the bar as I describe here then you are lifting too much weight!!!  Now lower the bar slowly back to the starting position on a two second count.

Dumbbell Curls (palms up)

Dumbbell curls (down position)Dumbbell curls (up position)

Another excellent biceps exercise if you have dumbbells.  Form is key on this, most folks at the gym use terrible form.   This exercise is best done seated to help minimize cheating but you can also do it standing as long as you make sure not to bounce with your legs.

Starting Position: Arms down along sides, elbows pinned to your sides slightly ahead of your centerline with your palms up.  You are seated on a flat bench, stepstool or narrow chair with your abs flexed to support your spine.   In the starting position, you still feel tension on your biceps, this is not a relaxed position.
Ending Position: Slowly raise the dumbbells all the way to the top in a slow motion while keeping  your palms up the whole time – no spinning the dumbbells.  It should take at least a count of “one one thousand, two one thousand” for you to get them up.   Your shoulders and upper arms are motionless with your elbows remaining pinned at your side.  Do NOT let your elbows move forward or backward!  Your torso is motionless, no leaning backwards!  If you cant lift the dumbbells as I describe here then you are lifting too much weight!!!  Now lower the bar slowly back to the starting position on a two second count.

Hammer Curls (dumbbell curls with thumbs up)

Hammer curls (down position)Hammer curls (up position)

Another excellent biceps exercise if you have dumbbells.  Form is key on this, most folks at the gym use terrible form.   This exercise is best done seated to help minimize cheating but you can also do it standing as long as you make sure not to bounce with your legs.

Starting Position: Arms down along sides, elbows pinned to your sides slightly ahead of your centerline and your thumbs pointed up.  You are seated on a flat bench, stepstool or narrow chair with your abs flexed to support your spine.   In the starting position, you still feel tension on your biceps, this is not a relaxed position.
Ending Position: Slowly raise the dumbbells all the way to the top in a slow motion while keeping your thumbs pointed up.  It should take at least a count of “one one thousand, two one thousand” for you to get them up.   Your shoulders and upper arms are motionless with your elbows remaining pinned at your side.  Do NOT let your elbows move forward or backward!  Your torso is motionless, no leaning backwards!  If you cant lift the dumbbells as I describe here then you are lifting too much weight!!!  Now lower the bar slowly back to the starting position on a two second count.

“Twenty Ones”

This is a popular training method and are so named because you do twenty-one reps per set.  I really like them because its a welcome break from heavy weight low rep training and it gives an amazing pump.  The trick in doing these is to choose a weight light enough so you can do twenty-one reps with good form.  If you are having to swing and arch like a banana to get the last few reps then you need to lower the weight.  I like doing these standing with an EZ-Curl bar but you could use a straight bar or dumbbells instead if you wanted.  Grasp the bar with the palms facing up when doing this exercise.

Barbell curl twenty-ones (down position)Barbell curl twenty-ones (mid position)

First seven reps: As shown above, in the first seven reps you go from the down position up halfway till your forearms are horizontal.  Try to do these slowly with a two second up and a two second down count.  Remember to keep your abs flexed tight to support your spine and keep your elbows pinned at your side – dont let them move forward and backward.  Your torso should remain completely motionless with no leaning backwards or bending forwards.  Then, without any rest advance to the next seven reps as shown below.

Barbell curl twenty-ones (mid position)Barbell curl twenty-ones (up position)

Reps 8-14: As shown above, in the second seven reps you go from the mid position with your forearms horizontal to the up position.  Try to do these slowly with a two second up and a two second down count.  Remember to keep your abs flexed tight to support your spine and keep your elbows pinned at your side – dont let them move forward and backward.  Your torso should remain completely motionless with no leaning backwards or bending forwards.  Then, without any rest advance to the next seven reps as shown below.

Barbell curl twenty-ones (down position)Barbell curl twenty-ones (up position)

Reps 15-21: As shown above, in the last seven reps you full, normal barbell curls with the complete range of motion.  Try to do these slowly with a two second up and a two second down count.  Remember to keep your abs flexed tight to support your spine and keep your elbows pinned at your side – dont let them move forward and backward.  Your torso should remain completely motionless with no leaning backwards or bending forwards.  You are done!!!

Reverse Curls

Reverse Curl Starting Position Reverse Curl Ending Position

These are great to do at the end of your arm workout for a great biceps pump and a great forearm workout – shaving or brushing your teeth is tough after doing these!  This exercise is done with the palms facing down as indicated with the red arrow in the below photo.  This exercise is much more difficult to do than with the palms up so don’t use a lot of weight, start with about 35% of what you can do with the palms up.  These can be done either standing, as the photos below show, or using a preacher bench as shown in the video below.  If you have tendonitis in your elbow, don’t do these because it puts a lot of stress on the elbow.  I suggest doing these at the end of your arm workout when your biceps are good and weak, that way, even though the biceps is stronger than the forearm they are both worked out evenly.  Although you can use a straight barbell, an EZ-Curl bar is much easier on your wrists and elbows.

Starting Position: note the overhand grip making the palms face down.
Ending Position: Raise the bar slowly and steadily – yikes what a forearm pump

Chinups

Chinup (down position)Chinup (up position)

If all you have is a pull-up bar, you can get a good biceps workout by doing underhand pull-ups (chinups) as shown here.  The “chinup” is performed with the palms facing you.  This exerciser is done with a narrow grip, shoulder width or closer together with the elbows pointing forward.  The chinup uses lats but it also uses a lot of biceps.   If you are a bit confused about chinups, please watch this video on the proper form of chinups.  OK, enough about the virtues of the chinup, lets do one!

starting position: The elbows point forward and slightly outward, just do what seems the most comfortable. Your arms are nearly straight, but not quite.   In this bottom position, dont go into a relaxed dead-hang!  Keep the arms bent slightly which keeps your lats loaded.  Your shoulders are down and back and they stay in this position the entire pullup, dont relax at the bottom and let your shoulder come up to your ears. OK, now that we have the basic starting position, slowly pull up on a two second count.
ending position: Pull yourself slowly up while remembering to keep your shoulders down and back. Slowly pull yourself upward without swinging or kicking, try to take a full two seconds to move upward. Although this is called a chinup, dont worry about getting your chin above the bar – only in PE class and boot camp is that required.  Just go up as far as you can.

A word of warning:

Curl Monkey

Don’t become a curl-monkey! Many beginners obsess on curls and neglect the rest of their bodies. Complete beginners shouldn’t even be doing curls, they should be doing exercises like pullups in a good beginners workout. Even pro bodybuilders probably only spend at most 10% of their weekly workout time on biceps, beginners should spend even less.

One last reminder about the importance of nutrition, its just as important as lifting weights when it comes to adding muscle mass. Don’t bother tearing your muscles down unless you plan on giving them the constant supply of nutrients they need to rebuild! If my free healthy recipes don’t appeal to you then consider buying this bodybuilding cookbook (read my review).

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