Looking for the perfect workouts for biceps? You’ve come to the right place! We here at Auro love strength training. But, sometimes it can be hard for newcomers to know how to target specific muscle groups. Biceps are a popular target muscle, however, which workouts for biceps give us the best bang for our buck? Planning a workout schedule with a firm fitness goal in mind will make life so much easier. Whether you’re selecting how many workouts for biceps to do during your arm day sessions, or planning when your recovery days are! So without further ado, let’s get in to it.
Benefits of exercising your biceps
Biceps are one of the most common muscle groups targeted by your average gym goer. All strength and conditioning training is good for your overall physical health. But, biceps sometimes get a bad reputation as a ‘show’ muscle, muscles often trained purely for aesthetic reasons. This is unfair, as most workouts for biceps will help to increase your overall fitness level, as well as train your arms as a whole. Secondly, everyone has different motivations and intentions behind their workouts. It’d be naïve to think that aesthetics wouldn’t one of the more popular choices. So, don’t let any stigma get in the way of your next arm day.
Biceps are an important muscle to have if you’re a regular strength trainer, as they can assist with other workouts. Pull-up variations are often considered workouts for biceps, but they are also fantastic core builders – and are made far easier the stronger your biceps are! If we’re thinking more about the arm muscle group as a whole, strong biceps (along with triceps and forearms) will lower the risk of injury when performing just about any strength workout involving the arms – such as deadlifts, rows or bench presses.
A guide to some of the different workouts for biceps
It’s good to employ a variety of bicep workouts into your arm day schedule. This is because after a while your body adapts to specific workouts and you end up not getting as much benefit as you did before. Most workouts for biceps either use a dumbbell or barbell, or a pull-up bar. So, unless you have a home kitted out with fancy exercise gear, the gym is probably preferable for arm day. We’ll list some cool Auro classes further down so you can try some of these out for yourself. Remember to warm yourself up beforehand!
A curl is just what it sounds like, your arm curling from full extension until it’s contracted at the elbow. Many of the most common forms of arm curl are, in fact, workouts for biceps! Popular choices include standing dumbbell curls, hammer curls, reverse curls and many more. In recent times, curls as a whole have got some negative press due to them being an isolation exercise. This means that for the most part, curls only focus on the bicep (or another area) and as we’ve already mentioned, most arm based strength activities require fitness from the whole arm. But using curls in conjunction with other workouts, like pull-ups, is a perfectly good way of building bicep definition!
Like curls, rows can come in many variations. Rows are essentially any weight-carrying workout where your arms make a ‘rowing’ motion – pulling inwards towards the torso, as if rowing a boat if you were seated. Rows can use barbells, dumbbells, cable machines, kettle bells and almost any kind of training weight. Depending on the type of row, it can be an incredibly efficient form of training the arms, chest, back and core. Rowing requires precise form and technique which means keeping the rest of your body in focus as much as your arms.
Pull-ups & chin-ups:
Pull-up and chin-up exercises are not only some of the best workouts for biceps, but a tremendous exercise for your core, chest, back and even for improving your overall workout form. Hand positioning is the main defining factor separating the different pull-up bar techniques – overhand grips, with your palms facing away from you, are often referred to as pull-ups. Conversely, underhand grips, with your palms facing inwards towards you, are usually known as chin-ups. If you have a set of parallel bars available to you, you can also try what’s known as a neutral grip pull-up, with your palms facing inwards towards each other. This variation is one of the best workouts for biceps if you are trying to achieve a bigger arm aesthetic, as it heavily works the brachialis muscle, which pushes the rest of your bicep upwards as it grows. If you really want to push your core to the max whilst working your arms, try a towel-grip pull-up! Loop a couple of (durable!) towels over the top of the bar, and grip onto the hanging base of them, then try to do the pull-up set.
Our top ten exercises for biceps (in no particular order!)
10. Hammer curls
A classic arm workout right here, and an absolute staple for many. To perform a hammer curl you need two dumbbells, one for each hand. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and your palms facing inwards whilst holding the dumbbells by your side. Slowly curl upwards, bringing the weight towards your shoulder. Pause at the top, then lower the weights back down and repeat.
The best pull-up variation for pumping those biceps up. Chin-ups work exactly the same as a pull up, but with an underhand grip on the bar. Pulling yourself up and lowering back down is one rep. The curling motion that we see in most workouts for biceps is fully employed here. For an added challenge, try the “L-Shaped” variation! This is where you engage your core by pointing your legs out perpendicular to your body, forming a right angle at the hip.
8. Single arm dumbbell row
This exercise is primarily used for building your lateral (back) muscles. However, it also gives the biceps some work so it can be another fantastic addition to your arm-day schedule! As well as a dumbbell, you’ll need a bench to rest on for this exercise. With your right leg resting in a kneeling position on the bench, and your right arm gripping the bench’s far end, bend until your torso is parallel with the floor. Using your left hand, extend your arm and grab the dumbbell with your palm facing inwards and slowly bring the weight up to your chest. Make sure to keep your body still and controlled. Give your muscles a little squeeze at the top of the rep, lower the bell back down, and repeat.
7. Arnold press
Named for the Austrian bodybuilding superstar himself, the Arnold Press is primarily a shoulder workout, but actually hits several muscle groups at once, including laterals and arms. To perform an Arnold Press, hold a dumbbell in each hand, close to your chest as if you’re at the top of a bicep curl. Slowly spread your arms out to the sides and push upwards, extending your arms out above your shoulders whilst twisting your palms to face away from you. Your biceps should be close to your ears at full extension, then slowly reverse the process. It’s a toughie, but well worth the practise!
6. Seated cable row
Time to sit down at the cable machine! Seated cable rows work the whole arm, as well as your back muscles. They are a great introduction to the cable machine if you’ve never used it before. Sit at the machine with your back straight and your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Grab the bar or handle with an underhand grip and pull towards your abdominals. Keep your shoulders squeezed and your back straight, and you’ll feel this workout in no time.
5. Bicep curls / dumbbell curls
The original, quintessential of all the workouts for biceps, Dumbbell curls are one of the most tried and tested bicep builders around. You’ve probably either done this yourself, or seen it done by someone else. A classic bicep curl consists of one dumbbell in each hand, with your arms by your sides and your palms facing away from you. You then curl the weights upwards towards your shoulders, keeping your upper arms and torso stationary. Like with all strength and weight workouts, better control means a better workout, so don’t rush!
4. Upright row
One for the more advanced, the upright row targets the delts as well as the biceps. This exercise is usually performed using a barbell, preferably an EZ-bar (the one with the wavy shaped grips). But, this can also be done with two dumbbells. We’ll be using a barbell for this example. Holding the weight, allow it to hang by your thighs with your arms extended, and your palms facing inwards. Make sure your legs are shoulder-width apart, and keep your back straight and eyes forward. Engaging the abdominals, pull the bar up towards your chin, keeping it close to your body, as if ‘rowing’ from a cable attached to the ground. Pause at the top of the rep, and return to starting position. This can be a dangerous exercise if attempted without proper form. Please make sure this is the right exercise for you before scheduling it into arm day! There are much safer and more focused workouts for biceps on this list, but the upright row is often a favourite of more experienced bodybuilders.
3. Renegade row
The renegade row isn’t just one of the toughest workouts for biceps, it’s a total upper body blast, involving your whole arm, your core, your chest and even your mental fortitude as you battle through the reps! Don’t overestimate your ability with weights here, definitely go one or two weight levels lower than usual in each dumbbell, or you’ll quickly tire out. To do a renegade row, first try and find a flat-sided pair of dumbbells as you’ll be balancing on them. Get yourself on the ground in a press up position, gripping the dumbbells in each hand. Row one arm with the weight until the dumbbell rises just above your torso, then lower it back to the ground. That’s one rep, and stick to one arm per set before swapping over. Good luck!
2. EZ bar curl
Using the aforementioned EZ-bar, a barbell with wavey curves where the grips are, the EZ-bar curl is basically an upgraded (and easier, surprise surprise) version of the standard bicep curl. With your palms facing inwards slightly due to the undulating bar, you’ll be able to complete more reps per set due to the reduced strain on your joints, whilst also more accurately isolating the exercise to just your bicep muscles.
1. Preacher curl
Finally we have the preacher curl, a bench assisted variation of the bicep curl. Preacher curls are named because of their use of a preacher bench. This is a seat with an angled pad to rest your upper arms on. These can be performed with dumbbells, but again are better with an EZ-bar. With your chest close to the back of the bench’s rest, and the rear of your upper arms resting on it, curl the weight up to shoulder height, squeeze your arms, and lower back down. This is one of the easier workouts for biceps, and can help you learn curling form properly as a beginner.