Bigger biceps are a staple in male aesthetics. After all, some of the greatest bodybuilders to ever live, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronnie Coleman, are known for their impressive bicep size and shape. If getting bigger arms is a priority for you, you may be wondering what the most effective exercises are.
Let’s take a look at some of the most well-established ways to build bigger biceps.
Standing Barbell Curl
The biceps curl can be performed in a number of ways: using a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell, as well as sitting or standing. Curling is a method that stands out as superior in terms of stimulating the most amount of muscle in the bicep region. And of the most essential curling techniques is the standing barbell method. Here’s how to perform the exercise:
- Hold the bar with your arms shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms straight towards the floor. And make sure your elbows are stationary, kept an inch away from your side.
- Curl the barbell towards your chest, with your elbows fixed in place.
- Squeeze your biceps when they reach your chest.
- As you lower the weight to the floor, resist it as much as you can, slowly and fully stretching your arm. The more you resist the weight during this part, the more gains you can achieve.
Incline Dumbbell Curl
The incline dumbbell curl is another effective exercise for building bicep muscle mass. You will likely use less weight compared to a standing barbell curl but if you get the form correct, then you can still achieve impressive results. Here’s how to perform the incline dumbbell curl:
- Lie back on a bench that has been adjusted to have an incline. Adjusting the incline higher or lower can help you target different areas of your biceps muscles. Hold two dumbbells, with your arms extended down and back slightly.
- Curl the dumbbells, making sure to turn your wrists as you raise the weights. You can alternate the curls or do both biceps at the same time.
- Slowly return the weights to the original position, using as much resistance as possible.
One-Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curl
This exercise is an isolating movement that really helps to add to the fullness and overall size of the bicep muscle. Here’s how to perform the one-arm dumbbell preacher curl:
- Hold the dumbbell with an underhand grip using a preacher bench (which is designed for bicep curls). Lock your elbows in place and have your arm fully extended on the bench.
- Curl the dumbbell slowly and try to touch the shoulder of your arm with the weight.
- Extend your arm again while resisting the weight.
The hammer curl will not work out as much of the bicep as the other exercises but it will greatly develop the brachialis, which is an elbow flexor (like the bicep) that lies underneath the biceps. When you develop this part of the bicep to its fullest, it will push up the whole bicep, enlarging its appearance, as well as adding thickness to the lower bicep area. Here’s how to perform hammer curls:
- Keep your elbows fixed at the side of your body, with your palms facing each other.
- Curl the dumbbells the same as you would during a normal dumbbell curl. You can perform hammer curls one arm at a time, which can help you to focus on each brachialis muscle.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells, adding resistance.
There are many effective bicep exercises that you can do on weight machines. These include:
- Machine bicep curl
- Cable curl
- Assisted pull-up
- Lat pull-down
You don’t necessarily have to go to the gym or use weights in order to build bigger biceps. You can use your own body weight too. Some of the best bodyweight exercises for biceps include:
- Chin-up holds
- Inverted rows
- Ring rows
- Legless rope climb
- Ring support
When performing any of the above exercises, it’s crucial to pay close attention to your form. By adhering to strict form, you will be able to train more effectively compared to if you keep increasing the weight with poor form. Also, having good form will ensure that you avoid injuring yourself. If you injure your bicep during training, then you will have to recover before you can start working out your bicep again. Proper form is, therefore, key to progress.
It’s important to include variety in your workout, utilizing free weights, machines, and body-weight exercises, as this will ensure the best results. On top of that, keep in mind that your biceps are a fairly small muscle group. Because of this, if you're straining them every time you step foot in the gym, you're going to over-train them and face negative consequences. Think about targeting your biceps as a secondary muscle group to back and pull exercises; you may want to explicitly target your biceps once or twice per week, trying not to exceed 20 sets per week that engage your biceps.
On a final note, no matter how comprehensive or mindful your bicep workout is, you will only be able to maximize your bicep size and shape by following the right kind of lifestyle. This would involve a protein-rich diet high in whole foods and low in processed foods, limited alcohol consumption, and restful sleep. By focusing on your overall health, as well as your workout, you will be able to gain even bigger biceps.