The 5 Best Bicep Exercises

Man with Dumbell Curls

The importance of well-developed arms can’t be overstated if you want an upper body that gets noticed. Without question, big, full biceps get their share of attention. With that in mind, let’s look at the 5 best biceps exercises. 

Building big arms is so crucial to recreational and professional bodybuilders alike that if you look at training articles in all the major bodybuilding/fitness magazines, biceps are probably the most frequently written-about body part. Why are so many people interested in arm training? Maybe because most fail to get results from their own routines. With biceps training, the 5 best biceps exercises make simplicity the rule.

Having a workout plan is essential to your success in the gym. Keep a record of the exercises you do and the sets, reps and weight you lift. If you don’t already have a training diary, get one, it will help you chart your progress. Finding a routine that works will require a little experimentation on your part. Vary your sets, reps and weight to see what protocol produces the best results for you.

Choose two of the following 5 best biceps exercises for your biceps workout. You will do 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps. Select weights that challenge you yet still allow you to maintain good form. Remember, big muscles move big weights. Cheating will only take focus away from the muscle you’re training. Work your biceps only once a week; remember, think quality, not quantity. Also work in some training days with reduced intensity (less weight lifted) and volume (fewer sets, reps) for added recuperation. Keep it simple and grow.

The 5 Best Biceps Exercises – Standing EZ-Bar Curl

Possibly the most common of the 5 best biceps exercises. No doubt it’s one of the most effective for building baseball-sized biceps. This movement will hit all three of the major arm flexors (brachialis and lateral and medial biceps heads), but the medial head may feel most of the emphasis. While it’s similar to the standing barbell curl, this exercise will involve the biceps slightly more, and many athletes say it’s easier on their wrists.

  • Use a wide, palms-up grip, with your hands about shoulder-width apart.
  • Rest the bar at thigh level, keeping your knees slightly bent and your torso erect.
  • Raise the weight in a slow, controlled manner to about neck level. Keep your elbows in close to your body as you perform the exercise.
  • After a brief pause (no rest) at the top of the movement, lower the bar slowly, being sure to maximize the eccentric contraction (the lowering phase).

Insider’s Tip: Avoid swinging the bar. Momentum can eliminate much of the benefit of this otherwise extremely effective arm-builder.

The 5 Best Biceps Exercises – Standing Dumbbell Curl

This is also one of the 5 best biceps exercises that’s popular. This is a slight variation of the alternating dumbbell curl. You complete all reps for one side before moving to the next, and the idea is to really emphasize the biceps. When you use heavy weight, this exercise can stimulate serious growth!

  • Hold on to a dumbbell rack or another free-standing, stable structure (an incline bench will also do).
  • Hold a dumbbell in a neutral position at thigh level. Slowly bring it up as far as possible, slightly rotating your wrist as you curl the weight up to move through the full range of motion.
  • At the top of the movement, your wrist should rotate out so your thumb points away from your body. This rotation of the forearm and wrist is called supination.
  • Squeeze at the top to stress the medial head of the biceps.

Insider’s Tip: Concentrate on the rotation of your wrist and allow your biceps to curl the weight up. When you lower the dumbbell, control it all the way to the starting position. Keep your torso stationary, no swinging allowed!

The 5 Best Biceps Exercises – Seated Incline Hammer Curl

If you typically rotate your wrists during this movement, try to instead maintain a neutral position throughout the range of motion. This puts incredible stress on the brachialis and lateral head of the biceps, while involving the medial head to a slightly lesser extent.

  • Use an incline bench with the angle set at approximately 60 degrees. Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing your body.
  • In one controlled movement, bring the dumbbells up to shoulder level (you’ll almost touch your front delts at the finish of this movement) and squeeze at the top.
  • Lower the weight slowly, being careful to keep your palms in the neutral position. Allow the dumbbells to slowly return to the starting position. Feel those biceps stretch and contract!

Insider’s Tip: On the last few reps when your biceps are screaming for mercy, don’t be tempted to move your torso to cheat the weights up. Keep your body still and allow your biceps to fight through those final reps. The end results will be well worth the pain.

Standing Barbell Curl

This is one of the 5 best biceps exercises that’s a classic. This exercise has formed the foundation of many a pro’s arm routine. The barbell curl hits all three major elbow flexors almost equally and permits a frill range of motion in the upper-arm muscles.

  • As with the EZ-bar curl, start with the bar resting on your upper thighs.
  • Use a palms-up, moderately close grip. You could even go slightly narrower than shoulder width.
  • Bring the bar up to your neck, keeping your elbows in at your sides.
  • After a slight pause and squeeze at the top, lower the bar, focusing on the eccentric phase of the movement. Don’t just let the bar drop to the starting position. If you do this exercise properly, you should feel it throughout the entire biceps.

Insider’s Tip: Heavy weight yet strict form are musts. Take it slow when you lower the weight. The last few inches of the exercise just before you return to the starting position are critical.

The 5 Best Biceps Exercises – Cable Curl With Rope Handle

One of the better-kept secrets of bodybuilders who have really huge arms. Essentially, this movement is a variation of the standing dumbbell curl. It combines some of the best elements of both barbell and dumbbell exercises, involves all three of the major arm flexors with particular emphasis on the biceps, and allows you to maintain constant tension. One set and you can see why this is one of the 5 best biceps exercises.

  • Use a rope handle attached to a low cable pulley. Begin with your hands at your thighs and your palms facing in (neutral grip). Stand far enough from the cable station so that the weights are slightly above the stack when your arms are fully extended. This will keep maximum tension on your biceps.
  • As you raise the weight, slowly supinate your wrists so that your palms face your body at the top of the movement. Keep your elbows close to your body throughout.
  • Momentarily squeeze your biceps at the top, and then slowly lower the weight, pronating your wrists so your palms face each other at the bottom of the movement.

Insider’s Tip: Use as much weight as you can handle with good form. Resist the temptation to let momentum bring the weights up; you want the biceps to do the work.

Keep It Simple And Grow

Now that you know what the 5 best biceps exercises are, let’s look at a routine. In this six-week program for biceps, you’ll use what scientific types and elite athletes call periodized training. This type of workout involves gradual changes over a period of weeks. These changes cover the intensity (poundage) and volume (number of sets and reps) that you handle in a given training session. A unique benefit is that you’ll continually increase the stress placed on the biceps. This will make them bigger and stronger as an end result. You’ll only be working your biceps once a week. If your form is good and you’re training with proper intensity, it will be plenty.

We begin the six-week cycle with 10 reps. Choose weights for each exercise that allow you to complete the sets with good form. Go with light to moderate weight the first week. 

The periodization schedule is broken down into two-week segments. Increase the amount of weight you use each week by about 5 pounds. Let proper form be your guide. If you can’t maintain impeccable form, hold off on the weight increase. Make the muscle work, no cheating allowed! As might be expected, this is the 5 best biceps exercises routine. 

Straight-bar biceps curl (close grip) 3 10  
Incline hammer curl 2 10  
Standing dumbbell curl 2 10  
EZ-bar biceps curl (close grip) 3 8  
Incline hammer curl 2 8  
Rope curl 2 8  
Straight-bar biceps curl (close grip) 3 6  
Standing dumbbell curl 2 6  

The 5 best biceps exercises can help you build big arms. Don’t forget the triceps! Remember, recovery and nutrition is huge. Need supplements? You’re on the best site!


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