Looking for the best best bicep exercises to strengthen, bulk, and tone the most iconic muscle of your body? Here are the five exercises you need to succeed.
Barbell bicep curls
The most basic of basic bicep exercises deserves to be first on this list for one reason and one reason alone: it works. Don’t get caught up in the complexity of any exercise on this list, because results are what matter, and nothing gives more straightforward results than the humble barbell bicep curl. You’re probably already familiar with the exercise, but just in case:
How it works: Stand upright, holding the barbell in a palms-up grip. Curl the bar up to your chest and lower it again, minimizing movement outside of your arms as best you can–momentum is your enemy.
Lat pulldowns work well for a lot of muscles, so they’re worth doing no matter you goals–but if you want to really work your biceps, you’ll want to take a wider grip. Make sure you don’t fall for any of the typical traps of the lat pulldown; bring the bar down in front of your chest, not behind or above your head.
How it works: Sit at the machine, grab the bar with a wider grip, and pull it down in front of your face. Nothing simpler!
Now for something a little different. Standing cable curls work your bicep muscles to their core, making them a great exercise for size and strength. Cable curls are a particularly unstable exercise, which means all those supporting muscles around your bicep will be doing their fair share of the work as well–if you don’t want disproportionately strong and large biceps, make cable curls a part of your bicep regimen.
How it works: The specifics will depend on the equipment you have, but the principal is simple: grasp your handle attachment, and curl against the resistance. As always, rely on muscle strength, not momentum or speed.
Depending on your exact goals, barbell rows can get a lot of mileage as bicep exercises or as a more general part of your workout. It’s largely going to depend on the specifics of how you lift: if you want to work your back, lats, and shoulders a good deal as well, use a normal grip. If you’re wanting to isolate your biceps more, go for the reverse grip; this little change will greatly shift the focus of the effort.
How it works: Get your barbell off the ground in the grip of your choice–you can deadlift it, or use a rack to ease the process. Then, maintaining a stable core and arched back, bend over at the waist so that you’re at ~45 degree angle. Then just lift the bar to your chest or stomach as your grip dictates and let it back down. Pay attention to your back and core on this one!
The ultimate ‘finishing touch’ for your bicep exercises, nothing isolates quite like a good concentration curl. When you’ve got nothing left in the tank, all your stabilizers are exchausted, and you want to drain the last bit from your biceps’ tank, it’s time for the concentration curl. No momentum, no stabilizers, just pure uncut bicep action.
How it works: Sit on a bench with a single dumbbell held between your legs. Holding your upper arm steady, curl the dumbell up and forward; your little finger should end the movement higher than your thumb. Hold, squeezing the bicep, then slowly return the dumbbell to the starting position–never swing or use momentum going up or down.