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Ditch the Curls: 5 Bicep Exercises Proven to Deliver Faster Results, Backed by Science

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

Tired of endless bicep curls with minimal results?

Discover five bicep exercises that deliver superior results, sculpting your arms and boosting your overall strength. Uncover the secrets of bicep anatomy to maximize your gains.

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Learn to avoid the most common mistakes that hinder your progress. Ready to transform your arms?

Keep reading to unlock the power of these bicep-building exercises and take your arm training to the next level.

Importance of Arm Muscles

Major Arm Muscles:

  • Biceps: Located at the front of the upper arm, responsible for flexing the elbow and rotating the forearm.
  • Triceps: Found at the back of the upper arm, they extend the elbow.
  • Brachialis: Situated underneath the biceps, it aids in elbow flexion.
  • Brachioradialis: Located in the forearm, this muscle helps flex the elbow and rotate the forearm.
  • Pronator Teres: Also in the forearm, it pronates (rotates) the forearm.

Why Strong Arm Muscles Are Important:

  • Daily Activities: Strong arms make carrying groceries, lifting objects, and other daily tasks easier.
  • Sports Performance: Essential for sports like basketball, football, tennis, and baseball, where arm strength can enhance performance.
  • Injury Prevention: Helps protect against injuries to the shoulder, elbow, and wrist and prevents muscle imbalances.
  • Aesthetics: Well-developed arms improve overall appearance and boost confidence.

Detailed Anatomy of the Biceps

Understanding the anatomy of the biceps can help you target this muscle group more effectively. The biceps brachii, commonly known as the biceps, is a two-headed muscle located on the front part of the upper arm. Here’s a closer look at its anatomy:

Short Head and Long Head:

  • Short Head: The short head of the biceps is located on the inner side of the arm. It originates from the coracoid process of the scapula (shoulder blade) and inserts into the radial tuberosity of the forearm. This head is primarily responsible for elbow flexion and forearm supination (rotating the forearm to face upward).
  • Long Head: The long head is on the outer side of the arm. It originates from the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula and also inserts into the radial tuberosity. This head assists in shoulder flexion and contributes to the muscle’s overall peak when flexed.

Functions of the Biceps:

  • Elbow Flexion: Both heads of the biceps work together to bend the elbow, bringing the forearm towards the upper arm.
  • Forearm Supination: The biceps help rotate the forearm so the palm faces upwards.
  • Shoulder Flexion: The long head assists in lifting the arm forward.

Brachialis and Brachioradialis:

  • Brachialis: This muscle lies underneath the biceps and is a major contributor to elbow flexion. It does not contribute to supination, making it a pure flexor of the elbow.
  • Brachioradialis: Located in the forearm, it assists with elbow flexion, especially when the forearm is in a neutral position (as in a handshake).

A thorough understanding of these muscles and their functions allows you to choose exercises that effectively target and develop your biceps, contributing to balanced arm strength and aesthetics.

Effective Bicep Exercises

While bicep curls are popular, several other exercises can provide better results by targeting the muscles from different angles and incorporating other muscle groups for balanced development. Here are five bicep exercises that are better than bicep curls:

1. Zottman Curl Exercise

How to Perform:

  1. Hold dumbbells at arm’s length by your sides with palms facing up.
  2. Curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders, rotating your palms so they face down at the top.
  3. Pause, then slowly lower the dumbbells, rotating your palms back to facing up at the bottom.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.


  • Engages Multiple Muscles: The rotation of the palms at the top of the movement engages the forearm muscles in addition to the biceps.
  • Enhances Grip Strength: This exercise is particularly useful for athletes who require strong grip strength, such as rock climbers or gymnasts.

2. Chin Ups

How to Perform:

  1. Grasp a horizontal bar with an underhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hang with arms fully extended and feet off the ground.
  3. Pull your body up, keeping elbows close and shoulders down and back.
  4. Continue until your chin is above the bar, then lower yourself back to the start.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.


  • Builds Upper Body Strength: Chin-ups are a compound movement that works the biceps, back, and shoulders.
  • Improves Grip Strength: Holding your body weight enhances grip strength and overall muscle development.

3. Hammer Curls

How to Perform:

  1. Hold dumbbells at arm’s length by your sides with palms facing in (neutral grip).
  2. Curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders, squeezing biceps at the top.
  3. Lower the dumbbells back down, controlling the weight.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.


  • Targets Multiple Muscles: This exercise works both the biceps and the forearms.
  • Enhances Arm Size and Definition: It’s popular for those looking to increase arm size and definition.

4. Preacher Curl

How to Perform:

  1. Sit on a preacher bench and grasp an EZ curl bar or dumbbells with an underhand grip.
  2. Rest your arms on the bench with elbows fully extended.
  3. Curl the weight towards your shoulders, keeping elbows stationary.
  4. Squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower the weight back down.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.


  • Isolates the Biceps: This exercise minimizes the involvement of other muscles, focusing on the biceps.
  • Improves Size and Definition: Ideal for targeted bicep development, popular among bodybuilders.

5. Incline Dumbbell Curls

How to Perform:

  1. Set an incline bench to a 45-degree angle and sit with dumbbells in hand.
  2. Let your arms hang down with palms facing forward.
  3. Curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders, keeping elbows close.
  4. Squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower the dumbbells back down.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.


  • Targets the Long Head of the Biceps: The incline angle emphasizes the long head, increasing overall bicep size.
  • Enhances Muscle Definition: Effective for improving bicep shape and definition.

Common Mistakes in Bicep Training

Avoiding common mistakes in bicep training can enhance your results and prevent injury. Here are some pitfalls to watch out for:

1. Using Too Much Weight

Issue: Using excessive weight can lead to poor form, reducing the effectiveness of the exercise and increasing the risk of injury.

Solution: Choose a weight that allows you to perform the exercise with proper form for the desired number of repetitions. It’s better to use a lighter weight and complete the exercise correctly.

2. Swinging or Jerking Movements

Issue: Using momentum to lift weights reduces the tension on the biceps and engages other muscle groups, diminishing the exercise’s effectiveness.

Solution: Perform each movement with controlled, deliberate motions. Focus on using your biceps to lift the weight rather than relying on momentum.

3. Incomplete Range of Motion

Issue: Not fully extending or contracting the arms during exercises limits muscle activation and development.

Solution: Ensure you use a full range of motion for each exercise. Fully extend your arms at the bottom and contract your biceps completely at the top of the movement.

4. Overtraining the Biceps

Issue: Training the biceps too frequently without adequate rest can lead to overuse injuries and hinder muscle growth.

Solution: Incorporate sufficient rest and recovery into your training program. Aim to train your biceps 2-3 times per week with at least 48 hours of rest between sessions.

5. Neglecting Other Muscle Groups

Issue: Focusing solely on bicep exercises can create muscle imbalances, affecting posture and overall strength.

Solution: Incorporate a balanced workout routine that includes exercises for all major muscle groups, including the triceps, shoulders, back, and chest.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can maximize the effectiveness of your bicep training and achieve better results.

Importance of Varying Your Bicep Exercises

Varying your bicep exercises is crucial for several reasons, including preventing plateaus, ensuring balanced muscle development, and keeping workouts engaging. Here’s why it’s important to mix up your bicep routine:

1. Preventing Plateaus

Issue: Performing the same exercises repeatedly can lead to a plateau, where muscle growth and strength gains stagnate.

Solution: Incorporate a variety of bicep exercises to challenge your muscles in different ways. This can stimulate new muscle growth and prevent your progress from stalling.

2. Ensuring Balanced Muscle Development

Issue: Focusing on a limited range of exercises can lead to imbalances in muscle development, affecting the symmetry and overall strength of your arms.

Solution: Include exercises that target different parts of the biceps, such as the long head, short head, and brachialis. This ensures balanced development and a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.

3. Enhancing Muscle Activation

Issue: Repeatedly performing the same movements can lead to decreased muscle activation as your body becomes more efficient at the exercise.

Solution: Varying your exercises can enhance muscle activation by preventing your muscles from adapting too easily. This keeps your workouts challenging and effective.

4. Reducing Risk of Injury

Issue: Using the same movement patterns can lead to overuse injuries, particularly in the elbows and shoulders.

Solution: Mixing up your exercises reduces the risk of overuse injuries by varying the stress placed on your joints and muscles. This allows different muscles and tendons to recover while others are being worked.

5. Keeping Workouts Engaging

Issue: Repeating the same exercises can become monotonous, reducing motivation and consistency in your training.

Solution: Introducing new exercises keeps your workouts interesting and engaging. This can help maintain your motivation and commitment to your fitness routine.

By varying your bicep exercises, you can ensure continuous progress, balanced muscle development, and a more enjoyable workout experience.

Tips for Maximizing Bicep Growth and Strength

To achieve the best results from your bicep workouts, it’s essential to apply effective strategies that maximize growth and strength. Here are some tips to enhance your bicep training:

1. Focus on Mind-Muscle Connection

Strategy: Concentrate on feeling your biceps work during each exercise. This connection helps ensure that you’re engaging the target muscle effectively.

Application: Slow down your movements and focus on the contraction and stretch of the biceps. Visualize your muscles working as you perform each rep.

2. Implement Progressive Overload

Strategy: Gradually increase the weight, reps, or intensity of your workouts to continuously challenge your muscles.

Application: Track your workouts and aim to lift slightly more weight or perform an extra rep each week. This consistent progression stimulates muscle growth.

3. Incorporate Eccentric Training

Strategy: Emphasize the eccentric (lowering) phase of the movement, which can lead to greater muscle damage and growth.

Application: Slowly lower the weight during bicep exercises, taking about 3-4 seconds to complete the eccentric phase. This increases time under tension and enhances muscle growth.

4. Use Compound Movements

Strategy: Include compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups, including the biceps, to build overall strength and mass.

Application: Exercises like chin-ups and rows are excellent for bicep development while also targeting the back and shoulders. Integrate these into your routine for comprehensive upper body strength.

5. Ensure Adequate Nutrition and Recovery

Strategy: Proper nutrition and recovery are critical for muscle growth and repair.

Application: Consume a balanced diet rich in protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Ensure you get enough sleep and rest between workouts to allow your muscles to recover and grow.

6. Vary Rep Ranges and Intensities

Strategy: Changing your rep ranges and workout intensities can prevent plateaus and keep your muscles adapting.

Application: Alternate between periods of heavy lifting with low reps (4-6) and lighter weights with higher reps (12-15). This variation targets different muscle fibers and promotes comprehensive growth.

7. Include Isolation Exercises

Strategy: Isolation exercises specifically target the biceps, providing focused growth and strength.

Application: Incorporate exercises like preacher curls, concentration curls, and spider curls into your routine to isolate and intensify bicep activation.

By applying these tips, you can maximize your bicep growth and strength, ensuring more effective and efficient workouts.

Benefits of Strong Biceps

Strong biceps contribute to overall upper body strength, functional fitness, and physical appearance. Here are the key benefits:

1. Improved Functional Strength

Daily Activities: Strong biceps assist in various everyday tasks such as lifting, carrying, and pulling. Whether it’s carrying groceries or moving furniture, bicep strength plays a crucial role.

Example: Carrying a heavy box upstairs requires substantial bicep and forearm strength to maintain grip and stability.

2. Enhanced Sports Performance

Athletic Activities: Many sports require powerful arm movements. Strong biceps improve performance in activities like throwing, climbing, and rowing.

Example: In tennis, strong biceps and forearms contribute to a more powerful serve and effective groundstrokes.

3. Injury Prevention

Muscle Balance: Balanced arm strength, including well-developed biceps, helps prevent injuries by ensuring muscle groups work together harmoniously.

Example: Strengthening the biceps can help stabilize the shoulder joint, reducing the risk of shoulder injuries.

4. Aesthetic Appeal

Muscle Definition: Developed biceps enhance the appearance of your arms, contributing to a toned and muscular look.

Example: Defined biceps are often considered a hallmark of a fit and athletic physique, boosting self-confidence.

5. Better Posture

Upper Body Alignment: Strong biceps contribute to overall upper body strength, supporting better posture and reducing the risk of back pain.

Example: Strengthening biceps and back muscles can help maintain proper spinal alignment, reducing strain on the lower back.

Key Takeaways

1. Variety is Crucial: Incorporate different bicep exercises to prevent plateaus and ensure balanced muscle development.

2. Focus on Form: Proper technique and mind-muscle connection are essential for maximizing the effectiveness of bicep exercises.

3. Progressive Overload: Continuously challenge your muscles by gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts.

4. Recovery and Nutrition: Adequate rest and a balanced diet are vital for muscle growth and recovery.

5. Comprehensive Training: Combine compound and isolation exercises for overall upper body strength and functional fitness.

By incorporating these strategies and exercises into your routine, you can develop strong, functional, and aesthetically pleasing biceps. Remember, consistency and proper technique are key to achieving your fitness goals.

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