Get Fitter, Faster: Fitness, Food & Health Hacks

Hey, I'm Julien. I share a weekly newsletter designed to make you fitter. It's short, smart and actionable17k read it, I'd love you to join too. It's free.

I want to get fitter

5 Bicep Exercises That Will Make MY Arms Bigger, Faster (Some I’ve Never Even Heard Of)

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

Want bigger biceps that pop? 

Discover the top 5 exercises that will transform your arms and boost your upper body strength. 

  • Save

We’ll break down the science behind bicep growth, guide you through proper form for maximum results, and share tips for avoiding common mistakes. 

Get ready to sculpt impressive biceps and take your workouts to the next level.

Understanding Bicep Anatomy and Function

The biceps brachii, commonly known as the biceps, is a prominent muscle on the front part of the upper arm between the shoulder and the elbow. This muscle is unique as it consists of two heads: the long head and the short head.

The long head is located on the outside of the arm and contributes to the overall profile and peak of the bicep, while the short head is found on the inside part of the arm, closer to the body.

Both heads originate from different points on the scapula (shoulder blade) and merge into a single muscle belly which attaches to the forearm bones. The primary function of the biceps is to allow flexion at the elbow and rotation of the forearm.

When you curl your arm, bringing your hand closer to your shoulder, or when you rotate your forearm to turn your palm up, you’re actively engaging your biceps.

Beyond these basic movements, the biceps also assist with shoulder elevation. Whenever you lift your arm in front of you, the biceps are involved, although this is more of a secondary role. In everyday life, these functions make it possible to carry out tasks involving lifting, pulling, and holding, making the biceps essential for a multitude of daily activities.

In fitness, strengthening the biceps isn’t just about aesthetic appeal. Strong biceps help improve overall upper body strength, enhance performance in sports that involve throwing or lifting, and are crucial in supporting the joints of the shoulder and elbow.

Properly developed biceps ensure balance and symmetry between the front and back of the upper arm, contributing to better body mechanics and reduced risk of injury. Knowing how the biceps work helps in selecting exercises that effectively target both heads of the muscle, ensuring comprehensive development and functionality.

Exercise 1: Barbell Curl

The barbell curl is a classic bicep exercise, renowned for its effectiveness in building muscle mass and strength in the biceps. This exercise specifically targets the bicep brachii, but it also engages the brachialis and brachioradialis, supporting muscle groups in the arm.

Step-by-Step Guide to Performing Barbell Curls Correctly

Starting Position: Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a barbell with both hands using an underhand grip (palms facing up) that is also shoulder-width apart.

The Curl: Keeping your elbows close to your torso, exhale as you curl the barbell up towards your chest. Your upper arms should remain stationary throughout the exercise; the movement should only happen at the elbows.

The Top of the Curl: Once the barbell is at shoulder level, squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the movement for maximum contraction.

Lowering the Barbell: Inhale as you slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position. Control is key here to ensure that the biceps are being used throughout the motion.

Tips for Maximizing Effectiveness

  • Grip Width: Adjusting your grip width can target different parts of the biceps. A narrower grip will emphasize the outer part of the biceps, while a wider grip focuses more on the inner part of the biceps.
  • Elbow Positioning: Ensure your elbows are slightly in front of your body and fixed in position. Moving your elbows forward during the curl can help increase the peak contraction on the biceps.
  • Mind-Muscle Connection: Focus on the biceps as you perform the curl to ensure they are doing most of the work.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Swinging the Barbell: Avoid using momentum to lift the weight. If you find yourself swinging, reduce the weight to maintain proper form.
  • Moving the Elbows: Your elbows should not move forward or backward. They should stay in place, acting as hinges.
  • Rushing the Reps: Perform each repetition slowly and with control to maximize muscle engagement and effectiveness.

Incorporating barbell curls into your routine will help you develop stronger, more defined biceps as part of a comprehensive upper-body strength program. Remember to start with a manageable weight to maintain form and prevent injury as you progress in your training.

Exercise 2: Hammer Curl

Hammer curls are a variation of the traditional curl that focus more intensively on the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles, along with the long head of the biceps. This exercise is distinct due to its grip and the orientation of the dumbbells, which resemble a hammering motion, hence the name.

Proper Execution

Starting Position: Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing towards your body.

The Curl: Keep your elbows close to your torso. Exhale as you raise the dumbbells towards your shoulders. It’s important to keep the palms facing each other throughout the movement.

Top of the Movement: Once the dumbbells are at shoulder level, squeeze your biceps and hold the position briefly to maximize the peak contraction.

Lowering the Dumbbells: Inhale as you slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position, maintaining the neutral grip.

Benefits of Including Hammer Curls in Your Routine

  • Targeting Different Muscle Groups: Hammer curls help in developing the brachialis, an often-overlooked muscle that can really enhance the overall size of the arms. Strengthening the brachialis also supports the bicep muscles, contributing to a thicker and more defined arm.
  • Forearm Involvement: The neutral grip of the hammer curl significantly involves the forearm muscles. Stronger forearms can improve grip strength, which is beneficial for a variety of sports and physical activities.
  • Balanced Bicep Development: Incorporating hammer curls ensures a balanced development between the long and short head of the biceps, contributing to better arm symmetry and functional strength.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Swinging the Weights: Maintain control and avoid using momentum to lift the weights. Focus on using the arm muscles to perform the curl.
  • Elbow Movement: As with other curl variations, keep your elbows pinned at your sides throughout the exercise to ensure that the movement is isolated to the forearms and biceps.
  • Lifting Too Heavy: Starting with excessively heavy weights can lead to poor form and reduced effectiveness. Choose a weight that allows for complete control and full range of motion.

Hammer curls are an excellent addition to any arm strengthening routine, providing variety and a comprehensive approach to bicep and forearm development. By integrating hammer curls, you’re not only enhancing the aesthetics of your arms but also their functional capabilities.

Exercise 3: Chin-up

Chin-ups are a powerful upper-body exercise that not only target the back muscles but are also highly effective for bicep development. This exercise uses your body weight as resistance, making it a practical and challenging workout that can be performed almost anywhere with a pull-up bar.

Guide on Proper Chin-up Technique with a Focus on Bicep Engagement

Grip the Bar: Start by standing underneath a pull-up bar. Grip the bar with your palms facing towards you (supinated grip) and hands about shoulder-width apart. This grip is crucial for maximizing bicep involvement.

Starting Position: Hang from the bar with your arms fully extended, feet off the ground, and legs slightly bent to stabilize your lower body.

Perform the Chin-up: Exhale as you pull yourself up by bending your elbows and squeezing your biceps. Continue to lift until your chin is over the bar. Focus on using your biceps to perform the movement rather than relying solely on your back.

Lower Yourself Down: Inhale as you slowly lower yourself back to the starting position. Control is important here to maximize the time your muscles are under tension.

Variations to Increase Intensity or Focus More on the Biceps

  • Close Grip Chin-ups: By bringing your hands closer together on the bar, you can increase the emphasis on the biceps, which can lead to even greater bicep activation and development.
  • Weighted Chin-ups: Once basic chin-ups become less challenging, adding weight with a belt or a vest can significantly increase the intensity, pushing your biceps to work harder and develop further.
  • Eccentric Chin-ups: Focus on the lowering phase of the chin-up by taking 3-5 seconds to slowly descend. This eccentric loading increases muscle tear and repair, which is beneficial for muscle growth.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Using Momentum: Avoid swinging your legs or using hip momentum to reach the bar. This reduces the effectiveness of the exercise on your biceps and can lead to injuries.
  • Not Moving Through Full Range of Motion: Failing to extend your arms fully at the bottom or not pulling up high enough reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and limits bicep engagement.
  • Rapid Movements: Performing chin-ups too quickly can decrease muscle engagement and lead to less effective workouts. Focus on controlled movements to maximize bicep activation.

Chin-ups are not only effective for building stronger and bigger biceps but also for enhancing overall upper body strength. Incorporating these variations and focusing on proper technique will help you make the most out of this potent exercise.

Exercise 4: Concentration Curl

The concentration curl is an isolation exercise that targets the biceps intensely, maximizing muscle engagement and peak contraction. This exercise is ideal for enhancing bicep peak and definition.

Proper Execution

Starting Position: Sit on a bench and spread your legs. Hold a dumbbell in one hand and rest the back of your upper arm on the inner part of your thigh. Your arm should be fully extended, with the dumbbell just above the floor.

The Curl: Keeping your upper arm stationary, curl the dumbbell towards your shoulder. Focus on using only the bicep to lift the weight. Your palm should be facing upwards throughout the movement.

Top of the Movement: Once the dumbbell reaches shoulder height, squeeze your bicep and hold the contraction for a moment to maximize the muscle engagement.

Lowering the Dumbbell: Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position, maintaining control throughout the descent to keep the tension on the bicep.

Benefits of Including Concentration Curls in Your Routine

  • Maximum Bicep Isolation: This exercise isolates the biceps more than most other exercises, ensuring that the bicep muscles do the majority of the work.
  • Improved Muscle-Mind Connection: Focusing on a single arm at a time helps to enhance the connection between your mind and muscles, which can lead to better muscle activation and growth.
  • Enhanced Peak Contraction: By emphasizing the peak contraction at the top of the curl, concentration curls help develop the bicep peak, giving your arms a more defined and rounded look.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Swinging the Dumbbell: Avoid using momentum to lift the weight. Ensure that the movement is slow and controlled, with the biceps performing the majority of the work.
  • Using Momentum: Keep your upper arm stationary on your thigh. Do not allow it to move forward or backward during the exercise.
  • Not Fully Extending the Arm: Make sure to fully extend your arm at the bottom of the movement to engage the bicep through its full range of motion.

Incorporating concentration curls into your bicep training routine can significantly enhance your muscle definition and strength, ensuring well-rounded and impressive arm development.

Exercise 5: Preacher Curl

Preacher curls provide a strict movement that isolates the biceps, emphasizing the lower part of the muscle. This exercise is beneficial for developing the biceps in a controlled manner, reducing the risk of cheating with body momentum.

Proper Execution

Starting Position: Sit on a preacher bench and hold an EZ bar with an underhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Your upper arms should be resting on the bench pad, with your chest and armpits snug against the top.

The Curl: Exhale as you curl the bar towards your shoulders. Focus on keeping your upper arms stationary and letting your biceps do all the work.

Top of the Movement: Once the bar reaches shoulder height, squeeze your biceps and hold the contraction briefly to maximize the muscle engagement.

Lowering the Bar: Inhale as you slowly lower the bar back to the starting position, maintaining control throughout the movement to ensure continuous tension on the biceps.

Benefits of Including Preacher Curls in Your Routine

  • Isolated Bicep Focus: Preacher curls isolate the biceps more than many other exercises, making them highly effective for targeted muscle development.
  • Reduced Risk of Cheating: The preacher bench prevents you from using your back or shoulders to assist in the lift, ensuring that the biceps do most of the work.
  • Enhanced Bicep Stretch and Contraction: The starting position of the exercise provides a good stretch for the biceps, while the curl emphasizes the contraction, promoting muscle growth.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Using Excessive Weight: Lifting too heavy can compromise form and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. Start with a manageable weight and focus on perfecting your technique.
  • Lifting Elbows Off the Pad: Keep your elbows in contact with the preacher bench pad throughout the movement to ensure proper isolation of the biceps.
  • Incomplete Range of Motion: Make sure to lower the bar completely and extend your arms fully before curling back up to maximize muscle engagement.

Preacher curls are a valuable addition to any bicep training regimen, offering a strict and effective way to enhance muscle size and strength. By focusing on proper form and gradual weight progression, you can achieve significant improvements in your bicep development.

Incorporating These Exercises into a Workout Routine

To maximize bicep growth, it’s essential to integrate these exercises into a structured workout routine. Here’s a sample weekly schedule:

Weekly Workout Schedule:

  • Day 1: Heavy Bicep Focus (Barbell Curls, Chin-ups)
  • Day 3: Mixed Upper Body (Hammer Curls, Preacher Curls)
  • Day 5: Light Bicep and Full Body (Concentration Curls, additional compound movements)

Importance of Rest and Recovery:

Muscle growth occurs during recovery periods, not just during workouts. Ensure you allow adequate rest between bicep-focused workouts to promote muscle repair and growth.

Recommendations on Sets, Repetitions, and Progression:

  • Vary your sets and reps depending on your goals. For muscle growth, aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
  • Gradually increase the weight as you become stronger to continually challenge your muscles.
  • Consider advanced techniques such as drop sets or supersets to further stimulate muscle growth.

Additional Tips for Bicep Growth

Importance of Overall Nutrition and Protein Intake:

  • Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. Aim for a balanced diet rich in lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
  • Hydration is also crucial for optimal muscle function and recovery.

The Role of Other Complementary Exercises and Overall Body Strength:

  • Incorporate compound movements like rows and pull-ups to support overall arm and back strength.
  • Ensuring balanced development of the entire upper body helps prevent imbalances and injuries.

How to Avoid Common Injuries Associated with Bicep Workouts:

  • Always perform a proper warm-up before starting your workout to prepare your muscles and joints.
  • Focus on correct form and technique to avoid strain and injury.
  • Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to allow your body to adapt.


Developing bigger, stronger biceps requires a combination of effective exercises, proper technique, and consistent effort. 

The five exercises outlined—barbell curls, hammer curls, chin-ups, concentration curls, and preacher curls—provide a comprehensive approach to bicep training. 

By integrating these exercises into your routine, focusing on nutrition, and allowing for adequate recovery, you can achieve significant improvements in bicep size and strength. Stay consistent and patient, and the results will follow.

Share via
Copy link