Without a doubt, the biceps comprise one-half of the most worked muscles on the planet. The other?
As if there was ever any doubt, that would be the chest.
And yet, while the chest is a well-known and highly visible muscle, the biceps often get relegated to being a vanity muscle.
Yes, they are much smaller in size than the pectorals, but they often get worked such as hard as this larger muscle group.
In fact, they make up only about one-third of the total muscle mass in the arm- which actually makes them quite small for the training volume they are usually subjected to.
But despite their small size, the biceps play an important role in human movement.
They are responsible for bending the elbow and for turning the forearm from palm down to palm up.
And because they are so close to the skin, they add an impressive look to any physique. But if you’re looking to build real muscle mass in your biceps, you need to do more than just curl a weight in one direction.
You need to challenge them from all angles.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of the 10 best bicep exercises.
These exercises will help you to not only build muscle but to also achieve the coveted peaked biceps look.
But as with all things that are worth it in life, time is well-spent setting the stage- priming the main act, so to speak.
This is why we need to take a little look at the biceps anatomy to better understand its functional utility.
Biceps Anatomy 101
Also known as the biceps brachii, this muscle originates at two locations on the scapula but is ultimately joined at the elbow.
Because of its connections at both the shoulder and elbow joint, this muscle is involved in a range of movements associated with the arm, including flexion and supination at the location of the elbow.
The way these are achieved differs, however.
For example, the long head is also involved with arm abduction (moving away from the body), while the short head does the opposite; adduction, that is, moving the arm towards the body.
Simultaneous contraction of the two heads leads to elbow flexion and bending.
As the name suggests, the biceps brachii consists of two heads, which respond best to differing angles of stimulation.
These are namely, the short head, and the long head- although there are also supporting muscles of the arm with a strong correlation and relationship to these two heads.
It would serve you well to ensure that the brachialis, brachioradialis, and pronator teres by extension are trained along with the primary bicep muscles to ensure ample volume is meted out, and growth acquired as a result.
Now that we’ve completed that crash course into biceps anatomy, it’s time we visit the means by which we can sculpt those guns.
10 Dumbbell Bicep Workouts That’ll Work Your Arms
The following exercises are the cream of the crop when training for hypertrophy.
Choose at least one exercise that is long head dominant, and one that is short head dominant for best effect.
The seated incline dumbbell curl can be considered the sleeper exercise of the bunch, as it is extremely effective for the long biceps head, which is incidentally the one that has the potential for adding that much-wanted biceps peak.
Sit at an incline bench set to a 30 or 45-degree angle with a dumbbell in each hand, palms face forward.
Slowly curl the weights upwards towards your shoulders, being sure to keep your elbows behind the plane of your body throughout the movement.
Pause and squeeze at the top before lowering them back to the starting position.
Aim for 10-12 reps and 3 working sets of the incline dumbbell biceps curl
The high cable curl is an exercise that utilizes the cable crossover machine or any equipment with two high cables.
It is perfect for both heads of the biceps but might be better suited for the short head.
Stand between a cable machine, attaching D-handle attachment and grasping each cable with arms outstretched parallel to the ground. In this position, the exercise is sometimes called the crucifix curl.
Keeping your shoulders up and elbows stationary, curl the handles towards your shoulder, being sure to squeeze your biceps at the top of the contraction.
Pause and hold for a second before slowly releasing the tension and returning to the start position.
Aim for 10-12 reps and 3 working sets.
Pro Tip: The exercise can be performed seated from a pulldown machine and with a rope attachment. In this position, by curling overhead, the long aspect of the biceps can be emphasized.
Spider curls are notoriously difficult because they take so many supporting muscle groups out of the equation- no legs, no core, and no shoulders.
The exercise is essentially done on an incline bench, except that your knees are on the seat and your chest pressed against the back padding.
Lie face down on an incline bench and position your feet so that your knees are on the seat and your chest is against the back padding. Grasp the handles of the weight with an underhand grip.
Allow your elbows and arms to dangle freely downwards as this is your starting position.
Curl the weight up as close to your face as possible while keeping elbows fairly stationary.
Slowly return to the start position.
Owing to the difficulty of this movement, you might only be able to complete 6-8 reps during the first couple of sessions. Gradually strive for 3 sets of 10-12 reps each.
Putting It Together
The list of exercises mentioned above will comprise the lion’s share of your bicep workout.
However, you might also want to consider adding a couple of sets of forearm work towards the end of your session for added targeting of the brachioradialis and pronator teres (preferably with an overhand grip and light resistance)
Remember: The key to building big biceps is to focus on lifting heavy weights and progressively overload your muscles. With that in mind, make sure that you select a weight that challenges you for your chosen number of repetitions and you will be on your way to bigger biceps.
If you can easily complete 12-15 reps, then the weight is too light and you’re not going to be stimulating much muscle growth.
A dumbbell bicep workout with adjustable plates can help you save money if you are a one-man operation and need a variety of weights.
And last, but not least, keep in mind that if you are training biceps after your back workout, they will be pre-fatigued.
In this case, reduce the volume to prevent overtraining.
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