10 Bicep Workouts With Dumbbells for Your at-Home Arm Workouts

best bicep dumbbell workout
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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.

1) Barbell Curl

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZEqB6wUPxQ

First and foremost on the list of best biceps exercises is the quintessential barbell curl.

There are numerous ways you can do this exercise, and regardless of which one you choose, it effectively annihilates all of the biceps muscle heads.

However, when it comes to the overall biceps peak most people are after, a small change in grip position can go a long way.

To achieve this, assuming a narrower grip- usually hip width or less, emphasizes the long head to a greater degree than the short head.

This is good for the short term, but understand that using a wider grip means that the bar has a shorter path to travel, and hence, can be overloaded to a greater extent.

This is useful for adding greater bulk.

To Perform:

  • Grab an Olympic size barbell or any straight bar available
  • Position your hands on the bar with a shoulder-width or narrower grip, knees slightly bent
  • Keeping your back straight and your shoulders down, slowly curl the bar up towards your chest, pausing and squeezing at the top of the lift before lowering it back to the starting position
  • Aim to perform 10-15 reps and 3-4 working sets.

This exercise will be your bread-and-butter, in the sense that it should remain one of the primary movements in your biceps training program.

2) Hammer Curls

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zC3nLlEvin4

Hammer curls are an underrated bicep exercise simply because they don’t add massive meat to your arms, but what they do is help to is work the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles to a great extent.

They can form part of the best bicep dumbbell workout you can do if on a budget.

Hammer curls can be done with dumbbells, barbells, or cables, with a neutral grip (palms facing your torso), or in a cross-body fashion.

Regardless of which you take, they are all excellent builders.

To Perform:

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells, and let them hang at arm’s length by your sides, with your palms facing your sides.
  • Keeping your back straight and shoulder blades down, slowly curl the weights towards your shoulder, pause and squeeze at the top before lowering them back to the starting position
  • Aim for 10-12 reps and 3 sets.

Pro Tip: The hammer curl is one of the best ways to increase grip strength, particularly useful if you have a hard time on pull movements.

3) Preacher Curls

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIWP-FRFNU0

This bicep exercise will literally take you to “church”, providing massive bicep stimulation to help kickstart hypertrophy.

Done on what is referred to as a preacher bench, this movement takes a significant chunk out of the momentum usually generated by standing bicep exercises.

Technically an isolation movement, since it takes your shoulder joint out of the equation, but some amount of wrist flexion might still be utilized (though emphasizing the forearm in that instance).

Regardless, it is an excellent movement for targeting the brachialis and long head of the biceps. The exercise can be done with barbells, dumbbells or cables.

To Perform:

  • Position yourself on a preacher bench, with your upper arm resting against the preacher curl pad and almost fully extended with a suitable weight.
  • With your palm facing up, slowly curl the weight towards your shoulder, pause and squeeze at the top before lowering it back to the starting position
  • Aim for 10 reps and 3 working sets.

It is important to not lift the weight too high, or allow your elbow to start raising off of the pad, as this causes a loss of tension and makes the movement less effective.

Pro tip: cables might be superior since there is no love lost when it comes to tension throughout the entire range of motion

4) Drag Curl

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMdNTHH6G8I

The drag curl at first glance looks very similar to barbell bicep curls, but there is one major difference in this movement.

While in the standard barbell curl the elbows remain fairly stationary, or maybe moving forward a bit, in the drag curl the elbows move backward- behind the plane of the torso.

This makes the drag curl one of the best bicep movements for the long head, as movements that occur behind the plane of the torso are best suited for the development of this head.

To Perform:

  • Hold a barbell with a shoulder-width or narrower grip and let it hang at arm’s length in front of your thighs.
  • Keeping your back straight and shoulder blades down, drag the bar up towards your chest, keeping the bar close to your body throughout the movement.
  • Slowly lower to the start position following the same track of movement.
  • Perform 8-10 reps for 3 working sets.

5) Cambered Bar Curl

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ot87aACYlKI

A cambered bar, also known as an EZ bar, is a unique bar with a zig-zag motion that effectively reduces strain in the wrist and forearms that are sometimes experienced when using the straight bar.

Given, the straight bar is superior for overall biceps muscles development since the degree of supination is greater, but the pain it causes makes it all but unusable to some people.

The cambered bar reduces the amount of weight that can be used as resistance and also tends to emphasize the short head, brachialis, and brachioradialis more than the long head.

To Perform:

  • Stand with the cambered barbell at arm’s length in front of your thighs, with your palms facing forward.
  • Keeping your back straight and shoulder blades down, slowly curl the weights towards your shoulder, pause and squeeze at the top before lowering them back to the starting position.
  • Aim for 10-12 reps and 3 working sets.

Pro Tip: Try 21s. This involves segmenting the curl into three phases: full range of motion, top half, and bottom half. Starting with the full range, perform 7 reps.

Then, perform 7 reps from the midpoint to the top of the range, followed by 7 reps performed from the bottom position to the midpoint.

6) Standing Dumbbell Bicep Curl

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=av7-8igSXTs

The standing dumbbell curl is often used as a substitute for the standing barbell curl, and for the most part, it is a very good movement and effective for that purpose.

However, I find that many people do not allow the weight to fully extend at the bottom of the curl, which takes tension off of the biceps and places it on the forearm muscles.

Plus, the dumbbell version possesses a few advantages over the barbell counterpart.

For instance, you can supinate your wrists a little at the top of the movement, which provides added stimulation for the biceps brachii.

The exercise will generally target the brachialis as well, making it an efficient upper arms builder.

It is very important, however, to not give into momentum and swing the weight around as this diminishes the beneficial effect on the biceps.

To Perform:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing your thighs.
  • Keeping your back straight and shoulder blades down, slowly curl the weights towards your shoulder, supinating your wrists as you passed the midway point of the exercise.
  • Pause and squeeze at the top before lowering them back to the starting position.
  • Aim for 10-12 reps and 3 working sets.

7) Seated Incline Dumbbell Curl

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soxrZlIl35U

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.

To Perform:

  • 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

8) Concentration Curls

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebqgIOiYGEY

The concentration curl is a great isolation exercise that really targets the biceps brachii short head.

While most frequently performed in a seated position, it can also be done while standing.

To Perform:

  • Sit on a flat bench with one side upper arm pressed against your inner thigh. This will be your working arm.
  • With your working arm, contract the biceps brachii muscle and lift the dumbbell to the level of your upper chest/shoulder
  • Your elbow should stay pressed against your thigh throughout the entire range of motion.
  • Pause and squeeze the biceps at the top before slowly lowering it back to the starting position.
  • Aim for 8-10 reps and 3 working sets.

9) High Cable Curl

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYlk1YhK_MM

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.

To Perform:

  • 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.

10) Spider Curls

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4RNtxT0LwM

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.

To Perform:

  • 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.