Big biceps has been a staple throughout the history of bodybuilding and every average gym-goer wants bulging biceps. Who wouldn’t? But getting a set of canons is not something you wish upon one night and have Santa Clause deliver the next morning. No, it takes years of hard work in the gym, correct nutrition and manipulating the exercises you perform to get the most out of each rep. Sure, squatting 500 lbs has it’s time and place, but building a set of biceps to put Arnold in his place, now that’s the magic.
The Best Bicep Exercises
Exercise #1 – Barbell Curl
Digging out page 1 of the archives from the original bodybuilders like Steve Reeves and Joe Weider, the barbell curl is the all-time classic when it comes to building big bicep heads. Best performed at the beginning of your bicep training when your energy levels are at their highest, this compound movement for the upper arms will build the overall mass and fullness we’re all looking for. There are two different camps to this exercise – heavy/cheating and lighter/strict movements. Both have proven to yield results so test to see what works better for you.
☐ Start with an underhand grip on the barbell about 2 inches wider than shoulder width apart
☐ Begin the movement by setting the lats and shoulders back to allow the weight to be lifted by just the biceps
☐ Curl the weight up to the top of the torso and pause for a 1 second count, maintaining tension on the bicep
☐ Then, slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position
Sets and Reps:
Team Heavy/Cheat- 4 x 6-8
Team Strict/Controlled- 4 x 10-12
Exercise #2 – 1-Arm Concentration Curls
Made famous by the Austrian Oak himself, Arnold used these isolated curls to build the peak of the bicep muscle. The barbell curl is great for building overall mass to the arms, but to really get the high peak that many great bodybuilders have, you’ve got to work different areas of the biceps. Although genetic restrictions do play a role in whether or not you have a long or short bicep head, you can still use these curls to blow up your arm size to new levels.
☐ Set up this lift by sitting on the end of the flat bench with the feet on the floor and the torso erect
☐ Grab a dumbbell in one hand and allow your knee to hold the elbow in place to keep the arm in a steady position
☐ Curl the weight up to the front of the shoulder and turn the pinky’s out at the top of the movement- really focusing on the squeeze and contraction at the peak
☐ Slowly lower the weight back down to where the weight is just hanging off the ground
Sets and Reps: 4 x 12 each arm
Exercise #3 – Hammer Curls
With the compound movement for total mass and an isolation move for the peak of the biceps completed, this leads us to working the brachialis or long head of the biceps. Usually when you perform any sort of curl exercise, the weight is placed in the palms and kept in an external rotated position.
This allows you to work the bulk of the bicep and the peak, but not as much the long head. The hammer curl allows your hands to stay in a fixed position without the twist at the top. Use this to build the outer portion of your biceps or at the end of your workout for a crazy pump.
☐ Start with a dumbbell in each hand with the palms facing each other
☐ Keeping the wrist in line with the elbow, curl the weight (one hand at a time) up to the middle of the chest
☐ While curling the weight up, flare the elbows to keep the weight as close to the torso as possible
☐ Squeeze and contract for a good one-count at the top of the movement and then lower back down to your side
Sets and Reps: 4 x 12-15
Don’t Just Train Your Biceps
I know what you may be thinking. Why shouldn’t I just train biceps if what I want is big biceps? Doesn’t make sense right? Well trust me, it does.
We’ve all seen that guy who comes to the gym and only trains biceps and never gets any bigger. That’s because your biceps are not one of your main muscle groups.
So make sure if you want big biceps that you’re training your back. Multiple exercises when training your back work your biceps, particular any row movement. Make sure you’re training your back, as this will maximize the chance of you developing bulging biceps.
Take Home Message
So, if you’re in the market for bigger biceps, the first place to look is the gym. Know that building a set of pipes that will fill out an XL shirt, will take lots of time and training. Be patient on your journey to building a bigger set of arms and stick to the basics. Start prioritizing you training to hitting biceps earlier in the week as part of the priority principle and even later on in the week as well. Keep your nutrition on point and supplements smart to kick-start your biceps into massive growth.