The best biceps workouts involve the tried and true, scientifically proven exercises as well as some fresh curls and techniques. We cover all of the above in the following honor roll of six routines. Let’s explore how to best train your biceps for rapid arm expansion.
BEST BICEPS WORKOUT #1: BEST EXERCISES
We focused on the best biceps exercises according to scientific studies in this article: Science Says: Best (and Worst) Biceps Exercises. Let’s summarize. According to studies, the top exercises for biceps activation were: concentration curl, cable curl, and chin-up. However, progressive overload is also important, and it’s easier to make incremental strength gains with a heavier exercise, like the barbell curl. So, we selected three of the preceding curling exercises for our sample routine.
BEST EXERCISES BICEPS ROUTINE
Barbell Curl — 4 x 8-12 reps
Cable Curl — 4 x 10-12 reps
Concentration Curl — 4 x 8-12 reps
BEST BICEPS WORKOUT #2: HIGH/LOW
Trainers tend to do virtually the same number of reps in all sets for a body part. If they do both high and low reps, they’ll segregate those sets into a “light” day and a “heavy” day. The high/low principle combines them in the same workout. Alternating sets or exercises with high reps (15-25) with those done for low reps (6-8) is an excellent way of targeting fast and slow-twitch fibers and increasing both blood volume and strength. Starting with a high-rep machine exercise, as in our sample routine, allows you to safely warmup for the heavier free weights that follow.
HIGH/LOW BICEPS ROUTINE
Machine Curl — 3 x 15-25 reps
Barbell Curl — 3 x 6-8 reps
One-arm Cable Curl — 3 x 15-25 reps
Dumbbell Curl — 3 x 6-8 reps
BEST BICEPS WORKOUT #3: INSIDE/OUTSIDE
The biceps is made up of a long head (outer biceps) and a short head (inner biceps) and both have different tendon connections. The two heads work together, so you can’t fully isolate your inner or outer biceps. However, if you take a narrow grip and/or angle your palms so your index fingers are above your other fingers, you will focus more on the outer heads (as well as the brachialis, which is visible on your outer arms); and, conversely, if you take a wide grip and/or angle your palms so your pinkies are at least even with your other fingers, you will focus more on the inner heads. The following routine alternates a more-outer-head exercise with a more-inner-head exercise.
INSIDE/OUTSIDE BICEPS ROUTINE
Narrow-grip E-Z Bar Curl — 3 x 8-10 reps
Wide-grip Barbell Curl — 3 x 8-10 reps
Hammer Curl — 3 x 10-12 reps
Supinating Dumbbell Curl* — 3 x 10-12 reps
* Rotate palms during the contraction so that pinkies are upward as far as possible.
BEST BICEPS WORKOUT #4: TOP/BOTTOM
Just as you can’t truly isolate the inner or outer biceps heads, you can’t work only the bottom portion or top portion of your biceps. However, you can focus more on the stretch or the contraction of curls. Preacher curls place greater emphasis on stretches (and less tension on contractions), and concentration or cable curls tend to let you place greater emphasis on contractions.
TOP/BOTTOM BICEPS ROUTINE
Cable Curl — 3 x 10-12 reps
EZ-bar Preacher Curl — 3 x 10-12 reps
Concentration Curl — 3 x 10-12 reps
Dumbbell Preacher Curl — 3 x 10-12 reps
BEST BICEPS WORKOUT #5: SUPERSETS
Many people consider the biceps to be too small a muscle to superset alone, prescribing that you superset biceps with triceps instead. We recommend biceps/triceps antagonistic supersets, but more advanced bodybuilders shouldn’t shy away from combining biceps exercises on occasion. Intensity is your friend, not your enemy. The original “King of the Biceps,” Larry Scott frequently supersetted and tri-setted biceps exercises.
SUPERSETS BICEPS ROUTINE
Incline Dumbbell Curl — 3 x 10-12 reps
↕️ supersetted with
Concentration Curl — 3 x 10-12 reps
Reverse Machine Curl — 3 x 10-12 reps
↕️ supersetted with
Machine Curl — 3 x 10-12 reps
BEST BICEPS WORKOUT #6: UNIQUE LIFTS
Your biceps have relatively simple functions: to contract your elbow joints (bring your hands towards your shoulders) and supinate your forearms (rotate your forearms from palms down to palms up). Therefore, you may think it doesn’t make much difference which curls you do each workout. In fact, each exercise works your biceps in subtly different ways, some stressing more of the inner head, some more outer, some focusing more on contractions, others more on stretches. Make variety a key component of your routine. If your gym has multiple curl machines, try each of them. The following rarer exercises can be done in most any gym. Incorporate one or two into your current routine, or try our workout featuring all four.
? FACE-DOWN INCLINE CURL Flip the script on the traditional incline curl and do them face-down. This method places a special emphasis on the contractions. It also allows you to use a barbell or EZ-curl bar (unlike the more-popular, face-up version) as well as dumbbells.
? LYING DUMBBELL CURL Now that you’re reclining, let’s take it even further. Lie face-up on a high flat bench (you may need to elevate the bench by placing blocks or weight plates under the legs). Let your arms hang straight and then curl the EZ-bar, barbell, or dumbbells while keeping your elbows steady.
? DRAG CURL Let your elbows go backwards and come up as you literally drag a barbell against your body from your upper legs to your lower chest. These can also be performed on a Smith machine, which locks you into the straight up and down motion.
? HIGH CABLE CURL These are performed with high cable crossover cables. Begin with your arms outstretched, and then curl your hands to your delts as if performing a double biceps pose. This provides both a unique stretch and a unique contraction.
UNIQUE LIFTS BICEPS ROUTINE
Drag Curl — 3 x 8-10 reps
Face-down Incline Curl — 3 x 8-10 reps
Lying Dumbbell Curl — 3 x 10-12 reps
High Cable Curls — 3 x 10-12 reps
BEST BICEPS WORKOUTS: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are best bicep workouts?
See #1 above. It’s tough to beat a workout made up of the best biceps exercises.
How many times a week should I workout my biceps?
Once or twice. Alternatively, you can train them at a frequency between once or twice: once ever four days, once every five days, or once every six days.
Can you workout your biceps every day?
Of course you can. They question is: Will you stimulate growth or overtrain and shrink? If you do a full, intense biceps workout multiple days in a row, you may temporarily stimulate growth, but over a longer period (say, five days of more) you will almost certainly overtrain. Generally, you need to give muscles at least 72 hours to recover and grow from a workout. However, some people benefit from pump sets on days they’re not training a muscle. So, you could do your regular biceps workout once weekly and finish other workout days with a single, low-intensity set of 30-50 reps of curls. This is done to get a quick pump to help stimulate recovery (and for a walking-around pump).
What is the most effective exercise for biceps?
The concentration curl comes out number one in studies measuring muscle activation. However, for progression overload we also favor a heavier exercise that does a good job of muscle activation: the barbell or EZ-bar curl.
What are the 3 best bicep exercises?
The trio in our #1 routine abovee: barbell curl, machine or cable curl, and concentration curl.
Can I hit biceps and triceps together?
Certainly. “Arm day” is a great way to organize your workouts. There’s no right way to organize an arm workout. You can train biceps first followed by triceps or do it the other way around. You can alternate exercises for biceps with exercises for triceps. And you can superset biceps and triceps exercises. If you do forearms in this workout, it is best to work them last so your tired grip doesn’t give out too soon and limit your sets of upper arm exercises.
What workouts go with biceps?
You can work biceps with anything. However, the most popular combinations are to fit biceps in an arm workout (biceps, triceps, forearms) or to fit them in a pull workout (back followed by biceps).
BEST BICEPS WORKOUTS
You need to shock complacent muscles from stagnation to expansion. Biceps can and should be trained with a greater variety of exercises, techniques, and combinations than most bodybuilders currently keep in their arsenal. Load up with our new bi-laws, and give our six best biceps workouts a try.