18 Best Bicep Workouts & Exercises (According to Science) - Old School Labs
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Home » OSL Blog » 18 Best Bicep Workouts & Exercises

18 Best Bicep Workouts & Exercises

May 17, 2019

  1. Is your biceps muscle your favorite muscle to train?
  2. Do you prefer training arms by themselves or with a bigger muscle group like back?
  3. Do your biceps get more stimulation by using heavy weights or do you feel the muscle working better with more moderate weight and better form?

Does this sound familiar?

You’re standing in front of the mirror, checking out your progress from your last gym session. And the one thing you zero in on is your biceps. Not making the gains you’ve been wanting? Think you need to add more time at the gym?

Flexing biceps
Targeting biceps can be achieved at home or the gym.

Well, we can tell you that it’s not the TIME you put in, it’s the WAY you spend your time at the gym that counts.

No matter what muscle group you want to focus on, most people will admit to wanting to have killer biceps. It makes sense, who doesn’t want to be able to show off those hard earned muscles you spent a lot of time and work creating?

Whether your goal for bicep workouts is to gain mass, shed fat, or just find the right workout routine to do at home, we’ve got you covered.

What About Home Workouts?

Not a fan of gyms? Prefer to work out in your own home?

We’ve got you covered there as well. The bicep workouts we are about to show you can easily be done at home as long as you have the necessary equipment.

The equipment you will need to do your bicep workout at home:

  • Dumbbells
  • Barbell with weights
  • Weight bench and/or yoga ball
  • Resistance band
  • Chin up bar
  • Kettlebells
  • E-Z bar

Even if you don’t have all the equipment on hand at home, you can still perform some of the bicep exercises we are about to show you.

Let’s take a look at some of the best bicep workouts available to provide maximum impact on your physique!

#1. Chin Up

While you will be using other muscles to complete this exercise, the chin up is still one of the best bicep exercises because you are using your bicep muscle to pull your entire body weight up from a dead hang.

Chin up
Chin ups make you use your bicep to pull up the weight of your whole body.

How to do it: Using an underhand grip and with your hands shoulder width apart, grab the chinup bar and hang at arm’s length. Activate your shoulder blades down and back, bend your elbows, and use your bicep strength to pull yourself up until your chest is level with the bar. Pause, and then lower yourself back down to the starting position. Repeat as needed to complete your sets.

#2. Close Grip Chin Up

This variation on the standard chin up exercise uses a close grip rather than shoulder length apart. This small change in hand placement requires your bicep to work even harder to pull your body weight up, offering a challenge to the brachialis muscle.

Close Grip Chin up
The close grip position compared to chin ups puts more pressure on the biceps.

How to do it: Using an underhand grip, place your hands close together but not touching on the chin up bar. Hang at arm’s length, and start to activate your shoulder blades down and back. Bend your elbows and use those brachialis muscles to pull yourself up until your chest is level with the bar. Pause in that position, then lower yourself back down to where you started. Complete as many reps as you can.

#3. Underhand Grip Inverted Row

This exercise is done mainly as a back workout, but using an underhand grip puts more load on your biceps, requiring them to work harder to complete the row. You will need a bar lower than a chin up bar, so that your feet touch the floor.

Underhand grip inverted row
Originally a back workout, this exercise activates your biceps with the underhand grip.

How to do it: Grab the bar with an underhand grip so that your palms are facing you. Let your body hang so that your arms are completely straight. Your body should form a straight line in this position. Engage your upper back muscles by pulling your shoulder blades down while you use your biceps to pull yourself up towards the bar. Pause at the bar, and then lower yourself back down to the start position. Repeat for as many reps and sets as needed.

#4. Explosive Pull Ups

This exercise will not only work your biceps, but your shoulders and back as well. The explosive motion really forces your muscles to work overtime, allowing you to do fewer reps with better results.

Explosive pull ups
Explosive pull ups incorporate your back, shoulders, & biceps.

How to do it: Using a wider than shoulder grip, grab a chin up bar and hang with your arms straight. In one fluid, explosive motion, pull yourself up so that your chest is level with the bar. Pause, and then lower yourself back down to the starting position. Repeat for as many reps as needed, or until your arms can’t take anymore punishment.

#5. Kneeling Alternate Kettlebell Curls

This is one of those unique bicep workouts that uses a bench and kettlebells. You can choose to do this exercise on the floor but it will be easier on your knees if you do it on a bench or even a mat. It’s definitely a challenge, so use caution and start out with just a few reps and sets. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

kneeling alternate kettlebell curls
Reduce pressure on your knees by doing these curls while kneeling on a bench.

How to do it: Kneel on the bench with your knees shoulder length apart. Starting with the kettlebells at your sides, lift them to your chest and hold the position. Lower just one arm at a time, keeping your other arm in the chest position. Curl the lowered arm kettlebell to the chest and hold. Then, lower the opposite arm and complete the curl motion. Alternate arms, always keeping the non curling arm at the chest. Repeat for 2-3 reps per arm, 1-2 sets to start, and add more reps and sets once you’ve mastered the move and your arms are able to take the abuse.

#6. Hanging Band Barbell Curl

This is another unique bicep workout that uses bands to hold weights on the barbell. You can use barbell weights or kettlebells for this exercise. Using the hanging band technique forces controlled form on the user in order to keep the weights from swinging and throwing you off balance. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Hanging band barbell curl
The hanging band barbell curl move force you to instill more control on your form.

How to do it: After you’ve safely attached your weights to the barbell, stand with your arms at least 6” apart holding the barbell with your palms facing up. Keeping your upper arms still, bend your arms up at the elbow. Go slow and stay controlled so you don’t throw off your balance with a swinging weight. Pause once you’ve reached your shoulders, and then lower the bar back down to the starting position. Repeat for as many reps and sets as needed.

#7. Bent Over Barbell Row

This barbell exercise made it onto our list of best bicep exercises because it activates the bicep on the pull motion, causing more damage to the muscle and providing a greater amount of muscle gain.

bent over barbell
The pull motion in the barbell curl activates your biceps more.

How to do it: Grab your weighted barbell and stand with your feet shoulder length apart. Hold the barbell at arms length with your hips and knees slightly bent. Engage your core and pull the barbell towards your core. Pause, and then lower back down to the starting position. Repeat as needed. (Are the palms facing up or down on this exercise? If the palms are facing up, it will engage the biceps more).

#8. Racked Farmers Carry

This bicep workout uses two dumbbells of equal weight. Holding the weights in the “racked” position while completing the exercise activates the bicep in an isometric hold for maximum overload to your target muscle.

Racked farmers carry
The racked position while completing the exercise activates the bicep

How to do it: Stand with your dumbbells and raise them until they are hovering at your shoulders, as if you were carrying a bag on each shoulder. With the weights in place, walk forward for at least 30 feet. Turn around and then walk back to your starting place. Repeat for a many reps and sets as needed.

#9. Barbell Curl

If you don’t have a barbell with weights at home, this bicep exercise might be best to do at the gym. You can choose the weight size that fits best, but aim for being able to complete at least 10 reps per set. If you can’t, then you should go with lighter weights and build up to the next weight size to reduce the risk of injury.

barbell curls
Build up weight and reps gradually with bicep curls to avoid injury.

How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder length apart with the barbell resting in your hands on your thighs, palms up. In a single motion, slowly lift the barbell by bending your elbows and using your bicep muscle and keeping the upper arms still until you’ve reached your chest. Pause, and then lower the barbell back down to the starting position. Repeat as needed.

#10. E-Z Bar Curl

This exercise is done in the same way as the barbell curl, but it uses an E-Z bar instead of a barbell. This one made the list as one of the best bicep exercises because it provides an alternative to the barbell curl, giving your elbows and wrists a rest.

E-Z bar curl
The shape of the E-Z bar decreases pressure on your elbows and wrists.

How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder length apart with the E-Z bar in your hands, making sure your hands are at least 6” apart and palms are up. Keeping your upper arms still, bend your arms up at the elbow until the bar reaches your chest. Pause, then lower the bar back down to the starting position. Repeat as needed.

#11. Preacher Curl

This curl is considered one of the best bicep exercises because it forces your bicep to do all the work to lift the weight. You can use a preacher bench but if you don’t have one available, you can use a Swiss/yoga ball or a bench at a 45° angle.

Preacher curl
The preacher curl is one of the best workouts for bicep isolation.

How to do it: Stand behind the preacher bench with your chest level to the top of the bench back.  If you are using a ball, angle your arm so that it rests on the ball and your body is behind it. Rest your upper arm on the bench with your arm extended all the way and dumbbell in your hand, palm facing up. Keeping your upper arm against the bench, lift your arm at the elbow and bring the weight to your shoulder. Pause, and then lower your arm back down to the starting position. Switch arms once you’ve finished your reps for a full set.

#12. Barbell Preacher Curl

This bicep exercise is very similar to the preacher curl but you use a barbell instead of dumbbells and work both arms at the same time.

Barbell preacher curl
The barbell curls work both arms compared to the dumbbell preacher curls.

How to do it: Stand behind the preacher bench with your chest level to the top of the bench. Alternatively, you can do this seated with your chest level to the preacher bench. Hold the barbell in both hands at least 6” apart, with palms facing up. Rest both upper arms on the bench and make sure both arms are flat on the bench to start. Keeping your upper arms on the bench, lift your arms at the elbow up to your shoulders. Pause, then lower the barbell back down until your hands are resting on the bench. Repeat for as many reps and sets as needed.

#13. Standing Resistance Band Curl

This exercise makes our list of best bicep exercises because you can do it virtually anywhere. The only equipment you need to complete it is a resistance band. Using the resistance from the band rather than weight to build muscle is a great alternative to dumbbells or barbell weights.

Standing resistance band curl
Resistance band bicep curls can be done at home or the gym.

How to do it: Stand on one end of the resistance band with your feet shoulder length apart. Start with your hands either palm up on your thighs, gripping the band, or with your palms facing each other, as if you were holding a hammer. Regardless of your hand position, they should both be parallel to each other. Keeping your hands in position and your elbows static, raise your arms up to your chest in a smooth motion. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the motion and then slowly and smoothly lower your arms back down to the starting position, maintaining band resistance throughout the motions. Repeat as needed.

#14. Cable Rope Hammer Curl

In order to do this cable bicep workout, you’ll need access to a cable machine. This one might be best left to doing at the gym if you don’t have a machine at home. A cable machine offers constant tension when using it to complete exercise reps, so can offer a way to shake up your routine or reduce boredom and prevent an exercise plateau.

Cable Rope Hammer curl
The cable machine poses constant tension and livens up your routine.

How to do it: Using the low pulley of the cable machine, grab each end of the rope with your hands. Keep your knees shoulder length apart and press your elbows into your sides with your palms facing up. Standing straight with your knees slightly bent, curl the rope towards your shoulders in a slow and steady motion, keeping your elbows locked at your sides. Lower the rope back down to the starting position, and repeat.

#15. Standing Dumbbell Curl

What bicep workout routine is complete without the classic standing dumbbell curl? For this bicep exercise, all you need is 2 dumbbells of equal weight. This is an easy one to get in your home bicep workout before you head out for the day or go to sleep for the night.

Standing dumbbell curl
Standing bicep curls are a classic exercise and one of the best bicep workouts.

How to do it: Stand with your legs shoulder width apart, and have your hands at your sides with a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing in. In one fluid motion, bend your elbows and raise the dumbbells to your shoulders, keeping your upper arms stationary at all times. Pause, then use the same type of motion to lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. Repeat as needed to complete your sets.

#16. Incline Dumbbell Curl

Similar to the standing dumbbell curl, the incline dumbbell curl offers an extra challenge to the bicep brachii muscle. By starting laying down with your arms towards the ground, your brachii muscle is at a deficit with less leverage than if you were standing.

incline dumbbell curl
Incline dumbbell curls exert more pressure on the bicep brachii muscle.

How to do it: With your 2 dumbbells in hand, lay back on an incline bench that is set at a 45° angle. Keeping your upper arms still, lift at the elbow to bring the weights up with your palms facing up and towards you as the weight comes to your shoulders. Pause, then lower the weights back down the starting position. Be sure to straighten your arms out before you start your next rep for maximum results. Repeat until you’ve met your sets goal.

#17. Hammer Dumbbell Curl

This variant of the dumbbell curl is one of the best bicep exercises because it focuses on the brachialis muscle in the bicep.

Hammer dumbbell curl
The hammer dumbbell curl focuses on the brachialis muscle in the bicep.

How to do it: Stand with your feet close to shoulder length apart. Make sure you have a neutral spine and bend slightly at the knee. Hold the dumbbells so that your elbows are just forward of the hips at your waist and your palms are facing each other. Raise the dumbbells up, just past 90°. Pause, and then lower the weights back down to the starting position.

#18. Squat Concentration Curl

This bicep exercise will also provide a powerful lower body workout. You’ll want to use lighter weights than you would with a dumbbell curl for this exercise.

Squat concentration curl
Squat concentration curls are a workout for your lower & upper body.

How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder length apart and enter the squat position. With your palms facing each other, your weight squarely over your heels, and your elbows tight against your thighs, lift the weight in a curl position until it reaches your chest. Pause, and then lower back down to the starting position. You will stay in the squat position for the duration of your sets, so now you can see why this particular exercise is not only great for your biceps but your lower body as well! Repeat as needed.

The Absolute Best Bicep Workout According to Science

When you are looking for the absolute best bicep workout to ensure your muscles pop, look no further than the 2014 study completed by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). They tested seven different bicep exercises to determine the best exercise to isolate the bicep. Once results came in, they determined a clear winner in the concentration curl.

Concentration curl
Concentration curls are scientifically proven to be the best bicep workout.

How to do it: Sit on a stationary and level surface – yoga ball, workout bench, or chair. Sit with your feet at least shoulder length apart, and rest your right elbow on the inner thigh of your right leg with dumbbell in hand. If needed, lean forward at the hips so you are able to clear the bench with the weight. Be sure to keep your back straight. Rest your left palm on your left thigh for leverage.

Slowly lower the dumbbell towards the floor without locking your elbow. In a smooth motion, lift it up to curl using only your bicep muscle to pull the weight up, keeping your back and chest straight. Slowly lower the weight back down and continue the motion for as many reps as possible. Switch to your other arm and repeat. If the weight is too heavy to do at least 10 reps, then you should size down until you can. Do at least 3-4 full sets for maximum results.

Which of these bicep workouts is your favorite? Is there one not listed here that you love? Tell us about it in the comments.

Disclaimer: None of the individuals and/or companies mentioned necessarily endorse Old School Labs or COSIDLA Inc. products or the contents of this article. Any programs provided for illustration purposes only. Always consult with your personal trainer, nutritionist and physician before changing or starting any new exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.
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