The 9 Best Biceps Exercises for Bulging Biceps

alternating dumbbell curls

These are the best 9 biceps exercises that will burst your arms through your sleeves. 

What muscle comes to mind when you think of guys flexing their muscles? If biceps was your answer, then you guessed correct! Big and burly arms are signs of masculinity, and many men love to flaunt these muscles. 

Building bigger biceps is pretty simple–you curl and lift more weight than last time. However, specific biceps workouts get the job done better than others. In this article, we’ll dive into the best nine biceps exercises you should be doing if you want to curl two girls on either side of your arms. 

Best Biceps Exercises

When it comes to the best bicep exercises, you are going to want to do things that hit both heads of the biceps. You want to pack on the muscle mass and grow the peaks, as well as the thickness of the muscle group.

Here is our list of the best bicep exercises:

  • Barbell Curl
  • Hammer Curl
  • EZ Bar Preacher Curl
  • Dumbbell Preacher Hammer Curl
  • Incline Hammer Curl
  • Incline Dumbbell Curl
  • Alternate Hammer Curl
  • Dumbbell Bicep Curl
  • Cable Curl

Barbell Curl

The barbell curl is arguably at the top of the best biceps exercises. It grows big and strong biceps because you’ll perform this movement on a barbell, allowing you to lift some serious weight. Dumbbell movements are unilateral (single-limb) exercises, so you’ll be able to use heavier weights on barbell curl compared to other curl variations since it’s a bilateral (multi-joint) exercise. 

Benefits of the Barbell Curl

  • You’ll build strong biceps since the barbell enables you to use more weight than dumbbells. 
  • It’s a bilateral movement that engages both sides of your body, allowing you to use a more significant load. 

How to Do the Barbell Curl

Load a barbell with weight and grab it with a supinated (underhand) grip shoulder-width apart. Stand upright with your shoulders retracted and curl the barbell up. Keep your elbows tight to your body to ensure you’re engaging your biceps to lift the weight, not momentum. 

Hammer Curl 

The hammer curl made the list of the best biceps exercises since it’s done in a neutral grip (palms facing each other). Generally, neutral grip curls will let you use heavier dumbbells. Also, a neutral grip places less strain on your wrists. This grip targets the biceps brachialis and brachioradialis (forearm muscles), so you’ll also develop thicker forearms

Benefits of the Hammer Curl

  • The hammer curl is healthier for your wrists
  • Compared to other dumbbell curl variations, you’ll be able to lift heavier weights. 
  • You’ll target both your inner biceps and forearms for overall more muscular arms. 

How to Do the Hammer Curl

Grab dumbbells with a neutral grip. Curl the dumbbells to your biceps without swinging your arms or leaning forward. Also, ensure your torso is upright, and your shoulders aren’t rounded. 

EZ Bar Preacher Curl

The EZ bar preacher curl gives you a greater range of motion (ROM) when targeting your biceps, earning it a spot on the best biceps exercises list. Putting an exercise through more ROM will increase you’re muscle’s time under tension (TUT), meaning your biceps will be under a load for longer–therefore, you’ll build more muscle. In addition, using an EZ bar will protect your wrists. 

Benefits of the EZ Bar Preacher Curl

  • You’ll put your biceps under resistance for extended periods to help biceps muscle growth. 
  • The angle of the preacher curl targets different parts of your biceps. 
  • The EZ bar puts less pressure on your wrists than a straight barbell.

How to Do the EZ Bar Preacher Curl  

Sit on a preacher curl bench and rest your triceps on the padding. Grasp the EZ bar on the inner angled part. Curl the barbell up without letting your arms move from the pad or your butt lift off the seat. 

Dumbbell Preacher Hammer Curl 

The dumbbell preacher hammer curl is similar to the EZ bar preacher curl, except it’s with dumbbells, of course. Using dumbbells will isolate each muscle more for a better mind-to-muscle connection to help your lagging biceps grow. Moreover, the dumbbell preacher hammer curl is done in a neutral grip, so you’ll be able to use heavier dumbbells, protect your wrists, and engage your forearms. 

Benefits of the Dumbbell Preacher Hammer Curl

  • You’ll be able to focus on one side of your biceps to get both sides to equal strength. 
  • You can use heavier dumbbells.
  • This exercise protects your wrists.

How to Do the Dumbbell Preacher Hammer Curl

Sit on a preacher curl bench and rest your triceps on the pads. Then grab dumbbells in a neutral position and lift them. 

Incline Hammer Curl

The incline hammer curl is done on a bench at an incline with dumbbells in a neutral grip. This incline increases the workload on your biceps since you’ll have to curl the dumbbells through a great range of motion. A neutral grip will let you do this with less wrist strain and engage more of your forearms and the long head of your biceps. Moreover, the incline makes it harder to use momentum, which would take the focus off your biceps. 

Benefits of the Incline Hammer Curl

  • A greater range of motion happens during a bicep curl. 
  • It prevents you from using momentum and cheating on the lift. 
  • You’ll build thicker forearms. 

How to Do the Incline Hammer Curl

Put a bench on an incline at about a 60-degree angle. Let your arms hang while holding the dumbbell with your palms facing each other. Keep your shoulders stable and curl the dumbbells up. 

Incline Dumbbell Curl 

The incline dumbbell curl provides similar benefits to the incline hammer curl; however, it won’t engage your forearms as much, but it will target more of the shorter head of your biceps while giving you a greater range of motion than a dumbbell curl without an incline. 

Benefits of the Incline Dumbbell Curl

  • It will target more of the shorter head of your biceps.
  • You’ll get an extended range of motion. 

How to Do the Incline Dumbbell Curl 

You’ll place a bench at about a 60-degree angle and sit with your arms extending at your side and grasping dumbbells in an underhand grip. Curl the dumbbells up without leaning too far over to one side of your body. 

Alternate Hammer Curl

The alternate hammer curl is an alternating dumbbell curl in a neutral grip that can be done in a seated or standing position. It won’t give you the same range of motion performing curls at an incline will, but it will allow you to use heavier weights to build more muscular biceps and forearms. Also, you’ll fix muscular imbalances since you’re alternating one biceps curl at a time. 

Benefits of the Alternate Hammer Curl

  • Better mind-to-muscle connection to grow the lagging biceps. 
  • This exercise will allow you to use heavier weights than incline or supinated grip curls. 

How to Do the Alternate Hammer Curl

Stand upright with your shoulders back, then curl the dumbbells up with a neutral grip while keeping your elbows tight by your side and without moving your shoulders. Alternate each side one rep at a time. 

Dumbbell Bicep Curl 

The dumbbell bicep curl is similar to the alternate hammer curl, except it’s done with a supinated grip. As a result, it won’t engage your forearms as much as the alternate hammer curl or allow you to use as much weight, but it will target the short head of your biceps more. 

Benefits of the Dumbbell Bicep Curl

  • The dumbbell bicep curl activates more of the short head of your biceps muscle. 
  • You’ll isolate each side of your biceps. 

How to Do the Dumbbell Bicep Curl 

Stand or sit upright without protracting your shoulders. Standing will engage more of your core while sitting will target your biceps more. Next, curl each dumbbell. If you start in a neutral grip and rotate your grip to a supinated grip during the curl, you’ll activate more muscle fibers. 

Cable Curl 

The cable curl is performed on the cable pulley machine, of course. You can do these with the rope or straight bar extension, depending on your goal. Use the rope if your goal is to engage more of your forearms, grip strength, and long head. Conversely, the barbell will target the long head of your biceps more. The cable machine will keep the tension the same throughout the movement, whereas a dumbbell curl and barbell curl has sticking points–more challenging parts of the curl. 

Benefits of the Cable Curl

  • There are no sticking points.
  • You have a variety of cable attachments to choose from to engage different muscles of your biceps and arms. 

How to Do the Cable Curl

Attach a straight bar to a cable pulley machine with the curling apparatus fixed at the bottom. Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip and curl the bar without swaying your body or moving your arms.

About the Biceps Muscle

The biceps are made up of two muscles on the arm. Hence, its Latin name, brachii–of the arm muscle. They’re attached to your elbow and shoulder joints and function to flex your elbow and rotate your wrist. Your biceps make up a portion of the size of your arms, and you work them during pulling movements, such as barbell-bent over row and pull-ups

Your biceps are made up of a short head and a long head. The movements you perform will determine which head you engage more. For example, you target your long head more during a hammer curl since it’s a neutral grip and focus more on your short head during a barbell curl, using a supinated grip (1). 

How to Train Your Biceps

You already train your biceps as a secondary muscle group during pulling movements, but you’ll want to isolate your biceps to get them to grow. Having a separate arm day with 4-5 exercises with 2-3 sets is a surefire way to ignite muscle growth

Sets and Reps

For More Muscle

We recommend that you perform four sets of 8 to 12 reps with moderate weight to build more muscle. 

For More Endurance

If muscular endurance is your goal, keep the weight light and do more sets. For example, perform five sets of 12 to 15 reps. 

For More Strength 

The weight must be heavy if you’re training for more muscular biceps. Therefore, use a heavy weight in the six to eight range for three sets. 

Training Volume and Frequency

As long as you don’t overtrain, the more volume–sets, exercises, and reps– you do, the more your biceps will grow. Consequently, we recommend you aim to get 10 to 12 sets in a week for your biceps for maximum muscle growth. Moreover, we recommend that you do this spread out throughout the week or have a separate arm day to keep your workout performance high and to prevent overtraining. 

This study found that a training frequency of two times per week maximizes muscle growth (2).

Rules to Follow 

1. Don’t Use Momentum

Using momentum to lift the dumbbell or barbell will take tension off your biceps and increase your chances of injury. 

2. Keep Your Elbows Tight

If you swing your arms, you’ll also take the workload off your biceps. Therefore, you should keep your elbows tucked in by your side, so you only use your biceps to curl the dumbbell, barbell, or cable. 

3. Watch Your Wrists 

Specific biceps movements can cause more wrist pain than others. For example, supinated gripped exercises like barbell curl can place more strain on your wrist than dumbbell hammer curl. So it’s best to use a lighter weight and do more reps on a movement if you feel wrist pain or switch to an alternative biceps variation. 

4. Make Sure You Warm-Up

Before starting your biceps workout, it’s important you warm up to prevent injury. Also, a light warm-up will allow you to use heavier weights and build bigger, stronger biceps. Perform two warm-up sets before your “real” set. For the first set use a weight that’s 50% of what you’d use on your first set and perform 10 reps (each arm). For the second set, use weight 70% of your starting weight and complete 6-8 reps (each arm).

More Training Tips for Biceps

This article covered the best biceps exercises. But check out these other biceps workouts to target both the short head and long head of your biceps more effectively:

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more of the top exercises! 


References

  1. Jarrett, C. D., Weir, D. M., Stuffmann, E. S., Jain, S., Miller, M. C., & Schmidt, C. C. (2012). Anatomic and biomechanical analysis of the short and long head components of the distal biceps tendon. Journal of shoulder and elbow surgery, 21(7), 942–948. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jse.2011.04.030
  2. Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2016). Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 46(11), 1689–1697. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-016-0543-8
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.