BicepsFrequently Asked Questions
Can you share some basic tips on biceps training?
Before you even think about building those arms, I’m going to share a few basic tips you need to follow to get real results.
1. Heaviest isn’t always best
Don’t be that guy who tries to build his arms by curling with the biggest, heaviest dumbbell he can pick up. If your equipment is too heavy, your form will probably be no good, so you’re not really going to get the best results. If you’re really pushing yourself to your limits on chest and back days, you don’t really need to kill it on arm days, anyway. Instead of going heavy, stick to more reps with a lighter weight. About 60 bicep curls should do the trick.
2. Get your reps up
Pre-fatigue is a great way to start a session and you’ll get it with high reps before you move on to your main workout. This is also a smart way to reduce your elbow pain and make sure you’re properly warmed up before you intensify your workout.
3. Hold it
Think about a bicep curl the same way you’d think about romancing a woman: you shouldn’t rush it. For effective bicep curls, you’ll want to keep them at the peak for a good ten seconds and then lower each one nice and slowly. Spending around 3 to 4 seconds to return to the starting position is best. This will keep those muscles under a good amount of tension for longer. If you can’t hold the weight for this long, go ahead and reduce it.
4. It’s all about range
If you can’t move your biceps through the whole range of motion, then you’d better move on and do something else. The biggest biceps come from you working the entire muscle under full control. Yes. Full control. No cutting corners or dropping weights here. This isn’t an Olympic weight lifting session!
5. Lock it down
Locking it down effectively means you’re not moving any other muscle but the muscles you’re using to finish the move. If you’re curling in a standing position, push your back against the wall. Lock down those shoulders by pushing those shoulder blades back. If you’re moving other muscles in your body, you’re losing out where it matters most.
6. It’s also about angles
I get it: trigonometry wasn’t your favourite subject in school, but in the gym, it’s all about angles. Angles help you to isolate certain muscles. This will also save you from an endless cycle of curling without actually making any gains.
7. Get thick
Ever heard of thick-handled training? It’s what everyone’s doing right now. It basically means you increase the thickness of the bars you’re using. This helps activate your biceps even more. You can do this in two ways: you can either buy a specially designed fat grip handle or just use a gym towel and wrap it around your dumbbell handle.
What are the best biceps exercises and workouts?
Now that you know the basics, let’s get down to business. Here are the exercises that will help you build those biceps.
1. The chin-up
You can really activate your biceps with an underhand grip during your chin-ups. You’ll need to do about 3 or 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps each. Remember what I pointed out earlier: control is what it is all about. If you can’t get through all the reps, don’t be so hard on yourself. As long as your form is right, you’ll build those biceps sooner than later.
2. The underhand row
This is a barbell bent-over row, but your hands need to be placed hip-width apart. Hold the bar with an underhand grip. This will really get your biceps burning! Row right up to your abdomen, hold and then squeeze those biceps. Three to 4 sets of about 8 to 12 reps should do the trick.
3. EZ-bar curls
The great thing about using a curved bar is that your wrists won’t take as much strain as they would with a straight bar. This means heavier lifting and a better range of motion. Make sure you squeeze those biceps like Arnie did in Mr. Universe when the bar is right above your chest, and keep those arms straight when you lower the bar. Three to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps each are what you’re aiming for.
4. Spider curls
I can’t say this enough: range of motion is what biceps exercises are all about!
Spider curls are one of the best exercises that give you a full range of motion. You can do spider curls with an EZ bar or straight barbell—use whatever tickles your fancy.
To begin, set your bench at a 45-degree angle. Lie face-down on the bench and hold the bar with your palms facing upwards. Curl it, squeezing those biceps and once the bar is at the top, hold and then lower it, nice and slow.
Your form needs to be good here. Your upper arm needs to be perpendicular (fancy word for a 90- degree angle) to the ground. You’re only using your forearms to lift that bar here.
5. Preacher curl
Sit down on a preacher bench—I say sit down because you can’t cheat as easily when you’re sitting down as you can standing up! Hold your barbell then extend your arms fully. Make sure you lock those triceps in. Look straight ahead and curl the weight, keeping those muscles nice and tense. Don’t even think about curling that weight until your forearm actually touches your biceps! Slowly lower the weight all the way back down to the starting position.
6. The concentration curl
You can do this one while standing or sitting, but sitting is usually better. Whatever position you choose, start off by putting a little bit of an arch on your back before you lean over and grab that dumbbell. If you’re sitting, rest those triceps against your inner thigh and then curl the dumbbell slowly until you get a full range of motion. The dumbbell should end up near your pectoral muscles. When you lower the dumbbell, your arm should be fully extended.
What's the best biceps workout equipment?
So you’ve got some spare cash and you’re ready to get your biceps in shape. What next? Don’t just throw the first pair of barbells you find into your shopping basket and head out the door. Before we look at the equipment itself, let’s go over the questions you need to ask yourself and important stuff you need to know before you even step foot into a gym equipment store.
1. What are your goals?
Do you want arms like Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (the Icelandic strongman who played “The Mountain” in HBO’s Game of Thrones) or do you just want stronger arms? Are you training for a sport or competition, or just for yourself?
2. How strong are you?
Now that you know where you want to go, it’s time to get real: how much can you lift right now? There’s just no use in buying equipment you can’t train with, but it’s also important that you get equipment you can move onto, once you’re a little stronger. You can go to your local gym and take some time to test the different equipment yourself. Just make sure you’re focusing on form, as well as lift capacity.
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to get weights that are about 10% heavier than you can lift right now. Remember, all weights need to come in pairs if you are buying for a barbell, but dumbbells can be used as singles.
3. What exercises do you want to do?
You also need to think about the exercises you want to do. You can do a lot of exercises with a good pair of barbells, but there’s a big chance that you’ll get bored with them. This is where variation can really help. Adding a twist to your existing exercises will keep you motivated and keep you pushing your boundaries.
4. How much space do you have?
It might sound like I’m stating the obvious—I am but it needs to be said—but you need to have enough space to fit all your equipment into your home gym. If you’re not working with a lot of space, you’d better invest in a more versatile machine that allows you to do a lot of different exercises, rather than different machines that only do one specific exercise each and take up a lot of room.
A quality weight bench and adjustable weights are worth investing in if you’re working with a small space. Remember, you’re not only going to use the space for storing the equipment, but also for actually using them and moving around your gym.
5. Equipment limitations
Most newbies feel like the sky’s the limit when they look at machines. It can be easy to trick yourself into believing that you’ll never outgrow a machine, but this just isn’t true. Most machines come with a maximum load capacity. Once you’re benching more than that, you need to replace it if you want to get more gains. This is especially true for cheap equipment, assuming they last long enough for you to outgrow them!
You also need to think about your body size. If you’re getting a bench, check the dimensions so you’re not left feeling like you are balancing on a flimsy plank the next time you’re benching.
6. The accessories
Some pieces of equipment come fully loaded, while others are so simple yet effective that they don’t need any more accessories. The barbell, for example, doesn’t need bells and whistles. It’s an honest piece of metal that commands respect. Sure, bars need collars and the weights need storage, but that’s pretty much it. You might not be so lucky with other equipment. Make sure you prepare yourself for any added costs before you end up with a heavy gym and an empty wallet.
Now, let’s move on to the best biceps-blasting equipment:
1. The multi-gym
This equipment has weight plates connected to cables and pulleys, so you can fire up your biceps with some good ol’ resistance training. The multi-gym comes with a frame and also holds a bench or seat. Some multi-gyms also come with a range of attachments, but the variety and quality depends on the model you buy. Remember, with this type of equipment, you’re limited by a maximum weight capacity. As long as you’re going to some some good use out of it before hitting that maximum level, you’re good to go.
2. Lifting stations
Lifting stations are simple pieces of equipment that are ideal if you already have some equipment like weights. The lifting station is basically a frame for placing heavy bars onto once you’re done with them. Some might come with a bench and other functionalities. Once again, this depends on the model.
3. Weight benches
A good weight bench is a must if you’re lifting weights. The adjustable weight bench is a more versatile option than the traditional flat bench, so I recommend you get the former. Some of them even allow you to rest weights like barbells on them. Keep in mind that weight benches don’t come with weights, not unless you get a package, but trust me, these benches are absolutely worth it!
When it comes to building your biceps, training with weights is absolutely essential. Here are the 4 different types:
- Barbells: these are weights separated by a weight lifting bar, and they can come with fixed or individual weight plates. They’re great for bicep work, but the perks don’t stop there. Once arm day is done, you can use them for squats and bent-over rows, too.
- Dumbbells: these are handheld weights that may either be fixed or adjustable. The adjustable weights tend to be more expensive, but they’re more versatile.
- Kettlebells: the asymmetrical shape of kettlebells is also what makes them so appealing. Solid, fixed-weight kettlebells don’t have moving parts but are ball-shaped with a looped handle. They’re great for core workouts, too.
- Weight plates: these are usually disc-shaped weights that you can attach to a bar or adjustable weight handles like a dumbbell or kettlebell.
When it comes to blasting your biceps, it helps to remember the important tips I shared with you (form and range of motion!) as much as it is to know which exercises will give you the best results and which equipment are worth investing in. Now, let’s do more preacher curls!
Is a Biceps Curl a compound exercise?
Not necessarily. Traditionally, a strict Bicep Curl (with no swinging or cheating) is an isolation, or ‘Single joint’ exercise. It is targeting just the biceps (basically) by flexing the elbow joint.
Whereas compound exercises target multiple muscles attached to multiple joints (e.g. pullups, which work by moving at the shoulder and elbow joint, and target your lats, traps biceps, core etc). Heavy bicep curls can also work a lot of stabiliser muscles, such as those in your upper back and core, but for whatever reason, bicep curls are known as an isolation exercise. Don’t question it – just do your curls if you want big(ger) biceps!
Is a Bicep Curl a Pull Exercise?
Yes, a Bicep Curl is a pull exercise. The function of the biceps is to flex the elbow, I.e., pull your hand closer to your shoulder. In this way, you are pulling the weight from one position to another. For other exercises, such as the Chest Fly, it may seem like you are pulling your hands together, when really you are pushing them up and together.