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April 15, 2021
Since you’ve landed here, it’s safe to assume that you are looking for the most effective resistance band exercises for your biceps. As resistance band experts, we know exactly how to target the biceps with bands. Below you will find 6 simple yet awesome bicep exercises with resistance bands. These different types of resistance band curls are all highly effective for building your bicep muscles and achieving that mountain high peak!
Rather than just jumping right into the resistance band bicep exercises, we want to cover the anatomy of the biceps, which will help you understand how bicep exercises act on the function of these muscles and how you can better engage them during curls. We will also go over the benefits of using bands for bicep exercises, so you can see why bands are so great for bicep exercises, even if you have dumbbells and barbells at your disposal.
Your biceps are made up of two muscles (hence the “bi” in biceps) - the brachialis and the biceps brachii.
The brachialis sits on the lower half of your upper arm, under the biceps brachii. It attaches to your upper arm bone (more formally know as the humerus) and to your ulna bone of your forearm. It’s main function is to flex your elbow (bringing your hand towards your shoulder - or in other words, it bends your elbow **cough cough CURLS**).
The biceps brachii is a two-headed muscle (long and short head) that connects to the scapular and radius bone of the forearm. This means it acts on both the shoulder joint and elbow joint. The biceps brachii is also a flexor of the elbow and it helps turn the forearm so your palm can face outward (which is supination). It also helps move your upper arm forward and upward (like an upper cut movement, which is called forward flexion of the shoulder).
Because the biceps act on flexion of the elbow and forward flexion of the shoulder, the biceps will be activated during any pulling exercises - i.e. pull ups, chin ups, rows.
In fact, compound pulling exercises are so effective for the biceps that if you do these exercises with enough resistance, you could effectively never do bicep isolation exercises and still have some nice looking arms.
That said, bicep isolation exercises are great if your biceps are lagging or you simply want some super impressive biceps (which is why bodybuilders spend a lot of time doing curls!). So, while bicep isolation exercise are not necessary if you are doing an adequate amount of compound pulling exercises, they are great for building impressive arms if you have the time.
Note: Unless you are a bodybuilder, there’s no point focusing a whole workout on your arms. Just do a couple/few bicep exercises after your workout (ideally a pulling workout as they will already being somewhat fatigued so it won’t take much to exhaust them fully).
At SET FOR SET, we like to do a several sets of bicep isolation exercises (with bands and/or dumbbells) after a pulling workout - the Push Pull Leg split is our favorite.
One thing every bicep exercise has in common is they are all curls - i.e. bicep curl, reverse curl, hammer curl, and so on.
This is because the biceps are activated when curling. That is their primary moving function! The curling movement is the only way they will lengthen and contract, which is what you want for building muscle.
The biceps also act on forearm supination, so you will want to employ some forearm supination into your curls sometimes (more on this later)!
Now…it’s important to understand that not all curls are alike. By changing angles, hand position, and load placement, you can alter how the stress is placed on your muscles. These training variables are very important for developing boulder-like biceps with impressive peaks.
Bicep curls obviously work your brachialis and the biceps brachii. However, it’s not just your biceps that get activated, as your forearms always come along for the ride with bicep curls. And depending on the type of curl, you will have more or less forearm activation. Even your shoulders and core come into play. With unilateral banded bicep curls, your core has to stabilize your torso.
So, is there really any form of true bicep isolation?
Technically no, but curls are as good as it gets. Moreover, certain types of curls, like concentration curls, really do a good job of honing in on just the biceps. But again, there will be some forearm activation, and shoulder activation through isometric contraction.
We all know that bands are great because they provide freedom to train at home, or anywhere you please, as they are lightweight and portable, not to mention inexpensive.
However, the real benefit has nothing to do with that in our opinion. These are the reasons why resistance bands are so great for bicep exercises (or any exercise for that matter):
2. Single Arm Resistance Band Reverse Bicep Curl (0:35)
3. Single Arm Resistance Band Hammer Curl (0:48)
4. Resistance Band Bicep Curl (1:03)
5. Resistance Band Reverse Bicep Curl (1:18)
6. Resistance Band Concentration Curl | Anchored (1:26)
This is a standard bicep curl, but using a single arm at time.
Loop the band around your feet (more or less times for more or less resistance). Grab the band with your palms up. Curl the band up while keeping your elbow pinned to your side. Squeeze at the top and lower down slowly.
Single Arm Banded Bicep Curl Muscles Worked:
Activates the the brachialis, biceps brachii, and brachioradialis (forearm muscle also involved in elbow flexion). Your biceps brachii short head is more activated than the long head - unless you use our tip. Your core will also be engaged for stability.
Loop the band around your feet (more or less times for more or less resistance). Grab the band with your palms down. Curl the band up while keeping your elbow pinned to your side. Squeeze at the top and lower down slowly.
Single Arm Banded Reverse Bicep Curl Muscles Worked:
Activates brachialis and biceps brachii (more so the long head), but it actually turns your forearms from secondary movers into the primary mover. Also, since it is single armed, you will activate your core as well for core stability.
Hammer curls have your hands in a neutral position. So, you will be performing a bicep curl just like the previous exercise, but with your hand in a neutral position the entire time (palm in).
Single Arm Banded Hammer Curl Muscles Worked:
Activates the the brachialis, biceps brachii, and brachioradialis. More long-head bicep brachii activation and forearm activation. Your core will also be engaged for stability.
Step onto the inside of the band with both feet (about hip width apart). Grab the band with your palms up and about hip width apart (you can vary the width of your grip as this is a training variable that will alter how the biceps are worked).
Curl the band up while keeping your elbows pinned to your side. Squeeze at the top and lower down slowly.
Banded Bicep Curl Muscles Worked:
Activates the the brachialis, biceps brachii, and brachioradialis (forearm muscle also involved in elbow flexion). Your biceps brachii short head is more activated than the long head.
Step onto the inside of the band with both feet (about hip width apart). Grab the band with your palms in and about hip width apart (you can vary the width of your grip as this is a training variable that will alter how the biceps are worked).
Curl the band up while keeping your elbows pinned to your side. Squeeze at the top and lower down slowly.
Banded Reverse Bicep Curl Muscles Worked:
Activates brachialis and biceps brachii (more so the long head), but it actually turns your forearms from secondary movers into the primary mover.
Anchor the band to a low anchor point. Step a good distance away from the band so it is taut from the starting position.
Get into a half-kneeling position, with the knee furthest from the anchor point forward and the other knee back. Your body should be perpendicular with the band.
Place your tricep/elbow on your inner thigh and hold the band with your palm facing up. Your forearm will be aligned with the band.
Curl the band up slowly, really honing in on your biceps. Your elbow and lower tricep will be pinned to your inner thigh for the duration of the exercise.
Use a slow tempo for this one on concentric phase (and eccentric phase too, as always).
Banded Concentration Curl Muscles Worked:
Concentration curls work the same muscles as a regular curl, but the real benefit of them is how they do a fantastic job of isolating the biceps. According to an American Council on Exercise study, concentration curls yield 97% biceps activity, compared to 76% with regular curls.
As you can see, each exercise hits the muscles differently. So if you really want to maximize your bicep muscle growth, implement all of these resistance band exercises into your routine.
TIP #1 - REPS & VOLUME FOR BICEP GROWTH:
The amount of reps you should do with resistance bands is similar to dumbbell curls. You want to keep the rep range from 8-20 reps for hypertrophy (muscle growth).
The heavier the weight, the less the reps can be, but aim for a minimum of 8.
Do around 3-5 sets.
Don’t always use the same amount of weight. Do lighter resistance for more reps and heavier resistance for less reps. Switch things up!
TIP #2 - TEMPO:
The best tempo for resistance band bicep exercises is to be very slow on the eccentric (downward - lengthening of the biceps) and explosive on the concentric (contraction, shortening of the biceps).
You can really explode up (keeping your elbow pinned) and when you reach the peak, squeeze the heck out of your biceps, then lower slowly, as to keep control of the band (you don’t want it snapping down). Plus, slow eccentric is proven to be best for muscle growth and strength. In fact, the eccentric phase is considerably more effective for muscle growth and strength.
Do you have to be explosive?
The answer to that is no. You can be explosive on the eccentric or slow and controlled. Both ways are effective.
Both ways allows for maximum time under tension. Because you will be contracting your muscle and squeezing at the top, and then lowering down very slowly, you muscle will always be under tension. Moreover, the slow eccentric tempo will make a set of 10 reps last a very long time, which means more time under tension - so, you get both max tension and time under tension.
TIP #3 - INCREASING RESISTANCE:
There are a few ways that you can increase resistance with resistance bands.
The obvious one is that you can use a heavier band (a wider band in the case of a 41 inch loop resistance band as they are all the same length and thickness, no matter what resistance level).
For bicep curls, you will be limited to how heavy of a band you can use, and actually, a single band can provide a wide range of resistance, as we’ve already mentioned.
For example, our yellow band can provide ~5-30lbs and our black band can provide ~10-50lbs. It all depends on how far it is stretched (bands increase in resistance as they stretch more).
So, with a single band, you can change the resistance level by starting with more or less tautness in the band.
If you wrap the band around your foot 3 times for a single arm bicep curl, it will have more resistance than if you wrapped it around 1 or 2 times.
You can also wrap it around your hand more for increased resistance.
If you are using an anchor, simply stepping further away from the anchor point will increase the resistance.
It’s very simple. Play around with this when doing bicep curls with resistance bands and you will see what we mean.
TIP #4 - BICEP CURL TIP FOR MORE BICEP BRACHII ENGAGEMENT:
Now that we’ve went over the anatomy of bicep curls, you can see that the brachialis does most of the work for curls as it is the muscle responsible for bending your elbow.
Yes, your biceps brachii helps with elbow flexion too, but it is not working to its full extent.
If you want more biceps brachii engagement, which I think we all do, here are two effective ways to achieve that.
Let us explain each.
Forward Shoulder Flexion at Peak Contraction
Perform a bicep curl as you would with your elbow pinned to your sides. When you reach the top range of motion, meaning you can’t curl it up any further, bring your elbow up and forward a few inches and squeeze your biceps hard.
So, just to reiterate, your elbow will be pinned to your side, we are not suggesting any elbow movement until you reach the top of the curl. Only at the top, when you can’t curl any further, should you bring your elbow forward and upward a bit. Remember, the bicep brachiis act on this movement. W
With this little tip, you can really hit your biceps brachii to their full extent.
Rather than starting the exercise with your palms up during bicep curls, like we demonstrated in the video, try this variation…
Start with your palm-in (neutral position), then, as you curl up, rotate your wrist out (supination). By the time you reach peak contraction, your hands will be pointing slightly outward.
This twist allows you to take your biceps through their full range of motion. A great range of motion is great for building muscle.
It also activates your biceps brachii to a greater degree as this muscle acts on forearm supination.
Should I do this for every set of curls?
This is not going to work for reverse curls or concentration curls, so don’t do it with those two exercises.
Moreover, you don’t have to do this all the time, just implement it into your bicep exercises where it makes sense (i.e. do one or the other tricks for a couple sets of curls).
RESISTANCE BAND BICEP WORKOUT #1 (sets & reps)
RESISTANCE BAND BICEP WORKOUT #2 (supersets)
You could also do them as supersets. So do the first two back to back, for 3 sets, then do the next two as supersets for 3 sets. This will make your workout more efficient.
RESISTANCE BAND BICEP WORKOUT #3 (circuit)
This is a circuit. You do 30 seconds work then 30 seconds rest, then you move on to the next exercise.
Do this circuit 3-4 times
RESISTANCE BAND BICEP WORKOUT #4 (EMOM)
Do each exercise Every Minute On The Minute (EMOM). You will only be doing one set for each exercise. So, as soon as the minute hits, you move on to the next exercise.
Be sure to set up for the next exercise before the new minute begins.
Repeat for 2-4 rounds.
RESISTANCE BAND BICEP WORKOUT #5 (AMRAP)
Do As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP) in 5 minutes. Rest only as needed.
Choose just one resistance band bicep exercise, and do that one for as many reps as you can within the 5 minutes.
This is a simple and great finisher after a pull or back day if you want to beef up your arms.
RESISTANCE BAND BICEP WORKOUT #6 (intra)
Rather than doing bicep exercises after a workout or as a sole workout, you can add banded bicep exercises within your regular workout (doesn't matter what kind of split you are doing or if its full body).
Simply put a set of one of the resistance band bicep exercise in-between every set (or every exercise). This works best with workouts that involve compound exercises.
Bench press - 3 sets x 10 reps
Resistance Band Bicep Curls x 20 reps
Incline Bench Press - 3 sets x 10 reps
Resistance Band Reverse Bicep Curl x 20 reps
Decline Fly x 12 reps
Resistance Band Single Arm Hammer Curl x 15 reps each side
Chest Dips x 15 reps
Resistance Band Concentration Curls x 15 reps each side
If you want to mix things up, do resistance band supersets with dumbbells! You can do a heavy set of curls with dumbbells (6-8 reps), then a high repetition set right after with bands (10-20 reps). Best of both worlds!
Related: 3 Resistance Band Arm Workouts
More Targeted Resistance Band Exercises:
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