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May 28, 2022
Get ready to blast your biceps because we’re gonna give you the most legit biceps workout you’ve ever done. We will lay out an entire program that incorporates exercises that not only isolate your biceps but use and alter large compound movements to optimize growth in the biceps. Most programs only focus on small exercises for hypertrophy. While understandable, in order to grow massive arms, you need to apply some heavier loads. Still, we will lay out all the places other programs fall short, list the top biceps exercises (many you likely have never heard of) and provide the most complete bicep workout you’ve ever performed.
Biceps vein incoming!
Before we get into training the biceps, let’s look real quick at the anatomy. In order to fully train the biceps, you need to know the different parts and understand how they function. Once you know the function, you can then train them optimally.
The biceps brachii (or just biceps for short) consists of two heads (bi) that merge into a single tendon. These two heads are separated into the long head and short head, which are determined by their origin. The short head originates from the coracoid process of the scapula, while the long head originates from the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula. The two heads then run down the upper arm and merge together in the mid-region to form one larger muscle mass yet still distinct from one another. In other words, the muscle fibers are never shared. This single mass then runs until it forms a tendon, which inserts into the forearm’s radial tuberosity and bicipital aponeurosis across the elbow.
While you’re here for the biceps, there are also two other muscles you should be aware of as they work together with the biceps for arm flexion. Furthermore, many people ignore these muscles, which only mitigates how large your arms can grow. Therefore, unless you really only care about the biceps rather than increasing the total size of your arm, you need to know about these muscles:
While the brachialis may be the primary elbow flexor, this is still a significant role for the biceps as well. However, it’s involved in quite a few more functions than just flexing the elbow. This is because the biceps actually cross three joints! Yes, three! We’ll explain.
Training the biceps is a vital part of any training workout program. Obviously, biceps training will create nice, big arms, but there’s actually a lot more to it than that. They also create strong, sexy arms. Here are some other benefits of biceps training.
1) Improve Your Physique:
Maybe we’re not done with vanity. Every guy wants big arms, and that won’t happen if you forget about biceps training. And let’s be honest, this is probably the only reason most people specifically train the biceps, and there’s nothing wrong or superficial about that. We go to the gym to improve ourselves and our physique and that can’t happen with skinny arms. Basically, if there’s a big gap in your sleeves, you need to fill that out.
2) Decrease Injury:
One benefit of biceps training that many people don’t think about is injury prevention. In fact, even in a lot of strength-specific workout plans, there will be some sort of elbow flexion purely for injury prevention. Due to its positioning, the biceps and elbow are more prone to injury on movements such as deadlifts. Having strong biceps is a great way to keep your arms healthy and injury-free.
3) Improve Other Lifts:
As mentioned, the biceps are involved in just about every single pulling movement. Therefore, having weak biceps will only decrease your performance on these lifts. It would suck to not be able to increase your back row because your biceps are fatiguing too soon. Strong biceps mean strong pulling movements. We recommend taking this one step further and also including moves that target the forearms, like these dumbbell forearm exercises. As your arms get stronger, so will the weight you can move in major lifts!
Training the biceps is actually relatively easy as you train them even when you’re not training them. What? We’ll explain that when people think of “bicep training,” they automatically think of curls, like concentration curls, for obvious reasons, and that’s not a wrong impression. However, every single time you perform a pulling movement, you are training your biceps. Chin-ups, barbell row, dumbbell row. Heck, you even train the biceps during face pulls!
The point being is that most people don’t consider this aspect and completely ignore or only focus on the smaller movements. The problem is that you aren’t able to apply such a heavy load to the biceps only using curls. Therefore, what you need to do is choose big compound exercises that are more bicep-specific and include them in your training. For example, instead of doing pull-ups, choose chin-ups.
In fact, Brett Contreas did an impromptu experiment at his house comparing dozens of pulling exercises and how they activated muscles. He found that the biceps had the highest activation during weighted chin-ups! And to be clear, this experiment included various arm curls!
That being said, here are some things to consider when training the biceps:
As mentioned above, include other bicep-oriented exercises other than just arm curls. Choose big compound lifts that will hit the biceps to a greater degree. This means using a supinated grip (underhand) when possible. For example, perform your rows with an underhand grip.
Similar to the above, you want to also use different loads with your training. This is best done with the compound movements, BUT you can also use lighter loads with the compound movements as well. If you’re thinking this is similar advice to every other muscle, you would be correct. The biceps are just another muscle.
As seen above, the biceps are actually a bit complex with it being a two headed muscle that crosses three joints. Therefore, in order to fully train the biceps as a whole, you need to use variability in your training. Personally, when we train biceps, we like to utilize variability with the smaller exercise quite regularly. In other words, your larger compound exercises will remain similar while you will use the smaller exercises to add the various angles and stimuli.
Even within the different exercises, play around with different grips. In order to train the biceps completely, you need to hit the brachialis and the brachioradialis, which means you must use a pronated and neutral grip in your training. Therefore, this isn’t so much a suggestion as it is mandatory. In addition, you can also mess around with neutral and wide grips.
For optimal training, you should train your biceps at least twice a week. Studies show this seems to be the optimal amount of training for hypertrophy and growth. That being said, you could even possibly train the biceps 3x a week. What this might look like is just throwing in some extra isolation work after your leg days or when you train the triceps.
Along with your more traditional biceps exercises like the standing barbell curl and dumbbell hammer curl, we also wanted to also introduce some more unique bicep curls. You can incorporate these into your bicep workouts.
The drag curl is a bicep exercise performed with a barbell, EZ-bar or dumbbells. It’s performed similarly to a bicep curl, but as you curl the bar up, you will pull your elbows back slightly. In fact, you want to pull your elbows back until the barbell is on your body because it will “drag” up your body. This variation creates a crazy burn and may be one of the best movements you can do for bigger biceps.
The spider curl utilizes dumbbells and is performed facing down on an incline bench (chest to bench back rest). You let your arms hang down, shoulder width apart, and then simply perform a curl while keeping your elbow stationary. This bicep exercise will generate an insane burn as you cannot use any momentum or muscles to assist in the lift. If you want a big biceps peak, this is one of the best biceps exercise.
A bayesian curl, one of our favorites to include in a bicep cable workout, is performed on a cable pulley system and a single attachment. You will pick up the attachment and then face away from the pulley. Stand a few feet in front and allow the cable to pull your arm back.
As you begin the curl, you will lean forward and pull your arm forward until the elbow is flush with the body. This takes advantage of the forward arm flexion as well as puts constant tension on your biceps.
Following an at home bicep workout with minimal equipment? Use a resistance band in place of the cable machine!
The waiter curl is an incredibly easy curl that utilizes one dumbbell. All you need to do is put your hands out flat under one of the heads. Next, you just do a curl. However, because your hands must remain flat, it will mitigate the amount the forearms help with the movement. It sounds easy, but you probably know it’s the “easy” dumbbell bicep exercises that are brutal. This burns.
Cheat curls are curls that let you cheat, hence the name. Cheat curls take advantage of the increased force during the eccentric portion of the bicep curl and prescribes near maximal loads, or even maximal, to be performed ONLY using the eccentric portion. You will then “cheat” the load up using some body movement to perform another rep.
We really recommend performing these with the cable as a barbell is significantly harder to do. Further, even though cheating is allowed, you still need to be careful when getting the load up so as to not hurt your back. That being said, if you lift with a partner, it would be wise to let them assist.
Also, below you will notice that you will be able to alternate what arm curl you choose in the biceps program. While the rep scheme given (3X8-12) is good for the other curls, you will perform cheat curls using a 3X5 rep scheme and a 3-5 second eccentric.
This can apply to any variation of dumbbell curls but simply involves sitting down when you perform them. When doing seated dumbbell curls, allow your upper arms to hang down freely and attempt to keep them stable as you perform the lift.
You can do hammer curls (palms facing in), reverse grip curls (palms facing forward), and an offset overhand grip (slightly pronated). Be sure to use a full range of motion.
Other great biceps exercises:
So here is the best biceps workout to grow some massive arms. Keep in mind that this is not biceps ONLY but biceps-centric. Again, the missing factor to most “biceps workouts” is altering big pulling exercises to produce more biceps activation.
Optional 3rd Day:
* For arm curls, choose one of the variations we discussed or even a classic bicep curl, but make sure to use a supinated grip (palms up). You can also play around with different grip widths depending on the exercise. Each week you can choose a different exercise or you can switch it up every few weeks. See more details below.
* For reverse/neutral arm curls, choose one. of the variations we discussed but use a reverse or neutral grip to perform it. Each week you can choose a different exercise. See more details below.
* Be sure to choose a different bicep curl variation for each session. Variety is important for bicep isolation exercises.
* For the chin-ups, after your 4 sets, you will take a small rest and then perform one long, heavy eccentric.
Ladies, interested in a similar workout geared specifically toward you? Check out our bicep workout for women!
You see that this program consists of 3 compound movements and 3 isolation movements each day. Here is a further explanation of how to progress.
You will simply attempt to increase the intensity for the compound movements by increasing the load to invoke progressive overload. Therefore, every week you will attempt to increase your weight. If you jump weights and find that you can’t complete the rep range, simply take a rest and finish up.
The T-bar row is a compound exercise but will utilize high reps. For progressive overload, don’t really be too concerned with being exact. Your main job is to just get a lot of volumes, so bring it to an RPE9. If that’s above or less than 12, so be it.
You will need to use the assistance for the chin-ups or add a load-dependent on how your chins are. This can be difficult to judge daily, which is why there’s a 4-6 rep range. However, your goal will be to either remove assistance OR add load while you stay in that range. Further, you also see the note about performing an eccentric after the last set. For this, you will pull yourself all the way up and then come down as slow as possible (should be at least 5 seconds). You can add a little extra load for this as well.
For the isolation exercises, you see that each session has an arm curl, a reverse/neutral curl, and a finisher. For the arm curl, you can choose one of those listed below. You notice that these are all arm curls that use a supinated grip. This same goes for the reverse/neutral grip, but you will perform a reverse grip curl or hammer curl.
Finally, the finisher is there just to add volume in a quick manner. That being said, you can still use some variety. For example, biceps 21’ are usually performed with dumbbells or a barbell with a standard grip. Feel free to mix it up and use a wide, narrow, or hammer grip. You can do the same for the 3 set AMRAP.
You will just do the same thing for the curls for the optional day. Again, if you want, simply add this to the end of any day.
While we went over the compound exercises, remember that you still need to apply this same concept to the biceps. While building volume and “bringing to failure” is important, too many guys get stuck in “feeling the pump” and forget about actually applying progressive overload. For example, many guys will just do a ton of reps (which you will do too with the finisher) but completely forget about adding weight. Or they get too caught up in “tempo” and only use lightweight. While this is a tactic, you need to place a heavier load on the biceps.
Therefore, always try to add a load. You shouldn’t need to do 15 reps until you feel the “burn,”; at least not all the time. In fact, feel free to even use a heavy load with 6 reps for the isolation movements. A fun “game” for this is to perform reps of 6 while adding weight until you find your 6RM for a curl. Just because you technically can only use light weights for muscle growth doesn’t mean you should.
While progressive overload might not look exactly the same with your curls, there should still be that trend and intent.
This program is highly biceps specific, and you will obviously need to train all of your other muscles as well. You can simply add this to whatever program you’re running as you still need to train your pushing muscles and lower body. If your goal is overall arm growth, you may want to include a few isolation moves for your triceps and shoulders as well, like the ones in this list of best dumbbell arm exercises.
That being said, IF you have a workout split right now that you really like, all you need to do is simply use what you learned here and apply it to your pulling and biceps exercises. The most important part of this program isn’t necessarily the program itself but rather the information and tips. In reality, you don’t need to specifically use this program. Rather, you can take what you learned and apply it to what you’re running.
In order for your biceps to grow, you MUST eat properly. Follow these basic guidelines to optimize your growth.
Think of this biceps workout more as a concept rather than a strict program. We listed a ton of variables and methods to consider when you are training the biceps that are often overlooked in other programs. Here’s a brief summary of the most important variables for biceps training.
Other than that, train hard, eat right, sleep right, and buy some new shirts cause your sleeves are about to bust.
If one of your goals is to build massive upper arms, check out our Ultimate Guide to Building Big Biceps, which includes best exercises, training strategies, and programming tips!
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December 08, 2023
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