Are you struggling to get bigger biceps? These muscles are important when you are picking things up, flexing, or just trying to fill out the sleeves of your shirts. In this article, I will be detailing the 5 best muscle building bicep exercises.
Disclaimer – Although I am a Certified Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. This article is for informational and educational purposes only and does not establish any kind of personal trainer-client relationship with me. I am not liable or responsible for any damages or injuries resulting from or related to your use of this information. Consult your physician, nutritionist, or a registered dietician prior to starting any workout or nutrition program.
The Anatomy of the Bicep Muscle
I tell my clients that they need to understand the muscle they are working on prior to exercising the muscle. In return, you WILL build muscle. Why? You will know the direction to work out the muscle and how far to contract the muscle. There are two heads to the bicep muscle. The short head or the inner bicep and the long head, or the outer bicep. And, there is a third small head called the brachialis which I will be including in this discussion because the muscle becomes part of the workout. See the illustration below.
The Origin of the Bicep Muscle
The origin of the biceps muscle begins at two different points. The Long head begins at the supraglenoid tubercle, and the short head begins at the coracoid process. In other words, both heads begin at the top of the scapula just underneath your shoulder. Check out the illustration below!
The Insertion Point of the Bicep Muscle
Both heads join together into one tendon which inserts into the upper forearm. *
Take note of the Origin of the Bicep and the Insertion Point of the Bicep. Knowing these two points will help you in your workouts. A full contraction of the bicep muscle would be bringing the insertion point to the origin.
Also, pay attention to the fibers of the bicep muscle. Look at the bicep muscle in the illustration above. Notice that the fibers run from the elbow up to the shoulder. Also, keep in mind that in order to hit the heads of the bicep, you will have to rotate your arm.
Now, visualize the muscle fibers as you are working out. Always keep a “mind to muscle” connection as you are working out. By this, I mean “think about the muscle” you are working out, and make sure that you are getting a full contraction of the muscle. It’s easy to get distracted, but if you want to succeed and gain lean muscle, you need to keep your full attention on the muscle you are working out.
Warm-up before starting your muscle building bicep exercises
Also, ALWAYS warm up the bicep muscle prior to exercising. A common injury is a pulled bicep tendon. You can properly warm up the biceps with a set or two of bicep curls with lightweight. To warm up the bicep muscle, simply do some light reps with some dumbbells. Once you have completed some reps, wait about 30 seconds then do a few more reps. You want to pump blood in the muscles and loosen up your joints to get ready for the real weight coming up in the following exercises.
These bicep exercises will be categorized into 3 groups, the short head or the inner bicep, the long head or the outer bicep, and the brachialis.
Now, on to the good stuff! Lets Build up Your Bicep Muscles!
The 5 Best Muscle Building Bicep Exercises
The Short Head of the Bicep Muscle – The Inner Bicep
Standing Bicep Curl (Rotation Angled Out)
This exercise can be done with a cable machine, a dumbbell, a barbell, or resistance bands. If you don’t know about resistance bands, then check out my article, “Best Tool to Retain Muscle Till Gyms Open.” I prefer either the cable machine or resistance bands for this. When standing, grip the weight handle, activate your abs, keep your shoulder back and down, then rotate your hand about 45 degrees away from your body. Your inner bicep, or short head, should now be more exposed. Lift the weight slowly and in a controlled manner. Focus on squeezing the inner bicep muscle. Keep in mind the insertion point and origin and follow the fibers.
The Seated Incline Bicep Curl
You will need an incline bench for this exercise, and it can be done with dumbbells or a cable machine. This exercise can target the overall bicep, or with a slight rotation, it can target the short head. The easiest way of doing this exercise is with dumbbells. Put the dumbbells in your hands, and sit at a 45-degree incline. Put your weights to the side. Keep your core activated, and angle your hands slightly out as they are dropped to your sides. Keep your shoulder back and down against the incline bench. Now, lift the weight up in a slow and controlled manner. At the top of the movement, turn your wrist slightly towards your body. This will ensure a peak contraction of the muscle fibers. This exercise will target the inner bicep if you control the movement.
The Long Head – The Outer Bicep
Standing Bicep Curl (Rotation Angled in)
A cable machine, dumbbell, barbell, or curl bar can be used on this exercise. Stand with your knees slightly bent, core activated. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Put your arms to your sides, and rotate your hand so that it is slightly in front of your body. We are targeting the long head, or outer bicep, so your outer bicep should be facing out. Contract the weight up in a slow and controlled manner, and do not bounce the weight. Keep your shoulder back and down. Do not allow your front delt to bounce forward during this exercise. Isolating the long head of the bicep is key to performing this exercise.
The Drag curl
The Drag Curl is a great exercise for isolating the long head of the bicep. This exercise will build strength and size in your bicep. To perform this exercise, it is best to use a barbell. Use moderate weight on the barbell, and grab the barbell at shoulder length. Keep your shoulders back and down. With the barbell contracted to just below the chest, you are going to move your elbow behind your body. Next, slightly lean forward. Now, let the barbell down, and bring it back up. Keep your elbows behind your body. You will be surprised at how efficient this exercise is.
The Crossover Hammer Curl
Many find that a crossover hammer curl with a dumbbell is best for this exercise, but I would recommend a cross over cable curl instead. Simply replace the dumbbell with a cable because you will get resistance when you raise and lower the weight. So, stand in front of the cable machine. Grab the cable, without the handle, and move your hand in front of your body. Your arm can come out slightly from your body. With a moderate to lightweight, pull the weight up. Focus on the brachialis muscle. It is a small muscle, but once you nail it, the bicep will become much bigger. The alternative method is with a dumbbell. Hold the dumbbell like a hammer and move it in front of your body. Again, focus on the brachialis muscle.
How many sets and reps to build bicep muscle?
If you have just begun working out, I would suggest 3 sets of 10-12 reps. Use moderate weight. If you have lifted weights before, then you can go up to 4 sets at 8-10 reps, and you go a little higher on the weight. Remember to keep the reps slow and controlled and do not bounce the weight.
As a personal trainer, I cannot stress enough that the QUALITY of your rep and the contraction of the muscle is far more important than how much weight you are pushing. If anything, remember this point. It will help you build lean muscle.
How to apply this to your bicep workout?
I remember when I was just beginning to lifting weights; I was often confused about how many sets and reps to do and which exercises to choose for my workouts? So, with the biceps, I would suggest that you isolate your arms into one day. Do your biceps, triceps, and forearms in one day. In my article, “5 Best Muscle Building Triceps Exercises,” I give you 5 great exercises for your triceps. I will be writing an article on a typical, “Arms Routine,” that I give to clients. But here is a quick guide to an arms day.
- Skull Crushers – 3 sets of 8 reps
- Triceps pushdown with rope – 3 sets of 8 reps
- Triceps Kickback with cable – To failure
- Standing Bicep Curl – curl bar, hands angled in 3 sets of 8
- Standing Bicep curl, single handle on a cable machine, Hands angled out 3 sets of 8
- Hammer Curl – 3 sets of 8 each arm
Behind the Back cable curls – 3 sets to failure
I always encourage some forearm exercises in your workouts. I believe your arms should be in proportion to your forearms. Plus, it makes your arms look even bigger!
Some key points to help define your biceps
- If you have a high-fat percentage, you will not see the definition in the muscle. Your nutrition should be on point. So, my recommendation is to begin eating nutritiously to start losing the fat. You can still gain lean muscle, but weight loss will need to become part of your life. You can start by using the Free Calorie Counter here.
- Follow the fibers – The key to hitting the heads of the bicep is to rotate your arm. When you move your hand away from your body, you will be focusing on the inner bicep. If you move your hand in front of your body, you will be hitting the outer bicep.
- These exercises should be performed with moderate to lightweight with high reps. And, focus on the quality of the exercise rather than weight. If you go too heavy with these exercises, you may rupture a bicep tendon, which is common in bodybuilding.
In summary, to get bigger biceps, you need to follow these muscle-building bicep exercises. The Standing Bicep curl(rotation in) and The Seated Incline Bicep Curl are great for the inner bicep. The Standing Bicep Curl(rotation out) and the Drag Curl target the Outer Bicep, and the Crossover Hammer curl is a perfect exercise to help broaden your entire bicep. I cannot stress the importance of nutrition enough. In order to grow your muscle, you need to feed it the right nutrients. So, If you want more information on gaining lean muscle, losing weight, or nutrition, you can check it out at www.fitmanfitness.com.