The best bicep exercises for big arms
Do you want to be the proud owner big, strong and impressive arms? If adding serious size and strength to your arms is your training priority then add my top-rated best bicep exercises to your arms day workout arsenal to sculpt bigger, stronger and more defined arms, says New Body Plan’s Joe Warner
Almost every guy wants bigger arms. Yet very few ever manage to achieve their number one training goal. And so most guys never get the defined and impressive arms they’ve always wanted.
Why? A lack of basic training knowledge is often the key culprit. They simply don’t know what they’re doing in the gym to make their muscles grow. Always doing the same bicep exercise – week in, week out, for three sets of 10 reps – without ever changing the number of sets or reps they do, or increasing the weight, is another reason why their arms never get bigger.
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If you want to finally break through your plateau and start adding serious arm size you’re in the right place. Here’s our New Body Plan-approved list of our top-rated best bicep exercises. These important lifts feature in our muscle-building and fat-burning workout plans.
So they’ve already helped tens of thousands of ordinary guys get extraordinary results by building bigger, stronger and more defined arms. Want to join them? Read on, then put our advice into action to train your arms the smart way to get the results you want!
We start with the easiest bicep moves to master. So if you’re new to lifting weights start with these lifts. No stranger to the gym? You can scroll down to the more advanced bicep exercises.
But just because some moves are technically easier than others to perform, it doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore any of these lifts if you want to maximise the size and strength of your biceps! And once you’ve mastered these moves, don’t forget to check out these secret moves for bigger arms that nobody ever does!
The best bicep exercises for beginners
New to lifting weights? Start with these proven bicep-building exercises
Dumbbell bicep curl
It’s one of the most popular arms exercises in the world, but you need to do it right to develop bigger biceps!
Why should I do the dumbbell bicep curl?
The dumbbell bicep curl is arguably the best bicep exercise for adding arm size and strength. It’s certainly one of the most popular exercises in the world. That’s because it’s relatively easy to do – all you need is a pair of dumbbells – and it feels good to do.
But that doesn’t mean everyone does it correctly. Indeed, it’s often performed very badly. That’s the reason even people who do dumbbell bicep curls very regularly never grow their arms. What are they doing wrong? They select a weight that’s too heavy to lift up using their biceps strength alone. So they have to use momentum to swing the weight up and down.
For the lifter, swinging a too-heavy weight up and down might make them feel good in the moment. But it has very little effect in building bigger biceps. To make the move effective to build the arms you want you must prioritise perfect form over the weight of the dumbbells you lift.
How do I do the dumbbell bicep curl?
You can do the dumbbell bicep curl standing or sitting on an upright bench
• Start with a dumbbell in each hand, holding it with an underhand grip, with arms straight.
• Keeping your elbows pushed into your sides raise the weights up to shoulder-height.
• Pause in this top position for one second, and squeeze your biceps muscles hard.
• Slowly lower the weights back down to the start position under complete control.
• At the bottom fully straighten your arms, then begin the next rep.
Check out our complete guide to the dumbbell bicep curl to start building the bigger arms you want!
Dumbbell hammer curl
A slight change in the position of your wrists turns the classic dumbbell bicep curl into the hammer curl – one of the best bicep exercises to will build fuller biceps and stronger forearms!
Why should I do the dumbbell hammer curl?
The dumbbell hammer curl is a very similar move to the dumbbell biceps curl. The only real difference is how you hold the weights when doing it.
For hammer curls you hold the dumbbells in a neutral (or semi-pronated) grip. This is a grip in which the knuckle of your thumbs are pointing straight up for the duration of every rep. This rotation of your wrists works your biceps muscles slightly differently to contribute to greater muscle strength and size. This hand position also recruits the forearm muscles more, which will forge a stronger grip that will allow you to lift heavier weights for almost every other lift you can think of.
How do I do the dumbbell hammer curl?
The dumbbell hammer curl can be done standing up or sitting on an upright bench
• Start with a dumbbell in each hand, holding it with a neutral or thumbs-up grip.
• Press your elbows into your sides and lift the dumbbells up to shoulder-height.
• Hold this top position for a second, and tighten your grip on the dumbbells to recruit more muscle fibres.
• Reverse the movement to lower the dumbbells back down to the start with complete control.
• At the bottom position flex your triceps to fully straighten your arms, then start the next rep.
Use our guide to the dumbbell hammer curl to build fuller biceps and develop a stronger grip!
Cable bicep curl
Using a cable machine keeps tension on your biceps muscle through both the lifting and lowering parts of each rep to work the muscles harder for longer for faster gains!
Why should I do the cable bicep curl?
If your gym has a cable machine then you need to take advantage of this clever bit of kit to build the bigger arms you want. There are many advantages to using the cable machine for your arms training. The biggest is that the cable keeps tension on your biceps through every phase of every rep. So it can make your muscles work harder to fully control the weight on the way up and the way down.
They also allow the quick adjustment of resistance through a pin in a weight stack. And you can quickly tweak the move by changing the type of handle you attached to the pulley system. A straight-bar handle or EZ-bar handle attached to the low pulley is the place option to start. But don’t be afraid of experimenting with the double-rope handle to do cable hammer curls. You can even use a D-handle for training one arm at a time.
How do I do the cable bicep curl?
The cable bicep curl is best done standing facing the cable machine using a straight-bar or EZ-bar handle attached to the lower pulley
• Stand tall facing the weight stack on the cable machine holding a bar attached to the low pulley with an underhand grip.
• Your arms shoulder be fully straight with the back of your hands just in front of your thighs.
• With your elbows flush against your sides, and keeping your chest up, raise the bar up in a smooth arc until it’s at shoulder-height.
• Pause in this top position and squeeze the bar as hard as you can for at least one second.
• Slowly reverse the movement back down to the start position, maintaining complete control over the weight throughout.
• At the bottom fully straighten your arms by flexing your triceps, then commence the next rep.
Add serious arm size and strength fast with these best four cable bicep exercises!
The best bicep exercises: intermediate
Add these challenging but rewarding biceps moves to your training plan to build the bigger and stronger arms you want faster!
Barbell bicep curl
Using a fixed-weight barbell or an Olympic barbell works your biceps and forearms differently to using dumbbells, so can help you add muscle size and strength faster!
Why should I do the barbell bicep curl?
Barbells often get over-looked for their bicep-building potential, instead preferred for upper-body compound lifts, such as the barbell bench press or overhead barbell shoulder. One reason is that your wrists are fixed in position when lifting. This isn’t the case when using dumbbells, which is why they are the more joint-friendly option.
Barbells are also heavier: an Olympic barbell weighs 20kg before you even add any weight plates to the bar. Fixed barbells are a better option if you’re still building up your base level of strength. In most gyms the bars come in a range of weight options, often starting at 2.5kg, then increasing in 2.5kg increments all the way up to 40kg or heavier.
How do I do the barbell bicep curl?
The barbell bicep curl is best performed standing tall in front of a mirror so you can watch your working muscles move to forge a stronger mind-to-muscle connection
• Stand tall holding a barbell with a shoulder-width underhand grip on the bar with your arms straight and the back of your hands just in front of your thighs. This is your start position.
• With your elbows pressed tightly in at your sides and your abs engaged, raise the bar up to shoulder-height, then squeeze the bar as hard as you can for at least a second.
• Slowly reverse the movement to lower the bar back down to the start position. Control the descent of the bar the whole way down. Don’t let gravity take over and allow the bar to drop back down without control.
• In the bottom position straighten your arms fully by flexing your triceps and then begin the next rep.
Use these best barbell bicep curl variations to build bigger, stronger and more defined arms!
EZ-bar bicep curl
The undulating shape of the EZ-bar permits curling with your wrists aligned in a more natural position to reduce stress on the joints and concentrate tension on the muscles for faster progress!
Why should I do the EZ-bar bicep curl?
The EZ-bar bicep curl is a more joint-friendly way to train your biceps than using a barbell because the shape of the bar undulates up and down. This allows you to take a couple of hand positions on the bar, both of which allow your wrists to be aligned in a natural position to avoid excess stress and strain.
The weight of an EZ-bar is typically between 5kg and 7.5kg, So they are a lighter option than many fixed barbells or an Olympic barbell. There are two main ways to perform the EZ-bar bicep curl: either standing up (as detailed below) or seated at a specialist preacher bench to work the biceps from a different angle. This variation is called the EZ-bar preacher curl.
How do I do the EZ-bar bicep curl?
Start by doing standing EZ-bar bicep curls to work your biceps and forearms through a full range of motion to target more muscle fibres for rapid results!
• Stand tall with your chest up and abs braced, holding a EZ-bar with a shoulder-width underhand grip on the bar. Your arms should be completely straight with the back of your hands just in front of your legs.
• Tuck your elbows in to your sides, then curl the bar upwards in a smooth arc to shoulder height.
• Hold this top position and squeeze your grip on the bar as hard as you can for at least one second.
• Slowly reverse the movement back down to the start under complete control.
• At the bottom flex your triceps to fully straighten your arms and then start the next rep.
Check our complete guide to the EZ-bar bicep curl for bonus tips and advice to add muscle faster!
The best bicep exercises: advanced
Once you’ve mastered the more basic exercises these incredibly challenging moves can take your training to the next level to unlock the big muscle gains you want!
You might think using just your bodyweight wasn’t enough to grow bigger, stronger and more defined biceps. But the bodyweight chin-up is one of the hardest exercises you can do and will pack on muscle across your arms and back!
Why should I do the chin up?
The chin up is the single-best test of pure upper-body strength. Getting better at this important bodyweight move will not only make you stronger, but help you quickly add muscle size and definition to your arms and across your entire back. It will also work your abs too to help sculpt a lean and impressive set of six-pack abs.
The trouble is, many people aren’t strong enough to manage a single bodyweight chin up rep. So they don’t attempt to get better at this move – and reap the better-body rewards – because they don’t know what to do. That’s where the assisted pull-up machine can really help. If you struggle to do the full move, then start with the assisted pull-up machine to gradually build up your upper body strength.
How do I do the chin up?
Chin ups are best done on a dedicated pull-up or chin-up bar. These are either standalone bits of kit, or found at the top of dual cable machines, or as part of a triceps dip stand.
• Hold the chin up handles or bar with an underhand grip then hang from it so your arms are fully straight.
• Engage your abs and glutes and keep them fully tensed for the duration of the set.
• Keeping your chest and chin elevated, pull your torso up towards your hands in a smooth and controlled manner.
• Hold the top position for at least one second, squeezing the handles or bar as hard as you can.
• Lower yourself slowly back down under complete control to the start position so your arms are again fully straight. From there, initiate the next rep.
Want to get better at the chin up? Check out our complete guide to the chin up to increase your rep numbers and add lean muscle across your upper body!
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