If there is one goal that just about all lifters have in common, it’s building big biceps. After all, biceps are THE “show” muscle for most of us, and we happily flex our bis whenever someone asks us to “make a muscle.”
The ironic thing about focusing so much attention on biceps, though, is that they are relatively small muscles, and it’s pretty easy to train them WRONG or to overtrain them.
Luckily, it’s not that hard to be smart when it comes to training your biceps, and it all starts with picking the right moves. In that vein, here are 5 of the best biceps exercises with weights for building your biceps.
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This is the bread-and-butter biceps exercises with weights that has been building beefy arms for more than a century.
To perform the barbell curl, pick up a barbell with a shoulder-width, underhand grip while standing. The bar should be resting on your thighs to start the movement.
From that point, flex your biceps to move your forearms upwards in an arc while keeping your upper arms nearly stationary. Your wrists should remain neutral — don’t bend them forward or backward — throughout the movement, and you should stop when your forearms come in contact with your biceps.
Once at the top, smoothly reverse direction and slowly lower to the starting position. Repeat for maximum reps, and choose a weight that will let you hit failure between 8-12 reps.
This movement is nearly identical to the barbell curl, except you use dumbbells instead of the bar. The DBs allow you a little more freedom in your movement pattern, and they also let you twist your hands and wrists slightly to the outside as you complete each curl. The primary functions of the biceps are to bend your elbow AND to rotate your forearm, so this extra little twist gives you a harder contraction.
Incline curls are a great way to train your biceps hard near their maximum stretch point, which can bring more soreness and growth than straight curls alone.
To perform these, set an incline bench to a 45-60 degree angle and sit down with a dumbbell in each hand. Let your arms hang straight down, so that they’re slightly behind the plane of your torso. From that starting position, curl the ‘bells upwards until your forearms come into contact with your biceps, and then smoothly return to the bottom.
Make sure you get a full stretch on each rep, but don’t pause or rest in the bottom position.
Concentration curls are one of the best exercises available for hitting your biceps in their peak-contraction position. To perform them, grab a barbell with a fairly narrow grip and bend over at the waist or lean forward on a bench far enough that your arms are straight in front of your shoulders and form a 90-degree angle to your torso.
From that starting position, curl the barbell toward your head by contracting your biceps hard. Hold for a second or so at full contraction and then slowly return to the bottom.
You can also perform concentration curls one arm at a time using dumbbells.
Hammer curls are not technically a biceps exercise, but they can dramatically improve your overall biceps appearance, so we’ll include them here.
To perform hammers, stand with a pair of dumbbells hanging at your side using a neutral DB position — they should run from your front to your back, rather than side-to-side. Bring the dumbbells up as you would for a normal curl, but keep the the dumbbells in a vertical position throughout so that one end of each DB ends up near your shoulder on each side.
Hammer curls work your forearms and, more importantly for our purposes here, the brachialis muscle that lies under your biceps on your upper arm. When you build up your brachs, they push your biceps upwards and make your whole arm look more impressive.
While there are plenty of other exercises you can use to train your biceps, the fact is that these five will give you enough variety and direct work to get your bis about as big as they can be. Train hard but don’t overtrain, eat right, get plenty of rest, and you’ll build your best pair of biceps.