The 28 Best Biceps Exercises for Your Muscle-Building Workouts

The 28 Best Biceps Exercises for Your Muscle-Building Workouts

news image

Building big arms is a common goal for gym-goers looking to pump up their bodies. It’s also a fairly simple one to accomplish. Put in the reps (and maybe dial in your diet), and once you get down to the task, after plenty of sweat and effort, your hard work will be rewarded with gains—and more importantly a set of big guns. The missing piece, however, is having a focused plan for what you should be doing when you hit the weight room for the best results. That means knowing exactly which muscles to target—and for the type of big arms that most guys want, the muscle you really want to focus on is the biceps.

The biceps is the two-headed muscle that makes up most of the prime real estate on your arms. Your triceps, the three-headed monster of a muscle that opposes the biceps on the back your arm, might be bigger, but since the biceps is anteriorly positioned (meaning they’re located on the front side of your body), they’re more likely to be the focus of attention both for others checking you out and yourself when you take stock of your reflection. That’s why biceps are often one of the first examples trainers use for “mirror muscles,” the body parts that trainees often focus on at the expense of others for a balanced workout. But if your main goal is to build big arms, you can’t skimp on your bis.

Given the biceps’ status, the muscle often serves as a social marker of overall health and strength. Just think about the most common pose that people strike when they want to communicate their physical prowess: flexing their arm, which makes the biceps muscle pop. Similarly, one of the first exercises just about everyone will start with in the gym before learning how to train is the dumbbell curl, which puts the flex into more focused practice. That pose is the key to biceps training, regardless of your thoughts about gym mirror selfies.

Biceps 101 and the Benefits of Biceps Training

Before jumping in to biceps training, it helps to understand more about the muscle. The biceps is composed of two heads; a long and short head.

male arm and chest muscles labeled chart on white

Hank GrebeGetty Images

Most importantly, the muscle is tasked with flexion of the elbow, which means that any time you bend your arms—like the aforementioned pose—your biceps are putting in the work to make the move. If you want to be able to lift any type of load, from luggage to your kids, you’ll need healthy flexion. Your biceps also supinate the forearm (turns it to face upward).

And when you train your biceps, you can’t neglect the brachialis, the muscle the sits beneath the biceps and generates even more flex power. You’ll get stronger, and your arm muscles will look bigger to boot.

How to Train Your Biceps

To work your biceps, you’ll mostly need to do exercises that isolate the muscle. That might not be as efficient as your training plan for some other muscles, which you can target as just one part of a more comprehensive plan using multi-joint movements—but isolation exercises allow you to really dial in on your progress and development. And building a strong set of biceps can only help you to get stronger overall, as all pulling movements (essential for training the big muscles in your back) will reap the rewards of your focused work.

To help you hone those arms, we created this list of go-to moves to work your biceps. Some of these are classics; some are new. Some are a grind; some are fun. Some hit the long head of the muscle; some focus on the short head. To vary up the stimulus to your muscles, we’ll mix up the tempo, add pauses with isometrics, and even change up the arm angle.

Pick the ones you like (and maybe some that you don’t), and use them to pump up your arms—and fill out your sleeves.

25 Biceps Building Exercises


In a biceps-focused list like this, you can’t leave out the classic dumbbell curl. So we didn’t.

But we would ask that you use a weight that makes sense: If you’re swaying back wildly and contorting your body—especially excessively arching your lower back—to lift the load, you should probably get a lighter pair of dumbbells.

How to do it:

●Grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang at arm’s length next to your sides.

●Turn your arms so your palms face forward. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can.

●Pause, then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.

●Each time you return to the starting position, completely straighten your arms.


Barbell curl

Men’s Health

This is as basic as it gets. You’ve probably heard serious lifters carrying on about oblivious meatheads taking up space in squat racks to do bicep curls, so be mindful when and where you load up a barbell—but that shouldn’t be an excuse to skip out on the move entirely. Barbells allow you to work both arms simultaneously and evenly, and the position of your grip can allow you to home in on different parts of the muscle.

How to do it:

●Grab the barbell with an underhand grip, with your your hands positioned about as wide as your hips. To emphasize the inner portion of the bicep, take a wider grip; to target the outer part of the muscle, bring your hands closer together.

●Start holding the bar at hip height, then squeeze your core and contract your biceps to curl the bar up to shoulder height.

●Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement, then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position, controlling the weight through the eccentric movement.

●Make sure to keep your feet solidly planted throughout the exercise, and don’t use your hips to lift the weight.


The concentration curl is a biceps isolating standard that you’ve undoubtedly seen performed in just about any gym. You can rip through reps for volume, or take a cue from the name and focus on the eccentric portion of the move for even better results.

How to do it:

●You’ll need a single dumbbell and a bench to start.

●Sit on the bench, spreading your legs.

●Rest your arm holding the dumbbell on the same side leg, just below the knee, so that the weight hangs down between your legs. Keep your torso upright by stabilizing your off-hand on your thigh.

●Curl the weight up, focusing on squeezing the bicep, pause at the top, then lower back into the original position.


Resting your arms on a sloping pad of a preacher bench helps isolate your biceps by taking your other upper-body muscles out of the equation—meaning, they won’t come into play to assist where your biceps are weakest. If you don’t have the appropriate workstation, you can use a Swiss ball or a bench angled to 45 degrees.

How to do it:

●Grab an EZ-bar with your hands six inches apart.

●Rest your upper arms on the sloping pad of a preacher bench and hold the bar in front of you with your elbows slightly bent.

●Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the bar toward your shoulders.

●Pause, then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.


The dumbbell preacher curl gives you an opportunity to change your upper arm angle during the movement even if you don’t have a dedicated preacher curl setup and E-Z bar. All you need are dumbbells and an adjustable bench—some of the most common equipment in the gym.

How to do it:

●Set up by placing your arm on the bench, holding the dumbbell, with zero space between your underarm area and the top bench. Focus on keeping your upper arm on the bench throughout the whole movement.

●Sit down low and squeeze your core and glutes to help to avoid using any momentum during your curl reps.

●Squeeze your biceps to lift the dumbbell up, keeping constant tension throughout the reps.


Use a cable tower for this technical curl variation, then kneel down to help to isolate the muscle even more for maximum gains. You’ll be able to emphasize the contraction—and hone your shoulder and core stability—much more than other versions of the movement.

How to do it:

●Set up a cable tower (or resistance band) so that you can hold the handle of the cable with your elbow just slightly below your shoulder from a tall kneeling position. Imagine there’s a wall in front of you that you can’t touch.

●Squeeze your biceps to curl the cable toward yourself, keeping your shoulder in position and bracing your core.

●Hold for a count, then return to the starting position.


Eliminate any chance at using body English to cheat your reps by backing yourself up against the wall. You’re not just following form to be a stickler for rules—you’ll emphasize the isolation even more without the help that comes from momentum, challenging your biceps to do all the work for more growth.

How to do it:

●Press your entire back, butt, and upper arms against the wall, holding the dumbbells in each hand.

●Curl the dumbbells up until your forearms are parallel to the ground. Pause for a beat, then squeeze your biceps to raise the weight up to complete the movement.

●Lower the biceps back to the starting position.


Kettlebell cleans aren’t necessarily renowned for their biceps-building prowess—so it’s the second part of this movement that should be your major focus for arm day training. You’ll get to work with a different implement and use other skills and muscle groups in your pursuit of biceps training, though, which are all only good things. The biggest boost of all: since you’re cleaning the weight up instead of the concentric movement that usually serves as the first step for a curl, you can go extra heavy.

How to do it:

●Start in half-kneeling stance, a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell in your right hand, core tight.

●Hinge back slightly, then clean the weight up to your shoulder, keeping your arm close to your body.

●Slowly lower the weight, rotating your palm upwards as you do. Aim to take 3 seconds to do it.

●Lower it all the way down then repeat.


●Kneel down on the ground, squeezing your core and glutes to keep a strong position.

●Hold the barbell with one hand with a supinated (underhand) grip.

●Squeeze your biceps to raise the weight up, keeping the barbell level.

●As you lower the bar, pause halfway with your elbow at 90 degrees. Hold for a 1-second pause.


This exercise (a mini-routine on its own, really) uses principles like changing tempo and isometrics to reap more muscle-building gains out of your movements. It’s all about controlled movement to spur growth, so make sure you don’t rush.

How to do it:

●Hold a pair of dumbbells you can comfortably curl.

●Start with a standard two-handed curl rep—but stop once you reach the position where you are holding the weight with your forearms parallel to the ground.

●Hold for a count, then finish the rep by curling the weight all the way up from that dead stop. Follow immediately with a full range of motion curl.


Resistance Band Hammer Curl

Men’s Health

Leave the weights on the rack and give resistance bands a shot to really reap some bicep gains. The bands allow you to work through the full range of the motion by offering resistance (get it?) through the eccentric (lowering) part of the exercise, along with the concentric (curl) lift. The hammer grip, meanwhile, shifts the focus of the work to the brachialis, a lower muscle that can really make your arms look thick.

How to do it:

●Step on the center of a resistance band, gripping one end of the implement in each hand. Hold the band with your palms parallel to each other.

●Curl your hands toward your shoulders, maintaining the position of your palms.

●Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement before lowering your hands back down to your sides, maintaining constant tension on the band.

●Keep your elbows stable and in position at your sides throughout the movement.


Move your resistance band biceps work to the floor to recreate the position needed for the preacher curl without a bench. You’ll be able to target the peaks of your biceps, the tops of the muscles that pop when you flex.

How to do it:

●Start seated on the ground with your legs straight and core tight. Loop the resistance band around your feet.

●Grab a handle with each hand and curl up, raising your upper arms so your elbows are slightly below shoulders.

●Squeeze both of your arms hard to create tension, then perform a curl rep with one arm as you continue to keep the off-arm flexed. Repeat on the other side.


This biceps move uses smart positioning to blow up your arms. According to Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., the exercise is so effective because you’ll eliminate most of the cheating that happens with other, standing curls, which allow you to use body English to lift up the weights. Samuel recommends that you pick a weight in the lighter end of what you might typically work with, so you can handle the full challenge.

How to do it:

●Grab a dumbbell and sit facing forward on an incline bench.

●Moving only at the elbow, squeeze your biceps to curl the dumbbell way up with clean form.

●Make sure to keep your shoulder out of the equation by keeping your back live and engaged.


Take your standard-grip curl and flip it on its side. This small difference in the way you hold the dumbbell helps transfer more of the work from your biceps brachii to your brachialis—a muscle that can make your arms look thicker.

How to do it:

●Grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang at arm’s length next to your sides with your palms facing your thighs.

●Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can.

●Pause, then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.

●Each time you return to the starting position, completely straighten your arms.


The inverted row is primarily an upper-back exercise. However, using an underhand grip instead of a standard grip forces your biceps to work harder.

How to do it:

●Grab a bar with an underhand, shoulder-width grip. Your palms should be facing you. Hang with your arms completely straight.

●Your body should form a straight line from your ankles to your head.

●Initiate the movement by pulling your shoulder blades back, then continue the pull with your arms to lift your chest to the bar.

●Pause, then slowly lower your body back to the starting position.



Lying chest-down on a bench really isolates the biceps since you don’t have to maintain as much tension in your legs and core muscles as you do when you stand. Use various grips in this position to zero in on different parts of your biceps.

How to do it:

●Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie with your chest against a bench that’s set to a 45-degree incline.

●Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can.

●Pause, then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.

●Each time you return to the starting position, completely straighten your arms.

Photographs by Beth Bischoff


The opposite of the decline variation, you’ll lie on your back, allowing your arms to drop down behind your body. This puts an extra challenge on the long head of your biceps brachii because you’re working from a deficit—meaning, you’re starting the movement at a point where you have less leverage than normal.

How to do it:

●Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie with your back against a bench that’s set to a 45-degree incline.

●Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can.

●Pause, then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.

●Each time you return to the starting position, completely straighten your arms.


The muscles in your upper body have two functions: push and pull. Your biceps are most active when you pull, according to Alwyn Cosgrove, a Men’s Health Fitness Advisor. Since you’re using other muscles to perform the row, you’ll likely use a weight that’s much heavier than one you would curl.

How to do it:

●Grab a barbell with your hands just beyond shoulder-width apart and hold it at arm’s length.

●Bend at your hips and knees, bracing your abs as if you’re about to be punched in the gut.

●Pull the bar to your ribcage, pause, and then lower back to the starting position.


Curling a weight with one arm helps you zero in on weak spots. And performing the biceps exercise in a kneeling position will diminish the chance that you use body English to heave the weight up to the top position.

How to do it:

●Grab a pair of dumbbells. Hold one dumbbell by your side in your left hand, palm facing your thigh. In your right hand, hold the dumbbell with your palm facing outward.

●Without moving your upper arm, bend your elbow and curl the dumbbell as close to your shoulder as you can.

●Pause, then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position. Each time you return to the starting position, completely straighten your arm.

●Perform all reps on your right arm before switching to your left.


Whether you’re stuck with limited equipment or you’re eager to hone your grip strength, this curl variation is perfect to shake up your routine. You’ll target your biceps, brachialis, and forearms in one move, which is why Samuel uses it as a finisher in his arm routines. “This move attacks both key drivers of elbow flexion (biceps and brachialis), and then it adds a persistent grip challenge because of the nature of the towel,” says Samuel. “And through all of this, you’re loading up on growth-driving time-under-tension.”

How to do it:

●Loop a towel through the handle of a kettlebell.

●Grip the towel tightly, with your palms in a neutral position (facing toward each other) you would use for a standard hammer curl with dumbbells.

●Engage your glutes and core to create a solid base, then squeeze your biceps to lift the weight. Avoid using any momentum to aid in the movement.

●For an extra challenge, add pause reps in using the half-full protocol outlined in the video above


This exercise targets the three major muscles that make up the biceps—the biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis—by rotating from an underhand to an overhand grip halfway through the move.

How to do it:

●Grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang at arm’s length next to your sides. Turn your arms so your palms face forward.

●Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can.

●Pause, then rotate the dumbbells so your palms face forward again.

●Slowly lower the weights down in that position. Rotate the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat.



Just like the dumbbell hammer curl, this biceps exercise will hit your brachialis to build thickness in your arms. But unlike the dumbbell version, the cable machine keeps a more steady and constant load on the biceps for longer, which may elicit more growth, according to Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D.

How to do it:

●Hold both ends of a rope attached to the low pulley of a cable machine.

●Press your elbows into your sides with your palms facing each other. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, your torso upright, and your knees slightly bent.

●Keeping your arms stable throughout the move, curl, the rope toward your shoulders.

●Pause, and reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

Photographs by Beth Bischoff



Instead of holding your arms by your sides for this variation of the biceps curl, you’ll keep them extended outwards, parallel to the floor. Just holding your arms in this position will put them to work. Adding a curl helps zero in directly on your biceps.

How to do it:

●Stand between the weight stacks of a cable crossover station and grab a high-pulley handle in each hand.

●Hold your arms out to the sides so they’re parallel to the floor.

●Without moving your right arm, curl your left hand toward your head.

●Slowly allow your left arm to straight and then repeat the move with your right arm.

Photographs by Beth Bischoff


This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

The beauty of the preacher curl is that it increases the angle of your bicep relative to your torso, limiting your ability to cheat on the curl with your shoulders. You’re all biceps for this move—which means your gains will only increase. This particular version of the preacher curl has two benefits. First, instead of losing resistance (which happens at the top of a standard preacher curl, like above), you still face it at peak contraction thanks to the cables. Second, the bench/floor offers feedback for your back positioning, helping you to keep them back rather than slouching forward.

How to do it:

●You’ll need a bench and a cable pull-down station for this move. Position the bench beneath the cable, so that your head is in-line with the bar when you lay down.

●Reach up to grab the bar with your arms straight up.

●Bend your elbows and squeeze your biceps to curl the bar down toward your head. Keep your shoulders still, and really emphasize the bicep squeeze at the bottom of the movement before controlling the bar on the way back up.


This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

This move is all about grip. All it takes is a subtle tweak on machine preacher curls to help you focus on your biceps more: maintain an open palm. Do this and you almost completely eliminate forearm flexor assistance, leaving your bicep to shoulder a greater load on the curl. Bonus: if you’re dealing with elbow tendonitis, you can still pull this curl off. Don’t do this all the time though; you want your muscles working well together. Mix it into your arm workouts maybe once a month.

How to do it:

●Sit down as if you were going to perform normal reps.

●Instead of grasping the handle with your fingers, keep your hands open and press against the machine with your palms up with the handle at your wrist.

●Curl the weight up with the open palm. Perform with either one hand alone or both simultaneously, depending on the machine available to you.



While the chinup doesn’t fully isolate your biceps, it certainly trains them hard. Along with other muscles in your arms, shoulders, and back, you’ll use your biceps to pull your entire bodyweight from a dead hang, building serious upper-body strength, according to Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts.

How to do it:

●Grab a chinup bar using a shoulder-width underhand grip and hang at arm’s length.

●Squeeze your shoulder blades down and back, bend your elbows, and pull the top of your chest to the bar.

●Pause, and slowly lower your body back to the starting position.

Photographs by Mitch Mandel



When you sit and row instead of stand and row, your biceps are in the direct line of the pull so they work extra hard during each rep, according to Gentilcore. The seated cable row will also help you build a massive back to compliment your guns.

How to do it:

●Sit at a seated cable row station with your feet on the platform and your knees slightly bent. Grasp a V-bar with your palms facing each other.

●Keep your back flat and pull your shoulders back as you pull the bar toward your torso.

Photographs by Thomas MacDonald



The farmer’s carry is a great way to work your body from head to toe as you walk, but holding the weights in a racked position can help you zero in on your biceps. It’s like an isometric hold for your guns, jostling the weight with every step. And since you typically use extra-heavy weight for farmer’s carries, you’ll overload your biceps in a completely contracted position.

How to do it:

●Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them in the racked position so one head of each dumbbell rests by your shoulders.

●Walk forward for 10 yards, turn around and walk back.

Photograph by Mitch Mandel

Build Your Biceps With This Badass Arm Plan

Hearst Product Studio

The 12 Week Plan to Badass Arms

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at

Read More