The 15 Greatest Bicep Workouts & Exercises For Males

Flexing primed and pumped monster guns has been a symbol of peak muscular development in men ever since the days of Eugen Sandow. There’s just something about building shirt sleeve-ripping biceps that continues to fascinate gym-goers everywhere, which is why knowing the best bicep exercises is key for anyone interested in fitness.

But, it turns out that there’s more to gain from building big biceps than just flaunting them like Johnny Bravo. One US study found that men with a high muscle/low-fat ratio had a reduced risk of developing heart disease than their less fit counterparts. Another study uncovered that people who regularly train with weights are less likely to die from cancer and other diseases.

But the benefits of building bigger biceps go even further. As with other weight training exercises, working out your biceps can help you to lose weight fast as a part of a broader weight training program. Proper muscle development includes a sense of proportion between the different parts of your body, and practising bicep exercises will help you to achieve this proportion. 

RELATED: 12 Best Shoulder Workouts & Exercises For Men

So, what’s the best way to develop bicep muscles worth showing off? Read on to learn about the best bicep exercises for men.

What Are The Different Bicep Muscles?

Compared to the other muscles in your body, your biceps – also known as your biceps brachii – are relatively simple in structure. This reflects their simple function – to bend the elbow and rotate the forearm.

That simple function, however, enables a variety of tasks to be performed. From picking up a six-pack at the supermarket to turning a door handle, our biceps are involved in a number of complex actions that rely on their deceptively simple function.

The bicep muscle’s versatility allows for a wide range of bicep exercises that can be performed at the gym or at home. From simple barbell curls to more demanding exercises with weight machines, your biceps are the engines powering your workouts, so it pays to know something about their structure.

Here are both the bicep muscle and the muscles that surround them.

Short Head

Emerging from your scapula and running along the inside of your arm before terminating at your radius, the short head is the inner half of your bicep muscle.

Long Head

Also emerging from your scapula and running along your outer arm before terminating at your radius, the long head is the outer half of your bicep muscle. The long and short heads combine in the centre of your humerus to form the bulk of your bicep.

Brachialis

Lying beneath your biceps, the brachialis muscle is responsible for flexing your elbow joint. Although it’s a small muscle, exercising it can do wonders for your upper arm development.

Brachioradialis

The brachioradialis muscle works with the main bicep muscle and the brachialis to flex your forearm, as well as your elbow. As with the brachialis, this muscle’s modest size and location belie its key role as your biceps’ connector to the lower arm.

The 15 Best Bicep Exercises For Men

  1. Standing Barbell Curl
  2. Dumbbell Curl
  3. Dumbbell Hammer Curl
  4. Incline Dumbbell Curl
  5. Preacher Curl
  6. Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row
  7. Facing-Away Cable Curl
  8. Standing Cable Curl
  9. Concentration Curl
  10. Cable Concentration Curl
  11. High Cable Curl
  12. Cable Hammer Curl
  13. Cable Rope Supinating Curl
  14. TRX Suspension Curl
  15. Chin-ups

The following best bicep exercises are the foundation of any good bicep training program. Before you practise them, though, it’s worth remembering a few important points.

First, remember to breathe uniformly as you perform each exercise. Exhaling when lifting weights – known as concentric contraction – and inhaling when lowering them – known as eccentric contraction – will help deliver oxygen and blood to your biceps, which are vital for their development.

Ensuring that your breathing is in lockstep with your movements will, over time, help you to perfect your movements – critical to making steady gains in strength, size, and definition. Another key point is rest. Getting enough rest between your sets is crucial to gaining mass and strength in your bicep muscles.

If you’re a beginner, rest for 2-3 minutes between sets. As your strength and endurance develop, you’ll be able to rest for shorter periods, which will further consolidate your gains. As for your broader bicep workout schedule, have at least one rest day between workouts – or two if the weights you’re lifting allow you only 6-8 repetitions per set.

Nutrition is as important as working out. Just as they say “abs are made in the kitchen,” it’s the same with biceps. What you eat goes hand-in-hand with how you train. 

Protein is critical for developing your bicep muscles, so be sure that your diet includes foods such as lean meats, dairy products, fish, eggs and beans. Make sure you’re consuming at least 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight.

However, it’s important to bear in mind that this is the minimum recommended dietary allowance (RDA) needed to meet only your basic everyday nutritional requirements. You should be aiming well above this mark if you want to make some serious gains.

Foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread, rice and oats, are also important, as they’ll give you the energy for your workouts. Fat often gets a bad rap but it is equally essential for building bicep muscles as proteins and carbs. Consuming foods rich in healthy fats, such as olive oil and peanut butter, will also help your body use these for energy before using protein, which should be kept for muscle growth.

1. Standing Barbell Curl

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 8-10
Rest: 60-90 seconds

The barbell curl is a classic bicep exercise and one that both beginners and experienced lifters can benefit from.

The simplicity of the barbell curl means that you can use more weight with this exercise than with any other bicep exercise, making it one of the best bicep exercises for building strength and muscle mass.

Equipment: Barbell

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. With your arms extended at your sides, hold your barbell with an underhand grip, slightly wider than your shoulders.
  2. Keeping your back straight and your elbows to your sides, curl the bar to your chest until it touches it. Take 2 seconds to lift the bar, then hold the bar for a second at your chest.
  3. Take 2 seconds to lower the bar.

Tip: If you’re looking for a variation of this exercise, try an overhand grip, which activates both the biceps and the brachialis.

2. Dumbbell Curl

Best Bicep Exercises

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 8-12 
Rest: 60-90 seconds

The dumbbell curl is another classic bicep exercise. Unlike the standing barbell curl, this exercise helps isolate your bicep muscles by forcing them to bear almost the entire load of the exercise.

Equipment: Dumbbells

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your knees and elbows relaxed. With your arms extended at your sides, hold a dumbbell in a neutral position in each hand, with your wrists facing into your body.
  2. Keeping your back straight and your upper arms next to your sides, take 2-3 seconds to lift both dumbbells to your shoulders. As you lift the dumbbells, rotate your hands so that your wrists face your shoulders at the top of the movement.
  3. Hold the dumbbells for a moment before taking 2-3 seconds to return them to where you started, your hands rotating as you lower them.

3. Dumbbell Hammer Curl

Dumbbell Hammer Curl

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 10-12
Rest: 60 seconds

One of many bicep curl variations, the dumbbell hammer curl is a great exercise for building the short head of your biceps brachii. The hammer curl is also excellent for your forearms.

Equipment: Dumbbells

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Your wrists should be in the neutral position.
  2. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, with your upper arms stationary at your sides, take 2 seconds to raise each arm at the same time until your forearms are at an angle of slightly more than 90 degrees.
  3. Hold the dumbbells at the top of the movement for a second, then take 2 seconds to lower them to your starting position.

4. Incline Dumbbell Curl

Incline Dumbbell Curl

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 12-15 
Rest: 60-90 seconds

Another bicep curl variation, the incline dumbbell curl is one of the best bicep exercises for exercising the long head of your biceps brachii. Using an incline bench also ensures that your biceps work that extra bit harder by isolating them.

Equipment: Incline Bench, Dumbbells

  1. Position your incline bench at an angle of about 60 degrees.
  2. Sit down on the bench with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back and head against the bench. Your arms should be extended and hanging at your sides. Keep your shoulders back.
  3. Holding a dumbbell in each hand with your wrists facing forward, take 2 seconds to lift the dumbbells until they touch your armpit.
  4. Hold them at the top of the movement for a second, then take 2 seconds to lower them. Ensure that your arms are fully extended before you make another curl.
    This incline dumbbell curl can be performed either by lifting both dumbbells at the same time or by alternating from one dumbbell to another.

5. Preacher Curl

Best Bicep Exercises

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 8-10 
Rest: 60-90 seconds

Preacher curls are one of the more versatile bicep exercises, as they can be performed using dumbbells, a barbell, or an EZ-bar, which is a barbell with triangular kinks that provide greater comfort for your wrists. The added load that they put on the forearms also make them one of the best forearm exercises out there. 

Equipment: Preacher Bench, Dumbbells, Barbell, or EZ-Bar

  1. Sit at a preacher bench so that your armpits are resting at the top of the bench and your triceps are resting against the padding on the bench. Keep your shoulders back.
  2. With your arms extended and holding a barbell in a shoulder-wide underhand grip, take 3 seconds to curl the bar until your hands reach your shoulders.
  3. Keep the rest of your body still and hold the barbell at the top of the movement for a second, then take 2 seconds to lower it.

6. Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row

Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 8-10 
Rest: 60-90 seconds

The reverse-grip bent-over row is not only one of the best bicep exercises but is also an excellent workout for your upper body, especially your back muscles.

Equipment: Barbell

  1. Stand in front of a racked barbell, pick it up with a shoulder-wide underhand grip and assume the bent-over row position – that is, lean forward at a 45-degree angle with your back straight and your chest out.
  2. Take 2 seconds to pull the barbell to your stomach, then hold it there for a second.
  3. Take 2-3 seconds to lower the barbell to where you started.

7. Facing-Away Cable Curl

Facing-Away Cable Curl

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 8-10 
Rest: 60-90 seconds

Unlike other curl variations, this bicep exercise is performed using the cables of a functional trainer or other cable machines.

In contrast to free weights, cable weights keep the muscle under tension throughout an exercise, making this exercise great for giving your biceps extra stimuli.

Equipment: Functional Trainer or Cable Machine

  1. Select the weight you wish to lift and attach D-handles to each pulley.
  2. Facing away from the cable tower, stand between its two pulleys and grab a D-handle in each hand, then take one step forward with both feet (the length of one regular stride). Keeping the first foot in position, then place the other foot forward. This position is known as a staggered stance.
  3. Make sure that your extended arms form the extension of a straight line with the cables you’re holding.
  4. Take 2 seconds to lift your arms until both your forearms are at an angle of slightly more than 90 degrees.
  5. Hold your forearms at the top of the movement for a second, then take 2 seconds to lower them to your starting position.

8. Standing Cable Curl

Best Bicep Exercises

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 12-15 
Rest: 60-90 seconds

Cable curls are another great machine exercise, not least because different handles on the weights allow you to target different parts of your biceps. Like other cable weight exercises, they are best performed using lower weights, which makes them easier on your elbow joints as well.

Equipment: Functional Trainer or Cable Tower

  1. Select the weight you wish to lift, then stand in front of the machine with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. Grab the handle of the cable with both hands using an underhand grip and keep your arms extended in front of you.
  2. Leaning slightly backward with your upper arms close to your sides, take 3 seconds to slowly raise the handle up to your chest.
  3. Hold the handle to your chest for a second, then take 2 seconds to lower the handle until your arms are fully extended.

9. Concentration Curl

Best Bicep Exercises

Sets: 4
Reps: 12-15
Rest: 60 seconds

As the name suggests, this exercise is all about focusing on curling your biceps. This is a classic isolation exercise that can be particularly helpful if one of your arms is weaker than the other and needs extra attention.

Equipment: Dumbbells

  1. Sit on a flat bench with your feet wide enough so that your arm can hang in the middle and your elbow is resting against the inside of your thigh.
  2. With a dumbbell in your hand and your wrist facing forward, take 3 seconds to lift the dumbbell to your chest, then hold it for a second.
  3. Take 1-2 seconds to lower the dumbbell to your starting position.

10. Cable Concentration Curl

Cable Concentration Curl

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 8-10 
Rest: 60-90 seconds

The cable concentration curl is like the regular concentration curl – with the added tension of cable weights. Like other cable-based exercises, this makes it a good addition to your free weight exercises.

Equipment: Functional Trainer or Cable Tower

  1. Select the weight you wish to lift on a weight machine.
  2. Set a single cable on the weight machine at around chest height, then stand in front of the machine.
  3. Grab the cable handle with a supinated grip (palm facing upward) and lean slightly forward, then take 2-3 seconds to pull the handle across your chest towards your ear.
  4. Hold the handle near your ear for a second, then take 2-3 seconds to return the handle to your starting position.

11. High Cable Curl

High Cable Curl

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 8-10 
Rest: 60-90 seconds

Like other cable-based bicep exercises, this exercise does a great job of developing your upper arm muscles, not just because of the constant tension that cable weights afford, but also because it forces your arms to move in paths that free weights would never compel them to move through. The other advantage of this exercise is that you get to focus on both arms at once.

Equipment: Functional Trainer or Cable Tower

  1. Select the weight you wish to lift on a weight machine.
  2. Set a cable pulley to roughly your shoulder height, then attach D-handles to each cable pulley.
  3. Assume a supinated grip on each handle, then stand in front of the machine with your arms extended and your back straight so that there is a gentle tension in your upper back.
  4. Take 2-3 seconds to pull the handles towards your ears. Be careful not to lower your elbows as this will lessen the tension on your biceps.
  5. Hold the handles at the top of the movement for a second, then take 2-3 seconds to return them to your starting position.

12. Cable Hammer Curl

Cable Hammer Curl

Sets: 3
Reps: 8-10 
Rest: 60-90 seconds

Cable hammer curls are a great all-around bicep exercise, as they develop your brachialis and brachioradialis muscles, as well as the short head of your biceps.

Equipment: Functional Trainer or Cable Tower

  1. Select the weight you wish to lift on a weight machine.
  2. Assuming a neutral grip, grab the D-handles on both cable pulleys and step back until your outstretched arms form the extension of a straight line running from the cables. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and your back should be straight but leaning back slightly.
  3. Keeping your hands in a neutral position, take 2-3 seconds to slowly lift both handles towards the space immediately above your shoulders.
  4. Hold the handles for a second at the top of the movement, then take 2-3 seconds to lower them back to the starting position.

13. Cable Rope Supinating Curl

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 8-10 
Rest: 60-90 seconds

This is one of the best bicep exercises for focusing on the twin functions of your biceps brachii: supination and the bending of your elbow. Like other cable-based exercises, it also affords constant tension on your biceps muscles.

Equipment: Functional Trainer or Cable Tower

  1. Select the weight you wish to lift on a weight machine, then attach a Fat Gripz handle to the cable pulley.
  2. Assuming a neutral grip, hold both rope ends of the Fat Gripz handle, face the machine and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your outstretched arms should form the continuation of a straight line with the cable. Keeping a straight back, lean slightly back.
  3. Take 2-3 seconds to slowly lift the Fat Gripz handle towards your head. About a third of the way up, rotate your hands so that you have a supinated grip at the top of the movement. Stop curling when you have good flexion in your biceps.
  4. Hold the movement for a second, then take 2-3 seconds to slowly lower the handle to your starting position.

14. TRX Suspension Curl

TRX Suspension Curl

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 8-10 
Rest: 60-90 seconds

The TRX suspension curl forces you to use your own bodyweight to create tension in the muscle, making it one of the best bicep exercises for those with limited access to free weights and cable machines. Because the TRX suspension anchor can be suspended from any overhead support, this exercise is also ideal if you enjoy working out at home or in parks and other outdoor environments.

Equipment: TRX Suspension Anchor; Any solid overhead support such as the beam on a cable machine, a ceiling beam or a strong, healthy tree branch

  1. Secure your TRX suspension cable, then hold the cable’s handles.
  2. With your feet together, lean backward with your back straight until your outstretched arms create a straight line with the cable. You should have a shoulder-wide supine grip.
  3. Take 2-3 seconds to pull the handles towards your chest.
  4. Stop curling when you have good flexion in your biceps.
  5. Hold the movement for a second, then take 2-3 seconds to slowly lower the handles to your starting position.

15. Chin-ups

Chin-ups

Sets: 4
Reps: As many reps as possible
Rest: 60-90 seconds

Last but not least – the humble chin-up is an old-school bicep exercise that has withstood the test of time.

Apart from giving your biceps a workout, they’re also great for exercising your upper body, especially your shoulders, making them one of the best shoulder exercises. The fact that the chin-up can be performed anywhere where you have access to a bar, makes it one of the best lunch break workouts.

Equipment: Chin-up Bar

  1. Stand facing a chin-up bar, then raise your hands and grab the bar with an underhand grip, your arms shoulder-width apart.
  2. Take 2-3 seconds to slowly lift yourself up to the bar until your chin is above the bar. Hold your position for 1 second, then take 2-3 seconds to lower yourself to your starting position.

Tip: For best results, take more than 3 seconds to pull yourself to, and lower yourself from, the bar. Perform 4 sets of maximum reps – that is, the maximum number of reps before failure.

Final Thoughts

Building big biceps not only makes your T-shirts fit better; it also helps you hit your broader health and fitness goals. The best thing about bicep exercises is that they also help you develop other upper body muscles such as the shoulder, forearms, and triceps.

However, developing truly beast-level triceps will require some special attention. Check out our list of the best tricep exercises for men that complement the exercises listed in this article. And, if losing weight to get that ripped look is your priority, then investing in the best exercise bike alongside a pair of dumbbells would also be a good idea.

Our list of the 15 best bicep exercises focuses both on developing specific parts of your biceps as well as compound exercises that address your broader arms. But all of them – with a bit of effort, discipline, and careful attention to nutrition – will ensure that you remain on track to building the guns you want.

Check out our fitness page for more ideas on how to build your physique.

Bicep Exercises – Frequently Asked Questions

Which bicep exercise is most effective?

Because each exercise serves a particular purpose, meaning your biceps will be best developed through a variety of exercises. Following a training program that includes a variety of free weight and machine-based exercises yields the best results. 

How can you bulk up your biceps?

The best way to build bigger biceps is to follow a supervised resistance training program that includes isotonic exercises such as bicep curls and isometric exercises such as pushing against a wall.

Giving your arms enough rest between workouts will also help you to build your biceps over time, as will paying attention to your nutrition.

How many times should you train your biceps?

How often you should train your biceps depends on a number of factors, including whether you’re a beginner or an experienced lifter.

For beginners, twice a week is usually enough. Whether you’re training to increase your biceps’ size or their strength also plays a role here, as does your ability to recover from each workout.

How many bicep exercises should you do?

How many exercises you perform for your biceps depends on whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced lifter.

Beginners should start with a modest number of exercises before increasing their workload. In general, though, having 3-4 exercises, with each consisting of 3 sets of 8-12 reps makes up a sound workout.

What foods should you eat to get bigger biceps?

You should eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods to get bigger biceps. Muscle growth requires protein, so eat protein-rich foods, such as eggs, fish, white meat and lean red meat, as well as dairy and beans.

For energy, eat complex carbohydrate-rich foods, such as whole-grain bread and pasta, brown rice and potatoes. Olive oil, peanut butter, and other healthy fat-rich foods should provide you with the fat that your muscles need to grow and develop.

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