The Ultimate Bicep Exercise Resource

Bicep Exercises

The Ultimate Bicep Exercise Resource

Everything you need to know about Bicep Exercises!

If you are looking to enter the gun show – you have come to the right place. With this article we will cover all the questions you have about building your biceps through exercise.  We will take a look at your trusty biceps in broader terms and how to most effectively improve your training results. 

Biceps are one of the most important groups of muscle in your body and it is important to train them more than once per week to maintain muscle mass. Let’s dig deep into the science of these muscles, how do they work and how can you get larger biceps.

Table of Contents

Biceps, what are they?
Biceps vs Triceps
How bicep tears happen
Essential equipment for bicep workouts
Dumbbells
Barbells
Kettlebells
Benches
The Best exercises for Biceps
– Bicep Curl
– Zottman Curl
– Preacher Curl
– Hammer Curl
– Curl & Press
– One-Armed Dumbbell Row
– Spider Curl

Which bicep exercise is most effective?
Bicep exercises without equipment
What can I expect from these workouts
Average biceps size by age
Summary

Biceps, What Are They?

It can be explained in simple terms that your biceps are a large muscle group at the front of your upper arm. Biceps brachii (meaning ‘two-headed muscle of the arm’) is another name for the muscles we commonly refer to as the biceps. This group of muscles has a primary purpose of rotating the forearm and flexing the elbow.

Muscle diagramThe short and long heads of your biceps each form a major part of your biceps. Muscle heads originate from the scapula (shoulder blade) and combine in the middle arm to form a muscle mass. Tendons connect the muscle heads to bone at each end. Together, the heads move the forearm, allowing it to rotate 90 degrees. Now let’s look into those two heads  and the Brachialis in greater detail.

  • Long Head
    To be brief, the long head arises from the glenoid, or cavity in the scapula. Through a small section of the humerus, the head passes through the shoulder joint to the upper arm.
  • Short Head
    Alternatively, a small head derives from an extension of the scapula called a coracoid. Within each arm, it runs along the long head.
  • Brachialis
    The brachialis muscle is a prime flexor of the forearm at the elbow joint. It is fusiform in shape and located in the anterior (flexor) compartment of the arm, deep to the biceps brachii.

Function of the Bicep

A bicep is primarily responsible for flexing the elbow and rotating the forearm, as noted above. However, contrary to popular belief, the biceps is not the strongest forearm flexor. The muscles of this group support and stabilise the deeper brachialis muscle, allowing for greater strength and mobility.

Bicep VS Tricep

Training your triceps as part of your bicep workout will benefit to overall aesthetics (shape) of your arms and aid in supporting your bicep exercises due to the extra strength obtained. Both of these muscles can be found on your upper arm between your elbow and shoulder. While biceps perform the pulling function, triceps perform pushing functions. Triceps are comparatively larger muscles than biceps, as it has three heads; long head, medial head and short head. Both biceps and triceps mostly have type 2 muscle fibres, so upon lifting heavier weights, you can expect your biceps and triceps to grow.

Muscle Gains

How Bicep Tears Happen?

A bicep tear is one of the most common injuries faced by weightlifters and athletes, and a painful one at that! So, how do these injuries happen? Bicep tears normally happen when you lift something extremely heavy with a faulty technique, or when you fall directly on your arm. Bicep tendon tears also happen due to overuse as tendons wear down over time. This happens when you get old, so if you do physically demanding exercises as a 50-70-year-old person, you are at a higher risk of a biceps tear.

Essential Equipment for Bicep Workouts

There are endless varieties of exercise routines and exercise equipment that you can use to improve your biceps strength and aesthetic. Following are a few of the different bits of fitness equipment that could be considered essential in reaching your bicep related fitness goals. Don’t be put off if you don’t have any of the following 

Dumbbells

Dumbbells are free weights that are used to train biceps, triceps, forearms and shoulders. This well known free weight comes in  a range of varieties. Some popular dumbbells include Hex Dumbbells, Premium Dumbbells and Adjustable Dumbbells. Dumbbells are great for muscle growth as they activate multiple muscle groups in your arms and stimulate muscle growth.

Barbells

While Dumbbells target the muscles of one arm, barbells target the muscles of both arms. Barbells have a much bigger rod compared to dumbbells and allow you to lift heavier weights in a stable and controlled manner. Lifting barbells with both hands can use and stimulate the growth of many muscle groups in your upper body, including your biceps. Working out with barbells can help you increase your muscle’s strength, durability and flexibility.

Barbell Exercises

 

Kettlebells

Kettlebells are free weights that are mostly used in high-intensity workouts that require a lot of compound movement. These come in different weights and can be used in different ways. Apart from targeting your biceps and triceps, kettlebells are also great for improving your body’s core, stability, flexibility and overall strength. You can either use it for lunges, lifts and also shoulder presses. Compared to dumbbells, kettlebells are harder to work with, which is why they are more effective.

Benches

Benches are inclined chairs where weightlifters can lift weights to target their shoulders, biceps, triceps and chest muscles or pecs. Weightlifting on benches can also help you target other muscle groups of your body as well, like your abs, forearms and core. You can either use dumbbells or barbells on a bench, depending on your workout.

The Best Exercises for Biceps

There are a large variety of exercises one can perform to improve the strength and the appearance of your bicep and supporting muscles. Which is best will ultimately depending on the individual performing them. It is hard to go past the old faithful “dumbbell curl” as a classical go to exercise for results. In addition, as with all exercises, it is important to have variety. Continuously repeating one exercise will not continue to improve on your results as much as repeating a variety of exercises will.

Bicep Exercises

 

Bicep Curls

The biceps curl is one of the most basic bicep exercises where you use a dumbbell, resistance band, barbell to directly target your bicep muscles. You simply keep your upper arm stable and use your forearm to lift the weight up to your chest or shoulders, directly targeting your biceps in the process. You can also target different regions of your biceps through bicep curls.

Zottman Curls

While doing Zottman Curls, your fists must be facing your face while holding weight. Then, curl the weights up to your shoulders and turn your hands during the curl in such a way that your palms face your face while keeping your upper arms still as you should during curls. Pause at the top and then slowly rotate your fists back while lowering down the weights. This exercise is not only great for your biceps, but it’s also great for your wrists. This workout can be done using either dumbbells or resistance bands.

Preacher Curls

This workout can only be done using barbells on a padded preacher curl bench/chair. You place your upper arm and chest on the cushion. Then you will lift the bar from your lower arm to the point that it is in line with your shoulder. Your forearms should be at an angle of 90 degrees to the floor. This exercise creates a massive impact on your biceps and upper chest.

Hammer Curls

In this exercise, you will be lifting dumbbells vertically instead of lifting them horizontally. You’ll be keeping your upper arm still and will curl the dumbbells vertically towards your chest. This workout is great for bicep growth, strength and endurance.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Curl and Press

Apart from targeting your biceps, this workout also targets your triceps and shoulders to some extent. Here, you will be curling your dumbbell, bringing it to your chest, then lift them all the way up, stretching your arms upwards and then, pressing the weight down on your shoulders before bringing the weights down for the next rep.

The One-Armed Dumbbell Row

In this workout, you will be targeting your biceps, triceps, shoulders, and most importantly, your back. You will need a bench for this workout. You will have to place one leg and arm on the bench. Bend your torso forward from the waist in such a way that your upper body is parallel to the floor. Then, lift a dumbbell or any other free weight from one arm until your elbow reaches your back.

Spider Curl

It’s also known as the Decline Dumbbell Curl. In this workout, you have to rest your whole body by your stomach on an inclined bench somewhere between 45 to 60 degree angle. Lie down on the bench chest down with your chin slightly above the top of the bench. Hang both your arms down folding the dumbbells with your palms facing outwards. Curl the weights upwards towards your shoulders while keeping your upper arm still. This workout creates a great impact on your biceps and shoulders and can stimulate growth in your biceps. Make sure that the movement is smooth and gradual for maximum impact.

Which bicep exercise is most effective?

Bicep curls are the best exercises for bicep growth, however, what type of curl you go for determines the shape of your biceps, as different versions of curls target different parts of your biceps. However, the best bicep curl exercise that ensures maximum gains is the preacher curl, as you use a barbell while completely isolating your biceps. Also, both of your arms go through the same impact and you can also increase the weight to increase the impact on your biceps as through this workout, you directly target your biceps.

Bicep exercises without equipment.

Not everyone has access to fitness equipment that will aid in the building of a better biceps. 

  • Diamond Push-ups

You can also call these push-ups close grip push-ups where you perform push-ups while keeping both of your hands close to each other, forming a diamond shape. Keep your core tight and keep your elbows straight. 

Then, breath in as you come down slowly and breath out as you push. This workout is great for your lower body and upper body as well apart from being great for your biceps.

  • Side Planks

While doing normal planks, the weight of your body is being lifted by both of your arms equally. However, while doing side planks, the whole weight of your body comes down to one arm, causing double the impact of a normal plank on your biceps. Your arms need to be kept aligned and perpendicular to the ground.

  • Reverse Hands Push-ups

In normal push-ups, you put your hands on the floor in such a way that your fingers point towards your face. However, while doing reverse hand push-ups, you have to place your hands in such a way that your fingers face your toes. Then, breath in as you come down slowly and breath out as you push.

  • One Arm Push-ups

In traditional push-ups, both of your hands are used to lift your body. However, in one arm push-ups, you have to perform push-ups using just one arm, which means that your entire body weight is coming down to one arm and you have to solely utilise that arm to lift and lower down your body. This is the toughest type of push-up, but once you master it, you can see better and faster gains in your biceps and triceps.

One Armed Push Ups

 

What can I expect from these bicep exercises?

Most of these workouts will create a direct impact on your biceps and triceps, and you can expect your arm size to increase if you are consistent with your workouts. However, for better muscle growth, it is important to give your muscles some rest. You can do bicep curls every day, but if you work on your biceps on alternative days, you can see much better results in your arm size. Therefore, train your biceps 2-6 times a week for stable results. Other than that, your bicep workout also determines the shape of your biceps, so choose your bicep workout accordingly.

Protein Consumption for Muscle Gain

Other than that, gaining muscle mass has a lot to do with your diet. To gain muscle mass, your diet must contain a large amount of protein. You’ll have to consume 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kg of body weight to gain muscle mass.

Average Bicep Size According to Age and Gender

We thought including a bit of a rough guide on bicep sizes may better help you understand where you fit in the scale and give you something to aspire to.

Throughout your life, the circumference of your arm and size of your biceps change. There is also a difference in the average size of biceps between the sexes.* Keep in mind the following measure measurements include fat tissue also.

Female bicep size average by age

Bicep Size - Female

Just for a comparison, Multi-title winning bodybuilder Iris Kyle has 17 inches or 43 centimetre biceps!

 

Male bicep size average by age

Bicep Size - Male

Just for a comparison, Arnold Schwarzenegger had 22 inches or 55.88 centimetres at his peak!

Muscle growth after training

Now, building larger biceps and more muscle mass for women is comparatively more difficult, because women have high levels of estrogen hormones, unlike men, who have high levels of testosterone hormones that help them in building muscle. Estrogen makes it difficult for women to gain muscle mass and lose fat. This is why to have a muscular physique and lose fat, women have to work harder than men. You can see in the above chart that men have a better muscle protein synthesis rate than women.

Summary

Biceps are probably one of the most import group of muscles in a human body as it helps in two of the most basic physical tasks that we do every day, pushing and pulling. Most of the upper body exercises have little to high effect on your biceps. In this post, we discussed multiple workouts that directly target your biceps and stimulate their growth. Some of these workouts involved gym equipment like dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, benches and resistance bands, while there are also some home-based workouts mentioned which can be done without equipment. These workouts can help you increase the muscle mass in your biceps and triceps region, but it is important to mention that the increase in your muscle mass mostly depends on your diet. Furthermore, the best you can do to improve the size and strength of your biceps is to just start exercising, and keep it up!

*Vital and Health Statistics, Series 3, Number 39, (08/2016)

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