Ranking exercises in terms of effectiveness is a difficult task, because there really is no right answer. So long as an exercise is performed with good technique and targets the biceps it will be 100% effective at increasing size and strength.
You could pick one of the five exercises that we have recommended here, but if you don’t train consistently you won’t see results. On the other hand, if you are consistent, you could see great results with a terrible bicep exercise.
But philosophic wonderings aside, you came here for the five best bicep exercises for rapid growth and we are here to deliver. This is not a definitive list, but it is five bicep exercises that we really like. They target the biceps, they are easy to learn, and if you add them to your training program you will see some excellent results.
The Biceps Brachii
When talking about Biceps it is important to specify that we are specifically talking about the biceps brachii muscles in your upper arms. The term bicep means “double head” in Latin and refers to a muscle that has two heads. You actually have a muscle in your upper thigh called the biceps femoris.
The biceps brachii muscle is therefore two muscle heads that are attached to two different areas of your scapula (shoulder). Both muscle heads are then attached to your forearm. The biceps share an antagonist relationship with your triceps brachii muscles. This means that when one is working the other is relaxed, and vice versa.
This is why training the bicep and tricep muscles together in supersets is so popular, because one muscle group is relaxed while the other is working. It is important to work both muscles frequently, rather than just concentrating on one.
Here we have five exercises that you can add to your training program which will help you to build bigger, stronger biceps. Each video has a YouTube link as well as an exercise description. Remember, the key to building bigger and stronger muscles is to concentrate on form above all else.
A perfect bicep curl performed with a realistic weight is going to do you more good than a badly performed bicep curl with a weight that is too heavy. Don’t let your ego lead you down a path of injury and sub-par results!
Exercise #1 Barbell Bicep Curl
The barbell bicep curl is the classic bicep building exercise, only the dumbbell version is more popular. What’s great about the barbell bicep curl is that once you have got the technique down, the exercise can be used for all manner of training methods. Drop sets, eccentric training, barbell complexes, and many more.
To perform a barbell bicep curl properly, you will need a barbell loaded up with the correct weight. Pick it up off the floor and stand with arms fully extended in front of you, holding the barbell in an underhand grip. If you use an overhand grip, then this is a reverse barbell bicep curl that targets the forearms more. But that’s a completely different exercise.
Push your chest out and pull your shoulders back, this is crucial as it will stop you unconsciously (or sometimes consciously) rounding your back – which can shorten the range of motion of the exercise and make it easier for you.
Now tuck your elbows into your side, again this will prevent you accidentally or on purpose making the exercise easier for yourself. If your elbows are glued to your sides (not literally) then you won’t be able to create momentum and therefore won’t be able to swing the bar. You’ll have to curl it. Many “experienced” lifters realise that they need to drop the weight significantly once they follow these two steps, because before they were cheating the movement which allowed them to lift more.
Take a deep breath and then curl the barbell up using just your biceps muscles. When the barbell reaches the top of the movement, you want to squeeze your biceps as hard as you can and pause slightly, then you can lower the barbell back down. Take your time here, the slower the movement the more time under tension your biceps have.
Once the barbell reaches your original starting position you can restart the movement. Keep your chest pushed out throughout the movement and your elbows by your side. Breathe out as your raise the barbell up.
Exercise #2 Preacher Bench Hammer Curls
Hammer curls are a great arm builder because not only do they target the biceps brachii but also the muscles of your forearm. Muscles that are too often neglected during arm training. One of the biggest problems with hammer curls though is that they are so easy to cheat on. People find it a lot easier to swing their arms and add momentum into the movement. That’s why preacher bench hammer curls are so superior.
A preacher bench is a bench designed solely for bicep exercises, and they were made to prevent any form of cheating. You sit at the bench with your arms hanging over the arm pad. This takes away any chance of you using momentum to perform the lift.
To perform a preacher bench hammer curl, you will (obviously) need a preacher bench, if you don’t have one at your gym then you can use a workout bench set to incline – but it’s not quite as good. Set yourself up so that your arms are draped over the pad and your hand holding the dumbbell is hanging off the end.
Turn your hand so that you are using a neutral grip (it should look like you are holding a hammer – hence the name) and then one arm at a time curl the dumbbell up, pause, and then slowly lower the dumbbell back down again. Swap arms once you have finished the set.
Exercise #3 Incline Alternating Dumbbell Curls
A little variation on the traditional standing upright and curling dumbbells, lying down on an incline bench adds to the difficulty of the exercise and again prevents you from using your upper body to create momentum and make the exercise easier.
Set a workout bench to a high incline and lie back on it. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Push your chest out and take a deep breath. Slowly curl the dumbbell up until your hand is in line with your shoulders, pause, and then very slowly, return the dumbbell back to the starting position. You can either perform this one arm at a time or both arms together, it’s up to you.
Exercise #4 Underhand Barbell Bent Over Row
This next exercise, and the one following it, may raise some eyebrows as technically neither is a bicep-specific exercise. The underhand barbell bent over row is an upper back exercise. However, it is also a fantastic workout for your biceps, provided you perform it with strict form.
Grab a barbell and deadlift it up using an underhand grip to get into position (alternatively you can lift it up off a squat rack). Stand upright with the barbell resting by your upper thighs. Bend your knees slightly and then bow forward at the waist.
Now you should have your chest facing towards the floor and the barbell directly below your torso with arms extended. Make sure that your chest is pushed out and shoulders pulled back so that your back is flat. Take a deep breath and then row the bar upwards until it is almost touching your upper abdominals. Pause, and then slowly lower the bar back down again.
Exercise #5 Chin Ups
As with the underhand barbell bent over row, chin ups are rarely thought of as a bicep exercise, but if you’ve ever attempted one the day after punishing your biceps you’ll understand how important they are. The chin up is primarily an upper back exercise, but this is actually beneficial for biceps because it allows you to place a lot more tension on the biceps than a typical bicep movement would.
Find a pull up bar and then place your hands about shoulder width apart (underhand grip). The bar should be high enough that you can reach it on tiptoe, but that you are able to hang off it with knees slightly bent and not touch the ground.
To perform a chin up you want to push your chest out quite a bit so that when you reach the bar your head clears it. Take a deep breath and then use your biceps and back to pull yourself up, pause when your collarbone is in line with the bar, and then slowly lower yourself back down again to complete the rep.