What Are the Best Exercises for Building Big Biceps?
It's safe to say that there isn't a single bodybuilder out there that doesn't dream of having big biceps.
Even though they are technically a smaller muscle group; their development alone can make or break a physique.
In this article, I'm going to share some important tips and exercises that will help you improve your bicep development by taking it to the next level.
If you've been searching for the right advice on growing your arms, I can confidently tell you that you've come to the right place.
Shocking the Muscle
The key to building an impressive physique begins and ends with training.
All body parts need to be treated and trained equally for maximum results; the biceps are no different and should be stimulated with equal intensity as larger muscle groups.
It's important to remember that quality will always matter more than quantity; sadly, most people have no clue about what this means.
When I mention quality, I'm not just talking about using proper form.
In bodybuilding, the quality of your training session will matter a lot more than the sets you perform in the gym.
A thirty-minute arm workout that's full of quality reps, cheat reps, drop sets – and a ton of intensity will yield better results than a boring two-hour session.
Arnold Schwarzenegger -who arguably built the best biceps in history- said it best. In order to grow, you must shock the muscles.
The only way that you're going to do this is by listening to your body and going by instinct. Never forgetting that intensity is the key to transforming your body.
If you want something that you've never had before, you need to do something that you've never done before.
My first piece of advice on building big biceps is to focus and prioritize them just like you would any other muscle group.
Training Frequency and Exercise Selection
How to Train Biceps
Once you decide to give your biceps the attention they deserve; it's time to focus on how to train them.
Moving forward, how you decide to train them is up to you. Yet, one thing that I would advise is to not overthink it.
It's a common rookie mistake to focus on sets and reps when trying to bring up a weak body part. Some beginners will also add an extra gym day for a lagging part.
Although this can actually be a good idea; I would suggest that you focus on improving the workouts that you are already having.
I've personally tried every trick in the book and have found that training biceps at the end of my back workout has generated the best results.
After I finish my back workout, my biceps are usually pretty pumped and all I need to destroy them are two or three bicep exercises, at most.
I know that a lot of “experts” claim that your biceps shouldn't be activated while working out back. But, trust me when I say that it's impossible to avoid it when rowing 200lb dumbbells.
Bicep Exercise Selection
Normally -and depending on how I feel – after a workout, I like to perform three compound movements.
I understand that a lot of bodybuilders would go more for machine exercises, but I've never really liked them.
My exercise selection is always basic and straightforward as I like to stick to the classics. I'll go more into detail in just a bit.
I previously mentioned in my shoulder training article that in order to grow, you need to use different weight, form, and exercise variations.
Even though my bread and butter never change; my rep ranges, exercise order, and the weight I use frequently do.
One day I'll work up to 135lb barbell curls, while on a separate occasion, I'll maybe stick to ten high-repetition sets with just the bar (45lbs).
Weight, Angles, and Repetitions
Changing It Up
There are tons of ways to make an exercise more challenging, fun, painful – and complicated.
If you want to grow, you'll need to be creative and switch things up – but don't overdo it either.
If you are seeing awesome results with a certain exercise combination and rep range; stick to it and ride it out till you hit a plateau.
Angles are extremely important and can change your opinion on an exercise entirely.
For example, I never really liked doing concentration curls the traditional way (sitting on a bench), so I decided to try it the Arnold way (standing and leaning over).
Needless to say, Arnold's variation of the concentration curl is now one of my favorite bicep exercises.
Training the Classic Way
Classic bodybuilders were all about trying everything and anything. On a given day you would see Arnold benching 315lbs while on another he would be doing 185lbs.
For golden era bodybuilders, training was an art, their body was the clay, and they were the sculptors.
Most of the exercises and machines that we know today were created by these individuals, who were always looking for ways to raise the bar.
If you want to rock a pair of sleeve-busting biceps, you will need to play around with different weights, angles, and rep ranges.
One thing that I can't stress enough is the importance of the mind-muscle connection.
If you can manage to feel the muscle contract it on every single rep; you'll be able to figure out what works and what doesn't.
It's also important to listen to your body at all times because it's not always a great idea to go heavy.
A lot of lifters become injured because they want to lift way beyond their weight class.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't push yourself; I'm just advising you to be careful and know where your limits are.
The biceps are a pretty small body part and a lot of people get injured by not training smart; remember that there's a difference between being hardcore and being irrational.
Best Biceps Exercises
Depending on who you ask, you'll get a million answers on which are the best exercises for building big biceps.
If you ask me, I personally believe that the best way to build them (the biceps) is by sticking to traditional compound movements.
If they worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, Lou Ferrigno – Franco Columbu, Serge Nubret and many others; surely they must work for everyone else.
Machines are incredible tools, but, in my opinion, they -alone- aren't enough to build a set of thick, dense, and beautifully-shaped arms.
Let's take a good look at the best compound movements for growing big biceps.
The barbell curl is the king of all bicep exercises. If you want to grow a set of thick arms, you need to add these into your routine.
It's not uncommon for beginners to do this exercise with poor form, only to see mediocre results.
While performing any type of curl, you need to focus on keeping your elbows fixed, extending at the bottom of the rep, and squeezing at the top.
Never follow the same weight or rep scheme and always look for ways to switch it up, like drop sets.
Reverse Barbell Curls
The reverse barbell curl won't add a ton of muscle to your arms but it will definitely add a lot of thickness.
Unlike the traditional barbell curl, the reverse curl places a lot of emphasis on the brachialis muscle.
A well-developed brachialis will make your arm look bigger, thicker, and rounder from the side – while it's relaxed.
Proper form is crucial here, although going heavier and performing cheat reps can help you develop a set of massive forearms.
Preacher curls are a perfect isolation exercise that can be performed in many different ways.
For some reason, most lifters practice these with an EZ Bar, and although there isn't anything wrong with it; I personally get a better squeeze with a straight bar.
Using a straight bar also allows you to use different widths; whereas the EZ bar only allows for two.
Preacher curls can also be performed with dumbbells or by using a reverse grip.
The dumbbell curl needs no introduction as it's probably the single most popular bicep exercise in existence.
No matter the gym, no matter the time, there will always be someone performing dumbbells curls in front of a mirror.
In order for you to get the most out of this movement, you'll need to focus on maintaining proper form throughout the entire motion.
There's nothing wrong with going heavy, but always remember that going for the pump with lighter weight can also add size to your arms.
The last exercise that you'll want to try in order to make your biceps a standout muscle group, is the concentration curl.
Originally popularized by Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger, the concentration curl is incredible at adding size and shape to both of the bicep heads.
As I previously mentioned in the article, the traditional way to do it is by sitting on a bench – but I personally prefer the way Arnold does them.
By doing them in a standing position, I can get a better range of motion and go a little heavier.
A Word on Genetics
If you want something bad enough, you'll do everything in your power to achieve it. But, I also think that it's also very important to set realistic goals.
No matter how much you try to build biceps like Arnold Schwarzenegger, you'll never be able to.
Why? Because you are genetically unique. Your muscle shape, joints, structure, etc. are all different to his and unique to yourself.
A lot of people think that they genetically have poor bicep development because they lack the peak that others have.
The truth is that these individuals probably have long muscle fibers that need a lot more work to fill out.
Even then, some of us don't have the crazy peak that bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kai Greene – or Albert Beckles are famous for.
But, this is the beauty of bodybuilding. Everyone is completely different and unique in their own way.
Maybe your bicep genetics aren't like that of the bodybuilders that I just mentioned because maybe they resemble those of Sergio Oliva or Kevin Levrone.
The important thing is that -regardless of our genetics- we all have the potential to fully develop a powerful physique through hard work and dedication.
I truly hope that this article can help and encourage you on your journey to building massive biceps.
I honestly wished that I would've had this information when I first started lifting years ago, but now I'm passing it on to you.
I think that it's important to mention that if it weren't for my mistakes; I would've never learned what's needed to always take my physique one step further.
Remember to always enjoy your training and have fun with it. If you manage to do this, you will never stop making progress.
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