Having strong arms not only increases your overall strength and athleticism, but also your martial arts game. The muscles in your upper arm are some of the most visible muscles in your body, and having strong, well-defined arms gives you a confidence boost.
The two main muscles that make up your upper arm are your biceps and triceps. These muscles are responsible for most motions you make with your arms. The stronger your arms are, the easier everyday tasks like picking your kids up or moving furniture around the home will be. The biceps and triceps are functionally opposite muscle groups, so they cannot be targeted simultaneously with a movement. Motions that force your biceps to contract require your triceps to relax, and vice versa.
Your biceps run across the front of your arm while the triceps are mainly at the back of your arm. The triceps are the larger muscle group, so you don’t want to ignore them if you’re serious about building more muscular arms.
Exercises That Build Stronger Biceps Effectively
A study conducted by the American Council on Exercise shows that the most effective exercises for your biceps involve curling them up towards your shoulders. Aim to perform about three sets of 6 to 12 reps of these exercises.
To build any muscle group, you need to target it at least once a week to give it the stimulation it needs to grow stronger consistently. Exercising your biceps two or three times per week can lead to faster results if you’re taking at least one day off between workouts to prevent overtraining.
Ready to sculpt the biceps of your dreams? Here are some exercises you should incorporate into your workout program:
1) Concentration Curls
Concentration curls are one of the most effective exercises for your biceps since they isolate and activate them more than most bicep exercises. It’s also a straightforward exercise to perform. Here’s what it looks like:
- Sit at the end of a flat bench, forming a “V” with your legs.
- Lead forward a little bit and grab a dumbbell with your hand.
- Rest the elbow of the arm holding on to the dumbbell against the inside of your thigh. Your palm should be facing your center in this position.
- Rest your other hand or its elbow on your other thigh to create a more stable base.
- Keep your body still and slowly curl the weight towards your shoulder. Turn your wrist slightly as you curl, so your palm is facing your shoulder at the top of the movement.
- Pause at the top of your curl and slowly return to the starting position to complete a rep. Do not drop the weight to the ground until you’re done with your set.
- Switch the dumbbell to your other arm and complete as many reps to complete a set. Aim for three to four sets.
Chin-ups are very similar to pull-ups, but they target more of your biceps. The exercise is performed with your palms facing you instead of facing away from you, as with pull-ups. This forces your biceps to do more work as you pull your body weight towards a bar.
Here’s how to perform the exercise:
- Start underneath an exercise bar and grab it with both hands, keeping your palms facing you. Your thumbs should be wrapped around the bar as you hold on to it.
- While breathing out, slowly pull yourself up towards the bar, bending at the elbows. Your elbows should be in front of you as your chin reaches the same level as the bar.
- Pause for a second at the top and slowly return to the starting position to complete a rep. Aim to perform 6 to 12 reps and about three sets.
- You can make the exercise even more challenging by adding weights to an exercise vest or harness attached to your body.
3) Standing Cable Curls
There are many variations of this exercise, but most involve using a low pulley machine or resistance band. To perform the exercise:
- Stand about two feet away from the pulley machine and grab the cable handles with your elbows close to your sides and your palms towards you.
- You can move the foot opposite your curling arm to the front of your other foot for improved balance.
- Curl your arm towards your shoulder, keeping the rest of your body still.
- Return to the starting position to complete a rep. Perform 6 to 12 reps and do the same with your other arm to complete a set.
4) Barbell Curl
This is one of the oldest exercises for your biceps, and it allows you to load up with heavy weights. It’s easy to cheat when performing this exercise, so try to keep your back straight and the rest of your body still while performing the exercise. Consider using an EZ barbell to reduce the stress placed on your wrists when performing barbell curls.
Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Start standing with your feet almost shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the barbell with your elbows close to your torso and your palms facing away from you.
- Slowly curl the barbell towards your chest and hold it there for a second.
- Slowly return to the starting position to complete a rep.
5) Inclined Preacher Bench Curls
Here’s an exercise that forces your biceps to do most of the work as you curl them towards your shoulders. To perform the exercise:
- Set up an exercise bench at a 45-degree angle.
- While standing at the bench’s high end, grab a dumbbell and extend your arm flat against the bench. Your palm should be facing upwards in this position.
- Keep your upper arm still on the bench while curling the dumbbell towards your shoulder. Squeeze your bicep at the top of the motion, then lower the weight back to the starting position to complete a rep.
- Perform 8 to 12 reps, then switch to your other arm to complete a set. About three sets of these give you a pretty intense bicep workout.
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