The Best Biceps Workouts

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So it’s bigger biceps you’re after, eh? There are plenty of fine biceps exercises to try the next time you’re in the gym, but if you’re serious it’s worth adopting a more structured approach. Here we’ve taken two of our favourite biceps workouts and put them together in one place, just for you.

The first routine involves superset pairs, which you can substitute for your current biceps plan.

Then there’s the rest-pause biceps workout, which you might like to try when strapped for time. Be mindful, however, that the rest-pause technique is an advanced muscle growth technique and is therefore very taxing on your body’s central nervous system. While it’s fine in moderation, overstressing the central nervous system means you risk not recovering properly from exercise – hindering your biceps-building progress.

Superset Biceps Workout

The plan is simple: it’s a six-move workout made up of three supersets. Do the moves in order, sticking to the sets, reps, tempo and rest periods.

Do it twice a week for four weeks, aiming to increase the weights you’re lifting every second session. This will consistently keep your biceps muscles out of their comfort zone and expose them to an ever-increasing workload, which is the key to impressive muscle mass gains.

The best bit – aside from building bigger biceps – is that you simply incorporate this into your existing programme. To avoid overtaxing the muscles, drop any biceps moves you’re already doing and replace them with pressing moves that work the chest, triceps and shoulders to help keep your body balanced.

How To Get The Most Out Of This Workout

Move through a full range Moving your muscles through the full range of motion will engage the maximum number of muscle fibres, which is the key to faster growth. And avoid swinging the weights up using momentum – cheat reps will hinder, not help, your gains.

Squeeze at the top of the move At the top of every rep (when your hands are closest to your chin), squeeze your biceps as hard as possible for one second. This will fire up extra muscle fibres to hold the weight steady and increase blood flow for a muscle-building pump.

Stretch at the bottom At the bottom of every rep (when you arms are fully straight), stretch your triceps as hard as possible for one second. This will help ensure you go through a full range of motion, as well as removing any momentum from your reps.

Use Your Mind To Build Muscle

The three mental workout rules to follow to accelerate your progress

  1. Visualise the move Thinking about how your biceps are contracting to move the weight will build quicker neural pathways between your brain and biceps. The faster they fire, the faster you grow.
  2. Count the tempo Sticking to the detailed tempo will expose your biceps to more tension. Counting the two-second lowering part – in your head, ideally – will make sure you don’t rush your reps.
  3. Go high to low Counting down your reps will help you push through hard sets because you know the end is in sight. Counting up, especially for long sets, makes it harder to stay motivated.

The Workout

1A Dumbbell curl

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2111 Rest 0sec

Lie on an incline bench with a weight in each hand with palms facing forward. Curl the weights up, pause at the top, then lower back down under complete control.

1B Hammer curl

Sets 3 Reps 15 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec

Using a lighter set of dumbbells than in exercise 1A, lie on the incline bench with palms facing each other. Curl them up, pause at the top, then lower under control. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the lift to work your muscles harder.

2A Preacher curl

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2111 Rest 0sec

Sit at a preacher bench holding an EZ-bar with an underhand grip. Curl the bar up to the top, pause and squeeze, then lower the bar slowly until your arms are fully straight.

2B Preacher reverse curl

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec

With the same weight on the EZ-bar as in 2A, change your grip to a double-overhand hold. Curl the bar up, pause, then lower until your arms are fully straight.

3A Cable bar curl

Sets 3 Reps 15 Tempo 2111 Rest 0sec

Hold a straight bar that’s attached to the lower pulley. Keeping your elbows by your sides, curl the bar up, pause, then lower under control.

3B Cable hammer curl

Sets 3 Reps 15 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec

Reduce the weight by a plate or two and switch cable attachments to a double-handed rope. Hold it with palms facing .Curl it up, pause, then lower under control.

Photography: Tom Miles. Model: Richard Scrivener

Rest-Pause Biceps Workout

If your arms are more like noodles than prime beef, change all that with rest-pause supersets – a fast and efficient method to balloon your biceps. Rest-pause is a practice advocated by Christian Thibaudeau, the man who gets the world’s leading bodybuilders and CrossFitters in superhero shape.

To make your muscles grow you need to do exercises that put your muscle fibres under tension for long enough that they break down, then rebuild bigger to cope with the workload. You could do this by setting up camp by the weights rack, but you’ve got bigger fish to fry (which in fact would be a good source of post-workout protein).

Instead, this rest-pause workout exaggerates the time under tension, helping you achieve complete muscle stimulation with only two sets per exercise and only two moves per muscle group. In PT parlance, that’s more bang for your buck.

How It Works

Lift a weight until you get to the point of momentary failure, like the final rep on ten biceps curls with reasonably heavy dumbbells. Set the weights down for 15 seconds, then pick them up and do as many reps as you can until that same point of failure. Put the weights again, then do one final set to failure. Instead of total fatigue, you get to the point of momentary failure multiple times in one set, allowing you to work more muscle fibres.

With plenty of rest and a healthy post-workout serving of high-quality protein and carbohydrates you’ll get bigger and stronger. The rest-pause sets (moves 2A, 2B, 3A and 3B) are sandwiched between a tough biceps-focused lift to flood your body with muscle-building hormones and a high-rep triceps-targeting finisher for a final challenge.

Directions

Do five sets of move 1. Then, for moves 2A, 2B, 3A and 3B, pick a weight that allows you to reach about ten reps before failure, then rest for 15 seconds. Do the exercise again, aiming for around eight reps, then rest for 15 seconds. Finally do one more set, aiming for around six reps, then rest. That’s a complete set. If you feel you can do more reps, do, but increase the weight next time.

Keep your tempo for each move smooth and controlled to keep the muscles under tension, going lighter than usual if needed. After the final set of 3B, move on to the 100-rep finisher. Time yourself and aim to do this quicker the next time you take it on.

This form of training can take its toll so only do this workout twice a week, resting for 36-48 hours between sessions, or you’ll lose all function in your arms (or at least the DOMS will be savage).

RECOMMENDED: How to Get Bigger Arms

1 Towel-grip chin-up

Sets 5 Reps 5 Rest 45sec

Loop a gym towel over a pull-up bar and grip it tightly with both hands. Pull your chest up to your hands and lower slowly back to the start. This method is a great test of your grip and will help strengthen and grow all the muscles in your forearms.

RECOMMENDED: How To Do a Perfect Pull-Up

2A Dumbbell biceps curl

Sets 2 (rest-pause) Rest 60sec

Hold dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing forwards. Keeping your elbows close to your sides and without leaning back, curl the weights up to your chest. Squeeze your biceps hard, then lower them slowly. For the last rest-pause mini-set cheat the weights to the top of the lift with momentum or drop one weight and use two hands to get the dumbbell to the top before lowering with one. Repeat on both sides.

2B Dip

Sets 2 (rest-pause) Rest 60sec

Grip the bars or handles with your arms locked out and stay upright to target your triceps. Bend your arms to lower until your hands are level with your chest, then press back up powerfully.

3A Cable reverse curl

Sets 2 (rest-pause) Rest 60sec

Set the cable at its lowest point. Hold the bar attachment with your palms facing down and stand so it’s at thigh level. Keeping your elbows close to your body, curl the bar up until it’s level with the top of your chest, then lower under control.

3B Cable triceps extension

Sets 2 (rest-pause) Rest 60sec

Set the cable at its highest point. Hold the ends of the rope attachment with your arms bent above your head and turn away from the cable station, taking a big step forward on one foot. Leaning forwards and keeping your upper arms static, extend your arms to target your triceps.

4 Press-up

Sets As many as needed Reps 100

With your hands shoulder-width apart and body in line, bend your arms to lower your chest until it’s just off the floor, then drive back up until your arms are straight. Aim to complete these 100 reps as fast as you can, resting as needed.