If you are reading this article, the chances are you’re interested in training your biceps. Perhaps you feel they’re lacking in some way or you just want to learn some different training techniques and exercises. I’d also be willing to bet you’ve read many ways to train the biceps and also tried many exercises looking for the holy grail of arm workouts. This is also the partner workout to The Ultimate Triceps Workout!
This workout won’t necessarily show you any new exercises but what it will show you is the optimal exercises to train the biceps thoroughly but not to excess, the order to perform them in and how they target the different muscles that compose the biceps and upper arm. For me it’s the ultimate biceps workout!
The Biceps are a large muscle in the upper arm which turns the hand to face palm uppermost and flexes the arm and forearm. The biceps includes a ‘short head’ and a ‘long head’ that work together as a single muscle.
This workout will also target the brachialis muscle which is situated in the upper arm and flexes the elbow joint. It lies deeper than the biceps and its main function is elbow flexion. This is an often overlooked and under trained upper arm muscle which when well-developed will mean extra strength as well as giving the upper arm a fuller, more muscular look and that edge you’ve been looking for.
In order to train the biceps to the fullest we need to ensure we choose exercises that target the ‘short head’, ‘long head’, and ‘brachialis muscles. On to the exercises!
Chin-ups are a superb exercise for the biceps and research has shown that the chin-up is arguably the second best bicep exercise after concentration curls, out performing traditional bicep exercises such as the barbell curl, preacher curl and more. This exercise forces all the bicep motor units to have to fully engage on every rep.
The biceps are mostly composed of type 2 muscles fibers that best respond in terms of growth, to being trained with heavy weight and the chin-up is the ideal heavy exercise for that. Extra weight can also easily be added.
The chin-up is a heavy compound exercise and should be performed first in this workout which will be to better effect. Performance in the chin-up will decrease if performed after the other exercises.
Perform 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps using body weight to begin with and add weight when 8 reps is being achieved with ease. If body weight is too heavy, then use a resistance band between the chin-up bar and your knee, or use an assisted chin-up machine.
#2 Incline Bench Dumbbell Curls
Incline dumbbell curls are an excellent exercise for training the long head of the biceps. This exercise keeps the long head engaged and activated throughout because of the body being in an incline position.
The exercise puts the shoulder in a hyper flexed position, placing the biceps in as great a stretch position as possible. This means when the exercise is performed, the muscle is put under constant tension throughout the range of motion of the exercise rather than the just the beginning or end like in many other bicep exercises.
Perform 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps starting with arms hanging fully extended at either side of the body/bench. Lift the dumbbells upwards as high as possible for the full range of motion allowing only your bicep to do the work. Squeeze at the top of the lift, and then lower to the fully extended start position on each rep. Increase the difficulty by performing these on each arm alternately.
#3 Dumbbell Concentration Curls
Conversely, dumbbell concentration will target and train the short head of the biceps best. Dumbbell concentration curls have been shown in research to be the best exercise to train the short head of the biceps, out-performing all other bicep exercises in this purpose.
Concentration curls place the arm in front of the body with the back of your upper arm pressed against your inner thigh. This will stabilise the arm and motion of the exercise, isolating the short head to great effect. This position also prevents involvement of the shoulder, further serving to isolate the short head unlike most other bicep exercises.
To the train the short head optimally, ensure that you’re supinating your wrist during each rep. This is easily done by turning or ‘supinating’ the wrist from a neutral position (thumb in-line with the bicep/palm facing towards the body) to the supinated position (thumb facing away from the body/palm facing up) as you curl.
Perform 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps starting in a fully extended position with the arm hanging straight down and the back of the upper arm pressed against the inner thigh throughout the exercise. With the dumbbell held in a neutral grip, lift the dumbbell upwards as high as possible supinating the wrist during the lift so the palm is facing up by the time you reach the top position. Squeeze the bicep at the top and return the dumbbell down slowly to the extended position on each rep.
#4 Reverse EZ Bar Curls
This exercise will target the brachialis muscle, which has the only purpose of flexing the arm and is very often under trained. To build the best upper arms possible, it is important to train the brachialis.
This is important because the muscle forms part of the arms overall mass. When well-developed it will contribute to a fuller and stronger upper arm. In terms of anatomy, the brachialis sits beneath the biceps and will slightly push them outwards, further adding to the appearance of a wider arm.
Perform 3 Sets of 6-8 reps of this exercise and begin by standing and holding the EZ bar with an overhand/pronated grip, your arms straight and pointing towards the floor. Keeping your elbows tucked in to your sides and your upper arms stationary, with shoulders relaxed (do not involve the shoulders in the movement), lift the bar upwards as far as you can, squeezing at the top of the lift before returning the bar to the start position slowly.
For this exercise implement a long eccentric contraction, aiming to take 5 seconds to return the bar to the start position. Research has indicated that a slow downwards return of the bar; the eccentric portion of the movement, further decreases the involvement of the biceps and increases that of the brachialis.
#1 Chin-Ups – 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps
#2 Incline Bench Dumbbell Curls – 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps
#3 Dumbbell Concentration Curls – 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps
#4 Reverse EZ Bar Curls – 3 Sets of 6-8 Reps
So there it is, the ultimate biceps workout! Carry out this workout to the best of your ability and you will definitely feel your biceps have been given a test. Use as much weight as you can manage on each exercise whilst ensuring you maintain correct form.
You should find that although this can feel tough, you’ll notice being able to cope with each exercise as you move through the workout as each exercise is targeting a different part of the biceps and upper arm. Why not pair this with The Ultimate Triceps Workout! for the a complete arm training program.