Bicep Curls

Man performing a Preacher Curl.
Preacher Curl – Isolates the Biceps

Biceps are possibly the easiest muscle to build and they are rarely concealed under a layer of subcutaneous fat either.

Big biceps can be both functional and aesthetic. So, how is it done? What is the best way to beef up you guns?

First we share an instructional video on how to curl with dumbbells, and then below we share some alternative bicep exercises and then share some insights from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s training and finally take a look at the concentration curl.

How to do dumbbell curl exercises

  • Stand straight while holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing out and the dumbbells by your hips
  • Without moving your upper arms, curl the dumbbells towards your shoulders
  • While lifting engage your biceps (flex them)
  • Slowly return your hands to the starting position in a controlled movement

The dumbbell exercise is probably the first weight training exercise that every man learns. As the name suggests it is for building the biceps, which are the muscles at the front of the upper arm. These muscles are most used for lifting light objects.

Having large biceps (commonly called guns) is one of the first weight training goals for men. They are easily visible when wearing a T-shirt, they generally develop quickly and as there is not much fat in this region they can appear toned much sooner than other parts of the body.

Alternative Bicep Curls

These are the standard bicep exercise, best done with dumbbells to ensure that the stronger arm does not aid the weaker. When performing bicep curls, keep your elbows tucked in close to your torso and back a little. Keep tension in the muscle for the full movement. Do not straighten out the arm, and lift the weight to your shoulder.

Hammer Curls

A slight variation on the biceps curl. Keep the dumbells facing the same way for the whole movement, i.e. do not turn your wrist. Knuckles should remain pointing away from your body for the whole movement.

Cable Curls

An alternative exercise, the cable curl places resistance on different areas of the arm, and also helps to stretch the muscle while maintaining a constant resistance throughout the movement.

Barbell Curls

Use a barbell to concentrate on different areas of the muscle again. Keep the motion slow and experiment with wide and narrow grips.

Preacher Curls

These are designed to isolate the biceps, as supporting muscles cannot help with the movement. A preacher curl bench is required – see photo above.


Possibly the ultimate biceps exercise as you have to lift you bodyweight with your guns. If you are in a gym you may have access to a chin-up machine that can counter some of your bodyweight to make the exercise easier.

When working the biceps slow is best. A popular method to focus more is to use ’21s’. Rather than just doing a full movement for each exercise, perform one set of 7 from the lower to mid-point (forearm horizontal), a second set of 7 from the mid-point to the top, then a third set of 7 full curls.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Biceps Workout

For many men the quickest way to make an impression when starting bodybuilding is by working on the biceps. Often the first goal is to have bigger biceps and they often respond quick to weight training, curls are also a very easy exercise to perform at home as well as in the gym. Biceps are often the first major success in a weight training program. Also, as men do not have much fat on the upper arms, definition is seen quicker.

Biceps Training:

To work the biceps, one or a combination of the following is best:

  1. Dumbbells
  2. Barbell
  3. E-Z bar (also known as a “Bent bar”)
  4. Cable machine
  5. Biceps curling machine

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Five Tips For Bigger Biceps:

Arnold’s biceps were very impressive. Here are his five top tips for building bigger and better defined biceps:

  1. Variety, switch around, using barbells, dumbbells and cables.
  2. Isolation, don’t get help from the delts, lower back or other bodyparts when training biceps. Don’t swing the weight.
  3. Full range of motion, as this implies moving the weight in a controlled but complete fashion, unless you’re using an intensity movement for a shock session.
  4. Find the groove, locate the natural line of motion for each movement.
  5. Total concentration, don’t let your mind wander. Always fixate on the movement and the feeling in the muscle.

Although the exercises differ, a common factor of each is a ‘curling’ motion, where a weight—attached to an item of equipment listed above—is moved through an arc, primarily using the strength of the biceps. The biceps is contracted to lift the weight upward through the arc, to a point where further movement is not possible. The biceps is then extended, lowering the weight back through the arc, to the start position. This contraction and extension together constitute a single repetition.

Arnold Talks Briefly About Biceps Training

When performing a biceps curl with a barbell, stand straight, with feet a few inches apart, grasping the bar with an underhanded grip and curling the bar upwards and inwards towards the upper part of the arms. Elbows should be kept close to the body. The biceps should be flexed when the bar has reached the top of its journey. Lower the bar slowly and with control.

Concentration Curls for Bigger Biceps

If you are looking to make your biceps taller then concentration curls are the exercise you need to be doing. Concentration curls are an isolation exercise that focus on a specific area of one muscle. These are often best performed last when working the biceps.

The perform a concentration curl, take a dumbbell and lean forwards with your free arm resting across the front of your thigh above the knee. The working arm should be completely clear from the body/leg.

Then simply curl the dumbbell until the weight touches the deltoid muscles in the shoulder. The upper arm and elbow must remain static. At all times you need to be concentrating on the movement, ensuring correct form, and speed, is maintained.

When you left you should turn your hand slightly so that to outside of the hand turns inwards (i.e. the little finger twists inwards). Pause at the top if the curl and tense the bicep muscles. Then lower the weight slowly, perform a slow eccentric movement.

This is a classic bodybuilding exercise for the biceps. If you are look to bulk up a little and want to look good in a T-shirt, then concentration curls are idea.

Finally, do not forget to also work on your triceps, as these are the larger muscle group in your upper arm. Bench presses and tricep extensions help to compliment curls.

7 Comments on “Bicep Curls”

  1. i want to be a bodybuilder,how can i?

  2. MotleyHealth says:

    Start lifting. Full body compound weight training to build a base, then focus on isolation exercises.

  3. i weight train 3 to 4 days a week/ regular intensity. if u can give me a routine to increase my muscle mass a little, i would be grateful. I m 35 yrs old, otherwise fit. pump 90/100 kgs on chest. weighing 78 kgs, medium structure, 6 ft tall. want to gain around 3 kgs of muscle. pls mail me the weekly workout routine. Is it not advisable to work your bigger muscles more than once a week.

  4. Very Useful tips !

  5. Alket Kociaj says:

    Arnold Schwarzenegger is the best bodybuilder ever. I am a big fan and I want just to say something to him: I gona be like you! I promise!

  6. DAVID SPITERI says:

    hi i am a 17 year old football player. i am in good shape and work on bicep chest abs and tricep and legs. can you send me a good workout for 3 – 4 times a week

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