The 6 Best Exercises to Grow Your Biceps

Arms 7 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

If you want big arms, you need the six best exercises to grow your biceps.

These are the most effective isolation movements for adding inches to your arms and growing your guns.

Compound exercises are great for developing strength and overall muscle, but you need to do isolation work if you genuinely want big arms. These are isolation exercises that are focused and specialized on the biceps.

Below are the six best bicep moves using barbells, dumbbells, and cables.

1. EZ Bar Curls

Every gym has EZ Curl Bars, and for a good reason—they put your wrists in a comfortable position when using the bar.

Make sure you grab the bar, so your thumbs are higher/more forward than your pinkies. This position will reduce discomfort on the wrists and elbows.

Using a shoulder-width grip, you will hit both bicep heads evenly. Using an inside/narrow grip, you will work the outer head (long head) more intensely. Finally, an outside/wide grip will work the inner head (short head) more. Use a combination of these three grips to fully develop your biceps. Make sure you rotate the bar as you move your hands to the different positions to always keep your wrists in a comfortable orientation.

A key to these curls is setting your shoulders and keeping your elbows glued to your sides. Make the weight pivot around the elbow instead of driving the elbows forward/up to finish the movement. This will keep tension throughout the exercise.

Don’t make the beginner mistake of trying to bring the bar as high as possible. You do not want your elbow directly under your hands at the end because this reduces the effectiveness of the exercise.

2. EZ Bar Preacher Curls

If you’re struggling with keeping your shoulders set and elbows in place during the above exercise, then EZ bar preacher curls will help you tremendously.

Throw your arms over the preacher pad (or a GHD pad) and sink it deep into your armpits. This will force your elbows to stay in place and pivot the bar around this point. I like to keep my legs out far behind my body.

A key to these curls is don’t bring the bar up all the way. This will disengage the bicep and remove tension. Instead, you should focus on letting the bar go down as far as possible to get the most extensive stretch, a large range of motion, and the most growth.

You will need to lower the weights on this exercise because it does not allow any swinging or cheating. This is a good thing because it makes sure your biceps do all the work.

3. Rotating Dumbbell Curls

These curls are crucial to developing your arms. There’s a lesser-known muscle just to the outside of your biceps called the brachialis. It runs under the biceps and is a massive contributor to how high your biceps go (peak).

You need to do dumbbell curls with a twist to target that muscle.

Start with dumbbells at your sides (with your shoulders set) in a neutral grip (thumbs forward). As you curl (keeping your elbows in place), rotate the dumbbells out so at the top/finish, the backs of your hands face forward. Rotate them back as you lower.

Rotating dumbbell curls are my number one bicep exercise, and it will probably be yours as well.

You can do both arms at once or alternate left and right.

4. Zottman Curls

I mentioned the brachialis above, and you should know that the Zottman curl is the top exercise on this list for working that muscle.

Start light with these and take your time. Perform the movement with a lot of control, and reset your hands at the end of each repetition.

You will feel it in the brachialis the first time to do Zottman curls like never before. This is a good thing, and it’s going to help you add some inches to your arms.

5. Seated Dumbbell Incline Curls

This is a challenging exercise because it virtually eliminates cheating. When you’re seated and leaning back, there is no way you can swing the dumbbells up.

This position means two things.

The first implication is that you will need to lower the weights from what you usually use for dumbbell curls.

The second thing is that your biceps will hurt like never before.

Seated dumbbell incline curls will make your arms scream, and you will try to cheat anyways to get the reps done.

When you can’t perform more reps, lower the weight, take a break, and keep going.

6. High Cable Curls (Superman Curls)

These are the coolest-looking bicep exercise you can do. These can be done one-armed if you only have access to one cable, but you’ll need two cables if you want to feel like Superman.

Stand between the two cable columns and set them to shoulder height. Bring your elbows to parallel with your shoulders and curl the hands towards your head like you’re showing off your biceps (you are).

Bonus points if you can get sleeveless in front of a mirror for this one.

Be sure to keep your arms parallel to the ground and try to bring your fists towards your ears or behind your head. This position will help you concentrate all of your efforts on your biceps.

If you want big arms, you need more than bulging biceps

What would big arms be without big triceps?

If you want to put together the ultimate arm day, you will need to pair all of these curls with some tricep extensions. Check out The 6 Best Exercises to Grow Your Triceps for movements that will blow your arms up.

On top of big biceps and triceps, you should add exercises for your side delts. Big medial delts will add to your V taper and give you a physique people envy. Check out 6 Best Exercises To Grow the Medial/Middle/Lateral/Side Delt for the six best exercises to grow your shoulders.

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.