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Building An Effective Bicep Workout With Concentrated Bicep Exercises

Updated on September 3, 2010

When people think about the symbol of masculinity, one of the most common and prominent images that comes to mind is that of massive bulging biceps. It is typically the muscle people flex and show off as a representation of their personal fitness level, strength and muscle mass. It is also the muscle that is most visible on a daily basis to everyone you meet and see each day even if you are in street clothing and not at the beach. This hub will present some useful information on how to build a bicep workout that works for you and introduce some of the best bicep exercises.

Basic Rules to Follow

One of the most important rules to follow when working out the biceps is to perform exercises that focus on the muscle and do these exercises with proper form and technique such that the effort you put in is concentrated on training the bicep and not a bunch of auxiliary muscles. I cannot stress this point enough. If you step into any gym or fitness club, you will always find at least a few people who are attempting to do a bicep exercise but are actually debasing their efforts by flinging their entire arm and sometimes entire upper body while trying to lift a weight that is clearly too heavy for them. The proper form and technique you use when performing an exercise will always produce greater results than attempting to use too much weight and using bad form. Performing exercises with improper techniques is also a leading cause of weight training related injuries.

With that said, let's see what is the correct way to perform just about any bicep exercise. We always want to focus on safety as the top priority. If you get injured, you will not be able to do anything and that defeats the whole purpose.

  • The only part of your body that should be in motion when performing any bicep exercise is the lower arm or the forearm and the only joint that should be utilized is the elbow.
  • The rest of your upper body should remain still and your back should be in a straight and neutral position whether you are seated or standing.
  • Do not move your shoulders. This includes rotating, shrugging, or raising them laterally.
  • Do not arch your back or bend your back. Often people will use their back to help swing the weights up and this takes the focus away from the bicep and could cause back injuries.
  • Always use a slow and controlled motion. Do not perform exercises too quickly and swing your arms up towards your chest and shoulders.
  • Make sure you have a firm grip on the equipment whether it's dumbbells, bar bells, or machines. If the equipment is slipping in your hand, stop what you are doing and fix this to prevent injuries.
  • Always warm up with a 7-10 minute jog and a few sets with very light weights to get the blood flowing and help your muscles prepare for more intense exercises.
  • Never hold your breath! Always try to keep your breathing steady throughout the exercises.
  • If you experience sharp joint or muscle pain when performing an exercise, stop immediately and consult a doctor or trained physician.

Bicep Exercise #1: Standing Barbell Curl

Choose a weight that you feel comfortable with and grip it using both hands with palms facing outward. Stand up straight with your feet at shoulder width apart, directly beneath your hips, and your knees should be slightly bent. Your hands should be at or slightly more than shoulder width apart and the bar bell should be resting on the front of your legs in neutral position.

Performing the Exercise

When you are ready, begin moving your forearms and slowly raise the barbell up towards your chest and shoulders until your forearms can no longer move up. Keep your elbows tucked close to your body and do not allow them to move up or laterally. This motion should take about two seconds to complete. You then want to hold the barbell at this position for about a second and then begin the descending movement. Make sure to slowly lower the barbell back to the starting neutral position again with slow and controlled movement. Do not completely relax your muscle and allow gravity to pull the barbell down. This may hurt your form and cause injuries. Make sure to move all the way back to starting position before starting the next repetition.

Bicep Exercise #2: Dumbbell Hammer Curl

Grip the dumbbells with both hands as you would holding a hammer with the palms of your hand facing towards your body and your thumbs should be on top of your clenched fist in the same direction you are facing. You could perform this exercise either standing or seated. If you are standing, the position of your body should be same as for the standing barbell curl. If you are seated, make sure to keep your legs straight in front of you and keep your upper body and back straight and upright in neutral position. Make sure your legs are not obstructing the motion of the dumbbells.

Performing the Exercise

With the starting grip as described above, depending on your personal preference, move either the left or right forearm from starting position up towards your shoulders and chest in a slow and controlled movement taking about two seconds. When you can no longer move your forearms, hold the position for about a second and then slowly return to starting position. Next, begin the same motion with the other arm and go through the same motion slowly and with control. Once you have performed this movement with both arms, this will count as one repetition. Continue the exercise alternating arms until the set is complete.

Bicep Exercise #3: Bicep Concentration Curl

For this exercise, you will want to be seated comfortably on a chair or workout bench. This exercise will utilize a single dumbbell of a comfortable weight. Starting from a seated upright position, take a single dumbbell and grip it firmly in one hand. Place the elbow of the same hand on your upper leg comfortably and lean your upper body towards that side such that you are placing your weight partially on the elbow resting on your leg. Do not place your entire body weight on your leg, only enough so that your upper body will remain still when your arm is in motion.

Performing the Exercise

From the starting position with your arm fully extended out with your palm facing outward away from you, move your forearm up towards your shoulder slowly over about two seconds. Once your forearm can no longer move up higher, hold the position for a second and begin the descending motion in a slow and controlled manner to return to the starting rest position. This will count as one repetition. Be sure the elbow resting on your leg is not slipping while your arm is in motion so the only part of your body that is moving is your forearm. After completing a set with one arm, switch your starting position to the opposite arm and repeat this exercise and perform a set with the other arm.

Bicep Exercise #4: Standing Reverse Barbell Curl

This exercise is performed similarly to the standing barbell curl with the exception of the grip on the barbell. Instead of starting from a neutral position with your palms facing outward for your grip, you are not going to have your palms facing towards your body when you grip the barbell. This will be the new starting position. The position and placement of the rest of your body should be the same as for the standing barbell curl.

Performing the Exercise

Starting from neutral position, slowly begin moving your forearms up towards your shoulders and chest over about two seconds. For this exercise, it is especially important to try to keep your elbows tucked in towards your body. Many people will move their elbows outward naturally as you move your forearms up. So it might take a little more effort to try and keep your elbows still throughout the exercise. As you move your forearms all the way up to a position where they can move no longer, hold the position for about a second and slowly return to starting position while still keeping your elbows still. After returning completely to rest position, this will count as one repetition.

Bicep Exercise #5: Seated Barbell Preacher Curl

This exercise will require that you have a seated preacher curl bench which is available at any gym. As in the name of the exercise, you will be seated on the bench for your starting neutral position. Place your elbows and upper arms on the padded surface shoulder width apart with your palms facing away from the pad. Grip the barbell with both hands in the same manner as for the standing barbell curl. Your arms should be fully extended in the starting position.

Performing the Exercise

From the starting position, move your forearms up towards your shoulders and chest in a slow and controlled motion over two seconds. Once your forearms can no longer move up, hold the position for one second and begin slowly descending back towards the starting position. Make sure to control the movement and do not go pass the starting position and hyper extend your elbows. This will lead to serious elbow injuries which is another reason I would advise not to attempt to use weights that are too heavy. Once you have returned to starting position, this will count as one repetition. Make sure to keep your upper arm and elbows on the padded surface. Do not lift your elbows off the pad. Do not move your upper body as many people will swing their hips and torso to attempt to swing the weight up. Just as any other bicep exercise, only your forearms should be moving.

An example of what an EZ bar looks like.
An example of what an EZ bar looks like.

Alternative Exercises Using the EZ Bar

For all the exercises that utilize a straight barbell, you can perform the same exercise using an EZ bar. Some people find this to be more comfortable as their palms are slightly angled when you grip the EZ bar and not facing straight out away from your body. Some find using this bar does not cause elbow pain as the straight bar does. However, using the EZ bar will decrease the focus on your bicep slightly and increase the work on your brachialis muscle (part of the upper arm and auxiliary muscle to the bicep) a bit more. However, ultimately it is up to you to decide which is better and more comfortable for you.

Planning a Workout Routine

If you are just beginning a bicep workout routine, I would recommend to start with exercise 1 and 2 for the first few weeks. Always warm up and start with a light weight for warm up sets (do not count these as part of the 3 sets). Then begin your main workout and perform each exercise with proper form and technique for 3 sets with 8-10 repetitions each. Rest 2 to 3 minutes between sets and drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. You want to choose a weight such that you can perform all 3 sets with at least 8 repetitions. If you find yourself able to perform more than 10 repetitions even on the last set, you should use a slightly heavier weight. However, do not make big jumps in weight. A good rule to go by is to move up in 2.5 or 5 pound increments and experiment to see your strength and comfort level. As you begin to get stronger, you can add an extra exercise to your workout every two or three weeks. I find usually 4 or 5 exercises for a bicep workout day will be sufficient if you are using proper form and having focused workout sessions.


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    • JanMaklak profile image

      JanMaklak 5 years ago from Canada

      I've heard that hard flexing (like posing) is much like an isometric form of exercise. To be done after you do your curls. Any thoughts?

    • jackw827 profile image

      jackw827 7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thank you for your comment.

      On the point about proper form, people often risk injuring themselves with bad form and technique which can be very counter productive.

      Also I believe people often use weights that are way too heavy because they are at the gym where many people can see them and they feel the need to prove something and show that they can lift more than the other people.

    • Alternative Prime profile image

      Alternative Prime 7 years ago from > California

      I think your right, proper form is one of the keys to achieving maximum results...I find using proper form and lighter weights more beneficial verses heavier weights and poor form...When I use heavier weights it's very difficult to focus on the muscle group your trying to work...Good hub with some good tips

      ...Alternative Prime...