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How to build big arms! Part 1- Biceps

Updated on May 23, 2014

Building big arms is easy, but you have to be disciplined, motivated and dedicated to working out if you really want it!

It's been a good year or so since I wrote my last hub, and this is primarily due to me being at University so as you can imagine, finding the time was somewhat of a challenge to sit down and write hubs consistently.

My thinking was this, If I couldn't commit myself to writing consistent and regular hubs, then I'm not going to write them period! But now that I've just finished my undergraduate degree, I hope to churn out some very good, detailed and hopefully useful hubs over this summer period!

My gym life over the past year has been on and off to some extent, where last summer I didn't workout properly for a good 7 months or so! Itching to get back into the world of fitness, weight training and "body-building" I joined my University gym In January and realised just how easy it is to get back on the scene as it were. I don't ever want to find myself in a position where months go by without lifting a single dumbbell, or racking a barbell after heavy squats because everyone, should be dedicated to health fitness for life!

So this article will follow a similar premise to my previous 2 "How to" muscle guides, only this time we're focusing on those arms!

An overlook of what to expect in this article:

  1. Introduction.
  2. The muscles which make up your bicep.
  3. List of bicep exercises.
  4. My chosen workout for big biceps including number of sets, reps and rest times.
  5. Summary or workout and top tips.


As a little disclaimer folks, I am by no means a professional or qualified fitness expert- I've never studied it in terms of an academic perspective with regards to nutrition or sports science, but what I do have on my side, is experience, trial and error with exercise routines and good old fashioned common sense.

Furthermore, with every fitness and weightlifting hub I write, I'm going to emphasise just how important words such as dedication, commitment, motivation, drive and focus really are! I don't care if you've got 10 different brands of protein supplements or the best pre-workout since sliced bread, without applying the above words, you're not building no muscle!

And as always, ensuring your diet is in relatively good check, and you're sleeping and resting well, then your optimum "you" may just be around the corner!

Please feel free to jump straight to the summary of the workout at the end of the article! Thanks!

The muscles that make up you bicep

Biceps, ("bi" meaning 2) is a muscle on the arm which comprises of the long head and short head of the bicep. Building these 2 muscle types that make up the bicep is relatively simple given that the movements required are pretty much exactly the same, however, getting the movement even slightly wrong can result in taking the strain off the bicep and potentially loading it onto another muscle group which we don't want.


List of exercises for your biceps (there's a lot)

So here is a pool of exercises you can select that will all put strain on the bicep muscle where each is slightly different to the next but all doing essentially the same thing. The beauty here is that you can choose the exercise you like the most and what works best for you.

See below for list of bicep exercises:

  • Standing Bicep Alternating Curls (Dumbbells)
  • Decline Seated Bicep Alternating Curls (Dumbbells)
  • Straight Bench Bicep Alternating Curls (Dumbbells)
  • Standing Hammer Curls (Dumbbells)
  • Seated Hammer Curls (Dumbbells)
  • Cross Body Hammer Curls (Dumbbells)
  • Standing Barbell Curl (wide-grip) (Barbell)
  • Standing Barbell Curl (close-grip) (Barbell)
  • Preacher Curls (EZ bar or alternating dumbbells)
  • Overhead Cable Curls
  • Cable Preacher Curls
  • One Armed Cable Curls

My recommendation for a good bicep workout

As you can probably imagine, there's a lot of different bicep routines you can carry out from the huge list of exercises one can perform from the list above, and that's not even them all! The bicep workout that I'll recommend is the one I'm currently using but I tend to switch it up here and there if I'm getting bored or a particular exercise or I'm not really seeing decent results. Like I said guys, trial and error, find what works for you! | Source

Exercise No.1:

Standing Barbell Curls

  • Set one, before we jump into set one, go ahead and curl the bar just by itself for 12 reps and repeat 2 or 3 times until you feel a bit of a pump in the bicep- we don't want to rush straight into our working sets before getting at least some blood circulation. After a nice warm up, select a weight you feel can achieve at least 12 reps, baring in mind you've got another 3 to go after the first set (Note: when doing your first set, always bear in mind the fact you have more sets to come, so don't burn out immediately if you want an effective workout!)
  • Set 2, set one complete, go ahead and add a reasonable amount of weight to either side of the barbell, but not too much. For example, for my first set I'll start off with a 10KG bar with a 5kg and 2.5kg plate on either side. So for my second set I'll take these plates off and put a 10kg plate on either side. Perform at least 10 reps but anything above 8 is sufficient.
  • Set 3, after set 2 you should be feeling a good burn and now you know the exercise is working. Set 3 you want to up the weight again a little but don't get too confident, this is just the first exercise! Aim for around 8 reps but no less than 6.
  • Set 4, Final set of this exercise! At this stage your arms should be burning and blood should be rushing into your bicep, so if you feel you have the strength, go ahead and up the weight a little bit more on either side, maybe a 1.25kg plate (2.5lb's). Sticking at the same weight as the previous set is still sufficient and so aim for at least 6 reps, aiming for 7 maybe 8 if you've got it in you! | Source

Exercise No.2:

Seated Incline Alternating Dumbbell Curls

  • Set 1, this exercise is more of a concentration movement, focusing on squeezing the bicep as opposed to the big heavy compound movement that we see with the standing barbell curl. Make sure the bench isn't too low down nor too high up. An ideal angle would be to place it as such that you would normally perform the incline bench press with. Start off with a moderate weight (Note: At this point there's no need to warm up the bicep since we're now into our second exercise) 10kg or 12kg dumbbells are a good starting point and aim for 10-12 reps each arm, focusing on the decline action when lowering the weight back down.
  • Set 2, first set down, for this set we want to choose the next highest dumbbells and aim for 8-10 reps per arm, again focusing on that decline movement and contracting the muscle. We don't want to swing the weight here, we want to isolate the biceps head!
  • Set 3, final set for this exercise- we want to up the weight once more and aim for at least 6 repetitions per arm, don't worry if you can only manage 5 or even 4 per arm, so long as you can feel the biceps contracting and squeezing, you're still working it. | Source

Exercise No.3:

EZ Bar Preacher Curls

  • Set 1, EZ preacher curls are again more of a concentration exercise and you really want to focus on the decline part of the movement. Start off with a relatively light weight, perhaps 15kg in total and you want to explode with the bar upwards towards your chin and slowly lower the bar down. When declining, count to around 2 or 3 for a full range of motion and explode up again. For the first set, aim to get around 12 reps or at least 10.
  • Set 2, for your second set you want to be aiming for at least 8 reps, but if you managed 12 in your first, then go for 10. Again focus on the the decline part as this is really going to stretch out the bicep, contracting when you explode up.
  • Set 3, for you final set, aim for at least 6 reps if you managed 8-10 in the second. However, by this point your biceps should feel really pumped and stiff, so don't worry if you only manage around 4-6.

Exercise No.4

Choose anything to finish on!

By this point, it doesn't really matter what you do because you've essentially already worked the muscle and should have a good pump on. So the final exercise is just to take it that little bit further. Usually for my bicep routine I'll finish by bending over, placing one hand on my knee and curling a dumbbell for around 3 sets per arm, keeping at the same weight such as a 10kg. This is really good to finish off a workout as it gives me that final pump! But At this point it's really up to you guys, if you feel you can't do no more, then that's fine, it's all about preference!

What bicep exercise gives you the biggest pump?

What's your favourite bicep exercise?

See results

Fresh Ploons Top Tips

  • When you're performing bicep exercises, and this especially applies to standing exercises, try to keep your core body still. I see far too many people in the gym swing the weights up which is doing literally nothing for you. Fair enough a little swing action maybe be required towards the latter, heavier sets and reps, but for the best part, maintain a stiff and rigid posture.
  • Aim to rest between 90 and 120 seconds between each set. For your first sets however, only 60 seconds may be required, but you know your own body and you know when to perform the next set better than anyone. Don't wait too long, but don't jump straight back into it either.
  • Eat lots of protein to the rebuild the damaged muscle you've just caused in the gym
  • Sleep well and rest well.

Summary of Workout

*Gradually increase weight per set

Exercise No. 1:

Standing Barbell Curls*

  • 4 x 12/10/8/6 (4 sets in total)

Exercise No. 2:

Seated Incline Alternating Dumbbell Curls*

  • 3 x 12/10/8 (3 sets in total)

Exercise No. 3:

Seated EZ Bar Preacher Curls*

  • 3 x 10/8/6 (3 sets in total)

Exercise No. 4:

Any of your choice!

Here's a selection:

  1. Bent one armed curls (3 sets per arm)
  2. One armed cable curls (3 sets per arm)
  3. Cable preacher curls with v bar (3 sets)
  4. Cross body hammer curls (3 sets per arm)


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    • Fresh Ploon profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Bradford - Uk

      I was going to put pull ups in my list of exercises and I actually used to do pull ups for a bicep workout, but this is an arm workout plan which will go alongside a tricep workout. I'd recommend pull-ups for the folks that do back an bi's.

      I'd consider barbell curls to be heavy compound movements as well as standard curls. Biceps are a small muscle so compound movements are pretty few and far between, and would go far as to say aren't 100% necessary in order to build big bi's. Chest or legs on the other hand, obviously require big heavy compound movements in order to gain mass. But in terms of getting big arms, you essentially use most of your arm muscles even if it's just a little bit when working out the chest, shoulders and back. So arm day is going to be a concentration day.

      Thanks my opinion anyway and seems to be working. Everyone's different.

      Interested to know your opinion dude!

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 

      4 years ago from Nottingham UK

      I actually get my biggest bicep muscle pump from doing pull ups when compared to the isolation exercises you've featured. Out of curiosity why haven't you focused on any compound exercises? Why target just the small muscle that is the biceps when you can gain a better back etc as part of the same workout?


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