When training for aesthetics people often put a lot of emphasis on their biceps, as it is an attractive muscle to grow. This article will go in depth as to which exercises you can combine to create the best biceps workout for size.
Keep in mind that if you are looking to build a big set of arms, you should put just as much work, if not more, into your triceps as they are after all 1/3 of the upper part of your arms. And most important of all, if you want to build a healthy, balanced body, you focus most of your efforts towards multi joint, compound exercises, that will build that strength you need to progress, and pre fatigue your biceps to finish them off with isolation movements. Isolation movements should never be the main focus of your workout.
Diet is also an important part of you workout, all the while you are breaking down you muscle fibers with intense compound movements like weighted chin ups and rows, or with isolation exercises such as bicep curls, you need to eat a sufficient amount of calories to recover well, and be in a caloric surplus which will build you those extra inches in size.
I will go over exercises, volume, sets reps, and more, so read on, and hopefully you will find new things to incorporate to your own routine !
Anatomy of the bicep
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As you can see on the, the biceps are composed of 3 main parts; the long head and the short head which anchor on the scapula at their proximal point, and both join to one tendon that attaches on the forearm at it’s distal point. With the Brachialis, the 3 heads work together to provide elbow flexion.
In this article I will share with you some of the best advice and knowledge I have accumulated from my own training, research and years of experience. As this is a bodyweight centered website, I will first go over some of the bodyweight biceps exercises you can do and how to integrate them into an effective routine that you can perform in the comfort of you own home if you wish to, followed up with some weighted variants for those who aren’t a big fan of full bodyweight bicep workout.
1. The chin up
Chin ups are on of the best compound exercises you can do for your pulling muscles. They work all 3 of the bicep muscle responsible for elbow flexion that I talked about above, the lats, and the Teres major. For all people from a beginner to elite level of training, chin ups and pull ups are part of the essential basics you must master if you wish to become stronger. They can be rendered more difficult by progressing to harder variations, or by adding weight with a dip belt or weight vest.
They provide a fantastic strength base for you to work on, and are a great CNS ( central nervous system ) simulator. You can progressively overload the exercise for consistent strength and mass gains. I personally consider chin ups and pull ups as a staple of my workout routine, and always have. They have given me increasing consistent results from the beginning and will continually contribute to my overall strength and size gains.
It’s a fantastic functional movement and a must in your workout routine.
Another great thing about this exercise is that don’t even need a gym membership to blast your biceps with it, you can go to your local park if they have some pull up bars, you can install your own pull up bar at home, you can get your hands on a pair of gymnastics rings and perform them on literally anything you find to anchor your rings to, or you can even just use a tree branch. This is a highly accessible exercise which will provide you with great results.
2. The ring bicep curl
You typical bicep curl but on rings. It can also be performed on a low bar, or with a pair of TRX straps. These replaced any form of barbell or dumbbell curl for me as they put pressure on my wrist to a much lesser extent and I am not confined to the necessity of having weights around me to perform this exercise. This exercise will provide you with practically unlimited levels of resistance as you progressively become stronger.
If you want to make the exercise harder, move away from the anchor point if you are using rings, or place the bar higher if you are using a bar. Here is a video which explains the exercise for you in greater detail.
3. Pelican curls
Another very effective bodyweight exercise, slow negative, pelican curls will help you build the biceps of your dreams. Keep in mind though that even if this isn’t the hardest of exercises, it’s not very suitable for a complete beginner. You want to build up your strength in movements like skin the cats and German hangs before attempting one of these as they may feel a bit awkward at first. Do them right, and you are in for some impressive gains.
Once again, you can use a pair of gymnastics rings, or a fixed bar ( like a low pull up bar or the bar on your local gym’s smith machine ) for this exercise. Here it is explained in more detail.
An intense isometric contraction is terrific for muscle growth for two reasons. First, it quickly recruits the largest motor units because it’s a maximum voluntary contraction. Second, isometrics increase the neural drive between the motor cortex in your brain and the trained muscle.
Use these to your advantage by including them at the end of your last set on one or several exercises. For example; on your very last set of pull ups, go to muscle failure then hold an isometric contraction at a 90° angle for as long as you can.
Using correct form
One of the most important and often overlooked things when doing any sort of workout or exercise is proper form and we’ve probably all been guilty of using improper form some time or another. Especially as a beginner one will often try to push himself beyond what he/she is yet capable of, resulting in a poor execution of the exercise and exposing oneself to a plethora of different injuries.
You can do a great job of monitoring your form by recording yourself, executing the movement in front of a mirror, or asking someone else spot for you. Proper form and full range of motion is important if you want to recruit the right muscle fibers to the maximum of your abilities, and track your progress efficiently.
Sets, reps, and rest
As the aim here is to build a solid set of biceps, we are going to follow the basic hypertrophy rep ranges. For each exercise perform:
- Between 6 to 12 reps
- Between 3 to 5 sets
- Between 60 to 90 seconds rest times
You can apply this the chin ups and ring/ bar curls I have mentioned above. For the Pelican curls, it is better to work in several sets of slow eccentric negatives.
The best biceps workout for size
If we take account of the exercises we have seen above, and the rep ranges, sets and rest times, we can now build a bicep blasting routine that would look something like this:
Chin ups – 5 sets of 6 to 12 reps
Ring/ bar bicep curls – 5 sets of 6 to 12 reps
Pelican curls – 3 to 5 sets of 5 second negatives
Make the chin ups harder by adding weight or performing them in an L-Sit. You can also make your ring/bar bicep curls into a dropset. That would mean picking a difficulty you can do no more than 10 reps with, then doing 3 sets without any rest, where you decrease the difficulty each time to be able to complete another 10 reps. I personally use this as a finisher at the end of my pull workouts to definitively burn my biceps into submission.
You can of course adapt this workout to do it with dumbbells if you prefer. Keep the chin ups as you main, compound exercise, replace the ring curls with dumbbell/barbell curls, and the pelican curls with seated dumbbell curls.
L-sit pull ups
You can do this workout on your pull, back, or arms day depending on how you structure the rest of your workouts. Remember to leave your biceps at least 48 hours of rest. Combine this workout with the right, calorie rich diet, and you are bound for muscle growth.
best biceps workout for size – Conclusion
By now you should be more familiar with the anatomy of the biceps, and how they function in terms of flexion at the elbow. You have also seen some of the best bodyweight exercises that can be done for your biceps including ones you are probably already quite familiar with, such as the ring bicep curl, all the way to the less commonly known ones like the pelican curl — a very effective exercise that you’d be missing out to not try.
We have gone over sets, reps and rest periods, for each exercise, and constructed a small routine for you.
Which exercises will you put into your workout routine? If you have any questions, or think that I’ve missed something and should add it to this guide, please comment below, we’ll get a discussion going!