Best Biceps Workout: Should you quit the Dumbbell Curls?

Young Male Doing Biceps Exercises In The Gym

The biceps are the focus of the body. Sure, the abs, legs, and calves get a good look, but the beauty is in the biceps. When you flex and lift, biceps take center stage. Working them properly is key. Here is the best biceps workout for solid arms.

Biceps 101

bicepsWhen you flex your arm, the muscle that pops is your biceps brachii, or the biceps. The biceps are a group of muscles in the top part of the upper arm. The biceps have a short head and a long head. The short head of the biceps begins at the scapula. The long head begins right above the shoulder joint. On the other end of the biceps is a tendon responsible for arm movement. The distal biceps tendon connects the muscle to the radius and the ulna, which pulls up the forearm. When you do a biceps curl, you can thank that tendon for the the motion.

Function of the Biceps

The biceps have three jobs:

  1. Lifting the forearm
  2. Movement of the elbow
  3. Movement of the shoulder

What You Need to Know About Training the Biceps

Don’t become an arm-pumper. No, I am serious. Stop. There are mare more workouts you can do to increase the size of your biceps. Sitting and staring at yourself as you do curl after curl is not the way to go. In fact, you are not really accomplishing anything anyway. You are just training your biceps to look good, not to do anything or work well. No real strength comes from plain Jane bicep curls. You are also asking for an injury with the same bicep workouts.

Common Biceps Injuries

One work comes to mind when I think about biceps injuries: Popeye. Popeye muscle is a term for a tendon tear in the bicep. Popeye muscle occurs when the tendon in the bicep tears [1]. Yes, tears and balls up in the arm. If you don’t have the painful bulge where your biceps should be, you might have other symptoms. Signs of Popeye muscle are:

  • Inability to flex arm
  • Excruciating, sharp pain in the shoulder and/or elbow
  • Inability to rotate or pain when you rotate your palms
  • Bruising and tenderness in the area
  • Change in arm shape where biceps should be

A torn biceps tendon is not the only injury athletes, bodybuilders, and gym-goers are familiar with. More common biceps injuries are:

  • Dislocation of the biceps
  • Biceps impingement syndrome
  • Biceps tendinitis
  • Biceps tendinosis

What is the Difference Between Tendonitis and Tendonosis?

You have probably heard the term ‘tendinitis’ a few times in your life. Tendonitis is when the tendon is inflamed. This typically occurs when the muscle-tendon unit is overstressed or overloaded. As a lifter, you may be guilty of that – too much weight in too little time. As a result, the tendon suffer micro-tears.

While tendonitis is the most common injury, Evelyn Bass, LMT reports that the injury may actually be tendonosis. Tendonosis occurs when the tendon suffer degeneration after experiencing chronic overuse and limited recovery. Strains, tears, and injuries need time to recover. You shouldn’t be lifting every day, and if you do, don’t work the biceps every time. Give them a break to avoid tendinopathy (tendon injuries) [2].

How to Treat Biceps Injuries

If you suffer from a minor biceps injury, take some time off. Give your biceps a rest so you don’t end up with a painful and expensive injury that will force you to give up the gym for a long time. To treat biceps injuries, reduce pain and inflammation. If the pain and stiffness won’t’ subside, you need to seek professional help. Your first visit should be to a physical therapist.  Physical therapy is a great way to treat biceps injuries because it allows you to progress through a program, safely regain movement and strength, restore range of motion and stability, and improve proprioception [3]. .

How to Avoid Biceps Injuries at the Gym

There are three things to keep in mind when lifting to avoid injuries:

  1. Rest
  2. Recover
  3. Progress

Those three pointers will keep your biceps healthy and strong, and keep you in the gym more. To avoid biceps injuries at the gym, stop trying to be the master of the mat, and stop the curls. When you feel pain, stop the activity causing the pain. While you are at the gym, don’t overload your biceps with too much weight too soon, and try to slow down while you are working out [4]. If you continue to feel pain when working on your biceps, and you don’t see any results, change up your biceps workout.

Tips for the Best Biceps Workout

When doing biceps exercises for bulk and strength, you need to work other areas while working the biceps. Yes, part of your biceps workout should include triceps workout, back, and shoulder exercises. Always work the areas around your target muscle group to improve mobility, balance, and muscle function.

If you want big biceps, you want the exercises of the pros. The best biceps exercises can give you bulk, solid lines, and superior power. I know I have been dogging the biceps curl. It actually isn’t that bad when you switch it up a little. There are many various of the biceps curl to give you impressive size.

Prepping for Your Biceps Workout

Before you tackle the biceps workout, get ready for it first. Okay, shake out your arms and stretch, right? No. Not even close. Stretching is not the holy grail of injury-prevention that everyone believes. Boston University blew that myth right out of the water. Stretching is like the old wives’ tale of the fitness and athletics. Stop wasting your time with stretches before your biceps workout.

First of all, most people stretch incorrectly. They go the wrong way, tug on the wrong body parts and muscles, and don’t stretch the actual area they will be working. Stretching may actually impede muscle performance because it lengthens the muscle. Most exercises and activities are better when the muscle is shorter. Instead of doing stretches, try a dynamic warm-up first instead and save the stretching for the post-workout regimen [4].

Pre-workout for biceps

To prepare your biceps for intense lifting and training, learn to love muscle- and body-prep rituals. Your body will be exerting extra energy, so you need to start out your workout with the proper nutrients to help you and your muscles get through the workout. Before you go to the gym, make a quick shake to get all the nutrient and added benefits of a pre-workout dietary supplement like Fulcrum [5]. It is good for you and it tastes like a bombsicle. You can’t beat that. If you are going to be doing heavy, exhaustive lifting, you need to know you will get the most bulk, too. Try a muscle builder supplement, too.

Remember: Nutrition and hydration are key! Protein meal preps will give you an extra boost and

When you get to the gym, try these dynamic stretches to improve muscle control and function, and to warm up your muscles.

  • Swing your arms back and forth. Do one at a time for 20-30 seconds, and then do both at once. Again, do this or 20-30 seconds. When you do arm swings, don’t lift your arms past your shoulders.
  • Hang your arms at your side and flex your wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints.
  • Do arm circles. Start out with small circles and then progress to larger circles. Return to smaller circles before finishing.
  • For warm-up bicep exercises with only half of the weight you typically use. Do 15-20 reps of a bicep warm-up exercise of your choice.

Post-workout routine for biceps

This is when you can start the stretch. Your body will be filling exhausted, but a good kind of tired that tells you that you got in a good workout today. Make sure you feed your body and your muscles with a good stack for building muscle and recovering from a workout. Make sure you rest on day 2 by working a different part of the body so you don’t put yourself at risk for a biceps injury.

Things to Consider When Working Your Biceps

When creating your biceps workout, remember a few handy tips to increase bulk and strength, and to curb injuries too.

  • Remember the warm-up
  • Keep your biceps workout simple by sticking to the workouts that you know will work
  • Don’t cheat your curls by compromising control
  • Do heavier and slower, not quicker and sloppy
  • Don’t overtrain your biceps
  • Know your level and your limits

If you are a beginner, don’t try to do the hardcore exercises for bulk. Stick to what you can do so that you don’t injure yourself. You can progress to more advanced routines and heavier weights. Also, if you are an advanced lifter or bodybuilder, don’t cheat yourself. There are only so many curls you can do with puny weights before you just look and feel silly.

Man with weight training equipment on sport gym club

Best Biceps Workouts

I have split this up onto three different categories: novice, intermediate, advanced. I did this because some biceps workouts take awhile to progress to. Obviously someone just starting out won’t want to throw on a hundred pounds and bang out 3 sets. Progression is key!

Biceps for Novices

If you are just starting bodybuilding or lifting, your first goal is to train your biceps. You want size and you want it now. These beginner exercises for biceps ensure you don’t waste your time.

Barbell curl

Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure your posture is straight and your arms are not fully extended. Hold the barbell in your arms with your palms facing up. This is your starting position. Now, breathe out and curl the bar to your chest. When you do the barbell curl, look straight ahead and keep your back straight. Only your forearms should move. Do two sets of 8-10 reps.

Dumbbell alternate bicep curl

I know what you are thinking: but, the curl! It is not that bad if you are starting out. Beginners can use the dumbbell curl as a way to train their muscles and to begin to see definition. Stand tall with your arms at your sides with a barbell in each. Your palms should be facing your outer thighs. Look forward and breathe out as you curl the dumbbell to your chest. When you pull the weight to your chest and rest it at your side, your wrist will rotate so that the palm is always facing your body. Alternate each side.

To increase intensity, try the alternate biceps curl while on an incline, but instead of releasing the dumbbell to your thighs, your arms will hang off the side of the include.

Hammer curls

An effective variation of the biceps curl is the hammer curl. To do hammer curls, stand in the same stance you as the dumbbell curl. Make a solid foundation with your feet shoulder-width apart and your torso straight. To do the hammer curl, the movements are in the name. When you bring the dumbbell to your chest, don’t twist your wrist. Hold the dumbbell as you would a hammer. Do two sets of 10-12 reps.

Biceps Workouts for Intermediates

Now we are going to step it up. As you progress to intermediate, you will increase reps and weight. You will also be moving away from the barbell. Exercises for intermediate biceps workouts will involve the cable for added resistance.

Cable Wrist Curl

For this exercise, use the cable nearest the floor. Sit on a bench, and with your palms up, reach down for the cable. Slowly lift your forearms to bring the cable up toward your chest. The resting position is when your forearms are resting on your thighs. When you curl the cable toward your body, don’t exceed 90 degrees. Then slowly lower your wrists back to the starting position. Your elbows must leave your thighs. Do 5 sets of 20-30 reps. Eventually, you can work up to 50 reps in a set.


Standing Biceps Cable Curl

Stand straight and hold the cable bar in your hands. Your palms should be facing up. Keep your upper arms stationary as your bring your forearms up toward your chest. When the biceps are fully contracted, your palms will be by your shoulders. Release back to the starting position. Do 3 sets of 20-30 reps.

Cable hammer curls

You will need the rope attachment for the hammer curl because your wrists need to twist enough to face each other as you pull up your forearms. Start with your posture completely neutral, and then move back just past the line of symmetry. Keep your elbows at your side and hold the rope with your hands. Use your biceps to bring your forearms up. Do three sets of 20-30 reps.

Advanced Biceps Workouts

So, you are a shredder at the gym, huh? Okay, let’s kick it up a little for your. It is time to add more weight and increase your reps.

Concentration Curls

Concentration curls are credited with giving peak to the biceps. Sit on a bench and spread your legs. Pick up the dumbbell and hold it between your legs. Keep the top of the arm still as your move the forearm up, curling the arm. When the biceps contract completely, slowly release the arm back into the starting position. Do three sets of 40-50 reps.

Dumbbell Preacher Curl

When sitting at the preacher bench, grab a dumbbell. Place the top of your arm on the top of the preacher bench. Your elbow will touch the bench but your forearm will not. Use your biceps to bring the dumbbell to your face. When the biceps reach full contraction, release the dumbbell back to the starting position. Do two sets of 30 on each arm.

Another variation of the preacher curl is to use a bar or a cable. Both the cable and the barbell require both arms, not single curls.

Lying High Bench Barbell Curl

This exercises requires quite a bit of coordination. Lie on your stomach on the bench. Your shoulders should be off the bench and your back should be straight. With the barbell in front of your pick it up in your hands. Make sure your palms point up and your wrists are shoulder-width apart. Pick up the barbell by only moving your forearms. Make sure you breathe with this one. Exhale when you bring the bar toward your head. When the biceps reach full contraction, gently release the bar back down toward the floor. Do not allow the bar to touch the ground.


These are just a sampling of biceps workouts I enjoy. What are your favorites?


  1. Surgical Management of Acute Distal Biceps Tendon Rupture Associated with Contralateral Radial Palsy
    Badr Ennaciri,1,& Emmanuel Beaudouin,2 Mustapha Mahfoud,1 Mohamed Saleh Berrada,1 and Eric Montbarbon2 Pan Afr Med J. 2015; 22: 258.
    Published online 2015 Nov 18. doi: [10.11604/pamj.2015.22.258.7408]
  2. Tendinopathy: Why the Difference Between Tendinitis and Tendinosis Matters
    Evelyn Bass, LMT Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2012; 5(1): 14–17.
    Published online 2012 Mar 31.
  3. Diagnosis and Treatment of Biceps Tendinitis and Tendinosis.
    Churgay CA1. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Sep 1;80(5):470-6.
  4. Stretching Before and After Exercise: Effect on Muscle Soreness and Injury Risk
    J. C Andersen J Athl Train. 2005 Jul-Sep; 40(3): 218–220.
  5. Effects of a Pre-workout Supplement on Lean Mass, Muscular Performance, Subjective Workout Experience and Biomarkers of Safety
    A. William Kedia,1 Jennifer E. Hofheins,1 Scott M. Habowski,1 Arny A. Ferrando,2 M. David Gothard,3 and Hector L. Lopez1,✉ Int J Med Sci. 2014; 11(2): 116–126.
    Published online 2014 Jan 2. doi: [10.7150/ijms.7073]


  1. I enjoy doing a superset of incline DB curls to DB spider curls to standing DB curls. rest for a minute to a minute and a half and do it again for 3 to 4 sets with reps ranging from 30 to 10

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Dan. Always interested in what others are doing both from exercise, diet and supplementation standpoint.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.