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The 4 Best Bicep Exercises for Size and Strength

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Mar 1,2024|12 min| 2756
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The top 4 exercises to give you strong, peaked biceps

Ask anyone to hit a pose, and there is a good chance that they will flex their biceps, but there is nothing more embarrassing than when you go to flex and your biceps are flat as can be. In order to have a complete upper body, you certainly need to have complete biceps. While there are plenty of bicep exercises out there to really get you some solid pythons, what exactly are the best bicep exercises that you can do? Most people rely on the standard biceps curl. However, there are many more biceps exercises that can be added to your training routine when it comes to training this muscle group.

Let’s dive in.

Anatomy of the Biceps

The biceps brachii are made up of two muscles, hence the prefix, “bi”. It is composed of two different heads, the long head which is on the outside of the arm, and the short head which is on the inside of the arm. The long head is responsible for the thickness, and the short head is responsible for the peak look, not to mention stronger biceps can help with things like deadlifts, they are not just for the looks of muscle mass.

There are also different types of insertions that you can have that affect the appearance of the biceps. For example, 7x Mr. Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger had short bicep heads, so in turn he had a great bicep peak. On the other hand, you look at a bodybuilder such as Calum Von Moger, who has longer bicep insertions, so he does not have a great bicep peak, but instead will have thicker, meatier biceps. 

Calum Von Moger

Image courtesy of Instagram (@calumvonmoger)

Neither long or short bicep muscle insertions are preferred in bodybuilding competitions. However, you need to train both heads of the bicep to get that complete, full look that will really help you out on the stage, or just looking good on the beach. 

Best Short Head Bicep Exercises

Beginning with the short head of the biceps, let’s take a look at the best bicep exercises for building up that peak through weight training. 

Preacher Curls

The preacher curl is a classic bicep exercise that is simple, yet effective. It can be completed by using barbells or dumbbells, and requires a preacher curl bench. You place your elbows over the bench in front of your torso, grab the weight with an underhand grip, then curl the weight towards you with your shoulders, while your triceps stay resting on the bench. It takes out the risk of more dominant muscles taking over, stimulating the short head more effectively.

How to do an EZ Bar Preacher Purl:

  • Find a preacher curl bench and keep the top of the pad tucked under your armpits

  • Reach down and take hold of the EZ bar, use wide grip width to better isolate the short head muscle

  • Keep your arms straight, but do not lock out at the elbow joint

  • Slowly curl the weight towards you

  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the movement before lowering your arms back down

Wide Grip Barbell Curls

Another classic exercise for blowing up your biceps is the wide grip barbell curl, it should be in every one of your bicep workouts. It requires just a barbell and some weights, and allows for the overload of the biceps. However, do not go too heavy, as you will incorporate too much swinging and it will turn into a cheat curl. Remember, this is not a compound exercise!

How to do a Wide Grip Barbell Curl

  • For the starting position, stand with your feet flat on the ground and keeping your back straight and head and chest up

  • Take hold of the barbell with a supinated grip, meaning you have your palms facing away from you, keeping your hands at a width just beyond your shoulders (wide grip)

  • Slowly curl the weight up and towards your chest

  • Hold it at the top of the movement for a few seconds

  • Lower and repeat for the desired number of repetitions

Best Long Head Bicep Exercises

Now onto the fun stuff, developing the bicep peaks through working out the long head of the biceps, making sure to get that serious muscle growth, and bigger biceps overall.

Incline Dumbbell Curl

The incline dumbbell curl is an exercise that will require you to drop the weights a little bit, and focus more on form and the mind-muscle connection. The incline curl provides a good range of motion, and will certainly deliver a pump that you won’t forget. All this exercise requires is a set of dumbbells, and an incline bench.

 

How to do an Incline Dumbbell Curl

  • The best way to do the incline dumbbell curl is grab a pair of light-to-moderate dumbbells and an adjustable bench

  • Set the bench upright at a 45-to-60-degree angle

  • Sit back on the bench and allow your arms to fall behind your body 

  • Keep your upper arms pinned back and curl the weights up until your forearms are higher than perpendicular to your upper arms

  • Lower the weights down slowly, particularly once you pass the halfway point

  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions

Drag Curls

This is an exercise that you may not see in the ordinary workout routines, but can be extremely beneficial for building up the biceps peak as it helps to keep constant tension on the biceps, and they can be a variation of the standard cable curl. It is a good way to overload the peaks of the biceps and can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or cable, so there is versatility to the exercise. The drag curl is performed exactly as it sounds, by dragging the weight up along your torso.

How to do a Drag Curl

  • Grab a barbell (can be preloaded) or dumbbell, or straight bar attachment for the cables, and stand upright like you were about to perform a run-of-the-mill barbell curl

  • Keep your upper arms tucked to your sides and rather than curling the bar outward in an arc, simply pull your elbows behind your body

  • The barbell should lightly graze your hips and torso as it “drags” upward, but you do not want to treat it like you are using a cheese grater

  • Pull until you can’t move your arms behind you any further, hold for a second, and then lower the weight back down the same way

Importance of Training the Biceps

The biceps are more than just an aesthetically pleasing body part, meaning they are not just for bodybuilding. They help you complete your pulling movements, such as rows and pull-ups, and the deadlift. This is why a training program that incorporates bicep exercises is crucial for both strength athletes such as powerlifters and Olympic lifters, and bodybuilders. 

Finding a program can be hard, but with the Boostcamp App you can find over fifty free programs that suit your needs, whether that be strength or power, or you can create your own. 

Where to Find Training Programs

Finding a good workout program to help guide you when it comes to building up your biceps. Keep in mind that good programs will help with your fitness journey, you would want to find a program that caters to your needs and guides you in the right direction, making sure that you are making the most gains. If you are looking to stay on track and continue with linear progression, then finding a good workout program is the key. Where do you look for a good workout program? Check out the Boostcamp App for some great programs.

Boostcamp is home to over 50 FREE workout programs that consist of strength, hypertrophy, or functional fitness, or both, from the push pull legs program all the way to upper lower, there are so many programs to choose from that can help fit your needs. However, with Boostcamp, you don’t have to just follow a pre-written program (although each program is written by a professional), you also can create your own program as well, and track your progress to make sure you are on the right track. That being said, when you are looking to incorporate some serious training to further your bicep progress, then check out Boostcamp.

Best Bicep Exercises Wrap Up

Overall, the bicep is divided into two parts, the long head and the short head which both contribute to the look and function of the muscle. That being said, you need to train both heads if you want a complete physique, and biceps training is a bit more in depth than just standing and doing a few curls.

Do you agree with our list of the best bicep exercises? 

Check out the Boostcamp App for some great programs. Also, be sure to follow Boostcamp on Instagram and subscribe on YouTube!