The 4 Best Bicep Exercises for Size and Strength

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Sep 7,2023|10 min| 1704

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. 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? 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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, then curl the weight towards you with your triceps 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 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. 

How to do a Wide Grip Barbell Curl

  • 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. 

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. It 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

  • 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. 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. 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 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. 

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. 

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!

header image courtesy of Instagram (@calumvonmoger)