If you’ve ever picked up a dumbbell or a barbell, chances are you’ve thrown in a few bicep curls in your time. They’re one of the first areas people look to build up when they start to focus on gaining muscle, but they’re also one of the trickiest places to add mass. Fortunately, help is at hand with this killer bicep workout designed to help you build your biceps quickly and effectively.
The biceps tend to respond well to increased volume and frequency, so training them regularly with a variety of movements is the best way to add size efficiently. The amount of change you’ll see will largely be determined by your training intensity, your diet and your genetics – some people can build big biceps through the major compound lifts alone, while others aren’t so lucky.
We’ve included a couple of plans you can follow depending on how you normally train. If you have a particular day or two set aside for arms then you should look to incorporate the first plan. It’s more time intensive but will allow you to really focus on hitting the biceps from a range of angles and get some volume in. If you’re just looking to throw in some isolation work at the end of your compound lifts, have a look at the finishers.
The Bicep Killer
- Hammer Curls 4 x 10
- Cable Curls 4 x 10
- Barbell Curls 3 x 12
- Seated Dumbbell Curls 3 x 12
- Preacher Curls 2 x 15
You’ll need to use progressively lighter weights as you go through the movements and fatigue starts to set in, but once you get to those preacher curls you’ll be lucky if you can move the bar!
Aim to do this program alongside your tricep and shoulder work once or twice a week, depending on your workout schedule. Plan on being sore for a couple of days after the first session, and don’t expect to be able to grab anything above your head.
For those without the time or the inclination to set aside a specific workout for your arms, adding in a finisher that targets the biceps at the end of one of your workouts is an ideal way to squeeze in some extra volume if your arms are lagging behind a little.
A finisher basically involves squeezing a lot of volume and time under tension into a relatively short space of time, resulting in a huge muscular pump and increased growth hormone release – a recipe for success for those looking for fast improvements.
Dumbbell Drop Sets
Very much an old school classic, drop sets (also known as running the rack) are a fantastic way of hitting the muscles hard and fast. It essentially involves picking a movement (in this case, dumbbell curls) and starting with a weight you can manage 5-6 reps with. Once you’ve done that set, you move on to a lighter set of dumbbells and perform as many reps as you can. Then you do it again, and again, and again… for example:
Set 1 – 30kg x 5
Set 2 – 25kg x 8
Set 3 – 20k x 10
Set 4 – 15kg x 12
Continue working your way down the rack until you’re using weights that you’d be embarrassed to be seen with, and which feel like a PR deadlift attempt at that point. It’s a brutal workout for your biceps – good luck getting that sweaty shirt off afterwards!
The Arm Tornado
I picked this one up from an article over at T-Nation, and it’s a fun and challenging way of blasting the biceps and triceps. You’ll need to set up the tricep pushdown with a weight you can comfortably manage 20 reps with, and sit a set of dumbbells beside the machine (again, with a weight you can manage 20 comfortable reps with).
The aim is to do 7 supersets of 20 reps, totalling 140 reps for each exercise. This is a tough one to recover from, so try to limit it to once or twice a week max.
A little lighter than the other two finishers, but 3 sets of these will be more than enough to encourage some extra bicep growth. The movement involves a basic dumbbell curl, split into 3 parts.
You’re aiming for 7 reps of the bottom half of the movement (arms lowered and curling up until the forearm is parallel to the floor), followed by 7 reps of the top half of the movement (parallel forearm to the top of the curl), followed by 7 full curls. It’s a really tough movement, but aim for 3 sets and see if you manage the same weight on the third set that you managed on the first.
Focus on Growth
While all these workouts will help you add mass to your biceps, they won’t do it alone. You need to get your diet and rest sorted out or you won’t come close to seeing the full benefit of these training programs.
Aim to eat at a slight caloric surplus, get plenty of quality protein in your diet and make sure you’re getting your 8 hours a night. Eat right, train hard and sleep well and you’ll get those biceps you’ve always wanted.