I need to start this post about how to build bigger biceps by reiterating that beginners don’t need direct arm work and will get great results from chins, rows and all forms of presses and dips.
There is absolutely no need for direct arm work for the first year or so of proper of training.
Make some big gains first, pack on twenty or thirty pounds and then worry about curling.
While this is a cool message to stick with forever the reality is that advice becomes null and void after a few years of training if you really want to build the biggest guns possible.
Intermediate to advanced lifters will not maximize their biceps growth without some direct isolation work. So if you want to build bigger biceps you’re gonna have to start curling.
The First Step: Supinate
Before you even start adding curls to your routine the first thing I would do is switch at a least a couple of the rows and chin up variations in your program to an underhanded (supinated) curl grip. Even though the goal with these exercises is to train the muscles of the back you’re still going to be working your biceps. If you supinate your palms and turn your hands up you’ll work the biceps even harder.
So, if you’re doing bent over rows do them with an EZ bar and a supinated grip. Or do the same thing on a seated cable row. If you’re doing chin ups use rings and supinate at the top.
Another row variation that leads to huge biceps growth is the hand over hand rope row with a thick rope like they do in strongman contests.
Just making those small changes will help kick in some biceps growth.
How to Get Started with Curls
I’d start with 2-3 sets of curls performed twice a week at the end of your upper body days. No need to go overboard from the get go and do Flex Wheelers Mr. Olympia arm blowout. When you get really strong and your arms are at least 16 inches you can start experimenting with more volume and other fancy stuff if you want. For now, keep it simple and you’ll grow just fine.
Like with squats, deadlifts and other compound movements, progressive overload is important, although not as crucial as it is on the main lifts. But you do have to get stronger if you want to build bigger biceps.
Pick one compound biceps exercise per workout and do 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps. Try to add weight and reps over time. Mix it up between exercises that hit the biceps (supinated/ palms up grip) and others that place more stress on the brachialis and forearms (neutral or palms down/ pronated grip).
Below are some good choices:
- EZ bar curl (the straight bar is good but too stressful on many lifters elbows)
- Body drag curl
- Standing DB curl
- Chain curl
- Incline DB curl
- Hammer curl
- Pinwheel curl
- Neutral grip bar curl
My advice to all intermediate to advanced lifters is to keep your reps a bit higher on curls than on most other exercises. The stronger you are the higher you should go. Not only do the biceps seem to respond better to higher reps but it will also be safer and less stressful to your wrists, shoulders and elbows.
Start with a weight you can do 8-10 reps with and stick with it until you can get 12-15 reps. Then bump up the weight and start over again. Save the fancy stuff for when you need it later on down the road.
Eventually, when you are curling some big weights I wouldn’t go below ten reps. That will keep you healthy and in the gym training longer. If you have preexisting elbow issues you may want to start with 12 reps right from the start. Elbow sleeves would also be a useful addition to your arsenal.
Be sure to squeeze and contract your biceps as hard as you can throughout the entire range of motion and never release the tension. This is not an Olympic lift or an explosive movement where you’re just trying to “get the weight up.” When it comes to building bigger biceps you need to concentrate on the muscle you are working and focus on directing all the tension directly to the biceps and nowhere else.
Another trick you can employ that seems to work well when training the guns is to use a three second eccentric. You don’t have to do it on every curl variation or every set but used occasionally it can be a very powerful technique to help stretch the shirt sleeves.
After your biceps are fully pumped stretch the hell out of them for 60-90 seconds.
Now you know how to build bigger biceps.
Remember what they say, suns out guns out.