Now that summer has arrived here, everyone is hammering their arms at my gym.
Between the pool parties, beach days and summer vacations, they all know that their arms are going to be out there for everyone to see.
With those thoughts (or fears) in mind, I have been getting asked about the best bicep exercises for mass quite a bit.
My gym friends realized that perhaps they didn’t put in the necessary work on their arms during the winter and have to play some catch up now.
Luckily biceps are one of the easier muscles for most to grow. They are a smaller muscle that do not usually require the amount of work that larger body parts need to grow.
Don’t get me wrong, the usual principles of fast muscle growth still apply however, with a smart training program and the right exercises, you can get your biceps up to par quickly.
The key is to focus on the exercises that are going to help you build the most mass in the shortest amount of time.
There are not a ton of bicep exercises, but there are definitely some that stand above the others when it comes to packing on impressive slabs of muscle.
If you are looking to bulk up your biceps then you’ve come to the right place. Here are my top 5 choices for adding mass to your biceps, in no particular order.
# 1-Standing barbell curls
These are the classic mass builder. This is the exercise that most people are probably familiar with, even before they step into the gym for the first time.
Standing barbell curls are great for packing on mass because they require very little technique or skill.
Even someone brand new to lifting can likely do these with perfect form after a short explanation.
To do these properly, grab a barbell about shoulder distance apart. Start with it resting up against your thighs. Curl the bar up in a wide arc-like motion.
Squeeze your biceps at the top once you have brought the bar up as far as you can go. It will be just above your chest however, it probably won’t touch it.
Lower the bar in a smooth controlled motion, bring it as far down as possible. The longer you can make the movement, the more work your bicep will get.
To get the most out of these make sure you:
- Keep your hands shoulder width.
- Lift your elbows up as little as possible.
- Squeeze at the top.
- Lower in a smooth controlled movement.
# 2-Preacher curls
Unlike barbell curls, these require a piece of equipment called a preacher curl bench. It’s an angled bench that allows you to get the proper alignment for these.
These are powerful because they totally isolate your biceps. It’s almost impossible to cheat with preacher curls due to the angle the bench keeps your body at.
These are particularly good at developing mass on the lower portion of your biceps.
These can be done with an EZ curl bar, straight bar or dumbbell.
To do these properly:
- Make sure the bench is set at an appropriate height so that your arms are not being pulled too far in an uncomfortable position. You don’t want to armbar yourself!
- Hold your body steady as you curl the bar up. Do your best to minimize any movement.
- Squeeze at the top for at least a second.
- Bring the bar back down as far as you can comfortable go in a smooth, controlled movement.
- Do not lean back when you get to the top.
# 3-Seated dumbbell curls
These are the same movement as the barbell curl however, I like them because the movement of the arms are not as restricted.
With a barbell, they are locked in the same position and do not allow for free movement of both arms.
I also find that I am able to get a better squeeze with these, which usually leads to a better pump.
To do these properly:
- Sit on the end of a bench or seat with a weight that is moderately heavy.
- Start with the dumbbells down by your sides with your palms turned towards your body
- While keeping your elbows steady, curl the weight up towards you, twisting your palms with the dumbbell so that they are facing your chest by the end.
- Bring the weights up as high as possible and squeeze at the top for at least a second.
- Bring them back down in a smooth controlled manner, letting the dumbbells twist back into the original starting position.
You can do these standing however, I prefer doing them seated because you are not able to move your body nearly as much, which minimizes the temptation to cheat.
These are the same movement as the seated dumbbell curl however, the dumbbells are kept so that your palms are facing each other throughout the entire movement.
Although it may seem like a small detail, these put an emphasis on the brachialis muscle, which lies between the biceps and triceps.
When you fully develop this muscle, your arms will look more well-rounded and impressive. It’s also a great mass builder for the forearms.
Nothing changes with hammer curls from dumbbell curl aside from the angle of your hands.
You will likely find that you can do more weight with these than standard dumbbell curls.
These are an old school classic which I have recently begun adding back into my routine.
I learned these when I first started lifting however, I strayed away from them for a while for no particular reason.
Looking back, I attribute these to my early forearm development.
Reverse curls focus on the brachialis muscle like the hammer curls however, they also heavily focus on your forearms. I find that this exercise works my forearms better than anything else on this list.
You don’t want to build your biceps while neglecting your forearms.
There are several reasons to train your forearms like a savage however, the most applicable reason is that they are seen more often than your biceps.
How weird is it going to look if you have huge biceps and small forearms? Trust me it looks very odd.
To do reverse curls properly:
- Use a straight bar or EZ curl bar (my preference).
- Grab it on top instead of underneath (hence reverse curls)
- Curl the bar like you do for standard barbell curls, making sure that you minimize movement of your elbows.
- Squeeze at the top and lower down in a controlled motion.
If you haven’t tried these before, you are probably going to find that you get a killer forearm pump.
As a general rule of thumb, I always try to include either these or hammer curls in every bicep workout due to the fact that they work a different part of the arm than standard curls.
You want to make sure you train your biceps and arms in a balances way to minimize any weaknesses.
Curl your way to summer
There you have my top 5 exercise choices for adding mass to your biceps.
While there are a lot of other exercises I did not include, I think these are your best options for adding size on in a short amount of time.
These are all fairly easy to do and do not require any particular skill or training.
Train them with good form and focus on the bicep, but also train them heavy.
If you want to pack on mass, you will need to use some heavy weight.
Hopefully this list helps you plan the rest of your summer arms workouts accordingly!
P.S. Do you have favorite exercises of your own that I left off this list? I’d love to hear them below along with any questions or comments you have!