If you're trying to work out what the best bicep exercises for mass are, you're in the right place.
We've compiled a list of what, we think, are some of the key movements to add into your routines to help you build muscle that lasts beyond just that post-workout pump.
Fortunately, the bicep isn't an overly complex muscle to understand, and the exercises are pretty simple to execute as well, making training them a walk in the park once you know how.
Without further delay, let's begin with the first exercise on our list.
The barbell curl is a simple yet effective bicep exercise that can be performed in the gym or at home with the right equipment - check out our list of the best barbells to help you perform this exercise during home sessions.
Also, the barbell curl is a great way to target the long head of your bicep, one of the two muscles contained within the bicep group.
Benefits Of The Barbell Curl
- Simple to perform, with the only equipment required being a bar and weights.
- Can load up the plates to increase overall arm strength.
- Quick to pick up and get the technique right, making it ideal for beginners just starting out.
How To Do The Barbell Curl
As demonstrated by Scott Herman, to perform this exercise, grab hold of the bar with an underhand grip. Your hands should be placed around a shoulder-width apart on the barbell.
Next, pick the bar up, but make sure your arms are fully locked out before starting the movement. A good way to tell if you're locked out is to see if your triceps are flexed.
Then, curl the bar up and focus on engaging your biceps. When you reach the top, slowly begin to bring it back down until your arms return to the fully locked out position.
A key tip to making sure you're engaging your biceps is to try and prevent your elbows from moving. This should help you keep the focus solely on your biceps.
Cross-Body Hammer Curl
While many of you have probably heard of the hammer curl, we believe a cross-body variation is most beneficial for adding mass.
This is because it forces you to active the brachialis more than during a standard hammer curl.
While the brachialis is not technically part of the bicep, it is situated just beneath and is key for adding width to your arms.
Benefits Of The Cross-Body Hammer Curl
- Helps bring focus and attention to the brachialis muscle.
- Minimal equipment required to perform - check out our list of the best adjustable dumbbells if you're looking for something to execute this exercise at home.
- Can also help build your forearms.
How To Do The Cross-Body Hammer Curl
As showcased by Jeff Cavaliere of ATHLEAN-X, to perform this exercise, simply pick up a set of dumbbells in a neutral grip i.e. so your palms are facing each other, and bring the dumbbell up towards the centre of your chest.
Once you reach this point, bring it back down slowly until your arm is fully locked out to complete the full range of movement.
Incline Dumbbell Curl
The incline dumbbell curl is similar to the barbell curl in many respects, however, curling from an inclined position helps prevent you from 'cheating' the weight up.
Also, the added incline helps to extend the range of motion which, in turn, increases the time under tension.
Benefits Of The Incline Dumbbell Curl
- Minimises momentum which should stop the ability to 'cheat' the curl up.
- Increases the range of motion and, therefore, gives a stronger contraction off the bottom of the movement.
- Targets the long head of the bicep.
How To Do The Incline Dumbbell Curl
To begin, set up a bench in an inclined position and sit back with a dumbbell in each hand. Let your arms hand down so they're fully extended.
Then, curl the weight up, much as you would with a standard bicep curl, and slowly bring the weight back down once the dumbbells reach your shoulders at the top of the movement.
If you're still unsure, check out the above tutorial from Jeff Cavaliere once again.
Standing Preacher Curl
The preacher curl is an excellent exercise for targetting the short head of your bicep as your elbows are set away from your body, and it's usually performed using a wide grip.
We believe performing this exercise standing is also the most effective way of ensuring you complete the full range of motion, whilst also stopping you from leaning back to 'cheat' the rep.
Benefits Of The Standing Preacher Curl
- Standing minimises the opportunity for you to use the momentum of leaning back to complete the curl.
- The preacher aspect also stops you from using your body to force the bar up.
- Is effective at hitting the short head of your bicep.
How To Do The Standing Preacher Curl
Back to Scott Herman for this one to demonstrate how to properly perform this movement.
Raise the preacher pad so it's just below your pecs and place the lower portion of your triceps on top of the pad so your elbows are just over the edge. This will require you to lean into the pad somewhat.
Then, execute the curl in a similar fashion to how you would a standard barbell curl, making sure to fully extend at the bottom of the lift to complete the full range of motion.
Dumbbell Spider Curl
The dumbbell spider curl is another excellent movement that focuses on the short head of your bicep.
Much like the incline curl, it also helps to increase the range of motion and, therefore, the time under tension.
Benefits Of The Dumbbell Spider Curl
- Focuses on the short head of your bicep to make sure all aspects of the muscle group are covered.
- Is a simple movement to perform which should help minimise the opportunity to use momentum during the curl.
- Has a long range of motion.
How To Do The Dumbbell Spider Curl
As demonstrated here by BPI Sports, set up a bench on an incline position. You'll then want to lie face down on it and pick up your dumbbells.
Then, turn your palms to face away from you, in a position similar to that of the incline curl, so you're ready to begin.
Whilst keeping your elbows in a fixed position, curl the dumbbells up towards your face until you reach the top of the movement before controlling it on the way down until your arms are fully extended once more.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bicep Exercises
Should You Train Your Biceps Every Day?
In some aspects, given their smaller muscles, you may be inclined to train your biceps every day.
However, like with most exercises, we'd recommend giving your biceps a handful of days off during your week.
Giving your biceps a chance to rest will give them time to recover and rebuild which, in turn, will help you build muscle.
It should also lower your risk of injury as your arms won't be so fatigued, which can, in turn, help improve your overall performance and strength.
How Many Reps Do You Need To Build Muscle?
The key to building muscle, beyond just your biceps, is to maximise the time under tension, so counting in reps may not be the most beneficial and accurate measure.
For muscle growth, we'd recommend anywhere between 40-120 seconds, which should equal around 8-12 reps per set.
Which Bicep Exercise Is Most Effective?
As stated in our guide, the bicep is made up of two heads plus the brachialis which sits just underneath, and no one exercise is perfect at targetting all three areas effectively.
That's why we believe introducing a combination of exercises that each isolate the different muscles into your workout routine to be the most effective way of building mass.
For example, you may find performing a barbell curl, cross-body hammer curl, and spider curl to be the most effective way of growing your biceps and overall arm size.