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The Best Biceps Workout

Curls are the key to bulking up your biceps, but it’s not as simple as ripping through an outlandish number dumbbell curls. You need to get the pacing of your workout right to truly test your biceps, as well as adding variations so you’re working the muscles from all angles. That’s exactly what the routine below does.

It consists of six of the best biceps exercises done as a superset workout. That means you do the first set of exercise A, followed immediately by the first set of exercise B. Rest for the allotted period, then start on the second consecutive sets of A and B. Once all the sets of superset 1 are completed, move on to superset 2.

You’ll also find the exact tempo you need to work at, alongside the sets and reps information for each exercise. Tempo training can be used to accentuate the effect of an exercise. When you move more slowly you prolong the time the muscle is under tension, while speeding up can improve your explosive power, and the pauses in each rep help improve your balance and awareness of your muscles.

In this workout the first number shows how long in seconds you should spend lowering the weight, which is the eccentric phase of the lift. The second number is how long to pause at the bottom, the third is how long it takes to lift the weight, and the final number is how long you should hold at the top of the lift.

Throughout this session the eccentric phase is longer than the rest of the rep, which will maximise the work your biceps do. The plus side of this is you’ll bulk up your upper arms all the quicker as you do more damage (in a good way) to the muscle; the downside is you can expect some savage DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) after the first time you try this workout.

Superset Biceps Workout

The plan is simple: it’s a six-move workout made up of three supersets. Do the moves in order, sticking to the sets, reps, tempo and rest periods.

Do it twice a week for four weeks, aiming to increase the weights you’re lifting every second session. This will consistently keep your biceps muscles out of their comfort zone and expose them to an ever-increasing workload, which is the key to impressive muscle mass gains.

The best bit – aside from building bigger biceps – is that you simply incorporate this into your existing programme. To avoid overtaxing the muscles, drop any biceps moves you’re already doing and replace them with pressing moves that work the chest, triceps and shoulders to help keep your body balanced.

How To Get The Most Out Of This Workout

Move through a full range Moving your muscles through the full range of motion will engage the maximum number of muscle fibres, which is the key to faster growth. And avoid swinging the weights up using momentum – cheat reps will hinder, not help, your gains.

Squeeze at the top of the move At the top of every rep (when your hands are closest to your chin), squeeze your biceps as hard as possible for one second. This will fire up extra muscle fibres to hold the weight steady and increase blood flow for a muscle-building pump.

Stretch at the bottom At the bottom of every rep (when you arms are fully straight), stretch your triceps as hard as possible for one second. This will help ensure you go through a full range of motion, as well as removing any momentum from your reps.

Use Your Mind To Build Muscle

The three mental workout rules to follow to accelerate your progress

  1. Visualise the move Thinking about how your biceps are contracting to move the weight will build quicker neural pathways between your brain and biceps. The faster they fire, the faster you grow.
  2. Count the tempo Sticking to the detailed tempo will expose your biceps to more tension. Counting the two-second lowering part – in your head, ideally – will make sure you don’t rush your reps.
  3. Go high to low Counting down your reps will help you push through hard sets because you know the end is in sight. Counting up, especially for long sets, makes it harder to stay motivated.

The Workout

1A Dumbbell curl

Seated incline biceps curl

(Image credit: Photograph: Tom Miles. Model: Richard Scrivener)

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2111 Rest 0sec

Lie on an incline bench with a weight in each hand with palms facing forward. Curl the weights up, pause at the top, then lower back down under complete control.

1B Hammer curl

Incline seated hammer curl biceps workout

(Image credit: Photograph: Tom Miles. Model: Richard Scrivener)

Sets 3 Reps 15 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec

Using a lighter set of dumbbells than in exercise 1A, lie on the incline bench with palms facing each other. Curl them up, pause at the top, then lower under control. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the lift to work your muscles harder.

2A Preacher curl

Preacher curl biceps workout

(Image credit: Photograph: Tom Miles. Model: Richard Scrivener)

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2111 Rest 0sec

Sit at a preacher bench holding an EZ-bar with an underhand grip. Curl the bar up to the top, pause and squeeze, then lower the bar slowly until your arms are fully straight.

2B Preacher reverse curl

Reverse preacher curl biceps workout

(Image credit: Photograph: Tom Miles. Model: Richard Scrivener)

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec

With the same weight on the EZ-bar as in 2A, change your grip to a double-overhand hold. Curl the bar up, pause, then lower until your arms are fully straight.

3A Cable bar curl

Cable biceps curl

(Image credit: Photograph: Tom Miles. Model: Richard Scrivener)

Sets 3 Reps 15 Tempo 2111 Rest 0sec

Hold a straight bar that’s attached to the lower pulley. Keeping your elbows by your sides, curl the bar up, pause, then lower under control.

3B Cable hammer curl

Cable hammer curl biceps workout

(Image credit: Photograph: Tom Miles. Model: Richard Scrivener)

Sets 3 Reps 15 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec

Reduce the weight by a plate or two and switch cable attachments to a double-handed rope. Hold it with palms facing. Curl it up, pause, then lower under control.

More Biceps Workouts

If you’re looking for other workouts to beef up your biceps, try one of the following.

Superset Arms Workout

The supersets in this workout use a variety of exercises to work your biceps and triceps from different angles to stimulate growth. There are three supersets in the workout, with each pairing a biceps and a triceps exercise. See the superset arms workout

  • 1A Triceps dip (Sets 5 Reps 5-10 Rest 30sec)
  • 1B Chin-up (Sets 5 Reps 5-10 Rest 60sec)
  • 2A Incline dumbbell biceps curl (Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 30sec)
  • 2B Incline EZ-bar skullcrusher (Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 60sec)
  • 3A Cable rope overhead extension (Sets 3 Reps 15 Rest 30sec)
  • 3B Cable bar biceps curl (Sets 3 Reps 15 Rest 60sec)

6-12-25 Tri-Set Workout

A tri-set involves doing three moves back to back with very little rest. That’s tough enough, but with a 6-12-25 tri-set you’re also increasing the reps with each exercise, doing six of the first move, 12 of the second and 25 of the third. The workout involves two 6-12-25 tri-sets and it's great for stimulating growth in your upper arms. That’s why you’re here, right? See the high-rep arms workout

  • 1A Dumbbell reverse curl (Sets 3 Reps 6 Rest 10sec)
  • 1B Dumbbell biceps curl (Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 10sec)
  • 1C Dumbbell hammer curl (Sets 3 Reps 25 Rest 3min)
  • 2A Diamond press-up (Sets 3 Reps 6 Rest 10sec)
  • 2B Dumbbell hammer press (Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 10sec)
  • 2C Dumbbell overhead extension (Sets 3 Reps 25 Rest 3min)

Simple Biceps Workout

You don’t have to get too complex with your workouts to hit your biceps hard, so if the idea of supersets and tri-sets seems a bit much to you, this effective three-move routine might be more up your street. See the simple biceps workout

  • 1 Single arm dumbbell preacher curl (Sets 3 Reps 6-8 Rest 90sec)
  • 2 Incline dumbbell curl (Sets 3 Reps 8-10 Rest 90sec)
  • 3 Dumbbell hammer curl (Sets 3 Reps 10-12 Rest 90sec)