For all the talk over the last decade about core strength, functional movement, CrossFit, and training in the gym to mimic the motions of sport and everyday life, there’s still nothing like a biceps-focused workout to produce the guns you want.
In fact, even dedicated CrossFitters—or guys training their cores for a specific sport—can benefit from focusing an occasional workout to the sleeve-bursting, high-profile beach muscles. That process breaks you out of your normal routines, challenges muscles in a different manner, and provides a host of benefits.
Because here’s the truth: It’s incorrect to assume that biceps routines are isolated, narcissistic, and useful only to advanced lifters and bodybuilders. The pushing and (mostly) pulling movements you do in a biceps workout mimic everyday life and sport. Try lifting furniture (or your kid) without engaging the biceps. It’s impossible. And while scrawnier guys like Kevin Durant and Steph Curry thrive in the NBA, nobody dominates more than LeBron James, whose guns headline perhaps the most imposing physique in NBA history.
How it works
Whether your biceps work is a staple of your training or an occasional diversion, this ultimate workout will produce results. By alternating between a push and a pull, we can move continuously between movements with no rest, though a one-minute water break between circuits is permitted. Sure, it’s tough—but so are you, right?
Do 10 reps of each of the following 5 exercises, performed in a circuit. Do not rest between each set of exercises within the circuit.
Do 3 total circuits. You may rest one minute between circuits.
Pete Williams is a NASM-certified personal trainer and the author or co-author of a number of books on performance and training.
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Yes, the overhand pullup grip is a signature move for building a broad, V-shaped back by targeting the shoulders and lats—but few moves challenge the biceps like an underhand chinup. Most guys find chinups more difficult if for no other reason than because they’re more accustomed to pullups.
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Sure, this is more of a chest-and-triceps exercise. But in the interest of alternating between pushing and pulling to move along without rest, we’re inserting it here. Don’t worry—your biceps will get plenty of work.
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A former training partner of mine dubbed this “The Humbler,” since it’s actually four exercises in one:
1. Start with light weight on a barbell, and curl 10 times.
2. Curl half-way from the bottom, pausing for a second just above your navel at each of 10 reps.
3. Curl the bar all the way up, and then do half-curls from the top, descending to just below your pecs and pausing for a second before returning to the top. Do 10 reps.
4. Do 10 more full reps.
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4. Racked Farmer’s Carry
The traditional farmer’s carry is an effective full-body move that also challenges endurance as you increase distance carried. But here’s a little-known trick: You can isolate the biceps even more by carrying the dumbbells in a front-rack position—aka holding heads of dumbbells at shoulder-level. Walk for 30 seconds.
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5. Seated Cable Row
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A classic back exercise, the seated cable row also blasts the biceps, especially with a neutral grip where the palms face each other. Using a machine lets you hoist far more weight than with, say, dumbbell curls. Plus you’ll still get the benefit of training your back.