The biceps, the very visible muscles in the front of the upper arms, are a target in every comprehensive strength-training regimen, but what exercise is the most effective?
To answer that question, the American Council on Exercise asked scientists from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to evaluate eight popular biceps exercises.
Popular Biceps Strength-Training Exercises
- Barbell curl
- Cable curl
- Concentration curl
- EZ curl with wide grip
- EZ curl with narrow grip
- Incline curl
- Preacher curl
At the very top of the list for effectiveness is the concentration curl, because it best isolates the biceps. Most of the other popular exercises also target other muscles, such as those in the shoulder called deltoids. But because the upper arm is pressed against the leg in concentration curls, the biceps is engaged the most.
To do this curl, sit on a flat bench with a dumbbell in front of you. Legs are apart, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. For the starting position, hold the weight in your right arm, arm extended toward the floor, palm up. Press the back of the upper arm against the top of your inner right thigh. Now, with control, use only your forearm to curl the weight toward your biceps as you contract that muscle. Bring the weight up to shoulder level, leading with the outside of your hand rather than your thumb for a better contraction. Hold briefly, then — always with control — lower the weight to the start position, and repeat. Build up to three sets of 12 to 15 reps each. Once you’ve finished all the sets with your right hand, repeat with the left.
If you’d like to add more biceps exercises to your routine, the next two in order of effectiveness are the cable curl and chin-ups, with the rest of those on the list very close behind.
The American Council on Exercise has a vast library of biceps exercises on its website.