June 19, 2014
Nothing says strength like a pair of strong and defined biceps. Everyone from bodybuilders and athletes to novice exercisers perform exercises for the biceps in their weekly strength-training routines, each striving for that athletic look the biceps help to achieve. Now, the biceps are not the strongest or the biggest muscle in the body, but you can’t argue the fact that biceps are one of the best “show” muscles.
The biceps is located on the front part of the upper arm between the shoulder and the elbow. Functionally, the biceps does one thing—it flexes the elbow joint. One would think that exercises for the biceps are pretty limited since they only move in one direction, but with more than 20 variations of the tried-and-true standing biceps curl, it’s easy to find a few exercises that are comfortable, challenging and best suited for you.
In addition to dumbbells, biceps curl exercises can be performed with a variety of equipment such as the barbell, EZ curl bar, cables and resistance tubing. Which equipment you choose can also determine the type of grip you use. The biceps is a two-headed muscle, with a “short” head located on the inside of the arm and a “long” head located on the outside of the arm. When performing a biceps curl with a barbell or weighted bar, a narrow grip will emphasize the long head, while a wider grip will target the short head. Wrist position—supination (palms up), pronation (palms down) or neutral (palms in)—also play a role in what part of the biceps is being targeted.
The biceps curl, with all of its variations, still has so much more to offer. With the addition of some lower-body work, changes in arm positions and a little cardio power, the biceps curl is getting a super charged makeover. Although suggestions are provided, alternate any of these super-charged biceps curl exercises with your favorites for a new and challenging twist. It’s “Arm”ageddon time!
Biceps Curl with Isometric Squat
No weight room bench? No problem. Sit nice and low in a squat position to isolate the biceps to create your own version of the preacher curl.
Set Up: Lower down into a squat and hold this position. Place the arms in front of the legs, elbows on the thighs, palms facing up.
Execution: Continue to hold the squat position while curling the dumbbells up, keeping the elbows connected to the thighs throughout the entire movement. Perform 10 to 12 reps
Pairing: Alternate this exercise with dumbbell biceps curls with a palms-down wrist position.
Drag Curl to Front Press
The drag curl is a nice variation to the traditional curl. Adding the front press gives the biceps another opportunity to work in this four-part exercise pattern.
Set Up: Stand holding dumbbells in each hand with a palms-up wrist position. Your arms are shoulder-width apart and the dumbbells are across the tops of your thighs.
Execution: Begin by pulling your elbows back and lift the dumbbells to chest height. The dumbbells should “drag” alongside your torso (1). Press the arms forward so that they are parallel to the ground (2). Pull the arms back in, keeping the dumbbells at chest height (3). Slowly lower the dumbbells along the same path back to the start (4). Perform 10 to 12 reps.
Pairing: Alternate this exercise with a weighted bar curl using a wide grip.
Wide Biceps Curl to Wide Shoulder Press
Targeting the biceps and the shoulders, combining these two upper-body exercises helps to develop shape and strength in this four-part exercise.
Set Up: Position the legs wider than the shoulders, with toes slightly turned out. Lower down into a semi-squat position. Arms are also wider than the shoulders, with dumbbells in each hand using a palms-up wrist position.
Execution: Curl the arms up, keeping the elbows connected to your side (1). Press the dumbbells up into a “V” position (2). Lower the arms back into the wide curl (3), and release the arms back down to the starting position (4). Perform 10 to 12 reps.
Pairing: Alternate this exercise with a weighted bar curl using a narrow grip.
Biceps Curl with Side Taps
Add a little taste of cardio with your strength in this combination move featuring biceps curls and side taps.
Set Up: Stand with the legs together and dumbbells in each hand with a neutral wrist position.
Execution: Tap your right foot out and curl the left arm up. Switch sides and tap your left foot out and curl your right arm up. This motion should be rhythmic in nature, switching fluidly, arms and legs, without stopping. To add intensity, perform this exercise on a 4- to 8-inch bench. Continue for 30 seconds.
Pairing: Alternate this exercise with alternating dumbbell biceps curls with a palms-up wrist position.
Upper Cuts with Bob and Weave
Although not a traditional biceps curl, this exercise keeps tension in the biceps, similar to a chin up. It’s a fun way to burn out the arms, so save this exercise for last!
Set Up: Begin in a squat position with the arms bent, holding on to dumbbells in each hand at shoulder height.
Execution: Stand up facing the upper right-hand corner and perform four upper cuts, punching the dumbbells up toward the ceiling. Keeping the dumbbells at shoulder height, bob to the other side and perform four cuts into the upper left-hand corner. Perform for 30 seconds.
Pairing: Alternate this exercise with resistance band biceps curls.
Stephanie Thielen, BS, has a fitness career that spans over 24 years with experience in group fitness training and management in the community, corporate and collegiate setting. As an ACE Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer, two-time IDEA Presenter, NETA trainer, AEA Trainer, and BOSU National Master Trainer, Stephanie provides land and aquatic workshops that teach logical methods for class construction, providing the “tools of the trade” to assist fitness professionals develop their teaching skills. Find Stephanie on Facebook at Stephanie Thielen Fitness, LLC.