Biceps get a disproportionate amount of attention in the world of fitness. It’s one of the muscle groups that people find most aesthetically pleasing, so many men and some women put a strong emphasis on growing them. In fact, you’ll probably never see a bodybuilder, superhero, or fitness icon without bulging biceps! They represent the lofty goal of attaining great physical prowess and strength.
Many people desire bigger biceps, but not many know the steps it takes to get there. They won’t appear overnight, and they certainly won’t grow without a significant amount of hard work. However, bicep growth is completely attainable. Whether you’re a fitness beginner, an expert, a teen, or an older adult, you can improve bicep strength and mass by learning a few simple brachialis bicep exercises.
Bicep Anatomy and Function
What most people think of as the biceps is actually a set of three different muscles on the upper inner arm.
Muscles of the Biceps:
- Bicep Brachii
The actual bicep brachii itself is a two-headed muscle consisting of a short head and a long head. It connects from the shoulder to the elbow joint and plays a major role in flexing the forearm inwards and supinating at the shoulder joint (rotating the arm outwards).
In addition to the bicep brachii, the upper inner arm also contains the smaller coracobrachialis and the large brachialis. The coracobrachialis is housed in the upper inner segment of the arm near the armpit, and it assists with pulling the arm towards the body at the shoulder joint in a movement called adduction.
The brachialis plays a much more significant role in both the function and the appearance of the bicep area. It’s a large muscle that sits underneath the bicep brachii extending from the elbow joint to close to the top of the humerus (main upper arm bone). It actually plays a more significant role in elbow flexion than the bicep brachii, generating over 50% more power. However, unlike the bicep brachii, it doesn’t play a role in arm rotation.
Since the brachialis is a thick muscle that sits underneath the bicep brachii, gaining strength and mass in this area will make the bicep brachii muscles appear bigger and more defined as well. The key to training the entire biceps region for optimal development is to make sure you’re properly hitting all of the important muscles in this area.
How To Train Biceps
As with any other muscle, the key to growing biceps is strength training using progressive overload coupled with good recovery. This means training multiple times per week with increasing loads and/or a higher volume, as well as getting enough nutrition and rest after workouts for the muscles to recover and grow back stronger.
Here are 3 simple exercises for biceps using just dumbbells for you to get started with.
Hammer curls are one of the staple movements of training biceps. They can be done with two dumbbells using both arms at the same time, or you can alternate sides and work out your arms individually. You can also have the option between regular hammer curls or cross-body hammer curls, which can begin to target the forearms and upper chest muscles as well.
To do a basic single-arm hammer curl, grasp a light-medium-sized dumbbell in one hand and face your palms in towards your sides in a neutral position. Without moving any other areas of your body, bend at the elbow to draw the dumbbell forwards and up toward your armpit without rotating your arms. Make sure to squeeze your bicep muscles at the top of this movement and slowly control the dumbbell on the way back down to your side.
Preacher curls are another excellent option to build some serious bicep mass. It’s a strict movement that doesn’t allow for compensation from other muscles, which means it’s an excellent way to ensure you’re targeting the exact areas you want.
To do this exercise, you’ll need some dumbbells and an elevated pad in the form of a preacher bench or even a simple inclined bench. If you’re using a preacher pad, you can do both arms at the same time if you choose, but the narrow width of an incline bench makes it best to stick to single-arm training.
Begin by grabbing your dumbbell and setting yourself up so that the pad or bench is resting in your armpit on the high end, with the backs of your arms touching the rest of the bench in a diagonal declined position. Slowly pull the dumbbell up towards your shoulder using the resistance from the bench to push against it. The first third of the movement will be the most strenuous on your biceps, so be mindful not to move in and out of each rep too quickly.
Last but not least, for training biceps with dumbbells are Zottman curls. This movement is slightly more complex than the previous two, but it will effectively hit all areas of the biceps muscles. All you need for this exercise is a set of dumbbells. It’s best to use two arms at a time for this movement.
Start off your Zottman curl with dumbbells in each hand at your side and the palms facing inwards. Keep your core engaged and your shoulders stable as you bend at the elbow to draw the dumbbells forward and up toward your shoulders. This is where Zottman curls differ from hammer curls: as you reach the top of your movement, allow your forearms to rotate by turning the palms of your hands inwards so your palms face the ceiling while keeping your elbows at your sides.
Once in this position, keep your dumbbells elevated and reverse the forearm rotation so that your palms are now facing directly in front of you. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to your sides with the backs of the hands facing upwards, and return to the starting position for your next rep.
Building biceps might be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Practice them few simple exercises regularly or add in some additional ones and watch your arms become stronger, thicker, and more developed.