Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Whether it’s Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) or Dolphin Plank Pose, there’s always that one pose that spurs you to want to build more arm strength. Instead of trying to work all of your arm muscles at once, target your biceps with these three exercises—and witness the strength of your arms increase.
“Working your biceps is critical to strengthen your arms and to help stabilize your shoulders,” says ACE-certified personal trainer Meghan Mulholland, founder of Coast 2 Crest Fitness & Yoga. “Biceps main function is to flexion at your elbow and rotate your forearm outward (supinate). When you work your biceps you reduce your risk of injuring your shoulders whether it be in a fall or if you decided to break out your cartwheel skills for the first time in a decade. Another reason to keep your biceps strong is so you can effortlessly tote your favorite, adorable carry-on through the airport without working up a sweat — and look fabulous doing so!”
We’ve compiled the three most efficient biceps-blasting exercises so you know exactly what to do. Just remember to balance these biceps workouts with exercises for your triceps, too. “Strong, toned biceps are only as good as strong, toned triceps,” Mulholland says. “They are opposing muscles and an imbalance could lead to injury.”
This is the king of all arm exercises, working the entire biceps area with each rep. Make sure you start the exercise with a shoulder-width undergrip and that your arms are virtually straight at the beginning of the curl. Do not lean forward or back during the movement.
Action: Bend your elbows to bring the barbell toward your shoulders; pause, then slowly return to the start, extending your arms as far as possible without locking them.
Tip: Keep the move slow and controlled to really burn your arms. “Stabilize your shoulders to avoid shoulders sagging forward or creeping up to your ears,” says Mulholland. “Wake up your core by pulling your navel toward your spine throughout.”
Preacher Bench Barbell Curl
Action: Set the preacher bench at a shallow angle, about 30 to 35 degrees. Holding a barbell in the arms-straight position, curl the weight up until the bar is virtually under your chin. Make sure that you lower the bar slowly; don’t let it drop back down without any control. This exercise works the lower portion of the biceps.
Tip: Make sure the edge of the pad is tucked under your armpits. “Slow and controlled is better than fast and furious,” Mulholland says. “Be very careful not to hyperextend at the elbows if your arms are long enough.”
Single-Arm Preacher-Bench Dumbbell Curl
Note that the bench is set in the vertical position. This puts the emphasis on the peak building aspect of biceps training. Stagger one leg behind the other. Fully extend your arm and pay attention to your wrist — it should not fall backward or forward.
Action: As you raise the dumbbell, turn your wrist outward as illustrated for a nice pop, then slowly reverse back to the beginning.
Tip: Keep your wrist and back strong and straight as you do this move. “You’ll likely want to watch the curl, but don’t let yourself get lazy through your neck or upper back in doing so,” says Mulholland. “If you catch yourself allowing your chin to start to fall toward your chest, try watching your curls in the mirror instead.”