Build Big Biceps With These Three Exercises

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The three exercises described in this article are perhaps the best for building big, muscular biceps.  They incorporate a large compound movement and two isolation exercises.  By including these three exercises in your workout program you can expect to experience tremendous, noticeable growth of the biceps.  

Barbell Row

It may seem counter-intuitive that one of the best exercises to develop big biceps is also one of the best mass building exercises for the back.  The fact is, in order to move heavy iron in a rowing motion, the biceps are strongly activated.  Take a look at the biceps of competitive rowers and gymnasts.  The primary movements that they perform are pulling movements, which heavily involve the upper back and arms.  

The barbell row is performed by loading a barbell with a moderate amount of weight and taking hold of the barbell in front of the body with an overhand or grip.   Once in the starting position, bend over at the waist so that the upper body is positioned between 90 and 45 degrees and maintain that position through the entire execution of the lift.  The barbell should be pulled from a straight arm position until it gently makes contact with the belly, just over the naval.  While performing the exercise, the shoulder blades should be pulled together and act as the primary mover of the barbell.

What you’ll notice while performing pulling movements such as the barbell row is that the muscles of the forearms and biceps will fatigue before the large, stronger muscles of the back and posterior deltoids.    This is an indication that the biceps are being used to a large degree, that the muscle fibers are contracting and potential for tremendous growth is present. 

Many people shy away from big, heavy barbell rows because they are difficult to perform properly.  It is true that it takes a little while to master the movement.  The lower back, hamstrings, upper back, shoulders and arms all have to perform in concert to make the bar travel along the correct path for the best possible muscle and strength gains.  As I explain in the article The Top Three Exercises to Build a Monstrous Back, the barbell row can pack on an incredible amount of muscle tissue to the entire upper body, including the biceps.  This movement must be included in the workout program of anyone who wants to build big biceps. 

Cheat Curls

In his book Hardcore Bodybuilding: A Scientific Approach, Dr. Fred Hatfield describes the principle of compensatory acceleration and how it should be implemented into a workout program to develop explosive strength and muscle gains.  The concept involves exploiting a person’s leverage mechanisms and gliding through the weakest point of a movement with explosive acceleration.  The idea is to generate as much speed and power through a stronger range of motion, to carefully modify body position to a greater leverage and explosively move weight through what is considered an exercises sticking point.  This allows the exerciser to expose muscle fibers to a greater load than would possible under normal, more controlled movements.  

In the case of barbell curls, the sticking point, or point of the movement that is most difficult due to a mechanical disadvantage, is the midpoint.  In order to blast through the midpoint and expose the muscle fibers of the biceps to greater stress, compensatory acceleration can be implemented.  This would involve moving the weight explosively from the starting position of a barbell curl through the sticking point by allowing the upper body to lean backwards under control, allowing the elbows to move slightly away from the body and allowing the muscles of the shoulders to assist in moving the weight through the midpoint.  This will provide tremendous stress to the fast-twitch muscle fibers of the biceps and allow explosive muscle growth to occur. 

Cheat curls were a mainstay in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s arm routine and have been credited by many top bodybuilders as one of the best mass building exercises for the biceps.  It is perhaps the most effective isolation exercise for biceps that exists. 

Extreme caution must be exercised when performing cheat curls.  The movement is so excruciatingly effective at placing stress on the tissues of the upper arm that tendon injuries may occur.  Many lifters have experienced torn tendons of the biceps or biceps tendonitis from performing cheat curls.  It is important to gradually increase the resistance level over time to allow for proper adaptation to occur.  This is okay, because immediate, noticeable bicep growth can occur immediately upon implementing cheat curls into a workout program, even with sub-maximal weights.  

Hammer Curls

The beauty of hammer curls is that they heavily involve the use of forearm muscles and help the lifter to achieve total bicep and forearm development.  Large, well developed forearms make the biceps look bigger and more muscular.  When trying to build big biceps, it is important to incorporate exercises that also target the muscles of the forearms. 

Hammer curls are generally performed using dumbbells or specialty bars that can be used with plate weights or cables.  They are performed by holding weight in each hand and positioning the arms with the elbows at the sides and the palms facing each other.  The movement is executed much like pounding your fist on a table.  It simulates a hammering movement, thus the name “hammer curl.”  By maintaining the arm position throughout the entire curling range of motion, the muscles of the forearms and biceps work to move the weight, causing stress that will ultimately lead to muscle growth.  By allowing the elbows to drift away from the body slightly, greater recruitment of the forearms muscles can be achieved and more development of the lower arm muscles can occur. 

An exercise routine to build big, powerful biceps can look something like this:

Exercise:            Number of Sets:          Weight:       Number of Reps:

Barbell Row               3-5                            Moderate           8-12
Cheat Curls                2-4                            Heavy                 6-10
Hammer Curls           2-4                            Light                  12-20

By performing the movements with varied resistance levels and repetition ranges, the desired stress can be applied to muscle fibers to stimulate muscle growth.  The above sample bicep routine can be performed by itself or along with other muscle groups.  Because the muscles of the biceps are relatively small, they can be exercised more frequently.  However, it is also easy to overtrain the biceps muscles, so it is important not to exceed 6-8 isolation exercises for the biceps.

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  1. really... really a very fresh approach and his reasoning is scientifically and practically proven. full marks. i will recommend this site to my friends also

  2. Thanks, Jay, for your comment and recommendation. Keep lifting!

  3. They are the best! Thanks for commenting.