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15 Biceps Exercises Ranked Worst to Best

Find the perfect exercises for your guns, gains and goals.

Find out which bicep exercises you should add into your training and which ones your should skip, based on your personal preferences and training goals.

What are the Benefits of Strong Biceps?

Strong biceps, the muscles located in the front of your upper arm, offer several benefits. Here are some of the advantages of having strong biceps:

Functional Strength: Strong biceps contribute to overall upper body strength and play a crucial role in many daily activities. Lifting, pulling, pushing, and carrying objects become easier with well-developed biceps.

Improved Performance in Sports: Many sports and physical activities require strong arm muscles, such as throwing a ball, swinging a bat, swimming, rock climbing, or martial arts. Developing strong biceps can enhance your performance in these activities.

Biceps-and-AthletesSource: Stevie D Photography

Enhanced Aesthetic Appearance: Well-toned biceps can improve your overall physique and give your arms a more defined and muscular look. Strong biceps contribute to the appearance of strength and athleticism.

Injury Prevention: Strong biceps help stabilize the shoulder joint and protect it from potential injuries. They provide support and assist in maintaining proper posture, reducing the risk of imbalances or strain on other muscles.

Functional Independence: Strong biceps are particularly important as you age because they help maintain functional independence. They allow you to perform activities of daily living, such as carrying groceries, lifting objects, or opening doors, with greater ease and confidence.

Increased Metabolic Rate: Building muscle, including the biceps, can increase your metabolic rate. Muscle tissue requires more energy to maintain than fat tissue, so having strong biceps can contribute to a higher resting metabolic rate, potentially aiding in weight management.

Overall Upper Body Strength: Strong biceps work in conjunction with other upper body muscles, such as the shoulders, back, and chest, to perform various movements. Strengthening the biceps can positively impact the overall strength and performance of your upper body.

Improved Grip Strength: Strong biceps are closely associated with grip strength. Having powerful biceps can improve your ability to grip and hold objects, which can be advantageous in various activities, from everyday tasks to sports.

It’s important to note that while strong biceps offer numerous benefits, it is essential to maintain a balanced and well-rounded exercise routine that targets all major muscle groups for overall strength, stability, and optimal health.

Bicep Exercises Ranked Worst to Best


Concentration Curls

Reverse Curls

Bicep Pushups


Inverted Chin Curls

Zottman Curls

Preacher Curls

Cable Curls

Better Still:

Cable Flex Curls

Drag Curls

Spider Curl

DB Waiter Curls

Almost Best:

Incline DB Curls


Barbell Curls


Alt. Standing DB Curls

Video – Bicep Exercises Ranked Worst to Best

Watch the video below for the full line of reasoning and though process behind each choice.



1:16 – Concentration Curls

2:23 – Reverse Curls

3:13 – Bicep Pushups


4:13 – Inverted Chin Curls

5:00 – Zottman Curls

5:47 – Preacher Curls

6:55 – Cable Curls

Better Still:

8:14 – Cable Flex Curls

8:52 – Drag Curls

9:44 – Spider Curl

10:34 – DB Waiter Curls

Almost Best:

11:47 – Incline DB Curls

12:45 – Chinups

13:50 – Barbell Curls


15:01 – Alt. Standing DB Curls

What are the Bicep Muscles?

The bicep muscles, also known as the biceps brachii, are a pair of large muscles located on the front of the upper arm. They are primarily responsible for flexing the elbow joint and supinating the forearm (rotating the palm upward). The biceps brachii consists of two heads:

Long Head: The long head of the biceps originates from the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula (shoulder blade) within the shoulder joint. It runs along the upper arm and attaches to the radial tuberosity of the radius bone in the forearm.

Short Head: The short head of the biceps originates from the coracoid process of the scapula, which is a bony projection on the front of the scapula. It runs alongside the long head and joins it to form the main bulk of the biceps muscle. The short head also attaches to the radial tuberosity of the radius.

The biceps brachii is a two-joint muscle, meaning it acts on both the shoulder and the elbow joints. It not only assists in flexing the elbow but also participates in shoulder flexion and stabilization.

Additionally, there are other smaller muscles that contribute to the overall appearance and function of the biceps:

Brachialis: This muscle lies beneath the biceps brachii. It helps in elbow flexion and is responsible for much of the strength during a bicep curl exercise.

Brachioradialis: Although not directly part of the biceps, the brachioradialis muscle is located on the forearm but assists in elbow flexion and contributes to the overall appearance of the upper arm.

The biceps brachii, along with these accessory muscles, plays a significant role in various everyday activities, sports, and weightlifting exercises that involve lifting, pulling, and bending the elbow. Strengthening and developing the biceps can improve arm strength, function, and aesthetics.

Why Do Biceps Help Pulling Movements?

Biceps play an important role in pulling movements due to their function as elbow flexors and supinators of the forearm. Here are the reasons why biceps help in pulling movements:

Elbow Flexion: The primary function of the biceps brachii is to flex the elbow joint. When you perform pulling movements such as pulling yourself up on a bar or rowing exercises, the biceps

contract to bend the elbow and bring the hand closer to the shoulder. This action allows you to generate force and exert pulling strength.

miles to madison episode 10 with danielle brandonSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Supination of the Forearm: Another function of the biceps is supination, which involves rotating the forearm so that the palm faces upward. Many pulling movements, such as chin-ups or holding a barbell during a rowing exercise, require supination to grip the object properly. The biceps contribute to this movement by contracting and rotating the forearm to assist in maintaining a strong grip.

Stabilization of the Shoulder: The biceps brachii, particularly the long head, also aids in shoulder stabilization during pulling movements. As you pull yourself up or perform rowing exercises, the biceps help stabilize the shoulder joint by contracting and providing additional support to the surrounding structures. This stability allows for more efficient and controlled movements during pulling exercises.

Force Generation: Strong biceps generate force, which is crucial for performing pulling movements effectively. When the biceps contract forcefully during exercises like pull-ups or rows, they contribute to the overall strength and power output of the pulling action.

Synergistic Muscle Activation: The biceps work in conjunction with other muscles involved in pulling movements, such as the muscles of the back, shoulders, and forearms. This coordinated effort allows for efficient and coordinated muscle activation, leading to effective pulling strength.

By strengthening the biceps through targeted exercises, you can enhance their capacity to generate force and support pulling movements. It’s important to note that while the biceps are essential for pulling actions, a balanced training program should also target other muscle groups involved in pulling, such as the back, to ensure overall strength and prevent muscle imbalances.

Are Dumbbells Effective for Building Bigger Biceps?

Yes, dumbbells can be highly effective for building bigger biceps. Dumbbells offer several advantages when it comes to bicep training:

Isolation and Range of Motion: Dumbbells allow for greater isolation of the biceps compared to barbells or machines. Each arm works independently, which helps to address any strength imbalances. Dumbbells also provide a wider range of motion, allowing for a deeper stretch and contraction of the biceps, which can contribute to muscle growth.

Stabilizer Activation: When using dumbbells, the stabilizer muscles surrounding the shoulder and elbow joints are engaged to a greater extent compared to barbells or machines. This can lead to better overall muscle development and strength, as the stabilizer muscles are challenged along with the biceps.

Variability: Dumbbells offer a wide range of exercises and variations that can target the biceps from different angles and stimulate muscle growth effectively. You can perform exercises like dumbbell curls (hammer curls, concentration curls, incline curls), alternating curls, or preacher curls, allowing for constant progression and adaptation.

Athlete mid dumbbell snatchSource: Stevie D Photography

Functional Strength: Dumbbell exercises for biceps are often more functional as they require the use of additional stabilizing muscles. This can translate into improved overall upper body strength and coordination, benefiting not just the biceps but also other muscle groups involved in pulling and lifting movements.

To effectively build bigger biceps with dumbbells, it is important to focus on proper form and technique, gradually increase the resistance or weight over time, and incorporate a variety of exercises to target different parts of the biceps and surrounding muscles. Additionally, combining dumbbell exercises with a well-rounded training program that includes compound exercises, proper nutrition, and adequate rest will contribute to optimal muscle growth and development.

What are the Best Reps and Sets for Building Muscle?

The ideal number of reps and sets for building muscle can vary depending on several factors, including your fitness level, training goals, and personal preferences. However, there are some general guidelines that can help you structure your workouts for muscle growth:

Repetitions (Reps): To stimulate muscle growth, it is common to perform a moderate to high number of reps per set. Typically, a range of 8-12 reps per set is considered effective for hypertrophy (muscle growth). This rep range provides an optimal balance between muscle tension, metabolic stress, and muscle fibre recruitment.

Sets: The number of sets you perform per exercise can also contribute to muscle growth. For most individuals, 3-4 sets per exercise are often recommended. This allows for sufficient volume and intensity to stimulate muscle adaptation. However, the specific number of sets can be adjusted based on factors such as training frequency, exercise selection, and individual recovery capacity.

Progressive Overload: Building muscle requires progressively challenging your muscles over time. This can be achieved by gradually increasing the weight or resistance you use for each exercise, aiming for slight increases in load as you become stronger. This progressive overload principle helps to stimulate muscle growth and prevent plateaus.

Rest Periods: Adequate rest periods between sets are important for muscle recovery and optimal performance. Typically, a rest period of around 60-90 seconds is recommended for hypertrophy-focused training. This allows enough time for partial recovery while maintaining a level of intensity during the workout.

Exercise Variation: Incorporating a variety of exercises targeting different muscle groups is important for overall muscle development and preventing stagnation. You can include compound exercises (such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses) and isolation exercises (such as bicep curls or tricep extensions) to target specific muscle groups.

It’s important to note that individual responses to training can vary, and what works for one person may not work the same way for another.

What are the Best Ways to Recover Muscles After Working Out?

Proper muscle recovery after a workout is essential for optimizing muscle growth, preventing injuries, and promoting overall fitness progress. Here are some effective strategies to aid in muscle recovery:

Rest and Sleep: Adequate rest is crucial for allowing your muscles to recover and repair. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to support optimal muscle recovery and overall wellness.

Nutrition: Proper nutrition plays a significant role in muscle recovery. After a workout, prioritize consuming a post-workout meal or snack that includes a combination of protein and carbohydrates. Protein helps repair and rebuild muscle tissue, while carbohydrates replenish glycogen stores for energy. Additionally, ensure you are consuming a well-balanced diet with sufficient calories, macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats), and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to support muscle recovery.

Hydration: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workouts to stay hydrated. Proper hydration aids in nutrient transport, joint lubrication, and overall cellular function, all of which contribute to effective muscle recovery.

Active Recovery: Engage in low-intensity activities, such as light cardio, stretching, or yoga, on rest days or after intense workouts. These activities promote blood flow, help flush out metabolic waste products, and aid in muscle recovery by reducing muscle soreness and stiffness.

vegetarian protein sourcesSource: CrossFit Inc. / Unsplash

Foam Rolling and Stretching: Use foam rollers or perform stretching exercises to release muscle tension, improve flexibility, and enhance blood flow to the muscles. Foam rolling and stretching can help reduce muscle soreness and improve range of motion, facilitating muscle recovery.

Massage and Self-Myofascial Release: Consider receiving professional massages or using self-myofascial release techniques (e.g., using foam rollers, massage balls, or massage sticks) to target specific muscle groups. These techniques help alleviate muscle tension, improve blood circulation, and promote muscle recovery.

Gradual Progression: Avoid excessive training volume or intensity increases too quickly, as it can lead to overtraining and hinder muscle recovery. Gradually progress your workouts over time, allowing your body to adapt and recover between sessions.

Stress Management: High levels of stress can negatively impact muscle recovery. Implement stress-management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or engaging in hobbies, to promote relaxation and support overall recovery.

Remember, everyone’s recovery needs may vary.

It’s important to listen to your body, pay attention to signs of overtraining or injury, and adjust your training and recovery strategies accordingly. If you have any concerns or specific health conditions, consulting with a healthcare professional or certified fitness trainer can provide personalized guidance for optimal muscle recovery.

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