Since Arnold Schwarzenegger and other top bodybuilders of America introduced bicep curls as their secret recipe for a mind-blowing arm size, this move has gained huge popularity among fitness fanatics. But are bicep curls enough to achieve that sheer arm size you aspire to? Can you just do bicep curls in the gym?
You can just do bicep curls if you’re an all-out bodybuilder and your only concern is to build up your biceps. But since newcomers have weak stabilizer muscles, they can’t recruit their biceps to full potential. So, they need some compound exercises to shock their biceps along with other parts.
Bent-over rows, rowing machines, renegade rows, and f are only a few workouts that can help beginners beyond bicep curls. Read on to learn how you can perform them and what muscles they target. You’ll also know who can adopt bicep curls and how.
What Are Bicep Curls Good For?
Bicep curls are good for building strength in the biceps, as their name suggests. But depending on how you do the exercise—with dumbbells, resistance bands, a barbell, or a cable machine—it can also trigger your triceps, brachialis, brachioradialis, shoulders, and even abs.
That said, their effect on these body parts is so minor that bicep curls are only considered bicep isolators. And since they can need a lot of time to take effect, they’re not recommended for gym newcomers trying to make a go in a few months. They eat away a lot of your gym hours while adding bulk to only a mini muscle.
Other than that, biceps work in conjunction with your traps, shoulders, and lats to pull up the barbell. So, if you have weak stabilizers, it not only fails to fill your T-shirt sleeves but also causes shoulder soreness, imbalance, and elbow injuries.
So, if you’re new to the world of weightlifting, postpone the bicep curls until you become stronger, and stick with full-body workouts. There are several programs that can target not only your biceps but many other parts simultaneously (we’ll point to some of them at the end of the article).
But if you’ve built enough mass through your body and now you want to push your upper arms to max growth, we’re here to teach you how you can do it properly.
Bicep Curls for Bodybuilders
Bicep curls have a lot of variations, from Concentration curls, Preacher curls, Hammer curls, and Spider curls, to Band curls, Zottman curls, and Cable curls. But the standard form is the standing curl with dumbbells.
Here’s how to do bicep curls effectively:
- Setup in a standing position with your legs shoulder-width apart. Then, hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands with your palms facing up.
- Hang your arms to your body sides before you bend your elbows and wight up the dumbbells in front of your shoulders.
- Hold the dumbbells up for a moment, squeezing your bicep and then, reverse the motion.
- Do it for 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps.
Bicep Curl Tips
- Keep your feet in the same spot during the whole exercise, and don’t wobble your hips.
- Don’t tilt your torso back and forth while pulling the dumbbells up and down.
- Pick up a weight that suits your needs and won’t affect your form.
- Your upper arm should stay stable, and only the forearm moves.
- Cling your elbow tightly to your trunk to avoid your arms from swaying to the sides.
- Do the exercise as the last workout on the day when your biceps are more ready to haul the dumbbells.
- Give your muscles enough rest time between the sets so they won’t wear off for the next sets.
Bicep Exercises for Beginners
Instead of bicep curls, beginners should go for exercises that combine their biceps and other muscles into a single workout—Killing many birds with one stone!
Here are a few examples:
Bent-Over Barbell Row
Hitting your biceps, deltoids, lats, traps, rotator cuffs, and rhomboids, bent-over rows can go great guns with your upper body. But that’s only the case if you know how to do it correctly:
- Load a barbell with the right amount of weight that suits your strength and stand in front of it.
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and bend slightly forward, so your trunk remains at a 45-degree angle to the ground (You don’t arch your back).
- Now, bend your knees a little, so you reach the barbell and pick it up with a wide overhand grip.
- Weight the barbell all the way up to your sternum, then pull it slowly down to your knee level until your arms hang straight.
- Repeat the workout for 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
Watch this video to learn the move:
The rowing machine lets you pull weight with your arms and push it with your legs, giving you both an upper and lower body workout. And the number of muscles it can target will leave your mouse open: abs, side abs, quads, traps, lats, glutes, calves, hip flexors, hamstrings, deltoids, rhomboids, erector spinae, and of course, biceps.
Here’s how to work with rowing machines to get the best results:
- Sit on the machine, adjust your feet on the footboards, and fasten the straps around the balls of your feet.
- Flex your knees so that your shins remain vertical.
- Tilt your torso a bit forward at a 30-degree angle until your shoulders remain atop your hips.
- Grip the sides of the handle loosely with only your three central fingers.
- With your back straight, push your legs against the footplates to initiate the drive, and simultaneously, pull the oar toward your rib cage (don’t let your legs dangle to the sides during the exercise and if you can’t help it, use leg straps).
- Do it for 8 sets of 400 meters row, trying to up your pace per minute (As a rule of thumb, start with ¼ your capacity and end with ¾).
This activity might be a little too much for beginners, but it’s absolutely worth the try considering how many muscles it fires up: biceps, forearms, delts, triceps, pecs, traps, lats, rhomboids, abs, obliques, and hip flexors.
The good news? You’re just a few steps away from this ultimate fitness beast:
- Spread your gym mat on the floor and put a pair of dumbbells on it, shoulder-distance apart from each other.
- Lie face-down in a plank position with your hand on the dumbbells, arms straight, and legs a bit wider than hip-width apart.
- Apply force to one of the dumbbells so you can lift the other dumbbell of the round without twisting your torso or losing your balance (brace your core and lock your stabilizer elbow).
- Row the moving arm up towards your ribcage, with your elbow pointing up.
- Lower the dumbbell to the initial position and repeat the movement with the opposite side.
- Do it for 5 sets of 5 reps at the beginning and as your body adapts to it, revamp it to 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
Another miraculous workout for your biceps, chin-ups can also bulk up your triceps, lats, pecs, trapezius, forearms, teres major, posterior delt, back muscles, biceps, forearms, trapezius, and rhomboids.
And according to studies, they’re even more practical than regular pull-ups as far as biceps are in play.
- Grab the bar with an underhand grip, distancing your hands at shoulder-width.
- Then, lift up your feet so you’ll be hanging from the bar.
- Using your arm force, pull your body up until your chin appears above the bar. Your elbows will be completely flexed at this moment (During the ROM, cross your feet together to avoid swaying them to multiple directions. Also, try to keep your spine’s natural form—no arches).
- Wait one second or two before you reverse the motion.
Bicep curls are one of the most sought-after workouts in the gym due to their convenience, and effectiveness. But what most gym-goers usually forget is that they’re not equally effective for everyone.
Amature athletes, for example, may lack the stabilizer muscles required to do bicep curls. Plus, they can commit their time to better, more exclusive workouts to grow more muscles at a time. Bent-over rows, rowing machines, renegade rows, and chin-ups are great mixes of bicep isolators and other muscle growers.
Strong, bulky folks, on the other hand, can easily rip the benefits of bicep curls.