There is something oddly liberating about hitting the gym to focus entirely on one muscle group. Sure, most of the time you should be doing balanced workouts that hit your whole body, or targeting your leg muscles one day, back the next, and so on. But sometimes strolling into a gym knowing you’re going to blast your biceps, and nothing but your biceps, is almost relaxing compared with having to think about how to structure your session to work different muscles.
Curls are the key when bulking up your biceps, but it’s not as easy as simply ripping through an outlandishly high number of sets of standard dumbbell curls. You need to get the pacing of your workout right to truly test your biceps, and also do a variety of curls so you’re working the muscles from all angles, and the routine below does exactly that.
It consists of six exercises done in three supersets. That means you do the first set of exercise A, followed immediately by the first set of exercise B. Rest for the allotted period, then start on the second consecutive sets of A and B. Once all the sets of superset 1 are completed, move on to superset 2.
You’ll also find the exact tempo you need to work at alongside the sets and reps information for each exercise. The first number is the time in seconds you should spend lowering the weight, the second number how long you should pause at the bottom of the move, the third number is how long to take to lift the weight, and the final number is how long you should wait at the top of the lift.
Follow the instructions to the letter and you’ll be ripping the sleeves of your T-shirts in no time at all.
Superset Biceps Workout
The plan is simple: it’s a six-move workout made up of three supersets. Do the moves in order, sticking to the sets, reps, tempo and rest periods.
Do it twice a week for four weeks, aiming to increase the weights you’re lifting every second session. This will consistently keep your biceps muscles out of their comfort zone and expose them to an ever-increasing workload, which is the key to impressive muscle mass gains.
The best bit – aside from building bigger biceps – is that you simply incorporate this into your existing programme. To avoid overtaxing the muscles, drop any biceps moves you’re already doing and replace them with pressing moves that work the chest, triceps and shoulders to help keep your body balanced.
How To Get The Most Out Of This Workout
Move through a full range Moving your muscles through the full range of motion will engage the maximum number of muscle fibres, which is the key to faster growth. And avoid swinging the weights up using momentum – cheat reps will hinder, not help, your gains.
Squeeze at the top of the move At the top of every rep (when your hands are closest to your chin), squeeze your biceps as hard as possible for one second. This will fire up extra muscle fibres to hold the weight steady and increase blood flow for a muscle-building pump.
Stretch at the bottom At the bottom of every rep (when you arms are fully straight), stretch your triceps as hard as possible for one second. This will help ensure you go through a full range of motion, as well as removing any momentum from your reps.
Use Your Mind To Build Muscle
The three mental workout rules to follow to accelerate your progress
- Visualise the move Thinking about how your biceps are contracting to move the weight will build quicker neural pathways between your brain and biceps. The faster they fire, the faster you grow.
- Count the tempo Sticking to the detailed tempo will expose your biceps to more tension. Counting the two-second lowering part – in your head, ideally – will make sure you don’t rush your reps.
- Go high to low Counting down your reps will help you push through hard sets because you know the end is in sight. Counting up, especially for long sets, makes it harder to stay motivated.
1A Dumbbell curl
Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2111 Rest 0sec
Lie on an incline bench with a weight in each hand with palms facing forward. Curl the weights up, pause at the top, then lower back down under complete control.
1B Hammer curl
Sets 3 Reps 15 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec
Using a lighter set of dumbbells than in exercise 1A, lie on the incline bench with palms facing each other. Curl them up, pause at the top, then lower under control. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the lift to work your muscles harder.
2A Preacher curl
Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2111 Rest 0sec
Sit at a preacher bench holding an EZ-bar with an underhand grip. Curl the bar up to the top, pause and squeeze, then lower the bar slowly until your arms are fully straight.
2B Preacher reverse curl
Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec
With the same weight on the EZ-bar as in 2A, change your grip to a double-overhand hold. Curl the bar up, pause, then lower until your arms are fully straight.
3A Cable bar curl
Sets 3 Reps 15 Tempo 2111 Rest 0sec
Hold a straight bar that’s attached to the lower pulley. Keeping your elbows by your sides, curl the bar up, pause, then lower under control.
3B Cable hammer curl
Sets 3 Reps 15 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec
Reduce the weight by a plate or two and switch cable attachments to a double-handed rope. Hold it with palms facing. Curl it up, pause, then lower under control.
Photography: Tom Miles. Model: Richard Scrivener
If you’re looking for other workouts to beef up your biceps, try one of the following.
Superset Arms Workout
The supersets in this workout use a variety of exercises to work your biceps and triceps from different angles to stimulate growth. There are three supersets in the workout, with each pairing a biceps and a triceps exercise. See the workout
- 1A Triceps dip (Sets 5 Reps 5-10 Rest 30sec)
- 1B Chin-up (Sets 5 Reps 5-10 Rest 60sec)
- 2A Incline dumbbell biceps curl (Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 30sec)
- 2B Incline EZ-bar skullcrusher (Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 60sec)
- 3A Cable rope overhead extension (Sets 3 Reps 15 Rest 30sec)
- 3B Cable bar biceps curl (Sets 3 Reps 15 Rest 60sec)
6-12-25 Tri-Set Workout
A tri-set involves doing three moves back to back with very little rest. That’s tough enough, but with a 6-12-25 tri-set you’re also increasing the reps with each exercise, doing six of the first move, 12 of the second and 25 of the third. The workout involves two 6-12-25 tri-sets and it’s great for stimulating growth in your upper arms. That’s why you’re here, right? See the workout
- 1A Dumbbell reverse curl (Sets 3 Reps 6 Rest 10sec)
- 1B Dumbbell biceps curl (Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 10sec)
- 1C Dumbbell hammer curl (Sets 3 Reps 25 Rest 3min)
- 2A Diamond press-up (Sets 3 Reps 6 Rest 10sec)
- 2B Dumbbell hammer press (Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 10sec)
- 2C Dumbbell overhead extension (Sets 3 Reps 25 Rest 3min)
Simple Biceps Workout
You don’t have to get too complex with your workouts to hit your biceps hard, so if the idea of supersets and tri-sets seems a bit much to you, this effective three-move routine might be more up your street. See the workout
- 1 Single arm dumbbell preacher curl (Sets 3 Reps 6-8 Rest 90sec)
- 2 Incline dumbbell curl (Sets 3 Reps 8-10 Rest 90sec)
- 3 Dumbbell hammer curl (Sets 3 Reps 10-12 Rest 90sec)