There are few muscle groups that get as much attention as the biceps. These mirror muscles are a calling card for upper-body strength, even though they make up only 40% of the upper arms. Nevertheless, along with the back muscles, they’re vital for all pulling movements, so working your biceps will boost your overall upper-body strength.
So we asked Alex Gildea, PT and owner of London boutique gym G:Fit, for a home workout that will work on your biceps in advance of gyms reopening next month. As with any routine that homes in on one particular muscle group, this one will cause lactic acid to build up in your biceps as you near the finish line. It will burn, but don’t worry, it won’t last long. Give your arms a shake and try to complete each set to make the most of this biceps workout at home. Good luck.
For this workout you will need a pair of medium dumbbells, ideally a weight that allows you to perform 10 to 12 reps of biceps curls. You can also sub in a long resistance band if you don’t have the right weights, and for any moves that are especially tough, you can even lighten the load using household items like tins of beans.
It is made up of three supersets, pairs of exercises designated as 1A and 1B, 2A and 2B, and 3A and 3B below. In each superset, complete all the reps for exercise A, then move on immediately to complete all the reps for exercise B. Once you complete exercise A and B, rest for 30-45 seconds. That’s the first set done. Go back to exercise A to start the second set, and repeat the sequence until all the sets are completed. Then move on to the next superset.
Gildea has given a range of sets, reps and rest times so you can adjust the workout to your ability and increase the difficulty progressively over time. Make a mental note of each workout you complete, then challenge yourself to decrease the rest period, or add an extra rep the next time. If you completed 12 reps last time, add a set, then drop the reps to ten and increase the rest back to 45 seconds at the end of each superset.
1A Renegade row
Sets 2-4 Reps 10-12 each side Rest 0sec
Get into the top of a press-up position, holding a dumbbell in each hand on the floor with your palms facing and feet wide to help you keep your balance. Position the dumbbells so they are directly below your chest and lift one weight towards your armpit, bracing your core to stop your torso rotating. Lower under control, then repeat on the other side.
1B Biceps curl with rotation
Sets 2-4 Reps 10-12 Rest 30-45sec
Stand holding the dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing your legs. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, curl the weights up towards your shoulders, rotating your palms so they face your chest. Squeeze your biceps hard, then lower slowly to the start position.
2A Supinated-grip bent-over row
Sets 2-4 Reps 10-12 Rest 0sec
Stand holding the dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing forwards. Engage your core and hinge forwards at your hips, sticking your bum out slightly to flatten and protect your back. Retract your shoulder blades to engage the muscles in your upper back. Keeping your palms facing forwards, lift the weights up to your ribs, pause, then lower under control.
2B Single-arm concentration curl
Sets 2-4 Reps 10-12 each side Rest 30-45sec
You’ve probably seen this classic bodybuilder exercise in the movies. Sit in a chair holding a dumbbell in your right hand with your right elbow resting on the inside of your right knee to keep it stationary. Curl the weight up, pause, then lower under control. Do all the reps on one side, then switch. This one’s tough so focus on form – and use a lighter weight if you have one available.
3A Hammer curl
Sets 2-4 Reps 10-12 Rest 0sec
Hammer curls strip away the rotation from standard biceps curls to target the deeper biceps brachialis muscles. Stand holding the dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing your legs. Keep your palms facing each other and elbows tucked in to your sides throughout as you raise the weights towards your shoulders, then lower under control.
3B Single dumbbell biceps curl
Sets 2-4 Reps Until failure Rest 30-45sec
Going to failure with this move after a set of hammer curls is known as a drop set. Set one dumbbell aside and hold the remaining dumbbell at each end so your palms face each other. Keep your elbows tucked in close to your sides, and curl the weight up towards your shoulders, then down to full extension. Repeat until failure.
Biceps Workout Tips
Feel like your arms are gonna blow? Use these technique tweaks from Alex Gildea so you can make the most of this biceps workout.
Work one arm at a time with the biceps curl, hammer curl and bent-over row. It will halve the weight you lift each rep and give your central nervous system a bit of a breather.
Use Cheat Reps
The lowering, or eccentric part, of each exercise is where you get the most returns. So if you can’t muster the strength to get the weight to the top of the move, use “cheat reps”, where you generate momentum using your back or legs.
The supersets are designed to be done back to back but if your biceps are screaming for a time out, rest for 30-45 seconds between each set.
Stretch At The End
Your biceps deserve a warm-down after a workout as much as your legs do after a run. Once finished, give your biceps and forearms a gentle stretch to aid recovery and help avoid cramping when you get back to your keyboard.