Biceps Workouts Made Better: 10 Exercises Superior To Traditional Curls

Give your biceps workout a serious upgrade with 10 more-effective biceps exercises recommended by elite strength coaches.

Everybody wants an awesome biceps workout. There are few things more satisfying for a lifter than getting an unreal pump and having arms that fill out your sleeves.

But from a performance perspective, your biceps should not be your primary focus. Your arms are about 10 percent of your body, so why spend 50 percent of your workout on your biceps? As an athlete—or even someone who wants a better physique—you have more important concerns. That's why many strength coaches don't even include direct biceps work in their training programs.

But let's be honest, you want to work your biceps. So if you're going to do bicep exercises, choose moves that will crush your arms and maybe provide some performance benefits.

Below  you'll find 10 biceps exercises that are better than traditional Bicep Curls and are recommended by elite strength coaches. Add two of them to the end of your next workout and notice how quickly your biceps start busting through your t-shirt.

Single-Leg Chain or Resistance Band Curls

Better Bicep Workouts: Resistance Band Curls


Brian Nguyen, owner of Brik Fitness and trainer to Mark Wahlberg: "Chains or resistance bands are great, because the reps get harder as you curl. This challenges your biceps through the full range of motion, instead of being limited to a weight you can use at the start of the rep. If you have access to chains, the shifting of the weight as you lift it makes it even harder on the biceps. However, the best thing about this move is that you're on a single leg. This places a huge demand on your core to maintain stability, which is critical for power and athleticism."

How to:

  • Stand on one leg. Hold the chain or resistance band handle in each hand at your sides with your palms facing forward. If you're using a resistance band, stand on the center of the band.
  • Keeping your core tight and your elbows to your sides, curl the weight to your armpits.
  • Slowly lower the weight to the starting position.

Sets/Reps: 3x10-12

No-Feet Rope Climbs

Better Biceps Workouts: No-Feet Rope Climbs

Rick Scarpulla, owner of Ultimate Advantage Sports Performance: "No-Feet Rope Climbs are one of the best exercises to build strong biceps. The move is all about pulling, so you'll work your arms and back at the same time. Plus, you're holding onto the rope the whole time, which increases the amount of tension and torches your grip."

How to:

  • Place both hands on the rope.
  • Keeping your core tight, pull yourself up to the top of the rope without using your feet.
  •  Slowly lower yourself to the ground.

Sets/Reps: 1-3xFull Rope

Towel Negatives

Better Biceps Workouts: Towel Negatives

Ben Boudro, owner of Xceleration Sports: "Towel Negatives are perfect if you don't have a lot of equipment. All you need are two rags or towels, or even just one towel. Stand over an incline bench and have a partner resist you both on the way up and on the way down. Your partner will be at an advantage because he will have leverage with the towel. You're not using weight, but this is brutal."

How to:

  • Lie with your stomach on an incline bench holding one end of a towel in each hand.
  • Your partner sits in front of you also holding the towel.
  • Perform a row while your partner resists your movement.
  •  Slowly extend your arms, fighting your partner's attempt to pull them.

Sets/Reps: 3xMax + 2-3 slow reps

WATCH: Marcus Mariota Performs Towel Negatives

Zottman Curls

Better Bicep Workouts: Zottman Curls

Ryan Sprague, owner of TRAIN Sports + Fitness: "The Zottman Curl is an oft-forgotten bicep exercise. With this variation you fully recruit the biceps during the concentric portion of the lift (i.e., the part when you curl the weight), and it recruits more of the brachialis—a muscle that sits under your biceps—during the eccentric (i.e., lowering) part of the curl movement. The combination can add serious thickness to your arms. Perform the eccentric portion slowly and under control to get the most out of exercise."

How to:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart holding dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing in.
  • Keeping your elbows to the sides, curl the weight up to your armpits. As you curl the weight, rotate your wrists so your palms face up at the top of the movement. Hold this position for one count.
  • Rotate your wrists until your palms are facing down.
  • Slowly lower the weight to the starting position. As you lower the weight, rotate your wrists so your palms face in.

Sets/Reps: 3x10-15

Herculean Curls

Better Bicep Workouts: Herculean Curls


Nguyen: "We love this move. Your arms are under tension throughout the entire exercise, because the biceps flex your elbows and control your shoulders throughout each rep, which is huge for building muscle. Also, holding your arms to your sides works your biceps in a different plane than the one you typically use, adding a new challenge to your muscles. For advanced athletes, try this with one arm at a time to work your core."

How to:

  • Stand in the center of two cable machines. Grasp the cable handles with your palms facing up and position your arms to your sides to form a T with your body.
  • Without moving your upper arms, curl the cable handles toward your head. Hold this position for one count.
  • Slowly extend your arms to return to the starting position.

Sets/Reps: 3x10-12

Spider Curls

Better Bicep Workouts: Spider Curls


Sprague: "The Spider Curl restricts any motion by the upper arm, eliminating the possibility of cheating on the exercise, so your biceps are doing all of the work. You won't be able to go as heavy with the weight as you might be able to with the traditional curl, but you will feel how effective the move is."

How to:

  • Lie with your stomach on an incline bench holding dumbbells or an EZ curl bar with your arms straight below your shoulders.
  • Without moving your elbows, curl the weight to your shoulders.
  • Slowly lower the weight to the starting position.

Sets/Reps: 3x10-12

TRX Bicep Curls  

Better Bicep Workouts: TRX Bicep Curls


Boudro: "I love this one because you can crush your biceps with burnout sets. Start with a lot of resistance by having your feet close to where the TRX hangs. After you can't do any more, take one step back to reduce the resistance and keep burning them out from there. Do this for three steps back, or resistance levels, and your arms will be toasted! If you need an extra challenge, use a weight vest, try the exercise on one leg or place your feet up on a plyo box to increase the incline."

How to:

  • Adjust the suspension trainer to its shortest length.
  • Standing with your feet under the anchor point, grasp the handles with your palms facing up and lean back.
  • Perform a Curl by bending your elbows to bring your hands to the sides of your head. Hold this position for one count.
  • Slowly straighten your arms to return to the starting position.
  • Take a step back with your feet to reduce the difficulty.

Sets/Reps: 1-2xMax at 3 levels of resistance

Incline Curls

Better Bicep Workouts: Incline Curls


Scarpulla: "Sitting on a 45-degree bench and doing Curls creates tons of tension on your biceps. More tension equates to better muscle development. As far as Curls go, this is one of our go-to moves."

How to:

  • Holding dumbbells with your arms straight down, sit on a bench positioned at a 45-degree angle.
  • Without moving your upper arms, curl the weight to your shoulders.
  • Slowly lower the weight to the starting position.

Sets/Reps: 3x10-12

Half-Kneeling Inline Bicep Curls

Better Bicep Workouts: Half-Kneeling Curl


Boudro: "Performing Curls in the half-kneeling position works your core and improves balance to give you more bang for your buck with each rep. Better yet, it's a single-arm movement which helps eliminate strength imbalances on the left and right arm, making it a fantastic arm exercise for athletes."

How to:

  • Assume a half-kneeling position with your right knee on the ground. Use a towel or pad to reduce the pressure on your knee. Hold a dumbbell with your right hand.
  • Perform a Curl with your right arm.
  • Squeeze your butt and tighten your core throughout the exercise so you don't wobble.

Sets/Reps: 2-3x10-12 each side

Bicep Workouts

Here are three bicep workout options that will help you develop bigger and stronger arms. We included recommended exercises, but you can mix and match from the list above.

Bicep Workout Option 1

1) Spider Curls - 5x10

Bicep Workout Option 2

1) Incline Curls - 4x8

2) Single-Leg Banded Curls - 2x25 each leg

Bicep/Tricep Superset Workout

1A) Skull Crushers - 3x8-10

1B) Towel Negatives - 3x8-10

2A) Zottman Curls - 3x15-20

2B) Band Pushdown - 3x15-20

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