Arm Workout Overhaul: 7 New Biceps Exercises

Bigger Arms ASAP

Ramp Up Your Arm Workout

If you want to beef up your biceps, first get stronger on compound lifts like rows and chin-ups. But if they still aren't growing, there are seven things you can add to your arm workout for fast results. Choose a couple of these and get to work.

Bill Pearl is a legendary bodybuilder and icon. In his book, The Keys to the Inner Universe, he details the 4 x 4 x 4 technique for biceps.

You combine a full range of motion (ROM) with partials, similar to the 21 method where you do 7 curls in the top range, 7 curls in the bottom range, and finish with 7 full-range curls.

Here's how it works:

  • Pick any curl variation and a challenging weight.
  • Do 4 reps using a full range of motion.
  • Then complete 4 more reps from the top to the mid-range position.
  • Finish the set with 4 reps from the middle to bottom position.

Pearl's technique allows you to use more weight than 21s. In terms of fatigue management, it makes more sense. You start the set with the most demanding version and finish with the easier range of motion.

Any method that allows you to take a set beyond relative failure is an awesome way to gain a sleeve-stretching pump and build muscle-specific endurance. Begin with a difficult variation of an exercise and tweak the execution to an easier variation as fatigue builds up. Your first and weakest exercise will limit the weight you choose.

For example:

  • A1. Barbell Reverse Curl: 7-10 reps
  • A2. Barbell Drag Curl: 7-10 reps
  • A3. Barbell Curl: 7-10+ reps

Start with a reverse curl to initially stress the forearm extensors and brachialis. Then move to the drag curl, which stresses the biceps while minimizing shoulder involvement. The bar should literally "drag" up and down your torso as you pull your elbows back. Finish the set with traditional curls.

Or if you want to keep the exercises pretty straightforward, try extended sets with dumbbells:

  • A1. Dumbbell Alternate Curl (switch at top): 4-6 reps per side
  • A2. Dumbbell Curl: 4-6
  • A3. Dumbbell Alternate Curl (switch at bottom): 4-6+ reps per side

Extended sets aren't easy, but they're an effective means to shake up your biceps training and encourage new growth. Try using these across all sets or as a final set for a finisher.

Zottman curls use wrist position to impact biceps' strength. Traditionally, you lift with a palms-up grip and lower with a palms-down grip.

But with this version, use a neutral or hammer grip to curl the weight up. At the top, turn the palms up hard and lower the dumbbells all the way back to the start in this position as you maintain the supinated position.

Lower slowly. Challenge the biceps by accentuating a controlled negative. Since this is a high-tension move, stick to sets in the 6-10 range.

Why does this work? Because you'll be able to get even more out of the slow eccentric (lowering phase). Here's a refresher on where you're strongest based on your wrist and hand position:

  • Palms-down (pronated): Weakest position
  • Palms-up (supinated): Medium-strength position
  • Palms facing each other (neutral/hammer): Strongest position

When doing most curl variations, your elbows are below the shoulders. But when you do curls with your elbows at or above shoulder level, it can create a new stimulus for upper-arm growth.

While the biceps' contribution to shoulder flexion is small, curl variations with the elbows high can provide some novelty and a unique (and almost painful) contraction.

Think of the biceps as the tip of an iceberg, with the brachialis being the base underneath it. The brachialis only crosses the elbow joint and attaches to the ulna in the forearm, so it has no bearing on wrist supination. Unlike the biceps, brachialis strength isn't impacted by shoulder or wrist position.

Traditionally, people train the brachialis by doing variations of hammer and reverse curls because the biceps are less effective in those wrist positions. The higher the elbows are in relation to the shoulder, the weaker the biceps will be. So any curl done with the elbows held high will force the brachialis to pick up the slack.

According to bodybuilding legend Larry Scott, you'll only have about 30 percent of your regular biceps strength with these variations. So expect to go light for higher reps and really focus on flexing hard at the top.

Options that fit the bill here include ring or suspension trainer curls and overhead band curls.

Barbell and dumbbell curls performed from a deep squat encourage textbook form. Since the triceps are braced against your thighs, you'll be less likely to swing or cheat the weight up.

You essentially turn your body into a human preacher curl while getting the added benefit of increased squat mobility. If you're using a barbell with large plates, you might need to stand on an elevated surface to allow clearance for the weights. These work well for sets of 6-10 but can also be pushed into higher rep ranges.

Try a regressed version of the pelican curl. Think of it as the bodyweight version of incline dumbbell curls.

  • Using rings or a suspension trainer, start by standing at a relatively steep angle with your hands by your armpits. You'll feel kind of like you're in the bottom of a push-up.
  • Keeping your shoulders back and chest up, slowly straighten your arms so your torso lowers forward and your hands begin to move behind you.
  • Only lower to a position you can control. This could be a very short range of motion.
  • Then curl your body back to the start position by contracting your biceps.

Be conservative with your torso angle when initiating the move since the exercise gets considerably more challenging as your arms straighten.

Make sure you're warmed up before you start, and stick to reps in the 6-10 range. You're going to need an adequate level of shoulder mobility for this one, so if you lack the ability to move your arms behind your torso, hold off on this until it improves.

This is a great finisher. Set a target such as 50 or 100 reps and try to reach that in the minimum number of sets possible. Just rest as needed.

Eventually, try to reach that number in 1 or 2 sets if you can. This will give you an amazing pump and can be a great test of mental fortitude.

Although the straight bar may not be agreeable with everyone's wrist mobility, the weight of an empty bar is generally not enough to exacerbate any issues. In fact, it can be a means to encourage wrist supination and mobility.

If the bar does bother you, use an EZ bar or dumbbells with a similar load and try this approach with the same rep goal.

T Nation earns from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate. Read more about our policy.

Bradford Cooke is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and exercise physiologist. He trains military forces and firefighters and has competed in bodybuilding and arm-wrestling competitions.