7 Ways to Make Your Biceps Workout Harder

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Shake Up Your Routine

Even if you’re changing exercises consistently, there is still a chance that your program lacks other important elements that are necessary to spur biceps growth.

“Volume, reps, intensity, weights, hand position, and the types of resistance you’re using are all areas that require attention,” says Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute Expert Adam Friedman, CSCS, CN. “There are a bunch of ways you can do that, including moving from free weight to machine, or machine to cable.”

Equally as important is examining the types of contractions you’re using. “It’s not just about the concentric (raising), but also the eccentric (lowering) and time under tension (TUT),” he adds. “A lot of people do curls using too much weight and poor form. That removes constant tension from their biceps.”

Use these seven methods and exercises to shakeup your bi’s routine to get your guns growing.

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Negative Curls

preacher curl on machine

The additional resistance of the negative requires your biceps to recruit more muscle fibers. “People are typically stronger eccentrically than they are concentrically,” says Friedman. “Without adding that extra resistance [of holding the negative], you’d be recruiting the same amount of muscle fibers as you would with the standard movement.”

Do it: Preacher Curl Negatives

Perform a low-rep set using a full range of motion. Use a heaver weight than you normally would for a standard preacher curl set, and slowly lower the weight until your arms are outstretched. If possible, have a spotter help you return the weight to the start position.

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Back-Against-The-Wall Curls

One-Arm Dumbbell Curl

Use momentum too often? Plant your back against the wall when you curl. “This will help isolate your biceps, but it’s also important to keep your core fully engaged,” suggests Friedman.

Do it: Back-Against-The-Wall Dumbbell Alternating Biceps Curls

Put your back against a wall (or put a Swiss ball between your back and the wall), bend your knees slightly, and keep your elbows in contact with the wall (or ball) as you execute reps.

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Time Under Tension (TUT)

barbell biceps curl

Heaving up heavy weight with herky-jerky form may look impressive to newbies, but those who train hard understand proper form always trumps heavy weight. ”When your form is terrible your biceps look terrible,” Friedman says. “Instead of creating a nice shape for your arms, you’ll get bulky, blocky biceps because there was no focus on the tension. Try doing five seconds with the concentric phase and five seconds with the eccentric phase. And if that’s not a challenge, try five seconds up and 10 seconds down.”

Do it: 5/2/5 Curls

With any biceps exercise, spend five seconds raising the weight, pause for two seconds, and then lower the weight with control for a five count.

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Partial Rep Curls

One-Arm Dumbbell Curl

The most common partial-rep biceps movement is 21s. “You’re basically doing seven reps from the bottom [of the movement] to the halfway point, seven more reps from the halfway point the top of the movement, and then seven full-range reps.” Also, don’t get stuck on the number 21. Raise or lower the rep count to meet your fitness level.

Do it: Partial Rep Hammer Curls

Divide the range of motion of the curl into two halves. Perform the desired number of reps for each half of the movement, and then finish by doing the full ROM movement.

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Isometric Biceps Curl

barbell biceps curl

Static contractions — holding the weight in a fixed position for a set period of time — are more taxing on the muscle and can lead to serious strength and size gains.

Do it: Barbell Static Curls

“Using a straight bar, dumbbell or free weights, hold the weight at the halfway point for 20 seconds,” Friedman suggests. Then slowly lower to the start position.

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Compound Set

high pulley cable curl

A compound set works the same muscle group with two different exercises performed consecutively without rest. (Supersets combine two movements that work opposite muscle groups.)

“There’s no specific compound set that’s better than another so long as the exercises do things like hit different angles and change resistance,” Friedman says. “Go from machine to free weights or dumbbells to machines — it makes no difference what combination you use.”

Do it: Incline Dumbbell Curl + High-Pulley Cable Curl

Start by doing an entire set of incline dumbbell curls and then immediately perform a set of high-pulley cable curls without resting.

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Drop Sets

barbell biceps curl

Drop sets are a terrific method to use when you’re pressed for time. Along with injecting intensity into your workout, they also exhaust the muscle quicker than standard sets. Depending on your fitness level, you can do a drop set on your final set, or execute them on every set.

Do it: Barbell Curl Drop Set

Perform a set of barbell curls until you reach failure. Immediately reduce the weight used in the previous set by 20-50 percent and squeeze out more reps.

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