The internet is filled with a mind-boggling mix of fitness facts and fiction, but building bigger biceps needn't be a complicated task.
All you need is some free weights and a small bit of space for a great arm workout. We recommend picking up a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells, as these space-saving weights combine several dumbbells in one compact package, allowing you to take advantage of the muscle and strength-building progressive overload principle.
Adjustable dumbbells are an ideal workout partner for this biceps session from The Body Coach (aka UK-based trainer Joe Wicks) which he posted on his YouTube channel. But if you don't have a pair, never fear, You can also complete this session at the gym or at home using three sets of dumbbells, kettlebells, or even a selection of the best resistance bands.
In this beginner-friendly workout, Wicks uses a pyramid set to blast his biceps, performing five rounds of dual dumbbell bicep curls with minimal rest in between. For the first set he performs a set of ten bicep curls with a heavy 16kg weight in each hand.
He then moves straight on to a medium weight 12kg pair and completes 15 repetitions, before lifting a lighter 8kg pair for 20 repetitions. After this, he moves back to the medium-weight pair for another 15 repetitions, then grits his teeth for a final ten curls with the heaviest dumbbells.
Even Wicks allows himself small rests in between sets as his biceps become fatigued, and he has to lighten the weight on his final set to complete the prescribed repetitions. But even with these breaks, the workout takes just ten minutes.
Watch The Body Coach's dumbbell biceps workout
You may want to use lighter weights than Wicks to begin with. Choose dumbbells that allow you to complete every repetition with proper form, but feel challenging for the final few repetitions of each set (or consult our feature on "What dumbbell weights should I use?" to inform your decision).
Some routines, like a high-intensity HIIT workout for fat loss or a high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) session, focus on high volume, full-body movements to burn calories and boost your aerobic capacity, this biceps burner from Wicks has one target in mind: building muscle. To do this, it uses an isolation exercise (the dumbbell bicep curl).
Unlike compound exercises like chin-ups, which require the recruitment of multiple joints and muscle groups in the back, core, and biceps to perform the movement, isolation exercises target one joint, movement and muscle in particular. Namely, the bending of the elbow using the biceps.
Wicks uses this movement as part of a pyramid set, taking minimal rests between rounds while altering the weight and number of repetitions each set to maintain intensity.
A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concluded that pyramid sets could help people build muscle by progressively overloading (or challenging) the target muscle. The research also said pyramid sets can offer a more time efficient way of working out than standard resistance training, while at the same time making sessions more motivating and challenging.
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Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.
Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.
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