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 (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab) principle.
Adjustable dumbbells are an ideal workout partner for this biceps session from The Body Coach (opens in new tab) (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 (opens in new tab).
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 (opens in new tab) or a high-intensity resistance training (opens in new tab) (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 (opens in new tab) 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.
Harry Bullmore is a fitness writer covering everything from reviews to features for LiveScience, T3, TechRadar, Fit&Well and more. So, whether you’re looking for a new fitness tracker or wondering how to shave seconds off your 5K PB, chances are he’s written something to help you improve your training.
When not writing, he’s most likely to be found experimenting with a wide variety of training methods in his home gym or trying to exhaust his ever-energetic puppy.
Prior to joining Future, Harry wrote health and fitness product reviews for publications including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World. Before this, he spent three years as a news reporter with work in more than 70 national and regional newspapers.
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