If you're looking to build muscle on your arms, you might have already picked up a set of the best resistance bands or best adjustable dumbbells. Building better biceps and triceps isn't just for dedicated bodybuilders: having more upper-body strength will help you in many walks of life, and building muscle will increase your "body composition", the fat-to-muscle ratio which can help you stay healthy.
This exercise is a great way to build more muscle in your biceps. Requiring only a single dumbbell, it's presented in this YouTube video by noted fitness channel Athlean-X and trainer Jeff Cavaliere. It's said to have been inspired by former Mr, Olympia Sergio Olivia, who used it to grow his arms. Check it out below:
Check out the new way to do bicep curls below:
How to do it:
- Take hold of a dumbbell by resting one of the discs on your palms.
- Curl your arms up to your chest, keeping the dumbbell level
- Slowly lower your arms under control, again moving your hands to keep the dumbbell level at the bottom of the curl.
Why do this bicep curl variation?
There's a few reasons why you might want to do this curl to grow your biceps. For one, it removes your forearms from the equation. Forearm strength is very important, as it means you've got a firm grip, and that's a great indicator of health in later life (opens in new tab) according to studies.
However, if your forearms aren't yet very strong, they might get tired before the rest of your body does while exercising. This variation only works your biceps, which a) really stresses the bicep muscle, helping it to grow, and b) allows you to keep exercising after your grip has given out.
Not many people know the bicep is actually made up of "long head" and "short head" muscles. Cavaliere says this exercise grows the "long head" very well, which is the outer portion of the bicep responsible for the bicep's "peak". Doing this curl means big arms are on the way.
Of course, this is an exercise which targets the biceps and only the biceps. To train your whole body, you want to first do big lifts which hit lots of different muscle groups, such as deadlifts or pull-ups, before targeting individual muscles like this. For more on big arms, check out our guide to the best bicep workouts.
More tips to build big arms
Biceps are only one part of the battle - your triceps should also be taken into consideration if you’re looking to fill your t-shirt sleeves. Like the biceps, the triceps are comprised of three separate “heads” of muscle, the long head, lateral head and median head. The Journal Frontiers in Nutrition (opens in new tab) found that to challenge all three heads to work and grow together, you need to up the intensity of your exercise.
Intensity can mean adding more weight – for example, if you’re a regular gym-goer, adding the bench press to your routine can be a huge boon. Just like pulling weight towards your torso grows your biceps, pushing things away grows your triceps. Our guides on how to do a bench press covers the basics, including everything you need to get started.
Intensity can also mean explosive power, or plyometric power in gym terms. It’s the application of more force and more speed, such as the infamous clap push-ups. It’s like a regular push up, but you push so hard off the ground that your body lifts in the air, so you have time to clap your hands before landing safely on the ground. A few sets of 10 of these towards the end of your workout will help you grow your triceps in addition to your biceps.
A word of warming: These can be hard on the wrists. If you’re concerned about your joints, or you’re a beginner fitness enthusiast, we’d recommend staying away from this exercise for now. Diamond push-ups, as seen in the image above, can remove the move's emphasis on your chest and place the weight solely on your triceps, without incorporating impact.
Finally, it’s worth wondering why you want bigger, stronger arms. If it’s to become more athletic, increase lean muscle mass or look a little better, these exercises will help you get there – but be careful of aiming for unachievable results. If you’re after big arms like Hollywood actors or social media influencers offscreen, remember those kind of looks are unsustainable, and often chemically enhanced.
Muscle can help you burn fat faster, become stronger and improve your body composition, but losing weight and getting those unrealistic proportions shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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