The 12 Best Biceps Exercises to Seriously Work the Top of Your Arms


If you’re looking to dedicate some focus to your arms during your next workout, adding in some of the best biceps exercises is a great way to get started. Not only will these biceps-focused moves keep your workout fresh, but they’ll also help you build strength that translates both in and out of the gym.

Your biceps—a muscle on the front part of your upper arm that actually has two sections or “heads” working together—are important for optimizing back strength, Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S, founder of TS Fitness in New York City, tells SELF. “The main functions of the biceps are to flex your elbow, supinate your forearm, which means to rotate your palm to face up, and to elevate your shoulder,” he says.

Although many people think of their biceps as muscles that only matter in the gym, strength in these muscles is actually important for a bunch of everyday activities as well. In fact, their role in the pulling motion is where they truly come in handy, and you definitely pull outside of your workout, too, Kemma Cunningham, C.P.T., a New Jersey–based group fitness instructor at Life Time, tells SELF. This includes sports like swimming or rowing, pulling out a bunch of particularly stubborn weeds, or simply pulling open a heavy door.

Plus, if you’re doing something that requires shoulder stability, such as carrying something, strong biceps play an important role there, too, says Tamir.

“Strong biceps will help with activities like carrying heavy groceries, picking up children, even blow-drying and styling your hair,” Cunningham says. “Anything that involves flexion at the elbow will benefit from strong biceps.”

In terms of exercises that will build your biceps, any type of vertical or horizontal pull is going to work, says Tamir. (For example, using a lat pull-down bar while seated or doing a barbell bent-over row.) Even a chin-up, which uses an underhand grip with wrists facing toward you, can be a biceps booster, he says.

It’s also why isolation exercises—say, those biceps curls—aren’t the only ways to build strength in your biceps. Any time you’re doing an exercise that requires you to pull, your biceps are definitely going to be working. That’s why compound moves like row variations, banded pull-downs, or chin-ups are important to include in your routine if your goal is to build strength in your arms. Plus, they’ll also work other muscles at the same time, like your latissimus dorsi (which extend from your ribs to your spine) and your rhomboids (muscles in your upper back that allow you to retract your shoulder blades). Your biceps are considered accessory muscles in these bigger moves.

Looking to build some strength in your arms? These are some of the best biceps exercises that will help you get there. Check out the moves below and add a few to your next upper-body workout to really challenge your biceps.

Demoing the moves below are Denise Harris (GIFs 1, 5, and 7); a NASM-certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor based in New York City; Rachel Denis, (GIFs 2 and 10), a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York state powerlifting records; Cookie Janee (GIF 3), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Saneeta Harris (GIFs 4 and 11), founder of @NaturalHairGirlsWhoLift; Crystal Williams (GIF 6), a group fitness instructor and trainer; Rosimer Suarez (GIF 8), a special education teacher from New York City who lives in Oklahoma City; Erica Gibbons (GIF 9), a California-based personal trainer; and Nathalie Huerta (GIF 12), coach at the Queer Gym in Oakland.

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