Exercises to develop the biceps are rather simple: you have numerous variations of the curl, along with a few alternatives. This form is the same for women or men -- it’s the execution of that form that may differ. A thorough biceps workout will incorporate standing, seated, alternating and body weight exercises to provide a broad range of engagement for the biceps and for secondary muscles. Each variation of the curl is performed with different equipment, and the sets and repetitions should use light to medium weight with 15 to 20 reps per set.
Standing Dumbbell Curl
The standing dumbbell curl provides a full range of motion that targets your biceps, while providing secondary engagement to a host of muscles throughout the body as you maintain proper standing posture. Perform the curl either in unison or in an alternating pattern. Begin with weights in your hands, arms straight and hanging at your sides. Keep your elbows pinned to your sides. The only movement should come as you bend your elbows. Slowly raise the dumbbells until your elbows are completely bent, and inhale as you raise the weights. In a controlled fashion, slowly return the weights back to waist-level, and exhale as you lower the dumbbells. Follow the same breathing pattern for all curls.
Barbell Preacher Curl
The barbell preacher curl requires a weighted barbell and a preacher bench. The bench includes a cradle for the barbell so that it rests in an accessible position before and after your repetitions. The preacher bench allows you to rest your elbows and upper arms on the bench, while you articulate your elbows to raise the barbell up. Keep your back and neck straight. Raise the barbell up until it’s in front of your face, hold it there momentarily, then control it back to the cradle. The seated position lets you concentrate the weight on your biceps, while the barbell provides an even, uniform distribution for the weight, allowing you to lift more weight with greater ease.
Alternating Hammer Curl
The alternating hammer curl can be performed either seated or while standing. The seated version places more of the emphasis directly on the biceps, while the standing position incorporates stabilizers throughout the body to keep you upright. The form of the exercise is similar to a regular dumbbell curl, except you hold the dumbbells vertically rather than horizontally. This provides a neutral wrist angle, diminishing the involvement of the forearms throughout the curl and placing more stress from the weight on the biceps.
Certain bodyweight exercises like the pull-up, when used with an underhand grip, will give your biceps a thorough workout; the only equipment you need is a pull-up bar. This exercise works multiple muscle groups aside from your biceps, including your trapezius muscles, latissimus dorsi and deltoids. With the underhand grip, keep your hands close together on the bar – no more than 6 inches apart – and raise yourself up as far as possible. Go slowly and methodically. For pull-ups, don’t use the 15 to 20 repetition set structure. Instead, do as many as you can, rest for up to 90 seconds, then do one more set of as many pull-ups as possible.