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A 30-minute bicep workout for muscle growth

Provoke new bicep growth in just half an hour with this intense 30-minute workout.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 11th August 2021
A man doing some curls during his 30 minute bicep workout

Rather than give you a biceps anatomy lesson and talk about the different regions of the muscle, let's get straight into this 30-minute bicep workout.

In just half an hour, you'll have hit your biceps with 15 mass-building sets and a variety of rep ranges to train all the muscle fibers. As such, this is an excellent bicep workout for size because you're not leaving anything to chance.

You'll be doing exercises that work both the long (outer) head and the short (inner) head of the biceps, as well as movements that train the brachialis and brachioradialis. So let's get into this 30-minute bicep blast.

1. Alt hammer curl — 3 sets of 6-8 reps

A man performing alternating hammer curls

You're kicking off this hard and heavy workout with the alt hammer curl to focus on building overall arm mass. By performing your hammer curls in an alternating fashion, you'll be able to do more reps per set because each arm is getting a short rest while the other arm works.

The prescribed reps for this exercise are per arm. So you could also think of it as 12-16 total reps if that's easier.

Rest 60 seconds or slightly more between every set in the workout. We slightly overestimated the time it takes to complete each set (60 seconds) on purpose so that you don't go over the 30-minute mark.

  1. Hold a pair of weights by your side with a neutral grip.
  2. While keeping your elbows still, curl the dumbbells toward your shoulders.
  3. Keep lifting the weights until your forearms and biceps make forceful contact.
  4. Hold the contraction for a brief moment.
  5. Lower the dumbbells under control until they're back by your sides.

2. Preacher bench dumbbell curls — 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Man doing a one arm dumbbell preacher curl

Preacher bench dumbbell curls are the second exercise in our 30-minute bicep workout. Although they're effective for building overall size, they emphasize the short (inner) of the biceps by having you curl with your shoulders in front of your torso.

While you can train each arm separately, you might want to work both biceps together if you're in a hurry. The only advantage to doing this exercise unilaterally is that it may slightly enhance your mind-muscle connection.

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells with an underhand grip and then sit on the preacher curl station.
  2. Brace your arms against the preacher pad.
  3. Curl the weights toward your shoulders.
  4. Keep curling until the undersides of your forearms push right up against your biceps.
  5. Hold the peak contraction for a moment.
  6. Lower the weights under control until your elbows reach full extension.

3. Smith machine drag curls — 3 sets of 10-12 reps

A man performing Smith machine drag curls for his biceps

Smith machine drag curls focus on the long (outer) head of the biceps by having you curl with your elbows slightly behind your torso. As such, this old-school exercise can help you to develop a better bicep peak.

Just make sure that you don't shrug the bar up with your traps. While it's okay to feel a small amount of upper trap activation due to the nature of the exercise, your biceps should do most of the heavy lifting.

  1. Set the Smith machine bar to just above knee height and add some weights to either side.
  2. Grab the bar with an underhand grip just inside shoulder-width.
  3. Drag the bar up your body by dragging your elbows behind your torso.
  4. Squeeze your biceps forcefully once they make firm contact with the undersides of your forearms.
  5. Hold the peak contraction for a second, and then lower the bar under control until your elbows reach full extension.

4. Lying wide grip cable curl — 3 sets of 12-15 reps

A man performing a lying wide grip cable curl

The lying wide grip cable curl creates a strong peak contraction and thus a great pump in your biceps. This is partly because the exercise trains your biceps at a short muscle length and partly because cables provide constant tension, which means that your biceps don't get a chance to rest.

You can actually raise your shoulders up slightly as you complete each rep to intensify the contraction. This is because the biceps actually assist the deltoids with shoulder flexion, and so by allowing a moderate amount of shoulder movement, you can generate a stronger peak contraction.

  1. Connect a straight bar attachment to a low pulley.
  2. Sit on the floor facing the low pulley and grab the bar with a wide-underhand grip.
  3. Lie back so that the attachment is now resting on your thighs.
  4. Curl the bar toward your chest by flexing your biceps.
  5. Squeeze your biceps as hard as you can as they make firm contact with your forearms.
  6. Release the contraction and then lower the bar back down until your elbows are completely extended.

5. In and out curls — 3 sets of 12-15 reps

A man performing an in and out bicep curl

You're going to end this half-hour bicep workout by doing in and out curls to fatigue any remaining and/or stubborn muscle fibers.

The "in" part of this exercise is essentially like a regular bicep curl; the "out" part necessitates that you curl with your arms flared out and your elbows pinned right into your sides.

Also, make sure to use a relatively light weight for this high rep bicep workout because one rep is equal to an "in curl" and an "out curl," so you're doing the equivalent of 24-30 reps here. I hope you like lactic acid.

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides with a supinated grip.
  2. Curl the weights toward your front delts while keeping your elbows stationary.
  3. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the rep and then lower the weights back down to your sides.
  4. Rotate the weights away from your body so that your elbows are pointing toward your ribs.
  5. Curl the weights toward your shoulders in the new position.
  6. Lower the dumbbells back down.

Related Workout: Bicep superset workout routine

Conclusion

This 30-minute bicep workout is intense and challenging, so only attempt it if you've been lifting consistently for at least six months. You could also perform this session as a bicep circuit workout by doing one set of every exercise before going back to the starting movement.

The general (and most recommended) protocol for this workout is 60 seconds of work (i.e., one set) followed by 60 seconds of rest. Since most of the exercises in this quick biceps workout will take a bit less than 60 seconds to complete, you can actually rest a bit longer if you'd like.

Similarly, feel free to swap exercises based on your equipment availability and individual weak points. For example, if you don't have a gym membership, you might not have access to cables, in which case banded exercises would be a good substitute.

Similarly, if your biceps are already better developed than your brachialis and brachioradialis, then you might want to perform more reverse curls and hammer curls.

James Jackson
James Jackson is a personal trainer who uses his expertise in strength and conditioning to create helpful workout tutorials that show fitness enthusiasts how to build muscle while staying safe in the gym. He draws on the latest sports science data as well as tried and tested training techniques to get the best results for his clients without them having to live in the gym.
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