The Critical Body logo

Can your arms handle our advanced bicep workout?

These advanced bicep exercises will get your arms growing again.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 9th August 2021
A man performing an advanced bicep workout

Learning about the biceps can help you to understand which exercises are the most optimal for muscle growth. But sometimes, when you're an advanced or elite lifter, regular exercises simply don't cut it anymore.

Likewise, if you've been in the gym for years on end, performing the same old movements gets boring after a while. On the other hand, including novel exercises in your program can skyrocket your gym motivation and give you back that novice lifter hunger once again.

Although there are "only" four exercises in this advanced bicep workout, you're still doing between 16 and 20 growth-provoking sets that will leave your biceps absolutely smoked.

Truth be told, this is one of the most effective bicep workouts for men or anyone else who wants to bust through plateaus and get their biceps growing again. Fair warning, though, this routine is highly demanding on both a muscular and mental level. So if you're new to the gym, then you can follow one of our bicep workouts for beginners instead.

It's recommended that you rest 2-3 minutes between sets so that your strength doesn't drop off too quickly. Yes, resting more will reduce your pump a little bit. But as you should know by now, total training volume is more important than the pump for building mass.

Also, aim to leave 1-2 reps in reserve on each set. If you hit failure on the final exercise, that's fine. But try to stay away from total failure for the bulk of this advanced biceps workout.

1. Single-arm barbell curls — 4-5 sets of 6-8 reps

A man performing a single arm barbell curl

Single arm barbell curls are the most hardcore of all the advanced bicep exercises because their loading potential is virtually unlimited.

Here's what I mean.

It's quite possible that you might max out the heaviest dumbbells in your gym if you're a bodybuilder (especially if you train in a general-fitness-type facility).

Yet, with a barbell, you can keep adding weight to the bar almost indefinitely. So you’ll never be forced to stop progressing because the weights will always be able to keep up with your increasing strength.

Moreover, curling a barbell forces you to supinate your wrists a lot harder than when you curl a dumbbell because more wrist control is required to stabilize the weight. This is called forearm supination, and it's one of the primary functions of the biceps. So by twisting your wrists harder at the top of every rep, you'll naturally be producing a stronger bicep muscle contraction.

Plus, only big guys seem to do one arm barbell curls, so you're definitely in good company with this exercise.

  1. Grab a barbell in the center—with one hand—using a supinated grip.
  2. Curl the bar toward your chest while keeping your elbow still.
  3. Keep lifting the weight until the underside of your forearm is pressed right up against your biceps.
  4. Squeeze your biceps forcefully at the top of the rep and hold the peak contraction for a second.
  5. Lower the bar under control until your elbow reaches full extension.
  6. Repeat the movement with your other arm.

2. Behind the back cable curls — 4-5 sets of 8-10 reps

Image showing how to perform a behind the back cable curl correctly

Behind the back cable curls are an excellent addition to advanced bicep workouts because they help you to develop not only bicep size but bicep symmetry too.

While novices are best off focusing on building a foundation of mass before worrying about finer details like muscle symmetry, advanced lifters should strive to sculpt proportional biceps to improve their overall physique.

After all, if you're truly advanced, then you've probably already gained the majority of the bicep size that you're ever going to build. So since adding a lot more mass is likely out of the question, you might as well improve the appearance of your biceps by ensuring that you don't have any obvious muscular imbalances.

In this regard, behind the back cable curls are one of the most effective exercises for developing bicep symmetry. This is because they enable you to train each arm separately and thus ensure that your biceps are receiving roughly equal work.

Since behind the back curls emphasize the long head of the biceps, they also make a great addition to any bicep peak workout.

  1. Connect a single handle attachment to a low pulley.
  2. Grab the handle with an underhand grip and face away from the machine.
  3. Take a step away from the pulley and let your arm drift slightly behind your torso.
  4. Curl the handle toward your shoulder while keeping your elbow stationary.
  5. Squeeze your biceps forcefully as they make firm contact with your forearm.
  6. Hold the peak contraction for a second.
  7. Lower the handle in a controlled manner until your elbow reaches full extension.
  8. Repeat with your other arm.

3. Seated reverse dumbbell curls — 4-5 sets of 10-15 reps

Man performing seated reverse dumbbell curls

Even though this routine is an advanced bicep workout, it's still critical to train the brachialis and brachioradialis if you want complete arm development (who doesn't?).

That's why reverse curls are such an effective exercise. By placing the biceps at a mechanical disadvantage, your brachialis and brachioradialis have to do more work and therefore get rewarded with a much better growth-stimulating workout.

Performing the reverse dumbbell curl sitting down rather than standing actually makes you stronger. This because you don't need to put as much effort into stabilizing your core when you're sitting and when, ideally, your back is braced against the bench's pad.

Using dumbbells also ensures that both of your arms get similar amounts of stimulation. This enables you to develop more aesthetic arms by avoiding muscular imbalances.

  1. Grab two dumbbells with an overhand grip and then sit on the edge of a weight bench.
  2. Curl the dumbbells toward your front delts while keeping your elbows and shoulders still.
  3. Keep curling until the tops of your forearms press right up against your biceps.
  4. Squeeze your arms at the top of the rep for a moment before lowering the weights back down in a controlled manner.
  5. Ensure that your arms are locked out before beginning the next rep.

4. Barbell 21s — 2-3 rounds to failure

Man doing the bicep 21s exercise

Barbell 21s are one of those advanced bicep exercises that give you a killer pump every time because your biceps are getting so much time under tension.

As such, 21s are remarkably effective for ensuring that you recruit the maximum amount of muscle fibers, something that's very important for advanced lifters seeking to eke out new bicep growth.

If you're training to failure on 21s, which you can do by performing as many reps as possible on the final mini set, then you only need to do 2-3 rounds (one round = 7/7/7) to fully fatigue your biceps.

  1. Grab a barbell with an underhand grip and let it rest against your thighs.
  2. Curl the weight to just below where your elbow forms a 90-degree angle. Repeat this 7 times.
  3. Now curl weight from this position (just below 90 degrees) until you can't lift the bar any higher without raising your elbows. Do this 7 times.
  4. Now perform 7 full curl repetitions (or do as many reps as possible). This is one round.

In conclusion

There are many advanced bicep workout routines out there that are needlessly complicated. Sure, advanced lifters can benefit from implementing novel exercises in their program and doing unique bicep workouts. However, that doesn't mean that you need to curl upside down or on one leg to shock your muscles into new growth!

While you can certainly perform a biceps superset routine to increase the workout intensity, you'll be able to lift heavier weights and thus accumulate more training volume by sticking to straight sets.

And as the science will tell you, performing sufficient training volume is the sine qua non of any hypertrophy-focused routine—especially if you're an advanced lifter.

So while it's fine to sprinkle intensity techniques into your routine here and there, don't get distracted from the proven basics that actually add the mass to your biceps.

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.
chevron-upmenu-circlecross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram