Once you know the actions and functions of the biceps muscles (elbow flexion and forearm supination), you quickly realize that curls are your best bet for building better biceps.
In addition to creating three beginner bicep workout routines that you can get started with today, we picked the most effective biceps exercises for muscle growth (after testing over 100) and ranked them in the list below.
You can use these exercises to craft your own custom routine, or you can follow one of our pre-made bicep workouts for beginners if you just want to get on with training.
Related: Tricep workouts for beginners
Simple bicep exercises for beginners
These movements may well be easy bicep exercises in terms of execution, but if you put in the work and dedication during your sets, these curls will really make your biceps burn. But we can assure you, the resulting gains will be worth the effort and lactic acid!
1. Dumbbell curl
The dumbbell biceps curl makes a great addition to any beginners bicep workout. By training each arm independently (one weight in each hand), you can develop biceps that are not only big but symmetrical too. This symmetry will help your physique to look more aesthetic and will also improve the size and strength of your weaker bicep (every lifter has a stronger and a weaker arm).
- Hold two dumbbells by your sides with an underhand grip.
- Curl the weights toward your shoulders while keeping your elbows still.
- Keep curling until the undersides of your forearms press right up against your biceps.
- Hold the contraction for a second, and then slowly lower the dumbbells until your elbows reach full extension.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps.
2. Barbell curl
The straight bar curl is one of those basic bicep exercises that just keeps on producing gains no matter how strong you get. Hence, it makes an excellent addition to an advanced bicep workout as well as a beginner one. Unlike its dumbbell counterpart, the barbell curl enables you to overload your biceps with the heaviest possible resistance, so it's perfect for building mass.
- Hold a barbell with an underhand shoulder-width grip.
- With the bar resting on your thighs, curl it toward your chest.
- Flex your biceps forcefully at the top of the rep (as they touch your forearms).
- Lower the weight under control until your arms are fully locked out.
- Perform 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps in total.
3. Hammer curl
Whether you're doing a simple bicep workout with just a few exercises or a complex one with loads of different movements, the bicep hammer curl always makes an excellent addition to your routine.
Unlike regular curls, hammer curls absolutely 'hammer' the brachialis and brachioradialis in addition to the biceps. The former two muscles are a weak point for many lifters. So you can get ahead of the pack now (even as a beginner) by prioritizing muscles that most people overlook.
- Hold two dumbbells by your sides with a neutral grip.
- Lift the weights toward your shoulders while keeping your elbows stationary.
- Squeeze your biceps and the tops of your forearms forcefully at the top of the rep.
- Lower the dumbbells under control until your elbows are completely locked out.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps.
4. Cable curls
The cable arm curl is one of the most highly recommended bicep exercises for beginners because it produces more joint-friendly resistance than comparable free weight lifts. Since the cable machine stabilizes the weight for you, to an extent, you can focus more attention on blasting your biceps and making them grow. Free weights certainly have their place, but they also carry a higher injury risk than cables—especially for beginners.
- Attach a straight bar to a low pulley and then grab it with an underhand shoulder-width grip.
- While keeping your shoulders and elbows still, curl the bar toward your chest by flexing your biceps.
- Keep lifting until your biceps and forearms make firm contact.
- Squeeze your biceps at the top of the rep for a brief moment and then slowly lower the bar until your elbows reach full extension.
- Perform 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps in total.
5. EZ bar curl
Biceps training for beginners should be intense but safe. You don't want to hurt your joints or strain a muscle because it will keep you out of the gym and could even put you off weight lifting altogether.
Since straight bars can cause wrist and forearm discomfort for many trainees, the EZ curl bicep curl is a great exercise for novice lifters who're still learning the ropes. By holding the bar with a semi-supinated (rather than fully supinated grip), you'll put less pressure on your forearm flexors and avoid common injuries.
- Load some weights onto an EZ bar (or use a preloaded bar for extra convenience) and grab it with a shoulder-width underhand grip.
- Curl the weight to your chest while keeping your elbows as still as possible.
- Flex your biceps forcefully as they press up against the undersides of your forearms.
- Lower the bar under control until your arms are fully locked out.
- Repeat the motion for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.
6. Incline curls
Even though the DB incline curl focuses on the long (outer) head of the biceps and is popular with advanced lifters, it's still a smart addition to any beginner bicep workout. This is because research shows that incline curls place more tension on the biceps than other popular exercises (such as preacher curls).
- Set the backrest of an adjustable bench to a 45-degree angle.
- Grab two weights and sit on the bench.
- Let your arms hang by your sides and slightly behind your torso.
- Curl the dumbbells toward your front delts while keeping your elbows and shoulders still.
- Squeeze your biceps at the top of the rep and then lower the weights under control until your elbows reach full extension.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.
7. Reverse curls
The overhand bicep curl shifts the tension onto the often neglected brachialis and brachioradialis muscles by placing the biceps in a position of mechanical disadvantage in which they can’t produce much force. As such, this exercise is excellent for developing thick and muscular arms, not just bulging biceps.
- Grab a barbell with a thumbless, overhand grip just inside shoulder-width.
- While keeping your elbows still and your core tight, curl the bar to your chest.
- Keep curling until the tops of your forearms and your biceps make forceful contact.
- Pause at the top of the rep for a split second, and then lower the weight under control until your elbows are completely locked out.
- Perform 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps in total.
3 bicep workouts for beginners
Each of these beginner bicep workout routines will produce results, plain and simple. The first workout has slightly less volume than the latter and is ideal if you're completely new to the gym.
The final workout, as I just alluded to, contains more training volume than the first and is recommended if you've already got a few months of lifting experience under your belt.
Basic bicep workout
1: Barbell Curl — 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps
2: Hammer curl — 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps
3: Dumbbell curl — 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
This biceps workout for beginners is simple yet highly effective for building muscle. Although there are only three exercises, don't underestimate how challenging this workout is. When you're a beginner, you can grow from just a few sets per body part per week. So by doing 9-14 sets here, you're going above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that you're not leaving an ounce of muscle growth on the table.
You'll be starting with barbell curls to focus on building overall mass. Then, you'll hit some hammer curls to build your brachialis and brachioradialis, which, as we established earlier, are two commonly neglected muscle groups. Finally, you'll do dumbbells curls to ensure that both of your arms receive equal work and thus grow more or less in proportion with one another.
Aim to rest 2-3 minutes between sets so that you can perform more total reps.
See Also: Back and bicep workout for beginners
Home beginner bicep workout
1: Dumbbell curls — 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps
2: Plate curls — 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps
3: Banded curls — 3 sets of 15-30 reps
If you need an at home bicep workout specifically designed for beginners, make sure to try the routine below. Again, there's no need to do a ton of different exercises. By focusing on the proven basics, you can actually gain strength on core movements rather than changing up your exercises every week and resetting the weight.
This quick bicep workout is also designed for those who only have minimal equipment. Hence, all you need to complete this simple bicep workout is a pair of dumbbells, some resistance bands, and a moderately heavy weight plate.
Dumbbell curls, as we established, build overall bicep size but are also great for helping you to develop symmetrical arms. Doing a plate curl for your biceps also puts a lot of tension on the brachialis and brachioradialis, which will make your arms appear thicker as a whole.
Finally, you'll be doing banded curls to burn out your biceps and target the slow-twitch muscle fibers that you couldn't fatigue with the heavy free weight work.
Rest for 1-3 minutes between sets of the first two exercises. For band curls, shorten your rest periods to 30-45 seconds to increase the pump and metabolic stress.
Challenging beginner bicep workout
1: Barbell curl — 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps
2: Incline curls — 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps
3: Reverse curls — 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps
4: Cable curls — 2 sets of 20 reps (optional)
If you've been pumping iron for a few months already and have got the hang of the more simple bicep workouts, then you can try this challenging training session to take your biceps to the intermediate stage.
The difference is that this session has more overall sets and greater exercise variety. You'll also be training across a broader spectrum of rep ranges to ensure that you're recruiting the maximum amount of muscle fibers possible (low reps and heavy weights focus on the fast-twitch fibers, whereas high reps and lighter weight emphasize the slow-twitch fibers).
You can also see our bicep circuit training guide if you want to get a good cardiovascular workout while blasting your biceps.
Conclusion: Should beginners stick to doing easy bicep workouts?
Novice lifters should stick to a basic bicep workout for the most part. While there's no harm in trying different exercises to see which you most enjoy, constantly changing your routine can actually make your strength progress and bicep development stagnate.
This is because the same resistance will only keep building muscle for so long. As such, to make new gains, you need to increase the weight. But if you're constantly changing exercises, then you're always going to be starting at a lower resistance level and working your way back up. Therefore, it's much better to pick a few core exercises and stick with them until you become more advanced.
So there's nothing wrong with performing easy bicep workouts as a beginner. Even though your exercise selection might be relatively simple, the training sessions will naturally become more challenging as you increase the weights over the weeks and months.