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The best female bicep workouts and exercises for women and girls to tone up

After trying over 100 different movements, here are the 12 best bicep exercises for women to tone up.
Written By  Tiana Walker
Last Updated on 13th August 2021
A lady demonstrating some bicep workouts for women to build muscle in their arms

Your biceps brachii muscles are one of the most visible body parts on the human body because they're situated on the front of your arms.

So it's no surprise that more and more women are waking up to the benefits of performing bicep exercises to tone their arms.

To help you along the way, we created three bicep workouts for women who want to sculpt toned, lean arms by using weights. In addition, we compiled an extensive list of the 12 best bicep exercises for women...after trying more than 100!

Related: Back and bicep workout for females

The 12 best bicep exercises for women

Enhance every muscle on the front of your arms—brachialis, brachioradialis, biceps—with these fun and effective exercises.

1. Dumbbell bicep curl

A lady doing dumbbell curls for her biceps

The dumbbell curl is one of the all-time great bicep builders because it's simple (once you learn how to do a proper curl) and crazy effective for toning your arms.

Since dumbbells make you work each arm independently, they're an excellent training tool for making sure that your biceps are symmetrical—not just lean and muscular.

To get the best results, make sure to really twist your wrists at the top of each rep. Turning your pinky fingers away from your body like this intensifies the muscle contraction and forces your biceps to work even harder than usual, which gives you a better workout.

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides with an underhand grip.
  2. Curl the weights toward your shoulders while keeping your elbows stationary.
  3. Keep curling until the undersides of your forearms press right up against your biceps.
  4. Hold the contraction for a moment.
  5. Lower the dumbbells back to your sides in a controlled manner until your elbows reach full extension.
  6. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.

2. Hammer curl

A woman doing DB hammer curls

Any good biceps workout for women should include the hammer dumbbell curl because it blasts your brachialis and brachioradialis muscles in addition to your biceps.

Since your biceps have help from these other two arm muscles, you can actually lift a bit heavier during hammer curls than during regular curls. So don't be afraid to grab a larger pair of weights from the rack to test your strength; your biceps will be grateful for the extra tension.

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides with a neutral grip.
  2. Lift the weights toward your shoulders while keeping your elbows still.
  3. Keep lifting until your lower arms make forceful contact with your biceps.
  4. Hold the contraction for a second.
  5. Lower the weights under control until they’re back by your sides.
  6. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps.

3. Zottman curl

A woman doing Zottman curls for her biceps

The standing Zottman curl is one of the best biceps exercises for women who want to develop toned arms, not just lean biceps.

This is because, like hammer curls, Zottman curls also work your brachialis and brachioradialis muscles.

Building your brachialis will make the sides of your arms look leaner and more muscular because the brachialis is a very strong elbow flexor.

Similarly, training your brachioradialis will help the area between your biceps and forearm extensors to look more toned.

  1. Hold a pair of weights by your sides with a thumbless underhand grip.
  2. Curl the weights toward your shoulders while keeping your elbows still.
  3. Once your forearms and biceps make firm contact, turn your hands into a pronated (palms-down) position.
  4. Slowly lower the weights back down with this new overhand position.
  5. Switch back the original palms-up grip once your elbows reach full extension.
  6. Perform 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps.

4. Cable bicep curl

A woman performing low pullet cable bicep curls

Low pulley curls are a fantastic addition to any female bicep workout because they challenge your bis with constant muscle-toning tension.

What this means for your biceps is that they need to work harder because now they have to resist a cable pulley that's always exerting some kind of force on them. So you can't just rest at the bottom of each rep like you can with free weight curls, which naturally leads to a better "pump" since the lactic acid doesn't have a chance to escape (until your set is over).

  1. Connect a straight bar to a low pulley.
  2. Grab the bar with an underhand grip and let it rest on your thighs.
  3. Curl the bar toward your chest by flexing your biceps.
  4. Keep curling until your forearms and biceps push right up against each other.
  5. Hold the peak contraction for a moment.
  6. Lower the bar in a controlled manner until your arms are locked out.
  7. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.

5. Kettlebell curl

A woman doing kettlebell curls

The seated kettlebell curl is a tremendous arm-sculpting movement to include in your girl's biceps workout because kettlebells are often even easier to grip than dumbbells.

This means that you can get a better workout because your biceps won't fatigue before your gripping muscles.

The only slight problem, if you can call it that, is the fact that the weight jumps between pairs of kettlebells can often be quite large, which makes it difficult to gain strength (especially for a relatively small muscle group like the biceps).

That's why I like to include kettlebells curls as a secondary or finishing movement rather than as a primary exercise in my female biceps workout.

  1. Hold a pair of kettlebells by your sides with a supinated grip.
  2. Lift the kettlebells toward your shoulders while keeping your elbows stationary.
  3. Keep lifting the weights until your lower arms make forceful contact with your biceps.
  4. Squeeze your biceps forcefully at the top of the rep.
  5. Lower the kettlebells under control until your arms are fully locked out.
  6. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.

6. TRX curl

Woman doing TRX bicep curls

While there are many bicep exercises for women with weights that you can perform, few movements can rival the effectiveness of TRX bicep curls.

TRX curls strengthen your core and blast your biceps simultaneously—and they require absolutely no weights.

Better yet, you don't have to fret over what weight to use because the resistance is always relative on TRX curls since it's a function of your body weight.

  1. Suspend the TRX above head height and grab the handles with a supinated grip.
  2. Shuffle your feet forward and lean your torso back.
  3. Curl your forehead toward the handles by flexing your biceps forcefully.
  4. Squeeze your biceps as they press right up against the undersides of your forearms.
  5. Hold the contraction for a second or two.
  6. Slowly lower yourself back down until your elbows are completely extended.
  7. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps.

7. Resistance band bicep curl

A lady doing resistance band curls for her biceps

Now that you've seen the various bicep workouts for women with weights, it's time to explore a movement that you can do with just one very simple training tool: resistance bands.

Banded curls are much more convenient than their free-weight counterpart because you can perform them virtually anywhere. This means that you don’t need to spend time commuting to the gym or waiting for machines, which may make you less likely to skip workouts.

Resistance bands also challenge your biceps with constant tension, so they're an excellent piece of kit for achieving a good bicep burn.

If you get too strong for a given band, then you can simply double loop the band to increase the tension level, which is particularly helpful if you only have one band rather than a set of bands.

  1. Grab your band handles with a supinated grip.
  2. Stand in the middle of your band to secure it to the floor.
  3. Lift the handles toward your shoulders while keeping your elbows stationary.
  4. Keep lifting until your biceps and forearms make firm contact at the top of the rep.
  5. Hold the peak contraction for a second.
  6. Lower the handles in a controlled manner until your elbows are locked out.
  7. Perform 3-5 sets of 12-20 reps.

8. Squat to curl

A lady doing a squat bicep curl

The squat curl is one of the best bicep exercises for women who want to tone their thighs and burn plenty of calories while also working their biceps.

And, best of all, the exercise is completely customizable to your ability level.

For example, if you're new to the gym, then you can perform a simple squat followed by a bicep curl.

However, if you really want to see what your thighs are made of, then you can perform an entire set of bicep curls while you're in the squatting position.

This approach will set your quads on fire and burn off plenty of calories in the process.

  1. Hold a pair of weights by your sides with an underhand grip.
  2. Squat down as low as you comfortably can.
  3. Perform 5 bicep curls.
  4. Push yourself back up using your legs.
  5. Repeat the motion again; this is one set.
  6. Perform 3-5 sets in total.

9. Squat curl press

A lady performing the squat curl press

The squat curl press is a brilliant bicep exercise for women who want to tone their bis, thighs, and deltoids with one convenient full-body movement.

This intense exercise really gets your heart pumping and your forehead sweating; it's an integral part of my female bicep training programs for clients who want to lose fat.

Try and perform your initial repetitions as explosively as possible to give your muscles and cardiovascular system the best possible workout. Your subsequent sets will, of course, decrease in tempo as you fatigue. This is completely normal and not something that you should worry about.

  1. Hold some dumbbells by your sides.
  2. Curl the weights toward your shoulders.
  3. Once your biceps and forearms make forceful contact, lift the weights to the top of your shoulders and then press them over your head.
  4. Keep pressing the weights until your elbows are locked out.
  5. Reverse the motion by lowering the dumbbells down to your shoulders and then back to your sides.
  6. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.

10. Bicep 21s

A lady performing bicep curl 21s

21s are an excellent exercise for biceps for women who love the feeling of their arms getting all pumped up.

That's right; your biceps are really going to be burning on this one.

The 21s exercise is a great way to round off your workout and ensure that you've recruited plenty of muscle fibers so that your biceps can grow back leaner and stronger.

  1. Grab a barbell with a shoulder-width underhand grip.
  2. Curl the bar to just below where your elbows form a 90-degree angle.
  3. Repeat this 7 times.
  4. Now curl the bar from this position all the way up.
  5. Repeat this 7 times.
  6. Finish the set by performing 7 full repetitions.
  7. Do 3-4 sets in total.

11. Reverse dumbbell curl

A lady demonstrating a reverse dumbbell curl

No bicep workout for women is complete without an exercise that isolates the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles.

After all, there's more to sculpting learn arms than just building your biceps.

Performing the reverse DB curl puts your biceps at a mechanical disadvantage in which they can't produce much force. As a result, your brachialis and brachioradialis have to pick up the slack and do most of the lifting, which naturally means that they get to enjoy most of the muscle-toning tension as well.

  1. Hold some dumbbells by your sides with a thumbless overhand grip.
  2. Curl the weights toward your shoulders while keeping your elbows stationary.
  3. Keep lifting the weights until the tops of your forearms make forceful contact with your biceps.
  4. Lower the dumbbells in a controlled manner until your elbows reach full extension.
  5. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.

12. Reverse preacher curl

A woman performing a reverse preacher curl

The overhand preacher curl really isolates your arm muscles because by bracing your arms against the pad, you can't swing the weight up with your shoulders, which means that your biceps and co have to handle all of the tension.

  1. Load some weight onto an EZ bar and place the bar in the preacher curl rack.
  2. Sit on the seat and grab the bar with a thumbless overhand grip at shoulder-width.
  3. Brace your arms against the pad and curl the bar toward your shoulders.
  4. Keep curling until the tops of your forearms press right up against your biceps.
  5. Hold the contraction for a moment.
  6. Lower the bar under control until your elbows are locked out.
  7. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.

Three bicep workouts for women to get toned

Now that you've seen all of the individual exercises for biceps for women to build muscle, it's time to piece those movements together into full workout routines.

Workout 1: Starter

A female performing a bicep workout

1: Hammer curls — 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps

2: Dumbbell curls — 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps

3: Cable curls — 3-5 sets of 12-20 reps

4: Curl to press — 3-5 sets of 12-20 reps

This is the best bicep workout for women who want a simple yet effective routine for toning the front of their arms.

The program includes cable curls to challenge your biceps with constant tension, but if you can't get to the gym, then you can substitute them for band curls instead.

Rest one minute between sets or slightly longer if you need more recovery time. Resting longer can enhance hypertrophy. [1]

Workout 2: Back-to-back

A girl doing a bicep workout

1A: Zottman curls — 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps

1B: Hammer curls — 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps

2A: Cable curls — 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps

2B: Band curls — 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps

3A: Curl to press — 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps

3B: Bicep curls — 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps

This routine is the most intense of our bicep workouts for women because it uses supersets and a variety of rep ranges to really burn out your biceps.

It's recommended not to change the exercise order. This is because we've programmed the routine so that you always perform the hardest exercise first in the pairing.

If you were to switch the exercise order, then you'd struggle to perform the second movement because, as an example, Zottman curls are harder than hammer curls, which is to say that you need to lift lighter on the former exercise.

Perform exercise A immediately followed by exercise B, followed by 60-90 seconds of rest.

Workout 3: Reps, reps, reps

A lady demonstrating some biceps exercises for women to tone up

1: Bicep curls — 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps

2: Squat curl press — 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps

3: Resistance band curl — 3-5 sets of 20-25 reps

4: Reverse dumbbells curl — 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps

Some ladies just love high-rep training, and if you're one of them, then this workout is for you.

Not only do the high repetitions help to tone and shape your biceps, but they also give your cardiovascular system a great workout too, which leads to a nice endorphin rush that just makes you feel happy and motivated to get back in the gym. [2]

This biceps workout for women is also ideal if you don't have much equipment or if you train at home because it requires nothing more than a pair of weights and a resistance band.

Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.

Conclusion: What's the best bicep workout for women?

While there's no one best bicep workout for women that every girl should do, there are some key exercises that every routine should include.

Many ladies, for example, often forget to work their brachialis and brachioradialis, two muscles that are no less critical than the biceps for toning your arms.

You can train your brachialis and brachioradialis with hammer curls and reverse curls.

To work your biceps, you need to curl with a supinated grip (i.e., with your palms facing up) because this trains both biceps functions—elbow flexion and forearm supination—and leads to the best results.

Select the workout that you find most enjoyable. A lot of getting good results comes down to consistency; if you can stay motivated to work your biceps regularly, then your arms will start to look leaner and more feminine.

References

  1. Schoenfeld, B. J., Pope, Z. K., Benik, F. M., Hester, G. M., Sellers, J., Nooner, J. L., Schnaiter, J. A., Bond-Williams, K. E., Carter, A. S., Ross, C. L., Just, B. L., Henselmans, M., & Krieger, J. W. (2016). Longer Interset Rest Periods Enhance Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(7), 1805–1812. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001272
  2. Kraemer, W. J., Dziados, J. E., Marchitelli, L. J., Gordon, S. E., Harman, E. A., Mello, R., Fleck, S. J., Frykman, P. N., & Triplett, N. T. (1993). Effects of different heavy-resistance exercise protocols on plasma beta-endorphin concentrations. Journal of Applied Physiology, 74(1), 450–459. https://doi.org/10.1152/jappl.1993.74.1.450
Tiana Walker
As a personal trainer, Tiana Walker has been coaching women in the Chicago area for 6 years. She's helped countless ladies to lose weight and then keep it off with her sustainable exercise and nutritional regimes. She's also an experienced health and fitness writer whose enthusiasm helps her to connect with a worldwide audience of fitness enthusiasts.
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