The 20-Minute All-Angles Biceps Workout

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
·4 mins read

From Men's Health

It takes more than basic biceps curls to grow the superheroic arms you might want. And anyone who’s ever done a workout full of basic biceps curls and not gotten results knows that.

The key to biceps growth: You need to do the right biceps curls. Yes, the primary function of your biceps involves flexing your elbow, as you do on every curl. But by shifting your arm to different position, you can stress different portions of the biceps, and limit how the rest of your body can help each curl rep in different ways.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Different twisting actions, too, will influence how you’re attacking your biceps. Your biceps are also responsible for rotating your inner forearm toward the ceiling, and stimulating that function can create even more biceps tension.

All of this means it’s critical to use a variety of curling tactics in your biceps workouts. But no, that doesn’t mean you need to spend hours upon hours in the gym to sculpt the arms you’ve always wanted. Truth is, you can blast your biceps in 20 minutes. You’ll do that in this all-dumbbells workout.

How You Can Vary Your Curls

Your biceps has just two responsibilities: Flexing your elbows and creating that forearm rotation. But there are plenty of adjustments you can make between moves to challenge your biceps in different ways. Keep these in mind in all your biceps workouts.

Changing Upper Arm Angle Relative to Torso

Photo credit: milan2099 - Getty Images
Photo credit: milan2099 - Getty Images

One key way to change the stress on the biceps is to change how much they can utilize momentum. Your arms want to swing forward on a curl, elbows shifting in front of shoulders to create easier leverage (and momentum) to curl upwards.

You can limit that effect when you shift your upper arm angle in front of your torso from the start. You do this in preacher curl and spider curl variations. This often allows you to also get a supreme squeeze in your biceps.

Change Where You Pause

One of the great things about training biceps is that if you pause in the middle of a rep, your biceps still has to continue squeezing to hold that position. (That’s not true on some exercises, like, say, shoulder presses, where multiple muscles can help you hold a position). It’s true on curls though, so mid-rep pauses can be used to build time-under-tension and force you to deliver a strong, continued squeeze on a muscle group.

Change How You Twist

The position of your palm (and forearm) influences how you stimulate the biceps. Turning your palm towards the ceiling, also known as supinating, is a secondary biceps function, and it adds challenge to the curl. But it has to happen at the right time. Wait too long during a biceps curl, and you’re not twisting against resistance.

Aim to make this happen when your forearm is parallel to the ground, so that your biceps faces maximum challenge in making that twist happen. This will also build mind-muscle connection and train you to supinate regularly on all your curls.

The Workout

Directions: Do this workout 2 or 3 times per week. You can do this as a standalone biceps workout, or you can tack it onto the end of a full-body or upper body workout. If you do it as a standalone, warm up with 1 minute each of jumping jacks, Superman holds, and Spiderman lunges. Do each exercise in order. Rest 30 seconds between sets, 60 seconds between each exercise.

Exercise 1: Alternating Dumbbell Curl

Follow with 4 sets of classic dumbbell curls. This allows you to go relatively heavy with your curl, a chance to build strength and power and challenge your biceps with resistance. Do 8 to 10 reps per arm each set.

Exercise 2: 3D Biceps Hammer Curl

Do 3 sets of this hammer curl, which stimulates the brachialis, and has you lingering with your forearm parallel to the ground on every rep. Do 8 to 10 reps each set.

Exercise 3: 3-Way Spider Curl Finisher

Finish by changing your upper arm angle relative to torso multiple times with this 3-part spider curl finisher. Do 1 set. Enjoy the burn.

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