How to Work Out Your Biceps With Dumbbells

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Whether you want to tone, strengthen or add an inch or two to your biceps, engaging in regular dumbbell workouts can help you achieve your goal. The design of your workout is only limited by your imagination. While the curl provides the foundation for most biceps-specific exercises, you can make slight technique and positional changes to add variety and keep your workouts fresh.

Basics About the Biceps

  • A two-headed muscle group, the biceps brachii lie between your elbow and shoulder at the front of your upper arm. This muscle engages every time you flex your elbow and bring your forearm closer to your upper arm, such as when you reach to scratch your nose. When your arm is bent, the biceps also helps you rotate your forearm externally -- turning your palm so your thumb points away from your body.

Common Biceps Exercises

  • Two classic exercises that target your biceps, the biceps curl and hammer curl, are a must for your workout. In the hammer curl, as the name suggests, you hold the dumbbell as you would the handle of a hammer. You can perform these exercises while standing, sitting on a workout bench or even while sitting on top of an exercise ball, which requires more engagement of your core muscles to maintain your balance. Consider adding concentration curls, a common exercise effective in isolating your biceps. These are performed while seated. You brace the outside of your elbow against the inside of your knee and only moving your lower arm to curl the weight up to your shoulder.

Not-So-Common Exercises

  • To keep you workouts interesting, include a few exercises that, while not as common, are still effective. Make a slight technique change to the classic hammer curl and perform Zottman curls. Simply perform a hammer curl and halfway up, turn your hands so your palms face backward. At the top, rotate your hands so your palms face forward, lower the weights, rotate your wrists again so they face inward and repeat. For a change of pace, lie chest down or on your back against an incline bench and try hammer and regular curls. To further isolate your biceps, perform curls while sitting at a preacher bench.

Workout Strategy

  • Perform your workout two to three times a week on non-consecutive days. For the first three weeks use light weights, focus on learning the technique and perform one set of 12 to 15 reps, recommends the American College of Sports Medicine. Gradually work toward two to three sets of 12 to 15 reps with a one-minute rest between sets. When this no longer provides a challenge, increase the weight, but only enough to make the last couple of reps challenging. If your goal is to build muscular strength, use heavier weights and perform two to six sets of four to eight reps with a two- to five-minute rest between sets. To build muscle mass, work with slightly heavier weights and complete three to six sets of six to 12 reps with a 90-second rest between sets.

Sample Workout

  • One effective, timesaving training method that can add variety and intensity to your workouts is to perform supersets. A superset consists of two or three biceps-specific exercises performed back to back with no rest in between. For example, you might do a set of seated or standing curls, followed by a set of incline hammer curls and finishing with a set of Zottman curls. Rest for 90 seconds and repeat.

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  • Photo Credit Phil Date/iStock/Getty Images
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