From carrying groceries to putting dishes away to picking up your child, your arms work hard to get you through life. With a dumbbell biceps workout, you can give them the attention they deserve.
Your biceps brachii, known as your biceps, is the muscle on the front of your upper arm. It contains two “heads,” or parts. The “short head” is the inner part of the muscle that’s closest to your body, and the “long head” is the outer part, ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, CPT, owner of Strong With Sivan, tells SELF.
A good biceps workout will include different biceps exercises to target different parts of the muscle. A wide-grip biceps curl, for example, places more emphasis on the short head, while a close-grip curl places more emphasis on the long head. A regular biceps curl, by contrast, works both heads of the muscle fairly evenly. With all three variations, you’ll be hitting the biceps in each, “but you’ll hit one part of the muscle a little bit more compared to another variation,” says Fagan.
This variety is important. “You always want to have different variations of a certain exercise because it just hits the muscle fibers a little bit differently,” says Fagan. And by hitting the muscle fibers differently, you can promote full development of the muscle and stability of the joints while reducing your risk of injury, she explains.
The below biceps routine, which Fagan created for SELF, includes both a wide-grip bicep curl as well as a single-arm, regular grip bicep curl. It also features two variations of the row, a classic upper-body move that works your biceps as well as your back. While a row is a compound movement that works various larger muscles, your biceps play a big role in assisting the move.
Importantly, two of the four moves in this workout are single-arm or unilateral, meaning just one arm is working at a time. Compared to double-arm or bilateral exercises, where both arms are working together, single-arm exercises demand more core stability, since your core muscles have to engage in order to keep your spine from rotating. So while single-arm moves mostly target your upper body, they also squeeze in sneaky work for your abs and other core muscles as well.
Another benefit of single-arm exercises is that they allow you to challenge your muscles more. “You’ll always be able to hold more weight on one side compared to when you do both at the same time,” explains Fagan. At the same time, double-arm exercises, like traditional rows and curls, are important too for overall functional strength, which is why this routine includes two double-arm moves as well.
The below routine works well as a finisher to a cardio session, a lower-body workout, or an upper-body push workout that’s focused on the chest, shoulders, and triceps. It could also be a standalone workout on days when you’re really tight on time, says Fagan. In that case, just know it would be considered more supplemental strength work, rather than a super comprehensive upper-body routine, since it focuses on just the biceps and back. A more well-rounded upper-body routine, Fagan explains, would hit the chest, triceps, and shoulders in addition to the back and biceps.