Best Biceps Exercises for Women
Toned, muscular arms are highly sought after by a great many women. When your arms are strong and sleek, your functional strength and endurance are heightened as is your confidence when reaching for that sleeveless top.
Disregard any myths about weight training being for men only. Ladies, it is highly unlikely that you will get big and bulky from lifting weights; you simply don’t have the hormones to support that style of muscle growth. Women lifting weights will get sleek and toned in the vast majority of cases. Reach for the weights today to rapidly accelerate your health and fitness!
For any woman seeking to improve her health and fitness, strength training should be a top priority, and no strength training regimen would be complete without biceps exercises! Strength training for women has myriad benefits, including a faster metabolism and increased bone density which prevents osteoporosis.
Please note that if your primary goal is weight loss, you will be better off focusing on exercises that work more muscle groups at once to burn more calories. The biceps are fairly small muscles in the grand scheme of the body, and exercises that isolate them do burn calories, but not as many as full-body exercises.
In this article, I will go over five of the best biceps exercises for women which are super effective and easy to perform using dumbbells alone. If you have access to more equipment, feel free to perform these biceps exercises using a cable machine or resistance bands. A few of them can also utilize a barbell if you prefer.
Jump to the Best Biceps Exercises for Women or continue reading to learn more.
Basic Biceps Anatomy
Let’s start with an overview of basic biceps anatomy. We’ll also go over the brachialis muscle, which underlies the biceps and gives the biceps a healthy boost when it’s toned up. Not to be overlooked is the brachioradialis, which is actually a forearm muscle, but is involved in many biceps exercises due to its role in flexing the elbow.
You need to familiarize yourself with each of these muscles in terms of location and function so you can be sure you are feeling activation in the right places while performing the best biceps exercises for women. If you don’t feel the right muscles activating when doing these exercises, you need to take a closer look at your form.
“Biceps” literally means “two heads”. The biceps brachii is so named because it originates in two different places. The long head, which is located toward the outside of the arm if you stand with your palm forward, originates on the glenoid tubercle of the scapula. The short head is located closer to the trunk, originating from the coracoid process of the scapula. Both heads of the biceps converge into one tendon which attaches to the radius.
The biceps flex the arm, which is the action of bringing the forearm toward the upper arm. The biceps have the additional function of supinating the arm, which can be visualized as turning the palm forward with the thumb pointing away from the body.
The brachialis is less well-known than the biceps, but we should give it more credit! The brachialis is actually a more powerful arm flexor than the biceps itself. Shorter than the biceps, the brachialis originates on the shaft of the humerus and inserts into the radius.
As it is located directly underneath the biceps, when the brachialis is toned up, it helps boost and define the biceps in a way that biceps exercises alone never could.
When you flex the arm further than 90 degrees, the brachialis takes over some of the work from the biceps. The brachialis will also begin to work if you allow the wrist to flex toward the forearm while curling. This is important to keep in mind as your perform the best biceps exercises for women if you are trying to isolate the biceps.
The brachioradialis is not an upper arm muscle, but it still merits a place in our discussion due its large role in flexing the arm. The main function of the brachioradialis is arm flexion, and it synergizes with the biceps and the brachialis to do so. Thus, many biceps exercises also activate the brachioradialis.
Sometimes, this is a good thing, as a toned brachioradialis will sculpt the outside of your forearm and add to your arm strength. However, if you’re trying to keep the work in the biceps, you will want to minimize brachioradialis involvement in most of the best biceps exercises for women except the hammer curl.
To minimize activation of the brachioradialis, keep your wrist straight or even slightly extended when you curl.
Exercise Guidelines for the Best Biceps Exercises for Women
When performing these best biceps exercises for women, focus on maintaining proper form and alignment at all times, keeping your core active to stabilize. Don’t rock or use momentum in any way to get the weights up; the action is all in the arms. Lift and lower in a slow, controlled manner, focusing as much time and attention on the lowering phase as on the raising phase.
As with any strength training exercise, you must do weight training splits, allowing at least 48 hours between biceps workouts. If you are working multiple body parts during the same workout, it’s a good idea to work the biceps and back on the same day, as many of back exercises activate the biceps as well.
When you perform these best biceps exercises for women, complete 12-20 reps of each exercise with lower weight volume if your goal is building endurance or toning up. If you want to increase the lean mass and brute strength of your biceps, you’ll want to use heavier weights for 6-12 repetitions of each exercise. As you get stronger, make sure to progress slowly and methodically to avoid overdoing it.
If you’re a beginner, start with one set of each exercise. More advanced lifters will probably want to perform multiple sets. Learn more about how to structure your strength training workouts by reading our articles on Sets & Reps and Weight Training Set Structure.
Best Biceps Exercises for Women
Here they are: five of the very best biceps exercises for women! Watch the videos to observe proper form. You can grab any of these exercises in isolation if just want one or a few to add to your current upper body workout, or you can perform these best biceps exercises for women as a workout sequence to completely blast your biceps and their synergists.
If you choose to perform these exercises in sequence as a full-on biceps workout, allow 30-60 seconds of rest between each exercise to allow your muscles to recuperate.
Supinating Biceps Curls
Supinating biceps curls are one of the best biceps exercises for women, targeting the whole biceps and bringing it through both of its main motions: flexion and supination.
Starting with the dumbbells held at your sides with your palms facing your hips, curl up to the front of your shoulders, turning your palms forward as you go. This is the action of supination. You can do one arm at a time or both arms at the same time to maximize the time efficiency of your biceps workout.
Preacher Biceps Curls
Preacher curls are known to target the top part of the biceps near the insertion.
Grasping the dumbbells firmly without flexing your wrist, lay your arm over an incline bench set at about 60 degrees. Keep your forearm relaxed and your wrist straight to keep the action on the biceps instead of the brachialis. Curl only to a 90 degree angle to avoid activating the brachialis and then lower all the way down to the bench.
Concentration Biceps Curls
When you do concentration biceps curls correctly, they target only the biceps, leaving helper muscles out of the equation. The key is to focus (“concentrate”) on keeping the contraction in the biceps alone.
Either standing bent over or sitting bent over on a bench, hold the arm in front of the midline of the body. Curl the dumbbell up toward the opposite shoulder. Keep your shoulders relaxed to better target the biceps. Make sure the wrist stays straight and not flexed. Watch the video to see a demonstration of proper form, which is very important to maintain if you want to get the most out of concentration biceps curls. Do one arm at a time when performing this exercise.
Hammer curls activate the brachialis, that deep muscle below the biceps which gives the biceps a nice boost when toned up. Hammer curls also work your brachioradialis, which adds significantly to the shapeliness of your forearm.
To perform hammer curls, hold the dumbbells by your sides with palms facing in. Keeping your palms facing in during the whole repetition, raise the dumbbells up toward the front of your shoulders and lower back down to your sides. Make sure you don’t rock to get the weights up; keep the action in the arms only. You can perform hammer curls on both arms at the same time, alternating arms, or one arm at a time if that’s easier to control.
21s Biceps Curls
21s are a super satisfying way to finish off a biceps workout. 21s will completely burn out your biceps while getting good involvement of the brachialis as well. Since you’re performing 21 repetitions, you can even perform just a couple sets of these and call it a day if you feel that’s enough.
To perform 21s, hold the dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing forward. Curl the dumbbell all the way up to your shoulders for seven repetitions. Without pausing, bring the dumbbells to a 90 degree angle with your elbows at your sides and curl the dumbbell all the way up to the fronts of your shoulders. Only return the arms to the 90 degree angle when lowering the dumbbells. After seven of these high curl repetitions, lower the dumbbells all the way to your sides as in the very beginning of the exercise. Immediately begin seven repetitions of low curls, where you raise the dumbbells only to a 90 degree angle.
Perform 21s slowly, concentrating on the lowering phase as much as the raising phase. Don’t rush, or you will never experience the full potential of this exercise. You can also do 21s with a barbell, a cable machine, or resistance bands. Watch the following video for a demonstration of 21s biceps curls, but don’t get as much back involvement as this guy. Keep the action in your arms.