Bigger biceps are one of the most desired features of many fitness enthusiasts. Today, expensive gyms offer dozens of machines to maximize arm gains. However, you can actually get a great biceps workout in your own home.
All you need is a pair of dumbbells, a little space, and some serious dedication.
In this article, I’ll go over some things to consider when working out at home. Although these tips may be biceps focused, keep in mind that some of them apply to other muscle groups as well. Let’s get started.
Types of Dumbbells
First things first – let’s take a look at the different types of dumbbells out there. This will help you better understand how to choose the right dumbbells for your home workout routine.
These are what you typically picture when you think of dumbbells: one solid piece of molded metal with a specific weight. No doubt you’ve seen this at your local gym or sports store, where they’re typically lined up along a rack from lightest to heaviest. The best thing about fixed dumbbells is that they’re very convenient. All you need to do is grab the weight you want and start exercising. If you want to change the resistance mid-workout, just walk back to the rack and switch them out.
Fixed dumbbells come in a variety of different materials and price points. The cheapest ones are typically made of iron or cast iron. These are great if your budget is a big factor in purchasing workout equipment. If you want a more premium product, you can invest in steel dumbbells instead. These tend to have a special coating (rubber, urethane, plastic, vinyl, or chrome) that protects against scratches and keeps them from making as much noise. This is great if you’re concerned about dropping your dumbbells or knocking them against things.
While fixed dumbbells are a great choice, there are two important downsides to consider: the cost and the space they take up. You see, if you want to do a variety of different exercises, you’re going to need different amounts of weight. Since fixed dumbbells can’t be adjusted, you have to buy a new pair every time you switch muscle groups or get stronger. To make matters worse, you’ll eventually need to consider buying a rack to store all your dumbbells so that they stay off the floor and out of the way.
As you might expect, adjustable dumbbells are a flexible alternative to the common fixed designs. Rather than being made out of a single piece of metal, these feature a handle and multiple weighted endpieces. They allow you to adjust the weight to your needs. There are two types of adjustable dumbbells.
These are essentially miniature barbells. They feature a handle and a number of different weighted plates that you can attach to either end. Once the plates are attached, you can hold them in place with a clip or collar. Though they technically contain multiple pieces, plate-loaded dumbbells offer plenty of flexibility, allowing you to adjust the weight on a per-exercise basis. It can take quite a while to change the plates, however, which you should factor into your choice.
These are a newer, improved version of the classic plate-loaded dumbbell design. They’re a great choice for a home gym because they don’t take up much space, fitting comfortably on a small flat rack. Using a dial at the end of the dumbbell, you simply select the amount of weight you want and pull the handle. Voilà! The dumbbell is your desired weight, and any remaining plates are left on the rack. In the end, these dumbbells are fast, flexible, and can save you a ton of space. Although they aren’t very affordable upfront, they could save you money in the long run.
I tend to recommend that newbies get their hands on a pair of reliable, plate-loaded dumbbells. Once you prove that you can stick to a home workout regimen, you can invest in whatever type of dumbbells you prefer.
Home Biceps Exercises Using Dumbbells
Believe it or not, there are around 1500 exercises that you can perform with nothing but a pair of dumbbells. However, rather than attempt to teach you all of these, I’ve picked four that I believe offer the most bang for your buck. If you pay attention when you’re at the gym, you’ll see the majority of people performing these exercises or some variation of them.
Standing Biceps Curl
The first on our list is perhaps the most popular and recognizable bicep exercise: the bicep curl. This exercise is vital to enhancing one’s bicep muscles, but it also strengthens your forearms.
- Grab a set of dumbbells, ensuring that your palms are facing each other.
- Stand up straight and engage your core.
- Slowly bend your elbow and, at the same time, gradually turn the palms outward (wrist supination).
- Curl all the way up.
- At the end of this movement, your palms should face up.
- Pause at the top and slowly return to the starting point.
- Repeat as many times as required.
Seated Biceps Curl
As the name might imply, this exercise is very similar to the one that we just described. However, rather than doing it while standing, you’re going to perform the movement from a seated position. This allows you to focus on the biceps muscles and reduce tension in other parts of your body, such as your legs. Though many people prefer to perform this with a weight bench, you don’t need to rush to purchase one. Instead, just use an ordinary, well-built home chair.
- Take the dumbbells in each hand and sit on the bench or chair. Your palms should be facing each other at this point.
- Raise the dumbbells at the same time until they reach shoulder level.
- As in the previous exercise, rotate the dumbbells outwards while performing the movement.
- Hold them at the peak for a moment and then slowly lower the weights down.
- Repeat as many times as required.
Aside from working the biceps, hammer curls are very effective at exercising the nearby brachialis muscles. Targeting this muscle automatically adds mass to the upper arms, and eventually allows biceps to stand out even more. Thanks to their unique motion, hammer curls allow you to work with heavier weight and put less stress on your wrist joints than other types of biceps curls.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing each other.
- Begin by holding the weights at your sides, next to your hips, while keeping your torso stationary.
- Bend at the elbow and raise the dumbbells to your shoulders.
- Keep your palms in a neutral position for the entire movement.
- When the dumbbells are just short of touching your shoulders, hold for one second at the top position.
- Return the dumbbells to the starting position.
- Repeat as many times as necessary.
NOTE: You can also do this exercise in a seated position.
Seated Concentration Curl
This exercise allows you to isolate and maximize your focus on the biceps. When it comes to seated concentration curls, it’s always better to choose lighter rather than heavier weights, and to really concentrate on contracting your biceps at the top of the movement.
- Sit on a firm bench or chair.
- Spread your legs and grab a dumbbell in either your left or right hand.
- Place the fully extended dumbbell-arm against your thigh. Put your other arm on top of that thigh to stabilize your upper body.
- While squeezing the biceps, curl the dumbbell up to your shoulder.
- Hold at the peak of the motion and then return to the starting point.
- Repeat as many times as necessary with one arm before switching.
NOTE: When performing any of these biceps exercises, it’s important to not jerk your upper body as you attempt to lift the weights. This can lead to a lower back injury. If you’re having that much difficulty lifting the weight, you should consider reducing it.
Home Biceps Workout with Dumbbells
In this section, I will give you three examples of an at-home biceps workout using dumbbells. You can choose one and stick with it or switch up your routines every month or two.
NOTE: Before you begin working out, be sure to do a five to ten-minute warm-up to avoid injuring yourself.
- Hammer curl: 3 sets of 10–12 reps
- Seated concentrated curl: 3 sets of 10–12 reps
- Standing biceps curl: 3 sets of 10–12 reps
- Seated concentrated curl: 3 sets of 10–15 reps
- Seated biceps curl: 3 sets of 8–12 reps
- Hammer curl: 3 sets of 8–12 reps
NOTE: Finish up with a ten-minute cool-down session e.g. static stretching.
Once you are more experienced, you can try more specific biceps dumbbell home workouts. For example, you can incorporate exercises that focus more on the long or short head of the biceps (outer or inner part of the muscle).
If you plan to pair your biceps workout with any other muscle group workouts in a single training day, it’s worth noting that the most popular routines include triceps, shoulders, and chest exercises. For example, on Monday you might perform two biceps exercises and two exercises for the triceps. On the other days of the week, you’ll work different muscle groups. Of course, there is no one plan that works for everybody. You’ll need to try out different routines and draw your own conclusions about what works best for you.
How to Increase Workout Intensity
If you don’t find any of these biceps home workouts to be particularly challenging, there are ways that you can manipulate the workout intensity. So, that you can get more out of your training. For instance:
- Cut down the rest time between sets – This can be highly effective at giving you a much more intense workout. However, if your goal is to grow your muscles, I don’t advise resting for less than 40 seconds between sets.
- Increase the number of sets – Every additional set adds stress to the biceps, but try not to overdo it.
- Include additional exercises – Instead of just the two exercises listed, you can perform three exercises in one routine. However, I don’t suggest you do more than three, as it may hinder your overall progress.
- Reduce the number of reps and work with heavier weights – Fewer reps and more weight is a time-tested recipe for challenging muscles, while the opposite increases endurance.
- Train your biceps two times per week – You don’t want to over-train, but you can benefit from hitting the same muscle groups more than once.
Be careful not to rapidly increase your training intensity, as this can actually slow down your progress rather than speed it up. It’s always a good idea to gradually increase your workout intensity while paying close attention to your progress, physical condition, and mental state.
Exercising Your Biceps without Dumbbells
Once you establish an exercise routine, it’s a good idea to stick to it. However, there are times where you might find yourself without any dumbbells or without the proper weight for your scheduled routine. In these cases, try to replace the dumbbells with any available household objects. Water bottles and bags, for instance, can offer some much-needed resistance to exercise in any situation.
In fact, water bottles are actually quite popular when it comes to substituting dumbbells, and many people find some very interesting ways to put them to use. Some place weighted bottles into a bag and perform biceps exercises with that bag. Others use tape to make handles for larger water bottles of all kinds.
Alternatively, you can use your own body weight to target your biceps. For instance, you can perform pull-up and chin-up variations, which are great for your biceps and back. All you need is your own body weight and a bar.
Overall, if you’re skeptical about how effective bodyweight training is, check out the results gained by Charles Bronson. One of Britain’s most notorious and violent prisoners, he worked out for decades behind bars using nothing but his own weight as resistance.
As you can see, there are plenty of options for performing biceps home workouts with and without dumbbells.