Many who get into weight lifting or strength training want big, strong biceps. The biceps is a two-headed muscle. To get the size and shape you want, you need to train both heads. You also need to train the brachialis muscle, which runs along the outside of your upper arm. A strong brachialis muscle will help your biceps heads develop higher peaks. Spider curls are a great biceps exercise because they work all parts of this muscle group.
EditPerfecting Spider Curls
- Locate the right equipment. Typically you’re going to need access to a gym if you want to do spider curls. Some gyms may have spider curl benches, but if yours does not, you can use a preacher curl bench.
- Look for a preacher curl bench that’s padded on both sides of the armrest. If you work out at home, you may be able to find a preacher curl or spider curl bench to add to your home gym. A used bench should be relatively inexpensive, or you can look for a similar piece of equipment that you can use the same way you’d use a preacher curl or spider curl bench.
- This exercise is typically done using a barbell rather than dumbbells.
- You can also use a Swiss ball – an elastic ball filled with air also known as a “balance,” “exercise,” “stability,” or “Pezzi” ball. You’ll need to find a larger one and can then lay against it with your chest, armpits over the top, and arms planted on the ball’s other side.
- Set your weights. Choose the amount of weight to lift before you get in position for the exercise. You’ll lay the barbell on the part of the preacher bench where you normally would sit if you were doing preacher curls.
- You also can use dumbbells for this exercise, rather than a barbell. Just make sure you have your dumbbells firmly on the seat where you can get into position without them falling off.
- Use a thicker bar to activate your muscles more. If you don’t have access to a thicker bar, you can wrap a towel around it. You may have to use a little less weight at first if you’re using a thicker bar.
- Lean over the bench. Once your weights are stable, go over to the front of the preacher bench and lean against it at a 45-degree angle. You’re going to be leaning your chest against the part of the bench your arms would be on if you were doing preacher curls.
- Rest your upper arms against the back of the preacher bench so that you can grab your weights with your arms fully extended.
- Choose your grip. How you position your hands impacts which parts of your biceps you target the most. Holding your hands closer together will target the outer head of your biceps. The further apart you move your hands, the more the inner head of your biceps is targeted.
- You might want to experiment doing one set with a closer grip and then a second set with a wider grip to hit both heads of the biceps muscle.
- Curl the bar upward. Keeping your shoulders down and back, lift the bar towards your shoulders in a slow, controlled movement as you exhale. Only go up about three-quarters of the way to the top, maintaining tension for the whole movement.
- Lower the bar back to start. As you inhale, release your elbows to return the bar to the starting position in a slow and controlled movement. Stop before you reach the bottom, going only about three-quarters of the way. That way you’re maintaining consistent tension on your biceps muscles.
- Do 10 to 20 repetitions. Build a set of spider curls with 10 to 20 repetitions, and try to do two or three sets. As the exercise starts getting easier, use bigger weights rather than adding additional sets or repetitions.
- If you want to build bigger biceps, progressive overload is important. Keep track of the weight you’re curling and increase it incrementally every week or so.
EditBuilding Both Biceps Heads
- Start with barbell biceps curls. Barbell biceps curls are perhaps one of the simplest exercises for your biceps, but they also are one of the most effective. If you don’t have access to a barbell, you can do curls with dumbbells as well.
- For standing barbell biceps curls, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with a little give in your knees and your back straight. Hold the barbell with palms facing outward, elbows extended. Curl the bar towards your chest, bending your elbows, then release back to starting position in a slow, controlled movement.
- You also can do seated biceps curls, either with a barbell or with dumbbells. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and your back is straight.
- Add incline dumbbell curls. Incline dumbbell curls restrict movement in your back, which further isolates your biceps to an extent not possible with regular dumbbell curls. You may need to use a lower weight for this exercise than you did for regular biceps curls.
- Lay on an incline weight bench with your feet flat on the floor. Hold the dumbbells with arms down by your sides. Rotate your arms so that your palms are facing forward.
- On an exhale, curl the weights, moving only your forearms. Keep your upper arms stationary. Then lower the weight in a slow, controlled movement as you inhale.
- Do one to three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions of this exercise. You can do both arms at once, or one at a time alternating sides.
- Target the inner head with Scott curls. For Scott curls, you’ll need access to a preacher bench. Sit on the bench leaning against the angled side. Lodge your armpits into the pads so that your chest supports all of your weight. This angle keeps you from building momentum in your hips and core to help the biceps do their work.
- You can do these curls with either barbells or dumbbells. Keep your hands close together, palms facing upward, and curl the weight toward your shoulder.
- Pause at the top and then release in a slow controlled movement to complete one repetition. Do one to three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions of this exercise.
- Increase stabilization with cable curls. If you work out at a gym that has a cable machine, you can use standing biceps cable curls to target all the stabilization muscles surrounding the biceps.
- Stand in front of the cable machine and grip the ends of the cables with your palms facing each other. Lean back slightly with a straight back and flat shoulders. Leave a little give in your knees.
- On an exhale, curl the cable upward toward your chest, moving only your lower arm. Then lower the cable back to starting position in front of your hips. Do one to three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions of this exercise.
- You can also use dumbbells or rope handles to get the same (or even better results) as a cable machine. Keep these options in mind, as your gym may not be set up with two cables side-by-side to exercise with your arms completely free.
- Practice chin-ups. Curls can improve tone and definition as well as building size, but chin-ups are a functional movement that will increase strength in your biceps. This exercise also engages your entire upper body.
- You can add resistance with a weighted belt or vest to provide progressive overload on this exercise as you get stronger.
- Exhaust your biceps with concentration curls. Concentration curls are a great exercise to end a biceps workout because you can use them to thoroughly exhaust the entire muscle group.
- Do concentration curls while sitting to target the biceps muscle. Sit on the end of a bench with your feet flat on the floor and your knees at right angles. Lean over, bracing your right elbow against your right inner thigh. Hold a dumbbell with arm fully extended, palm facing your other leg.
- On an exhale, curl the weight upward toward your shoulder, then lower in a slow, controlled movement as you inhale. Do 10 to 20 repetitions of this exercise, then switch and do the other arm.
EditStrengthening Your Brachialis
- Do hammer curls. Hammer curls directly target the brachialis. Strengthening that muscle supports and lifts your biceps, so your biceps will have higher peaks and be more defined.
- Stand or sit with your arms at your sides. Grasp your dumbbells with palms facing each other so that the weighted ends are above and below your hands.
- Hold the weights with your elbows at right angles along your sides. Curl the weight up toward your shoulder, then lower in a slow, controlled movement. Do one to three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions of this exercise.
- Add seated alternating dumbbell curls. Seated alternating dumbbell curls work the full length of the muscle group, including both heads of your biceps and your brachialis. Switching back and forth between sides gives this exercise a nice rhythm.
- Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the ground, knees at 90-degree angles. Keep your back straight and your shoulders flat. Hold one dumbbell on each side, palms facing each other.
- On an exhale, curl the weight in your right hand toward your chest, then lower it in a slow, controlled movement as you inhale. Immediately curl the weight in your left hand on your next exhale, then lower on an inhale to complete one repetition. Do one to three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions of this exercise.
- Turn dumbbell curls into Zottman curls. Zottman curls turn the focus more to your brachialis, particularly as you’re lowering the weight. Do your dumbbell curls like normal, but as you go to lower the dumbbells, rotate them so that your palms are facing downward.
- From the starting position, rotate the dumbbells again so that your palms are facing upward for the curl. Do one to three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions of this exercise.
- Try Smith machine drag curls. If there’s a Smith machine in your gym, you can use it to build strength in both your brachialis and your biceps with drag curls. Start by standing inside the machine with your chest up and shoulders back, holding the bar in front of your upper thighs.
- Shift your elbows back to curl the bar toward your upper abs, then drag the bar up your torso until your biceps are fully contracted. Then lower to complete the repetition. Do one to three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions of this exercise.
- Use close-grip chin-ups to target your brachialis. If you were already doing chin-ups as a functional exercise to build strength in your biceps, you can target your brachialis simply by changing your grip.
- Start in a dead-hang position from the bar with your hands close together, using an underhand grip. As you raise yourself up over the bar, keep your elbows tight to your sides.
- Pause with your chin under the bar before lowering yourself in a slow, controlled movement back to a dead-hang.
- You can do chin-ups in sets, or do an interval of as many chin-ups as you can do in 30 seconds or a minute.
- The biceps and triceps are opposing muscle groups and should be balanced. For best performance, and to avoid injuries, add tricep exercises to your routine.
- You will also need to have a strong back, chest, and shoulders to work your biceps safely.
- Overemphasizing the biceps – and neglecting other muscle groups – can in time lead to joint problems. Balanced training is the key to having a strong body.