Biceps Exercises Ranked (BEST TO WORST!)

There are so many biceps exercises, but which ones should you be focusing your efforts on if you want to build bigger biceps? In this video, I’m going to give you the most popular bicep exercises ranked from worst to best and help you to determine which ones you should be doing and which you can probably do without.

With that said, we have to lay out the criteria for the biceps exercise selection, which you will find laid out in the video.

Now, let’s break down the ranking categories and see where each bicep exercise sits on the list.

WORST
1. Concentration Curls
2. Reverse Curls
3. Biceps Pushup

The concentration curl kicks off this list in the worst category. Why? Well, the concentration curl is non-athletic version of the curl where you are completely seated and off your feet.

The reverse curl is a great curling movement, but not a great biceps exercise. It comes down to the simple anatomy and bio-mechanics; the reverse curl does not target the biceps, but instead the brachioradialis.

The biceps pushup will always remain at the bottom of the list for me for one simple reason… it doesn’t hit your biceps. At all. You’re better off skipping this one entirely if you want bigger arms.

BETTER
4. Inverted Chin Curls
5. Zottman Curls
6. Preacher Curls
7. Cable Curls

Inverted chin curls are a solid bodyweight option to train your biceps, but can be hard to overload. This can be an issue because the movement will become too easy unless you can start adding weight via a weighted vest.

Zottman curls allow for the biceps to achieve their main function of elbow flexion, but the limiter of this exercise is the lack of eccentric overload on the biceps with eccentric portion being the strongest function of the biceps. By pronating the hands, the eccentric focus goes to the brachioradialis instead.

Preacher curls often give a false sense of security because you are bracing your elbows against the pad, giving the impression that you can handle more weight. Unfortunately, this line of thinking is risky.

Cable curls are great for achieving a good contraction on the biceps at the top of the movement. Unfortunately, at the bottom of the movement, you lose tension on the biceps due to the line force being in direct line with the muscles.

BETTER STILL
8. Spider Curls
9. Drag Curls
10. Cable Flex Curls / Lip Buster Curls
11. Waiter Curls

Spider curls are awesome for developing mind-muscle-connection with the biceps in their peak contracted state. Not only that, but there is a freedom of movement that you don’t find in some other bicep exercises.

Drag curls are the first option on this list to target the long head of the biceps. This is done by getting the elbows back behind the body, which allows for more stretch on the long head of the biceps.

Cable flex curls (also known as the lip buster curl), using a higher anchor point elaborates on the cable curl by getting the shoulder into flexion, an important secondary component of biceps function.

The waiter curl is an awesome option for getting peak contraction of the biceps that is achievable by keeping the wrists back into extension based on the way you have to hold to dumbbell throughout the exercise.

ALMOST BEST
12. Incline DB Curls
13. Chinups
14. Barbell Curls

The incline db curl is an exercise that I consider to be the best for getting the biceps into that all-important stretch position that is not possible with other biceps exercises outside of the drag curl.

Chinups are probably the best bang for your buck bodyweight bicep builders. Another great benefit is the ease of accessibility since it’s just a reliance on a simple pullup bar.

The barbell curl is a versatile biceps movement in that you can load this exercise well, progressively overload it, and perform it strict or in cheat fashion. Both options, strict or cheat, have different benefits but will get you big biceps.

BEST
15. Alternating Standing DB Curls

The alternating standing db curl is ranked number one on this list due to its effectiveness and versatility. You can offset the dumbbell to achieve maximum load under supination, add external rotation to benefit the shoulders at the same time, and even adding bands to accommodate overlapping strength curves.

For a complete step by step workout program that was created with the same level of science behind the selection of every exercise in the plans, be sure to head to athleanx.com via the link below and check out the program selector tool. Answer just a few questions and find the plan that is best suited to your current goals.

For more videos on exercises to build bigger biceps and the biceps workouts / biceps exercises, be sure to subscribe to our channel here on youtube via the link below and remember to turn on your notifications so that you never miss a new video when it’s published.

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45 thoughts on “Biceps Exercises Ranked (BEST TO WORST!)

  1. ATHLEAN-X™ says:

    *NEW “FAST ACTION” Q&A* – What’s your favorite biceps exercise and why? Leave your most burning question about this video or any other training, PT or nutrition question within the first 2 hours of this video’s release (AS A SEPARATE COMMENT!!) and I will pick 8 to get a detailed reply from me right here in the comments. Answers will be posted within the first 24-48 hours of you leaving the question. Good luck!

    • CodIsDaddy says:

      Please make a video of the best excersizes for Upper back including Rear delts , Lower & Upper traps , Rhomboids

    • Sports Fandom says:

      If your an “ectomorph” is it possible to get jacked and bulk at the same time like Jeff or Jessy?

    • J says:

      Hey Jeff. Does icing testicals increase testosterone, and is it worth it from a hypertrophy standpoint?

    • ZSN says:

      Amazing videos, they really help my workouts fix any issues that i have or prevents problems from occur. In addition, your videos really helped me avoid some old classical movements that have shown to have high injuries.

  2. Pete Rubish says:

    In on this one brother! My favorite are cable curls on a seated row machine where you’re leaning back. Those absolutely torch the biceps!

  3. Joshua Richie says:

    As a marathon runner, what exercises/muscles do you think are the most important for long distance runners? What would you recommend for strength training to avoid injury?

    • ATHLEAN-X™ says:

      I always tell runners, everyone likes to focus on the car and they forget about the tires! Keep those feet and ankles strong and healthy. Train balance, plyos, and intrinsic foot/ankle muscles through targeted band work to keep the tires fine tuned. There are actually some good exercises and stretches in the Plantar Fasciitis video that I did that would be a benefit to many as well.

  4. Jay Bman says:

    Great content and videos Jeff, I’m 52 years old I finished AX-1 but I’m repeating it with the TNT workouts I finally feel like there’s hope for me gaining muscle and getting in the shape

    • ATHLEAN-X™ says:

      Love it! Thanks Jay. The TNT’s are an amazing way to increase the volume a bit to target your weak spots.

    • ajith sidhu says:

      @ATHLEAN-X™ please do on how to build.stubborn triceps and chest thay don’t get sore

  5. Daniel Bittinat says:

    I really love these ranking videos – they make weight lifting so much more accessible

  6. Colorado Alaska says:

    Separate PT question – what are you best exercises for patella femoral pain? I was told flat feet brought my knees in and this misalignment along with heavy exercise over 42 years is what’s causing it. Got some orthotics to help the arch in my foot down the chain, now I want to know if I can get back to no more knee pain. Thanks for the videos!

  7. King says:

    I have been using “Flex Curls” for the last 6 months or so, with the anchor at about shoulder level, and have seen some very nice gains, using a 3/7 rep format (Jeremy Ethier)

  8. Tristan Elliott says:

    Just finished arm day! Happy to see all of my exercises are at the top of the list. But that shouldn’t surprise me. I built my workout routine off this channel!

    • RogueSaint88 says:

      Yeah same. I usually have incline db curls, barbell curls and used to do concentration curls but stopped them a couple of weeks ago because they took too long. Any recommendations for a replacement?

    • EricvdBrink says:

      @RogueSaint88 you’re generally fine with 2 bicep exercises tho. Target the long head and short head. Make sure the brachialis is in involved in some way (neutral grip or certain exercises) and you’re good to go!

  9. Brendan Morin says:

    Please keep doing these! I love seeing the breakdowns between the different muscle groups. It really helps with prioritizing when you don’t always have a lot of time to be in the gym

  10. MMbaseball 28 says:

    Hey Jeff, I just did the cxc workout in ultimate arms and boy was it intense! Keep up the great work!

  11. Joe says:

    Awesome video Jeff! Been waiting for this one for a while.

    My question – I noticed DB Hammer Curls were left off this list. Is that because it has a stronger focus on forearm development? Where would it fall on this list, and what’s a good way to incorporate it into your bicep workout?

    Thanks!

    • Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy says:

      Hammer curl is just a variation of standing dumbbell curl that targets the forearm/brachioradialis more. Do both.

    • Andrew Tavani says:

      Hammer curls are not on this list probably, as others have noted, because it’s not strictly a biceps exercise. Having watched many of Jeff’s other videos for training the arms, though, I can tell you Jeff is a fan of the DB cross-body hammer curl due to its effectiveness for training the brachialis.

    • Chuck Nv says:

      I’ve actually led off my biceps exercises with hammer curls for years. If you do this then your forearms become pretty ridiculous. It looks like popeye arms. Your forearm becomes as large as your upper arm. I do agree that it doesn’t place much emphasis on the bicep compared to a standing DB curl.

  12. James Wamsley says:

    I freakin love this series! I learn so much so fast. You rock and that’s why I go to you for trusted info!

  13. Rudy Brooks says:

    Timestamps

    Worst:
    1:16 – Concentration Curls
    2:23 – Reverse Curls
    3:13 – Bicep Pushups

    Better:
    4:13 – Inverted Chin Curls
    5:00 – Zottman Curls
    5:47 – Preacher Curls
    6:55 – Cable Curls

    Better Still:
    8:14 – Cable Flex Curls
    8:52 – Drag Curls
    9:44 – Spider Curl
    10:34 – DB Waiter Curls

    Almost Best:
    11:47 – Incline DB Curls
    12:45 – Chinups
    13:50 – Barbell Curls

    Best:
    15:01 – Alt. Standing DB Curls

  14. Navers Kay says:

    Love these ranking videos, it’s amazing when I see the exercises that make me cringe get the red cross. I wish most of the gym bros had the same vision. Look forward to the breakdown of specific leg exercises for quads, hamstrings, glutes/hip flexors and calves (if there are enough to cover!).

  15. TheAdrianbravo619 says:

    My favorite bicep exercise is the alternating bicep curl, because it’s simple, easy and I target both the peak and short heads. I’ve seen your other videos Jeff regarding how to build biceps and what are some of the common mistakes but my question is, how do we know if our form is correct? As an example, I do the waiter, incline, and drag for my peak, but for cross body curls, do I keep my elbows back and curl across? Or do I bring it forward show more of the peak? Your videos are the best and always deliver but I find myself struggling at times to get the form right with different things exercises, like the rear delt row. A follow up question, do you plan to do videos on how to do the exercises correctly? Thank you Jeff.

  16. William Wallace says:

    Been going to the gym consistently for the last 6 months. Went through a rough time that lasted 2/3 years and the gym has helped me a lot. It gives me a routine and the compliments are nice!

  17. Bryce Carver says:

    Recently I’ve been doing overloaded barbell curls, when I get tired I swing it up and try with all my might to resist the downward portion or dicentric load. Feel like my overall bicep size has increased just in a month.

  18. MrX13 says:

    Loving these worst to best workouts! I’ve already been doing most of these biceps workouts for a long time, but glad to see what Jeff thinks is the best and which is the worst! Thanx Jeff!

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