Bicep Exercises for Women
Not only do all gym-goers have different goals, needs and objectives, but so too do they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and background – women included. What we do know, is that it’s typically women that can be more intimidated by lifting weights at the gym, whether that’s from fear of judgement or concerns of gaining too much ‘bulk’ in their upper body.
However, there’s no reason for women to miss out on all the incredible benefits that come with a full body workout, including weights. Working out your biceps can boost your strength and confidence, and help you reach your fitness and wellbeing goals. It’s also a great way to start trialling the free-weights area in the gym, building confidence and learning that you have just as much right to be there as everyone else.
Here’s our guide to some of the best bicep exercises you can try yourself.
What are biceps?
The biceps brachii (more commonly referred to as just the biceps) is a two-headed muscle that’s particularly prominent on the front of the upper arm. It helps to control the motion of the shoulder and, more vitally, the elbow. It helps to flex and turn the forearm.
Why should I be focusing on my biceps?
Biceps are essential for lifting, pulling and pushing, so are a key feature when it comes to stronger arms. If you’re a tennis player, for example, you’ll know how important they are, but they’re also key for everyday tasks such as carrying your shopping bags, lifting a pulling heavy items from a shelf or bending down to pick something up.
When it comes to building strength at the gym, you’ll invariably be using your biceps for most upper body-focused exercises. They’re also the key to toned, shapely arms. However, it’s worth noting that it can be really hard to see progress in your biceps, even if you’re seeing big improvements in your strength, so don’t be disheartened if you’re not seeing major changes to your appearance straight away, you’ll be enjoying a wealth of benefits that might not be visible to the naked eye.
You’ll also enjoy the benefits of increased stamina, a reduction in potential injuries and the development of strong bones.
Find out more about the benefits of arm and shoulder exercises with our guide.
What exercises will work out my biceps?
As you’ll see from the exercises below, curls are key for strengthening your biceps. But you’ll also find a wide variety of options, even if you can’t make it into the gym for your workout.
- Concentration curl
Great for definition, this movement isolates the bicep muscle. Sit on a bench or seat, with your knees spread apart in a V shape. Hold a dumbbell in your hand, resting your elbow on the inner thigh of the same side leg and with your palm facing upwards. Slowly lower your forearm towards your knee while inhaling and ease it back to starting position while exhaling.
These can also be done in a standing position. Keep feet shoulder-width apart and bend at your waist so your elbow is level with your knee. Holding a dumbbell with your palm facing up, bring your forearm slowly towards your chest before lowering to starting position.
Whichever version you choose, make sure to really focus on your biceps as you move the dumbbell. By slowly controlling the movement, you’ll be sure to see bigger benefits.
A simple exercise that helps to tone your arms. Take a dumbbell in each hand and stand with feet hip-width apart. Keep your elbows close to your body down at your sides and the palms of your hands facing forward. Keeping your upper arms pinned in place next to your body, bend your elbows and bring your palms up towards your shoulders before slowly lowering back to starting position.
- Hammer Curls
As well as helping to tone your arms, hammer curls are also great for your wrists, helping to boost your wrist stability and improve your grip strength too.
Take exactly the same stance as you would for bicep curls (stood with feet hip-width apart, arms tight at your sides, dumbbell in each hand) but instead of your palms facing forwards, instead have them facing inwards. Lift both arms keeping your thumbs on the top of your palms. Pull upwards towards your chest, before lowering in a controlled way back to starting position.
- Resistance band hammer curl
No dumbbells? No problem! You can also complete sets of hammer curls using a resistance band instead, meaning you can still focus on your biceps, even if you can’t make it to the gym.
The stance is exactly the same, but instead of holding a dumbbell in each hand, you’ll be holding the ends of the resistance band, which is looped under your feet. Complete the hammer curls in the same way listed above.
- Preacher Curls
If you can find a Preacher Pad at your gym then you can try preacher curls. This supportive bench will have a seat in front of padded arm rest that slopes away from your body at around chest height. Hook your arms over so you can lean your upper arms on the pad and take either a dumbbell in each hand, or a barbell in both hands and straighten both arms. As with a standard bicep curl, you will raise your forearms to around chest height, before gently lowering back to starting point, keeping your upper arms on the pad at all times. This means you focus just on your arm movements, without any momentum from leg drive.
- Cable curl
Working with cable machines gives you the freedom to work with a range of motions and angles, whilst also keeping a steady load on the biceps for longer.
Attach the rope to the low pulley, stand with feet hip width apart and hold onto the rope with the ends or the rope at the top of your fists and your palms facing each other. Bend your knees slightly and curl the rope upwards towards your shoulders. Pause briefly before easing back to start position and repeat.
- Zottman curl
This is an excellent move to consider including in your routine if you want to build your biceps and forearms at the same time.
Take a dumbbell in each hand and, keeping your arms at your sides, let them hang at arm’s length. Keeping your upper arms tight at your sides, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders. Pause, then rotate the dumbbells so your palms face forward again before slowly lowering down in that position. Once at the bottom, rotate to starting position and repeat.
- Dumbbell side raise
This exercise works your biceps and also your deltoids, which cover the muscles from shoulders to your upper arm across to your collar bone.
Stand with feet hip-width apart and your knees soft. With a dumbbell in each hand and your palms facing your body, hold your arms by your sides. Keeping your chest high and back straight, lifts your hands horizontally upwards without bending your arms. Once they reach shoulder level, pause before lowering back to starting position.
- Squat concentration curls
Combining concentration curls with squats means you can work your biceps, hamstrings and inner thighs at the same time.
With your feet shoulder-with apart and a dumbbell in each hand, keep your elbows close to your body and your palms facing inwards. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground and, at the same time bend your elbows to bring the weights up to your shoulders. Hold the position for a moment before easing up through your feet to straighten your legs, and lowering your arms back to starting position.
If you're looking for stronger, toned arms, you'll also want to check out our tricep exercises for women here. Plus, our arms and shoulders hub has plenty more advice and inspiration for upper body workouts, including this guide to some of the best arm exercises for women. Don't forget to neglect the rest of your body when planning your workouts - why not try this leg day workout for women too? Or shake things up with these kettlebell workouts for women.