5 Lesser Known Exercises For Pumped Up Biceps

Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for fitness qualifications company Solar Fitness Qualifications Ltd.

In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

Patrick practices what he preaches and has competed at a high level in several sports including rugby, triathlon, rock climbing, diving and trampolining and, most recently, powerlifting.

He is also an active personal trainer with a wide number of clients ranging from athletes to average Joes and Janes.

When not lecturing, training, researching or writing, Patrick is busy enjoying the sunny climate of Cyprus where he has lived for the last 15-years.

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Big Biceps

The biceps are probably the most famous muscle.

It’s the one that even non-gym goers can identify.

Ask a child to “show me a muscle” and invariably they’ll raise their arms and do a classic double biceps pose.

Sometimes we even flex them when we’re happy or excited.


To build up those guns here are 5 lesser used exercises that are super effective at pumping up your biceps.

#1 Pull-Ups

Pull-ups might not be the first exercise you think of for bigger biceps, but it’s actually a great mass builder.

No other biceps exercise allows you to use as much muscle-building weight.

Done with a shoulder-width supine (underhand) grip, the elbow action in pull-ups closely resembles barbell curls.

The only difference is that you pull your chin up to the bar, rather than curl the bar up to your chin.

Pullups too easy? Add some weight!

If you can do more than ten reps, strap on some weight to make this exercise and even better biceps builder.

Start with about 10% of your body weight and increase from there.

Can’t do pull-ups? Maybe you need to lose some weight.

How to do it:

  • Hang from a pull-up bar with a shoulder-width, supine grip. Your arms should be straight.
  • Without kicking or jerking, pull yourself up so your chin is just above the bar.
  • Lower yourself smoothly back down and repeat.

#2 Alternating Dumbbell Curls

Dumbbell curls are an awesome biceps exercise.

They allow you to rotate your wrists as you raise the weight which increases biceps activation.

On the downside, when things start to get heavy, it’s all too easy to shift your weight from one side to the other or jerk the weights up, taking the stress off your biceps in the progress.

Enjoy all the benefits of dumbbell curls without the drawbacks with this top-down version.

You won’t be able to use as much weight but, when it comes to building muscle, that is not always a deal breaker.

How to do it:

  • With a dumbbell in each hand, curl your weights up to your shoulders. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping one hand stationary, lower the other dumbbell down to your side and then curl it back up again. Do the same thing on the opposite side. Continue alternating arms for the duration of your set.

#3 Face-Down Biceps Curls

Face-down biceps curls increase the load on your biceps at the midpoint of each rep.

This allows you to really squeeze your biceps for better results.

How to do it:

  • Lie face down on an adjustable bench set to around 45 degrees.
  • Grab dumbbells or a barbell and let your arms hang straight down.
  • Bend your elbows and curl the weight up toward your forehead.
  • Slowly lower the weights and repeat.

#4 Power Curls

You are stronger eccentrically than you are concentrically.

That is to say, you can lower more weight than you can lift.

Because of this, your workouts are always limited by your concentric strength.

One way past this problem is eccentric training, where a training partner helps you lift a weight, and then you lower it by yourself.

While this is an excellent way to build muscle and strength, it’s not always convenient.

Most training partners will soon get bored with doing half your workout for you!

Power curls allow you to emphasise the eccentric on your own.

Using some strategic momentum, you can lift more weight than usual and then lower it slowly and under control.

How to do it:

  • Grab a barbell with an underhand, shoulder-width grip. Use about 10-15% more weight than normal.
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hinge forward from your hips and lower the bar to around mid-thigh height.
  • Stand up quickly and use this momentum to help you curl the bar up to your shoulders.
  • Lower the weight under control, taking about three seconds. That’s one rep – keep going!

#5 Zottman Curls

Your arms are more than your biceps!

While that is the largest muscle of the front upper arm, other muscles add to your arm size.

Zottman curls combine two excellent arm exercises – dumbbell curls and reverse curls – to work all your elbow flexors as well as your forearms.

How to do it:

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your legs.
  • Curl your weights up to your shoulders, turning your palms up to the ceiling as your elbows break 90 degrees.
  • At the top of the movement, rotate your forearms so that your palms face downward.
  • Lower the weights back to your sides, turn your palms back to face your thighs, and repeat.

The Workout

Do this workout once or twice a week:

Stick with it for four weeks and then take a break to avoid overtraining your biceps.

Increase your weights week by week to trigger muscle growth and strength improvements. 

  Exercise Reps Sets Rest
1 Pull-ups 5 5 2 minutes
2 Face-down biceps curls 3 8 90 seconds
3 Zottman curls 3 10 60 seconds
4 Barbell curls 100* 1 N/A

*For your final exercise, grab an empty Olympic barbell and crank out 100 reps in as few sets as possible.

Take no more than 30 seconds between sets.

This is your final exercise, and it will trigger a massive pump.

If you can’t do 20 reps on your first set, use a lighter bar.


Focus on these best biceps exercises, train hard, eat right, and you will soon start stretching out your t-shirt sleeves.

Remember though; your triceps are every bit as important for arm size so don’t neglect the backs of your arms as well!

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