Though the bench press is primarily used to target the muscles in your chest, your biceps are going to be stimulated as a stabilization muscle throughout a bench press workout – especially when you are lifting heavy and closer to your one rep maximum.
Your biceps are used as a stabilizing muscle (alongside your triceps and even the muscles in your shoulder and your forearms) to keep the bench press movement under control and stabilized.
Now, if you’re hoping to grow bigger arms – arms like Arnold, for example – the bench press isn’t the most efficient way to go.
Does Bench Press Workout Biceps?
If the bar has enough weight on it, the biceps will get a good workout every time you start to press it. This is especially true when you are using heavier weights and getting closer to your one-rep maximum or when you are doing high-volume sets.
This is because your biceps are used to stabilize your arms throughout the movement, sometimes even operating as a secondary “flexor” for your shoulder joint as well.
Without your biceps handling at least some of the heavy lifting, it’s possible that your shoulders would become overwhelmed and overloaded by the stress of the weight on the bar. Especially with poor posture – some even feel more activation in the shoulders as opposed to the pecs in the bench press.
If you’d like to activate your biceps in the bench press (which is probably a bad idea, since you’re supposed to be targeting the muscles in your chest) you only have two extra only rotate your arms so that you sort of apply force to the bar during the movement.
Some lifters call this “breaking the bar”, kind of like you’re trying to rip the bar in half while you move through your bench press reps if that helps you imagine how to activate your biceps more.
How to Target the Bicep Outside of the Bench Press
If you are serious about building bigger arms, though, you’re going to want to focus on exercises that more specifically target the biceps and the other supporting muscles in your arms, too.
We are talking, of course, about exercises like the standing barbell curl or the seated preacher curl – two of the most effective bicep exercises under the sun.
Standing Barbell Curl
To knock out a standing barbell curl you begin with your feet shoulder-width apart, your core tight and ready to roll, and your chest pushed up and out.
Grip the barbell with your hands positioned just slightly outside of your hip on each side and then bring the bar up (slowly) until you feel your biceps really start to engage. This is the “ready position”.
From here, slowly lift the barbell while intentionally activating your biceps until your arms can’t raise any higher. Pause for a moment and then begin slowly lowering the barbell back down – not to a completely neutral position, but to the “ready position” we mentioned a moment ago.
Pause again, squeeze your biceps, and then rinse and repeat the process over and over
Seated Preacher Curl
This exercise is going to require the use of a preacher bench, but most every halfway decent gym and fitness center will have a couple of these around for you to use.
You can load up this exercise with dumbbells, barbells, or even the EZ bar (whatever you like), too.
Begin this exercise by sitting down on the preacher bench, keeping your arms over the sloped section so that your elbows hit just slightly below the bottom part of the padding.
Grip the weight that you are going to be working with underhanded (keeping your palms facing up) and then begin to curl – using the slope of the preacher bench as a rest. Bring the weight up, activating your biceps along the way, pause and squeeze your biceps, and then slowly return the weight back to the starting position.
Other Exercises to Target Your Biceps
Of course, the standing barbell curl and the seated preacher curl aren’t the only bicep exercises you can use to better target this muscle group.
You can also use these exercises to build bigger arms, mixing and matching them into your routine to get the results that you are after:
- Hammer curls
- Incline dumbbell curls
- Decline dumbbell curls
- Cable curls
- Reverse grip bent over rows
… And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
Bicep Workouts You Can Do at Home
Let’s say, though, that you’re not able to get back in the gym for one reason or another and you want to still grow bigger arms at home with a quality workout.
Here’s how to get started!
Get your hands on some dumbbells (full set or adjustable, it makes no difference) and then fall in love with standard bicep curls, alternate bicep curls, hammer curls, reverse curls, and cross body curls.
Chin-ups (if you have a pull-up bar available) can help you build massive arms, targeting both your biceps and your triceps – with your triceps making up a decent chunk of the volume in your arms when they are really maxed out.
At the end of the day, if there’s a will there’s a way and you’ll be able to build pretty decent sized arms without ever having to step foot in a gym (so long as you have some dumbbells, some resistance bands, and a little bit of creativity).
How often do I have to train my biceps?
Though there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach to training any major muscle group for every single person, it’s generally good to train your biceps (targeting your biceps specifically, anyway) anywhere between two and four times per week.
How many different bicep exercises do I need to trigger growth?
Truth be told, you can get some pretty incredible results building your arms with little more than the standing barbell curl and the seated preacher curls – as well as some “extra work” like when you bench press.
Of course, it’s a whole lot easier to stay motivated when you spice things up with your workouts every now and again. Have maybe 5 or 10 different bicep exercises you like to do and rotate them in and out of your programs every couple of weeks.
Do I have to train my biceps specifically if I want to build bigger arms?
If you dream of having monster arms, the kinds of arms that are going to stress out every single T-shirt you put on from here on out, you’re going to need to target your biceps and your triceps. Both of them need to be developed, strengthened, and built if you’re going to have rock solid