If you feel like your upper arm has stopped growing regardless of your training or diet, it’s now time to take a more balanced approach to workout. In addition to toning your inner muscles, you need to know how to work the outer bicep.
The Importance of Working on Your Outer Bicep
The ‘bi’ in biceps represents the organ’s two muscle heads. They are the short muscle head that influences the bicep’s height, and the long muscle head that affects its width.
Working out on your outer bicep means training your long muscle head to make the upper arm larger. This is in contrast to the workouts in the inner muscle, the goal of which is to make the biceps pointy and tight.
Body Positions to Be Careful About
Before jumping to exercises, we are going to discuss the positions of your various body parts during workouts to optimize outer bicep stimulation.
Your hands should be pronated; in other words, the palm should be facing down. By the way, palms facing up is known as supination, and that position is used for inner arms exercises.
You need to bring your forearm close to your body. The grip should be narrow instead of wide.
Your elbow should be behind your body. This is because you need to stretch your arms completely to be able to impact the outer muscle head.
How to Work Outer Biceps: Essential Workouts
These are the most effective workouts for working the outer biceps.
Dumbbell Hammer Curls
In addition to stimulating your outer biceps, hammer curls help increase grip strength and wrist stability.
Step 1: Hold two dumbells of equal weight in each hand. Keep your arms and hands by your sides, facing your palm inward.
Step 2: Stand erect and curl both of your dumbells up, bringing your shoulder back.
Step 3: As you achieve maximum curl, hold the position for some time.
Step 4: Without moving your elbow, bring both the dumbells down slowly and repeat.
Make sure that your body is perfectly still while standing upright. To feel more relaxed, exhale on your way up and inhale on the way down.
You can also do this exercise by alternating between arms instead doing both at once. Either way, you will get the same results with the same number of repetitions.
Close Grip Barbell Curl
A simple close grip barbell curl helps make your outer bicep larger, contrary to a wide grip curl that works on the inner muscle head.
Step 1: Grab a barbell with both hands. Make sure the grip is just under shoulder width.
Step 2: As you maintain a proper standing posture, curl the barbell upwards in a movement like a semi-circle.
Step 3: Stop curling when you feel your palm touching your upper arm.
Step 4: Slowly bring the weight down. Repeat as desired, breathing in when you move up and out as you come down.
Your grip shouldn’t be too narrow as it limits muscle engagement.
Reverse Concentration Curls
As the concentration curl is a seated exercise, it allows you to carry more weight than other workouts. Furthermore, with this exercise, you can focus solely on your arms without worrying about pain in other regions.
Step 1: Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the ground and slightly wider than the shoulder-width.
Step 2: Grab a dumbbell with your right hand, palm facing downwards. Place the elbow on your right thigh near the groin area for support.
Step 3: Start with your arm fully extended below the leg and curl up the dumbbell as much as possible. Hold for some time, and slowly return to the original position.
Step 4: Continue for some time and repeat for the left arm.
Tip: Make sure that your arm is as close to the groin area as possible. When you rest it on the middle of the thigh, you allow the elbow to push into the thigh, which makes it easier to carry the weight and decreases the impact.
The Incline Dumbbell Curl
The incline dumbbell curl targets the upper bicep brachii, which are responsible for the flexion and outward rotation of the forearm. Hence, this workout makes your arms big and flexible at the same time.
Step 1: Get an incline bench with back support. Depending on your comfort, you can place it between 45 to 65 degrees.
Step 2: Lie down on the bench, holding two dumbells of the same size. Your feet should be flat on the ground, and your palms should be facing toward your body and slightly upward.
Step 3: Slowly curl both of your arms upwards and hold for a duration.
Step 4: Taking the arms down, stretch them entirely until they’re behind your back. Repeat as desired.
Just like the dumbbell hammer curls, you can do one arm at a time. Make sure not to move your elbow while curling. The core getting involved is a sign that you are doing the incline dumbbell curl correctly.
Barbell Drag Curl
The barbell drag curl is one of those workouts that impact both the inner and outer arm muscles. Furthermore, the nature of the exercise prevents pressure from going towards the shoulder, keeping it completely on the biceps.
In addition to improving the arm size and appearance, the barbell drag curl also helps increase the upper arm strength.
Step 1: Grab a barbell in a supinated grip. Your hands should be a little wide than shoulder-width apart.
Step 2: Straighten your back, and bring your chest slightly forward, assuming a correct standing position.
Step 3: Curl the barbell upwards as you bring your shoulders and elbow back. Feel your biceps at the top being squeezed.
Step 4: Bring the barbell down and repeat.
Using a heavy barbell, you may feel your neck coming forward and down as you squeeze it. While it’s fine, you need to ensure your chest doesn’t move. Again, you need to feel your core getting tight.
Behind the Back Cable Curl
Behind the Back Cable Curl offers constant tension and works as excellent strength training and stretching exercise. Not only does it make your long muscle head strong, but it also helps to address any muscle imbalances.
Step 1: Stand straight with your back towards a low pulley handle.
Step 2: Grab the handle with one of your hands, palm facing downwards.
Step 3: Holding the handle, move a step ahead and maintain a distance you are comfortable.
Step 4: Bend your ankle, and curl the handle towards your body as much as possible. Feel your outer biceps getting squeezed.
Step 5: Return your hand to the original position in a controlled motion. Repeat for some time and do the same for the other hand.
As your hand is constantly under pressure, you should especially be careful while bringing down your ankle. If you are doing this exercise for the first time, use less weight than the dumbbell you use. For better safety, don’t go out of your comfort zone for this one.
How Much Reps for Each Outer Bicep Exercises?
Now, this depends on your goals and experience level.
For beginners with less than one year of experience, 8 to 12 sets a week with about 10 to 15 reps for each set should be enough.
If you have been working out for more than a year, you can aim for 10 to 14 total sets of 10 to 15 reps.
But again, the above figures are general ideas, and the answer depends on your comfort. It is always a good idea to consult a fitness expert.
According to Dr Mike Israetelli the maximum allowed amount for bicep workout is up to 20 sets a week.
Extra Workout Tips
Here are some tips that will make outer bicep exercises easier and more effective:
- Always breathe through your diaphragm and not your lungs. In other words, while you take a deep breath, your core should expand and not your chest.
- Never lift weights uncontrollably, i.e., curling upwards without any muscle control and bringing down the bell quickly. This not only decreases the effectiveness but may also cause serious muscle injury.
- Instead of swinging arms and using momentum to lift your bells, perfect your form by decreasing the weight and slowly lifting up and down with a proper muscle mind connection.
- If you don’t feel comfortable carrying heavier weights, take it down and aim for higher reps.
For the most part, the workouts for the inner and outer biceps are the same. The difference only lies in the position of your arms and the grip. Anyway, the variations are extremely important for your upper arms to look the best.
Also, the three most important things to remember for outer biceps are a close grip, elbow behind your body and straight shoulders. Don’t forget to have sufficient rest between heavy workouts, and don’t overdo them till your hurt yourself. Finally, like always be patient with the results and eat a proper diet.