You don’t need to plan a whole arms day to hit your biceps: This super quick dumbbell bicep workout has you covered.
Your biceps, the muscles in the front of your upper arm that help you bend your elbow and rotate your forearm, play an important role in movements you do in and out of your workout. Every time you pull something toward you—say, a car door, or a dumbbell while you’re doing a row—your biceps assist your back muscles to help with that pulling movement, ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, founder of Strong With Sivan in Baltimore, MD, tells SELF.
That’s why working these muscles can help you get stronger in back-focused exercises like rows, as well as the often-elusive chin-up. If you’re strong enough to initiate the pull from a dead hang (by engaging your lats), but struggle after that, building strength in your biceps can be key. “Your biceps really kick in at the top of the move,” says Fagan.
And good news for all you time-strapped exercisers: You don’t need to spend a whole lot of time working them.
“Because the biceps are a small muscle group, they don’t need a ton of direct stimulation,” says Fagan. “A biceps finisher at the end of your workout is going to give you the biggest bang for your buck.”
That’s why Fagan created a dumbbell bicep workout that takes just seven minutes. You can use it as a finisher to burn out your arms after a pull-focused workout (like this back workout), or as a way to get in some opposing-muscle work after a push-focused workout (like this chest workout or shoulder workout). Plus, if you’re short on time, you can do this dumbbell bicep finisher on its own, too.
The three exercises in this bicep workout with dumbbells hit both heads of your biceps, and, thanks to changes in grip, you’ll hit them from different angles, too. There’s also an abs component, since the first exercise, the boat pose bicep curl, challenges your core to remain stable as it resists rotation and extension. With the neutral-grip hammer curl, your forearms will also get some work, too.
Want to burn out your biceps? Here’s how you can get started.
What you’ll need: A pair of light dumbbells. Because you’ll be working the same muscle without rest in all three moves, you should choose a lighter weight than you would if you were doing the exercise in straight sets, says Fagan. (For context, I used weight that was two-thirds the amount that I use for straight sets of 12 reps, and it smoked me by the end.)
- Boat-pose bicep curl
- Wide-grip bicep curl
- Hammer-grip bicep curl
Do reps of each exercise for 40 seconds before going on to the next. Try not to rest between exercises unless you need to be able to keep going with proper form. Focus on performing clean reps rather than trying to get in as many as possible. After each round, rest for 30 seconds. Complete 3 rounds total.
Demoing the moves are Crystal Williams (GIF 1), a group fitness instructor and trainer who teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City; Denise Harris, (GIF 2) a NASM-certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor based in New York City; and Rachel Denis (GIF 3), a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York State powerlifting records.