The 2 Best Biceps Exercises for Muscle Growth (Says a Pro Bodybuilding Coach)

Building buff biceps is a big deal to bodybuilders, broadly speaking. But here’s the kicker — with so many bicep curl variations out there, how are you supposed to know which kind of curls kick butt, and which fall flat?

That’s where professional muscle-maker Joe Bennett comes in. “The Hypertrophy Coach” trains and consults some of the baddest physique athletes on the planet, including two-time Arnold Classic winner Terrence Ruffin and Ms. Physique Olympia Dana Linn Bailey.

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In a May 14, 2024 YouTube video, Bennett detailed his picks for the pair of biceps curls that stand above the rest. Here’s what they are and how to do them to build muscle.

The 2 Best Biceps Curls for Bodybuilding

We’re not going to bury the lede on you here. Bennett’s favorite pair of biceps-builders are:

Single-Arm Preacher Curl

Bayesian Cable Curl

“There are parameters that I put all bodybuilding exercises through,” says Bennett regarding his picks. From his perspective, a good muscle-building movement should hit most, if not all of these beats.

Alignment: Does the resistance and range of motion line up with the direction of the muscle fibers?

“The elbow is a hinge joint, and gravity acting on a dumbbell pulls it straight downward,” Bennett explains. “You want your arm to hang in the same direction.”

Bracing: How much external stability can you create in non-working areas of your body?

When performing isolation exercises, Bennett argues that your goal should be to “lock in” as much of your body as possible so you don’t needlessly expend energy stabilizing yourself. He cites the preacher curl as a good example; the pad pins your upper arm and shoulder in place so you can’t cheat your form.

Profile: Which part of the exercise’s range of motion is the most challenging?

[Opinion: Long-Length Partial Reps Are Overrated for Bodybuilding]

“You don’t want to get caught in the ‘squeezy zone,’” Bennett has said in the past, describing a common fascination with emphasizing a muscle’s most shortened position. Bennett believes that the most valuable portion of a curl’s range of motion are the middle and lengthened ranges.

He’s right: A growing body of scientific research has shown that long-length partial reps may produce much more muscle growth than, say, only doing the top half of a biceps curl. (1)(2)

How To Do the Single-Arm Preacher Curl

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If you don’t have a preacher curl station, snag an adjustable weight bench and set the back pad at a roughly 60-degree angle.

Grab a dumbbell with your working arm, take a staggered stance, and wedge your armpit into the crest of the backrest.

Open your elbow all the way and let your arm hang down the seat with the back of your hand touching the pad.

Curl the weight up until your forearm is about perpendicular to the angle of the seat.

Bennett notes that he prefers his athletes do this dumbbell exercise with one arm at a time because it allows most people to get their biceps perfectly aligned with the direction of the dumbbell’s resistance.

“[The pad] is going to take a lot of stress off your shoulder joint, so the load goes where you want it,” Bennett notes.

He also emphasized that this preacher curl setup places the most load on the biceps when they’re almost fully lengthened, doubling down on the muscle-building stimulus.

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How To Do the Bayesian Cable Curl

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Set an adjustable cable machine to around ankle height and fix a D-handle attachment to the carabiner.

Grab the handle with your working arm and face away from the cable while taking a step forward to pull it taut.

Let the cable pull your upper arm behind your torso slightly, and ensure that your elbow is all the way open.

Without moving your upper arm at all, curl the handle up and forward, closing the angle at your elbow as much as you can.

Bennett prefers to have athletes perform the Bayesian curl sitting down for more stability, but it isn’t a strict requirement. “Make sure that the angle of your arm lines up nicely so the tension of the cable passes straight through your elbow,” he suggests.

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Get Big With the Basics

Competitor-turned-coach Bennett is at the top of his game. For our part, we think he’s one of the best fitness content creators out there right now, and a large portion of that credit is owed to his concise but informative messaging.

You can find Bennett on YouTube and Instagram @hypertrophycoach.

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Pedrosa, G. F., Lima, F. V., Schoenfeld, B. J., Lacerda, L. T., Simões, M. G., Pereira, M. R., Diniz, R. C. R., & Chagas, M. H. (2022). Partial range of motion training elicits favorable improvements in muscular adaptations when carried out at long muscle lengths. European journal of sport science22(8), 1250–1260.

Kassiano, W., Costa, B., Kunevaliki, G., Soares, D., Zacarias, G., Manske, I., Takaki, Y., Ruggiero, M. F., Stavinski, N., Francsuel, J., Tricoli, I., Carneiro, M. A. S., & Cyrino, E. S. (2023). Greater Gastrocnemius Muscle Hypertrophy After Partial Range of Motion Training Performed at Long Muscle Lengths. Journal of strength and conditioning research37(9), 1746–1753.

Featured Image: Hypertrophy Coach on YouTube

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