The 6 Best Bicep and Tricep Exercises for Mass | MYPROTEIN™ (2024)

If there’s one area that aspiring bodybuilders and avid gym-goers love to train its arms. But, before you head straight for those biceps curls, it’s important to remember that the triceps actually make up two-thirds of your upper arm

We’ll break down which muscles you should be targeting, and provide the 6 best bicep and triceps exercises to really pack on mass and size.

In this article, you'll find:

  • What are the biceps?
  • How to build bicep mass
  • Chin-ups
  • Dumbbell hammer curls
  • Preacher curl
  • What are the triceps?
  • How to build tricep mass
  • Dumbbell overhead extensions
  • Tricep dips
  • Tricep pushdowns

What are the biceps?

The upper arm is made up of two major muscle groups — the biceps and triceps. The bicep is the smaller of the two muscles, but often receives more attention in the gym.

Big biceps were made popular by the likes of bodybuilding icon Larry Scott in the 1960s and ’70s.

How to build bicep mass

To build the mass of your biceps, you need a combination of compound and isolation movements, using heavy weights for the best number of quality reps (before your form and technique start to decrease).

It’s important to choose the right exercises, that target all parts of the biceps when looking to build muscle mass.

Bicep mass builder 1: Close grip chin-ups

Now we know what you’re thinking, chin-ups are a back exercise, right? Well yes, but it’s a compound exercise that works your biceps too.

A close grip chin-up allows for a high amount of load (weight) to be used as well as a large range of motion. This uses a high amount of muscle fibres which, in turn, means more muscle growth.

How to do the close-grip chin-up

1. Stand at a chin-up bar and take grip of the bar at shoulder-width apart (or narrower), with your palms facing you.

2. Start by hanging from the bar with arms fully outstretched in what’s known as a ‘dead hang’.

3. Pull your body up until your chest touches the bar, mentally focusing on activating your biceps as much as possible. Squeeze at the top for a second and lower your body back down. Remember to come back to a dead hang.

4. Anywhere from 6 to 12 reps is a good amount for building bicep mass. As for the number of sets, 3 to 4 sets would be a good amount to get in once or twice a week.

If bodyweight is too easy for you, you can always use a weight belt to make the exercise more challenging.

Bicep mass builder 2: Dumbbell hammer curls

Hammer curls are similar to bicep dumbbell curls with a slight twist. Instead of the palms facing upwards, they’re turned inwards to face each other. This brings the powerful forearm muscles into play, allowing you to lift more weight.

How to do a dumbbell hammer curl

1. Pick up your dumbbells in each hand, keeping your elbows close to the body. The palms of your hands should be facing your torso — this will be the starting position.

2. Curl the dumbbells up towards the shoulders until the bicep is fully contracted. Hold the contracted position for a few seconds as you squeeze the biceps. Avoid letting your elbows come up as this takes the stress off the biceps.

3. Slowly begin to the lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position. Repeat for the chosen number of reps.

4. You can do the exercise one arm at a time or both arms together. Both arms together is generally harder as you cannot lean from side to side.

5. Your ideal rep range for this exercise will be 8 to 12 reps to put on mass. About 3 to 4 working sets should be a good amount.

Bicep mass builder 3: The preacher curl

The preacher curl exercise was made famous by Larry Scott, former Mr Olympia, which he used to develop his 20-inch arms. In some circles, the exercise is known as the Scott curl.

It is an effective exercise to isolate the biceps and reduce the amount the hips can contribute. It also locks the elbows into a fixed position which can give a great stretch to the bicep.

The exercise is most commonly done with an e-z bar, although a straight bar, dumbbell, or cable can also be used.

How to do the preacher curl

1. Place a bench in front of a cable machine, and attached an e-z bar, straight bar, or a single handle to the low pulley.

2. Stand behind the bench with your elbow and upper arms firmly at the top of the pad. Grab the bar or cable and fully extend your arms on top of the bench pad. This will be your starting position.

3. Curl the weight up towards your shoulders and squeeze the biceps at the top of the movement. Hold for a second at the top before lowering the weight back down.

4. Repeat the movement by curling the weight back up, ensuring your shoulders are pulled back to engage the biceps. Make sure you lower the weight to a full extension of the arms — this is where the stretch happens.

5. It is a good idea when starting out with this exercise to use a lighter weight. It can be deceptively hard when done properly.

What are the triceps?

If you are wanting to increase arm mass, then it is definitely worth including tricep exercises into your workouts. Triceps make up almost two-thirds of your arm size, so dedicating some effort here will make all the difference to arm size.

The triceps muscles consist of 3 heads - the long head, the medial head and the lateral head. This group of muscles originates near the scapular and attaches at the back of the arm near the elbow joint.

How to build tricep mass

When the muscles are fully developed and lean they display an impressive striated feathering look. Just like the biceps, to truly maximise triceps growth you will need a combination of compound and isolation exercises.

Triceps mass builder 1: Dumbbell overhead extensions

Many exercises like press-ups or close-grip bench presses work the triceps as a secondary muscle, but the dumbbell overhead extension puts them firmly in the spotlight.

You can do the triceps extension standing, sitting or lying down, and either flat, incline or decline.

Just don’t overdo the weight, because it’s vital to achieve a full range of movement to work the triceps. Struggling with a dumbbell that’s too heavy can impact your form and could potentially cause injury.

How to do the dumbbell overhead extension

1. Grab a dumbbell and sit on the end of a flat bench. Brace your core throughout the whole exercise.

2. Hold one end of the weight with both hands, then press it above your head until your arms are straight — this will be your starting position.

3. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows to lower the weight behind your head until your forearms are parallel to the floor. Pause for a few seconds, then straighten your arms back to the starting position

4. Repeat for the chosen amount of reps.

Triceps mass builder 2: Tricep dip

Tricep dips are one of the most effective exercises for activating the triceps muscles — the lateral head, the medial head, and the long head.

It’s the perfect bodyweight exercise for building mass on the arms, that can be done on the bench or using a dip machine. But, just because it’s a simple bodyweight exercise doesn’t mean it’s easy.

How to do a tricep dip

1. Sit on a flat bench, with your hands on the edge next to hips. Lift your hips off the bench, and walk your feet forward a few inches, so the hips are in front of the bench. This will be the starting position.

2. Start the move by bending your elbows to lower your body, until the elbows form a 90-degree angle. To keep your triceps under tension for longer, lower your body as slowly as you can.

3. Pause at the bottom, before pressing back up powerfully, straightening the aims to return to the starting position.

4.Repeat for the chosen amount of reps.

Triceps mass builder 3: Tricep pushdown

Tricep pushdowns, sometimes called pulldowns, are one of the best exercises for developing mass in the triceps, strengthening the three muscles responsible for extending and straightening your arms.

How to do a tricep pushdown

1. Attach a straight bar, angled bar, or rope to a high pulley, and grab with an overhand grip.

2. Standing upright with the body straight, bring the upper arms close to your body. Your forearms should be pointing towards the pulley as you hold the bar. This is your starting position.

3. Using your triceps, push the bar down until it touches the front of your thighs and the arms are fully extended. The upper arms should always remain next to your body with the only movement coming from your forearms.

4. Hold for a few seconds in the contracted, before slowly bringing the bar up to the starting position.

5. Repeat for the chosen number of reps.

Take home message

If you want to build muscle mass on your arms you will need to dedicate a considerable amount of your training time to grow them. A mixture of compound and isolation exercises is a good idea to target all areas of the muscle. Incorporate some of the bicep and tricep exercises for mass into your arm workouts to help grow your arms.

Focus on good form, the full range of motion and adding as much weight as possible over time. Before you know it, you will be shopping for new t-shirts.

The 6 Best Bicep and Tricep Exercises for Mass | MYPROTEIN™ (2024)


Is 6 exercises enough for biceps? ›

As supported by a review published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, for hypertrophy (building muscle) aiming for 6-12 reps should be sufficient. However you may see isolation exercises like bicep curls programmed with 10-15 reps.

What tricep exercise builds the most mass? ›

The most effective tricep exercise for building mass is the Triceps Extension because it allows us to perform it with either dumbbells or a barbell, allows for progressive overload directly to the triceps and is easier on the wrists and elbows if you use an EZ curl bar.

What is the number one bicep exercise for mass? ›

One of the best big exercises for biceps is the Barbell Cheat Curl because the 'cheat' during the concentric portion of this curling exercise allows us to create great eccentric overload. This simple movement is just a standing bar curl with a cheat built into the movement.

What is the king of all bicep exercises? ›

Brace your core as you curl the bar up to your chest, keeping your elbows pinned to your waist. Return under control to the start position. Why: The barbell bicep curl is the king of arm exercises, and for good reason. You'll be able to load the bar with additional weight, but be sensible, and try to avoid momentum.

What exercise grows biceps the most? ›

The best exercise for growing the bicep muscle is any variation of the curl. Curls are best done using a barbell and weights or a set of dumbbells. If you're training in the gym, sitting at a bench or using the preacher curl machine can help to further concentrate tension on the bicep muscle, leading to bigger gains.

Is 20 sets too much for biceps? ›

Regardless of whether your fitness goals are to gain muscle mass, increase strength, or lose weight, most people could benefit from doing between 10 and 20 sets per muscle group per week. You don't want to go too high because this could lead to injury or fatigued muscles, which may negatively impact your next workout.

What is the king of all tricep exercises? ›

Close Grip Bench

This exercise is the king of all multi joint tricep exercises.

What grows faster triceps or biceps? ›

The triceps make 2/3 of your arms and biceps take up the rest. In general it is faster to see gains in the biceps than triceps if you hit those muscle groups once a week coz the biceps make up the smaller part of your arms.

What exercise puts on the most mass? ›

Some of the best exercises include:
  • Deadlifts: Deadlifts are a compound exercise that primarily works the muscles of the posterior chain. ...
  • Squats: Squats target multiple muscle groups. ...
  • Bench Press: The bench press is a classic upper body exercise. ...
  • Overhead Press: The overhead press is a shoulder-dominant exercise.

What exercise hits all 3 bicep heads? ›

The Weighted Chin Up hits all three functions of the bicep: elbow supination, elbow flexion and shoulder flexion. We can utilize an intensity technique if we pair up the Weighted Chin Up with heavier weights in a drop set with the Peak Contraction Chin Up.

How to bulk biceps fast? ›

Working out regularly, lifting weights, and eating plenty of calories every day is the best way to build your biceps up. As far as the exercises go, bicep curls and hammer curls are great options. Whole body exercises, like deadlifts, are going to help build your upper body and arms as well.

Are 4 exercises enough for biceps? ›

When designing a routine, choose three to four different biceps exercises, doing each for three sets of 12 reps. You can also do them as part of a circuit, performing one bicep exercise after the next with no rest. You will generally need to go lighter for this, but will definitely feel the burn.

What exercise works both biceps and triceps? ›

Close-Grip Bench Press

This is one of the best bicep and tricep workouts to strengthen your arms. Lie on your back with your hands 18 inches apart on the barbell. Keep wrists straight and elbows by your side. Lower the barbell to only a couple of inches away from your chest before lifting again.

What is the key to big biceps? ›

Arguably the most efficient exercise in yielding maximum bicep growth, a recent study by the American Council on Exercise found that the seated concentration curl yielded 97% bicep activity in contrast to EZ-bar curls (wide grip 75%; narrow grip, 71%), incline curls (70%), and preacher curls (69%).

How many exercises should I do for biceps? ›

When designing a routine, choose three to four different biceps exercises, doing each for three sets of 12 reps. You can also do them as part of a circuit, performing one bicep exercise after the next with no rest. You will generally need to go lighter for this, but will definitely feel the burn.

Is 6 exercises per muscle Group enough? ›

Ideally, you would train 4-8 different exercises per muscle group in a workout program, with each exercise delivery 2-5 total sets. This would deliver approximately 10-25 total work sets on a weekly basis to a given muscle group and offer significant volume and overload to promote muscle growth.

Is 5 exercises enough for biceps? ›

If you are doing a dumbbell arm workout at an advanced level, especially for an experienced lifter, doing 3-4 different bicep exercises should be adequate for muscle growth. You will likely want to experiment with different curl variations and incorporate intensity techniques for an advanced workout.

Are 6 reps enough for biceps? ›

Yes, 6-12 or 8-12 are considered the ideal rep ranges for hypertrophy. If you're going to deviate from that rep range, you're better off going higher than lower. Unless you're trying to break Denis Cyplenkov's strict curl record, you're better off staying within those rep ranges, and with minimum rest between sets.

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