Developing strong biceps doesn’t mean they’ll become large and Hulk-like in appearance. While many women shy away from strength training because of their fear of waking up with masculine muscles, you shouldn’t be afraid of cultivating strength through resistance training. By lifting weights designed to increase strength, you’ll develop defined biceps that look great and help you throughout your daily life. If you stick with consistent strength training, you can expect a strength increase of 20 to 40 percent after several months.
Engage in bicep strength-training at least twice a week with at least 24 hours between each training session. The type of training session you choose can vary from full-body strength training to specific muscle groups per day. For example, on Monday and Thursday, do full-body strength training, which includes your biceps, or you can break down training days by muscle groups. For example, on Monday, exercise your biceps and chest muscles. Tuesday, train your triceps and shoulders; Wednesday, train your quadriceps and hamstrings. Thursday, train your calves and buttocks, while on Friday, train your abdominal muscles. No matter what mode of training works best for you, always give each muscle group a minimum of 24 hours rest before training them again.
Exercise your biceps with free weights, such as dumbbells or barbells, only if you’re an intermediate to advanced-level exerciser. Because free weights require full control over movement, beginners can easily injure themselves through momentum or improper lifting technique. Your biceps are composed of three muscles, which include the pronator teres, brachialis and the biceps brachii. The latter muscle head is found on the front of the biceps, and when you flex it is the muscle the pumps up into a small ball. The dumbbell curl and the barbell drag curl effectively target your biceps brachii muscles to promote strength. Add variation to the dumbbell curl by performing it in an incline position, which attacks your biceps at a different angle.
Use weight machines to strengthen your biceps brachii muscle group if you’re a beginner or are recovering from an injury. Weight machines guide you through a predetermined path, which prevents improper lifting and assists during the lifting and lowering of the weights. Effective strength-building exercises for the biceps brachii include the selectorized lever curl on the selectorized machine or the cable alternating curl. If you’re a beginner, stick with weight machines for 10 to 12 weeks before progressing to free weights.
Perform two to six sets of each exercise with four to eight repetitions in each set while resting three to five minutes between sets. The American Council on Exercise states this lifting formula promotes strength gains; however, if you’ve never lifted weights before, lift eight to 15 repetitions within one to two sets until your muscles become used to training.
Items you will need
- Free weights
- Weight machines
- Once your biceps become stronger, Jonathan N. Mike, M.S., and Len Kravitz, Ph.D., suggest reducing rest intervals in workout sessions to three minutes.
- Choose a weight amount that brings your biceps to near-exhaustion by the end of each set.
- Control your lifting speed by counting to two as you lift the weight, and counting to four as you lower the weight.
- If you’re unable to successfully lift the recommended number of repetitions, scale back the weight load. Lifting weight outside of your current fitness level can lead to injury and severe soreness known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS.
- University of New Mexico: Recovery in Training: The Essential Ingredient
- American Council on Exercise: Free Weights vs. Strength-Training Equipment
- American College of Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using Free Weights
- Bodybuilding.com: I.C.E. Program – Training the Biceps!
- American Council on Exercise: When Strength Training, Is It Better to do More Reps with Lighter Weights or Fewer Reps with Heavier Weights?
- American Council on Exercise: Strength Training 101
- American College of Sports Medicine: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
- American Council on Exercise: How Women Build Muscle
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images