3 Steps to Wider Biceps

Certified Trainer’s Exercises & Techniques to Add Arm Thickness

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: November 9, 2022

Huge biceps are a hallmark of strength and bodybuilding success. But not everyone is blessed with bulging, wide biceps. And you might feel like your biceps are too skinny.

If you’re reading this, you must be looking for tips and tricks to get wider biceps. Well, I’ve put together the definitive guide on how to make your biceps wider.

In this article, you’ll learn resistance training tips to increase arm width. Plus, see the best exercises and an example workout for wider biceps.

Wider Biceps

Bicep Anatomy & Physiology

Before we get into how to get wider biceps, it’s vital to understand the basics of bicep anatomy. The “bi” in bicep means there are two muscle heads on the front of your arm.

The illustration below shows the short and long heads of the bicep. Growing the short head adds width to the inner bicep, while the long head adds width to the outer bicep and gives the bicep more “peak.”

In addition to the two heads, there’s a third muscle called the brachialis. Technically, this muscle is separate from the bicep, but its function is similar to the long head.

Wider Biceps Anatomy

In real life, it’s difficult to differentiate the different bicep muscles unless you’re extraordinarily lean. Still, a basic understanding of their physical structure allows you to tailor your training to elicit the desired response.

Frequently Asked Questions

Next, let me give you quick answers to some of the questions that may have brought you here.

Why are my biceps skinny, not wide?

You might lack biceps width for various reasons, including age, experience, or body type.

First, it could be that you’re just young and haven’t had time to train your muscles for growth. Or you might have an ectomorph body type that makes you naturally skinnier than most people.

But these reasons don’t mean you can’t have wider biceps! Often, people simply need guidance on tailoring their workout routine for arm growth.

Do bigger biceps make you stronger?

Generally speaking, a bicep muscle will get stronger as it increases in size. However, it is also possible for your biceps to get stronger without significant changes in volume.

Therefore, you must customize your workout routine to prioritize growth instead of just getting stronger.

Which bicep head gives width?

The short head of the bicep is generally thought of as the one that contributes most to arm thickness. While the long head is associated with bicep peak, and the brachialis is often overlooked completely.

However, you must train and grow all three of these muscles to make your biceps wider!

How to Get Wider Biceps

How to Get Wider Biceps

In the following sections, I’ll teach you how to get wider biceps using strategic training methods, specific exercises, and a custom workout routine. First, let’s walk through the resistance training best practices for bigger arms.

1. Training Tips for Wider Biceps

Increasing bicep size and width requires a different approach than traditional strength training. Instead, it’s best to implement hypertrophy training methods to focus on muscle growth rather than overall strength.

Four key training variables for muscle hypertrophy are weight, rep range, intensity, and exercise selection. And I’ll explain how to adjust each variable for increasing bicep width next.

How Much Weight to Lift

Unlike powerlifting (strength), bodybuilding (growth) requires using moderate weights. Because trying to grow your arms with super heavy weights and one rep maxes will destroy your elbow joint! 

Specifically, you should train with loads around 65-80% of your one rep max. I realize you probably don’t know your 1RM for bicep curls, and I don’t recommend finding out.

So instead, focus on how many reps you can do with a certain weight.

How Many Reps to Do

When you do less than 5 reps per set, you trigger strength gains without much change in muscle size. While anything over 15 reps increases muscular endurance, with little to no effect on muscle strength or size.

Therefore, targeting 6-15 reps per set is best for maximizing bicep growth1. But it’s still good to include a few sets with lower reps (3-5) and a few with higher reps (12-15) to stimulate as many muscle fibers as possible.

Table 1. Rep Range for Wider Biceps

Reps %1RM Training Outcome
1 100% Strength
2 97% Strength
3 94% Strength
4 92% Strength
5 89% Strength
6 86% Hypertrophy
7 83% Hypertrophy
8 81% Hypertrophy
9 78% Hypertrophy
10 75% Hypertrophy
11 73% Hypertrophy
12 71% Hypertrophy
13 70% Hypertrophy
14 68% Hypertrophy
15 67% Hypertrophy
15+ <66% Endurance

Training to Failure

Muscular failure is the point in a set when you physically can’t perform another rep. This outcome occurs when there is no more muscle energy, and you need to rest to continue.

Training to failure can be good because your body recruits more muscle fibers as you fatigue. And there are studies suggesting this increases hypertrophy, especially in advanced lifters2.

When training for bicep width, most of your sets should go to failure. And the best way to do this is by incorporating intensity techniques like drop sets and super sets.

Exercise Selection

The final training factor for getting wider biceps is exercise selection. Because targeting specific parts of your biceps is about hand and arm positioning.

For example, a supinated or underhand grip works more of the short head. Conversely, a neutral or overhand grip works more of the long head and brachialis.

In addition, having your elbows in front of your body targets the inner bicep. While having your elbows behind your body targets the outer bicep.

Wider Inner Biceps
Wider Outer Biceps

2. Best Exercises for Wider Biceps

It can be confusing to think about all the possible body positions and how they affect which bicep muscles get used. That’s why I compiled a list of the best exercises for the inner and outer bicep width.

  1. Traditional Bicep Curls
  2. Preacher Curls
  3. Concentration Curls
  4. Spider Curls
  5. Seated Cable Curls
  6. Hercules Curls
  7. Zottman Curls
  8. Hammer Curls
  9. Incline Hammer Curls
  10. Cross-Body Curls
  11. Reverse Curls
  12. Cable Rope Curls
  13. Drag Curls

The first 6 exercises on this list primarily target the short head of the bicep. While the last 6 exercises hit more long head and brachialis. And Zottman curls work all three heads.

Now let me walk you through how to do each exercise to get wider biceps.

Traditional Bicep Curls

The traditional bicep curl is one of the most common arm exercises. It’s a simple movement and enables you to lift a significant amount of weight for those lower rep sets.

In addition, you can do this exercise with a standard barbell or an EZ bar. Use an underhand grip and hands shoulder-width or slightly wider to target your inner arm.

Preacher Curls

You can also do barbell or EZ bar curls using a preacher bench. With preacher curls, the bench holds your upper arms in place. So you don’t get assistance from momentum and must use strict form.

In addition, your elbows are positioned well in front of your body, which helps isolate the bicep’s short head. Again, use a shoulder-width or wider grip to emphasize the inner arm.

Another way to do preacher curls is with dumbbells instead of a bar. You can even sit sideways to rotate your arm externally and further isolate the short head.

Wider Biceps Preacher Curl

Concentration Curls

The concentration curl is a dumbbell variation performed while leaning forward in a seated or standing position. The forward lean puts your upper arm ahead of your body, which targets the short head.

In addition, I recommend performing the concentration curl more toward the front of your body than across your body. Below, Arnold Schwarzenegger builds bicep width with the concentration curl.

Wider Biceps Arnold Schwarzenegger

Spider Curls

Like concentration curls, spider curls involve leaning forward against an incline bench and letting your arms hang straight down in front of you. Then you curl the weight while keeping your upper arms perpendicular to the floor.

Essentially, this exercise is also like preacher curls, where your elbows stay in front of your torso. However, there is more load at the top of the movement due to the body angle, making spider curls more challenging than preacher curls.

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe, or click on the button below!

Seated Cable Curls

Another way to target the short head is by curling on the cable low-row station. Your upper arms should stay in front of your body as you curl the handles toward your forehead.

You can do this exercise with your arms unsupported if you’d like. Or you can scoot forward so your legs are bent, and use your knees to support your elbows like a preacher curl.

Cable Hercules Curls

The Hercules curl is an exercise where you stand between two cables set at about shoulder height. Then, holding a handle in each hand, you curl the cable towards your head.

One advantage of the Hercules curl is that it externally rotates both arms, which we know targets the short head of the biceps. Plus, the movement replicates the front double bicep pose used by bodybuilders.

So it’s great for adding width and making your biceps look more prominent from the front when flexing.

Zottman Curls

The Zottman curl is a bicep exercise named after American strongman George Zottman. In the late 1800s, Zottman popularized this exercise by building exceptional arm size and grip strength for his era.

A distinct feature of the Zottman curl is that your hand position changes during the exercise. This exercise is usually performed with dumbbells to rotate your wrists at the top and bottom of the movement.

The forearm rotation and palms-up portion of the exercise works the inner bicep. At the same time, the palms-down portion works the outer bicep.

So this exercise is a double whammy for building wider biceps!

Next, let me show you the best exercises for building the long head and brachialis muscles that add girth to your outer bicep.

Hammer Curls

With hammer curls, your hand is between supination and pronation – a neutral grip. As a result, your palms face inward through the whole exercise, and the dumbbell looks like the head of a swinging hammer.

Dumbbells give you the option to perform this exercise in an alternating fashion, one arm at a time. This isolation helps you focus on muscle contraction and learn the exercise.

But you can also simultaneously perform hammer curls with both arms, also called a double hammer curl.

Wider Biceps Hammer Curls

Incline Hammer Curls

Seated hammer curls are identical to standing hammer curls, except you perform the exercise while sitting on a bench. As a result, you reduce momentum from the rest of your body, which puts more load on the bicep.

Another variation of seated hammer curls involves leaning back on an incline bench. The incline dumbbell curl puts more load on the outer biceps and brachialis.

Cross-Body Dumbbell Curls

Another way to change your forearm position is by angling your arm across your body on single-arm curls. For example, during a standing dumbbell curl, you would curl the weight up and towards your sternum while keeping your elbow at your side.

You can accentuate the outer bicep and brachialis more by performing this exercise with a neutral or hammer grip.

Reverse Curls

You perform reverse curls with a pronated grip where your palms face down for the entire exercise. In other words, an overhand grip on a barbell or EZ bar.

Also, make sure you keep your elbows pinned at your sides to isolate the biceps and brachialis muscles.

Wider Biceps Reverse Curls

Cable Rope Curls

The rope attachment is excellent for training the outer biceps and brachialis because it keeps your hands neutral during curls. In this way, rope curls are similar to hammer curls or cross-body curls.

I like doing drop sets with this exercise because it’s quick and easy to change the weight between sets. And the added intensity helps increase bicep width.

Drag Curls

Drag curls are a variation where you pull the weight up towards your armpits against the front of your body. Essentially, you’re curling the weight close to your body instead of away from your body.

This subtle change in form is similar to incline curls, where your elbows move behind your torso. And that’s what brings the outer bicep and brachialis into play.

3. Wider Biceps Workout

Now you know the best exercises for wider biceps. But you might be lost on assembling those exercises into an ideal bicep workout for width.

So I will give you an example workout and explain how to program these exercises in terms of frequency and sets/reps.

Wider Biceps Workout Frequency

The first thing to establish is how often you train your biceps. Of course, the answer depends on your experience and goals.

For beginners or people who can only work out a few days a week, a total body 3-day split works well. That means you would do a couple of biceps/brachialis exercises each workout three times per week.

More advanced lifters might work single muscle groups in each workout with a 5-day or 6-day split. This routine is called the bro split workout, which works excellent for growth (despite the name).

In that case, you would work your arms for an entire workout once or twice a week. And you want to include at least a couple of brachialis exercises in those workouts.

Wider Biceps Bro Split

Wider Biceps Workout Sets

As you already know, growing your biceps requires using weights you can handle for 6-15 reps per set. But you might not know how many sets to do per workout.

For max hypertrophy, you should generally aim for 3-6 sets per exercise. And each bicep workout should include 3-5 exercises. So that’s around 9-30 total sets for biceps in a workout.

Beginners can target the lower end for workout volume. At the same time, advanced lifters should use more volume.

Wider Biceps Workout Example

With all this in mind, a bicep-width-focused arm workout starts to take shape. Here is an example using some of the exercises and techniques you just learned.

Remember, you should use a combination of different arm angles and hand positions. And make sure you include some intensity techniques to make it more challenging!

Wider Biceps Workout

bodybuilding meal plan

Custom Meal Plan

Get a personalized meal plan designed specifically for your body and lifestyle. Including custom recipes formulated to fit your macros and calories – no counting required!

All this for just $17.99/mo! Click here to choose your plan.

More Arm Workouts

Now you know the techniques, exercises, and workouts to use for increasing bicep width. But don’t forget about those triceps when building your bigger arms!

Also, I’ve included my complete list of short head, long head, and brachialis exercises. So you can get more ideas for your wider biceps workouts.

15 Best Short Head Bicep Exercises

Top 17 Long Head Bicep Exercises

All 19 Brachialis Exercises

Medial Head Tricep Exercises

Lateral Head Tricep Exercises

Long Head Tricep Exercises

With this information, you’re on your way to building bigger arms! But why stop learning now? Check out some of my other informative content below.

Share with your community and get the conversation started!

By |November 9, 2022|Workouts|0 Comments
Go to Top