5 Exercises for Hard-to-Build Biceps

by Jason Brown

Arm Day Just Got More Painful

If your favorite biceps exercises stop working, add a few of these challenging moves into your program.

Biceps not growing? Challenge them with something new. These unconventional biceps exercises build strength AND size. Here's how to do them.

1. Isometric Curl Against Pins

Do these with the pins at various heights. Curl the bar to the pins or safety supports and hold for a four-second count. Curl the barbell as hard as you can into the immovable pins.

Isometrics improve neuromuscular efficiency and the maximal force a muscle can generate. You can also use isometrics to ramp up the sympathetic nervous system before training (post-potentiation activation).

2. Close-Grip Chest-to-Bar Chin-Up

The chin-up is an effective arm-builder, but this chest-to-bar variant adds a new level of difficulty. You'll be surprised how much tougher this makes the chin-up. Adding additional weight usually isn't needed. The extra range of motion requires the biceps to contract further, relying less on the lats compared to a traditional pull-up.

3. Close-Grip Supinated Lat Pulldown

It's a staple hypertrophy exercise similar in execution to the close-grip chin-up, but with the pulldown machine, you can add more volume and illicit higher levels of metabolic stress.

4. Fat Bar Reverse Curl

Increasing the thickness of the implement you're using will kill two birds with one stone (grip strength and arm size). And there's a strong correlation between grip strength and total body strength.

An easy way to add grip work is by using a fat bar or adding Fat Gripz (Buy at Amazon) attachments to a standard bar. You'll increase the number of motor units activated by simply increasing the demand on the forearms.

5. Seated Incline Dumbbell Curl

This was a favorite of strength coach Charles Poliquin because of the massive stretch it puts on the biceps through the whole range of motion. In Charles's words: "This exercise has the advantage of shifting overload to the brachioradialis and biceps brachialis at the expense of the biceps brachii."

Not sure what that means? Just try it and you'll probably feel what he was saying.


T Nation earns from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate. Read more about our policy.


3 of these 5 Biceps exercises will actually better work the brachialis and brachioradialis… though I see what Poliquin did, with the use of the (alternate) term “BICEPS brachialis”.


Thanks coach. Always great when someone quotes the GOAT Coach Poliquin.

1 Like

Watch out for tendon overload. In my experience, 30-10-30 barbell curls with very strict motions is all that’s required. In fact this exercise is the one I hate! It’s very hard to perform and taxes me to where I dread this 90 second set. Go to Darden’s 30-10-30 article to see how it’s done.

For me, these exercises outlined here would kill my tendons, and I would not be able to recover from them in time for the next work out.

Keep in mind, each of these exercises are strategies - you wanted use all of them in the same day. For example,

Isometrics holds against pins would be done on your upper centric day early on in the training session.