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How to build bigger bicep peaks

Compared to your back or chest, the bicep is a much smaller muscle to train. Despite the smaller muscle size, building thicker biceps with higher peaks is one of the most popular goals amongst weightlifters, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts around the world.

While genetics will influence a muscle’s shape to a certain degree, there are a few highly effective exercises you can use to create higher bicep peaks.

Short head, long head, or brachialis?

Similar to the tricep, biceps have two different heads (short and long) that can be worked more or less efficiently, depending on the choice of exercise. Although not directly part of the biceps, building up your brachialis is an important part of developing both mass and peak.

While standard curls with a barbell or dumbbell will work all 3 portions of the muscle to some degree, to create a higher peak we will need to focus on exercises that mainly stress the short head and brachialis.

Bicep anatomy: Brachialis and Biceps Brachii

Each of these sections requires very different exercises to be worked effectively. To work the brachialis it’s important to take as much focus off the short and long heads as possible, with one of the best exercises for this being hammer curls.

Hammer curls

As with many exercises, hammer curls can be performed either using free weights or using a cable attachment.

Before deciding which variation you want to include in your own bicep workouts, it’s best to try out both with perfect form and see which gives you the best contraction in the brachialis.

While dumbbell hammer curls will usually be performed with your forearms facing forwards, hammer curls with a rope will rely on your forearms remaining in front of you, moving closer to your abs and chest.

Using dumbbells

The main benefit of choosing dumbbells is the greater freedom of motion.
While using a cable will tend to move your arms through a more pre-determined range, dumbbells allow you to perform a number of minute adjustments as you lift the weight, to ensure you hit the brachialis effectively.

It’s also much easier to choose either alternating curls (where you alternate between which arm you curl with until you finish your set), or curling both dumbbells at the same time.

How to perform dumbbell hammer curls:

  1. Pick up the dumbbells
  2. Make sure you use a grip where you thumbs are as close to the weight as possible
  3. stand with your feet shoulder width apart
  4. Keep your palms facing inwards and elbows close to your torso
  5. With your upper body stationary, curl the weight forward while contracting the bicep
  6. Continue to curl the weight until your forearms are just above parallel
  7. Hold the contraction and squeeze the bicep for a second before lowering back to the starting position
  8. In terms of breathing, you should try to exhale when curling, and inhale when lowering back to the start
  9. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions

Using the offset grip mentioned in step 2 will cause you to use more of your biceps as supinators, focussing the work on your biceps rather than forearms.

Using a rope curl cable attachment

Although dumbbell hammer curls are usually most recommended, performing the exercise using a cable pulley and rope attachment also has its benefits.

Standing close to the low cable pulley you will be bringing the rope up much closer to your chest and abs, across your body.

This means it’s much more difficult to let your shoulders take over some of the lifting when your forearms approach parallel.

It also helps to prevent any momentum taking over when you get to the last couple of reps, keeping the tension on the bicep and brachialis more effectively.

Overhead cable curls

Unless you are fortunate enough to have a multi gym with high cable pulleys at home, this is really only an exercise you can perform at a commercial gym.

High cable curls are an excellent 'finishing' exercise to your bicep workouts

This is one of the best exercises for keeping the biceps under constant tension, and doesn’t require a great deal of weight to be effective.

How to perform overhead cable curls:

  1. Make sure the pulleys are at the same height and using the same weight on each side
  2. With an underhand grip, grasp each of the single handle attachments
  3. Keeping your body in line with the high pulleys, begin to contract your biceps and bring your hands towards your head
  4. Your triceps should remain parallel to the floor throughout the rep
  5. Resist the urge to lift up your elbows to bring the cables closer together
  6. In terms of your breathing, you should be exhaling while contracting the biceps, and inhaling when returning to the start position
  7. Repeat for the required number of repetitions

If you choose to include this exercise in your bicep workouts, it’s best left until last, with 12 to 15 repetitions the recommended range each set.

90 Degree preacher curls

If you have ever performed preacher curls before, you’ll know what an effective exercise they are for isolating your biceps. Although seated concentration curls will achieve a similar range of motion and contraction, using a preacher pad just helps prevent using any momentum or assistance from your shoulders or back.

For this variation, instead of curling with your triceps resting on the angled pad, we’re going to rest our body on the angled pad and let your arm hang down over the side you would normally stand on.

90 Degree preacher curls are an excellent exercise to help build higher bicep peaks

This provides many of the same benefits that standing concentration curls bring, while preventing any swinging of the weight or assistance from other muscle groups.

How to perform 90 degree preacher curls

  1. Use a shoulder width grip if using a barbell, or turn your body to a 45 degree angle if using a dumbbell
  2. Slowly lower the weight to the starting position, with your arms at full extension
  3. Without lifting your tricep off the pad, begin to curl the weight back up
  4. Exhale as you contract the bicep and lift the weight, then inhale when lowering it back to the start
  5. Repeat for the required number of repetitions

Don’t worry if you can’t curl the same weight as for standard preacher curls, the focus is on the full range of motion and squeezing the contraction at the top.

To make sure you place the focus on your brachialis as much as possible, your shoulders and back should remain fixed in position throughout the exercise.

Reverse curls

Together with hammer curls, reverse curls should be included towards the beginning of your bicep workout. This is due to the target rep range being much lower than for exercises such as overhead cable curls.

The great benefit of this exercise is its flexibility. You can either use a straight or cambered bar, with either free weights or a cable attachment.

Reverse barbell curls place more of the emphasis on the brachialis and Brachioradialis

It’s important to find the variation that you find most effective, and allows you to keep consistent tension on the bicep.

How to perform reverse barbell curls

  1. Choosing either a cambered or straight bar, pick up the weight with a shoulder width grip
  2. When picking up the bar, make sure you use a pronated grip (palms facing down)
  3. Keeping the upper arm stationary, begin to curl the weight up until the bar is just above parallel
  4. Hold the contraction for a second before lowering the bar back down
  5. As with the other exercises, you should inhale when lowering the weight, then exhale when curling and contracting the biceps

The workout to build bicep peaks

With these four exercises in mind, it’s a good idea to write down a workout plan of how many reps and sets you will perform for each.

The following bicep workout is an effective starting point for improving your bicep peaks. The best way to see results is to integrate this workout in a cycle, using this workout for 6 weeks before using a mass orientated workout for the next 4 weeks.

This switching between exercises and rep ranges will keep your strength up, while improving the biceps peak and helping to prevent your gains from reaching a plateau.

Training biceps on their own day:

Exercise
Hammer curls
Reverse bar curls
90 degree preacher curls
Overhead cable curls
Sets
4
3 – 4
3
3
Reps
8 – 10
8 – 10
10 – 12
12 – 15

Training biceps with another muscle group:

Exercise
Hammer curls
Reverse bar curls
90 degree preacher curls
Sets
4
3 – 4
3
Reps
8 – 10
8 – 10
10 – 12

Conclusion

If you are trying to add peak to your biceps, the exercises listed above are certainly worth adding to your bicep workouts. They allow you to isolate the bicep in a way that creates the greatest contraction in the sections of the muscle that are most responsible for creating that peaked appearance.

Be sure to measure your contracted biceps at the start and end of a 10 week cycle and make adjustments based on what you feel is working for your individual body type.

As well as the training, it’s also important to fuel your muscles with the correct nutrition to enable them to repair and grow sufficiently, so make sure you have a high quality diet plan and even supplement routine in place before attempting these workouts.

Have your own favourite exercise for building up your biceps? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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