Biceps are the no. 1 show off muscle, everybody wants bigger biceps. But how can you get your biceps to grow? Can you do this at your home and without even using weights?
The short answer is yes! And I know this sounds too good to be true, but it’s a fact. You don’t need to go to the gym, and you don’t even have to have a proper home gym setup.
You can build impressive biceps without equipment, using either your bodyweight or just household stuff you already have lying around.
I am not saying you shouldn’t join a gym or ever buy any equipment, not at all, I am just saying that you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
If you do want to use weights, you can make heavy concrete dumbbells at home that would cost you next to nothing. Of if you’d rather buy than making your own, nothing beats a pair adjustable dumbbells for working your biceps or any other body part.
So let’s talk arms now.
Arms and in particular biceps are the most sought-after body part. There’s a good reason for that, besides screaming powerfulness, no other muscle in the body has such a difference in appearance when flexed vs. unflexed (extended). Big biceps look like beautiful mountain peaks.
They draw attention from girls, giving you an edge at the bar or at the party, and they even attract attention from other guys, making them envy your guns.
Just before we continue, don’t be that guy with huge guns but shrunk chest. There’s nothing that accomanies the look of big arms better than big pectorals, and you can get develop a shirt-protruding chest at home.
Basic Biceps Anatomy
The biceps is a two-headed muscle that is responsible for flexing your arms at the shoulder and elbow joints which is where your biceps are anchored.
The muscle that runs along the underside of your upper arm are the triceps. Think biceps front upper-arm, triceps back upper arm.
Obviously, they are both important and highly visible, and you should work out both of them for muscular development, but when people are facing you, they’re going notice the biceps first.
I am going to cover two types of exercises to get you on the fast track to big biceps without weights.
METHOD I – LIFTING THINGS – Lifting heavy household stuff you didn’t even think of as weights before.
METHOD II – USING BODY WEIGHT – Using your own body for resistance. Stuck somewhere withouts access to any equipment? Use your bodyweight.
But first let’s find some things to lift!
What To Lift – Making Your Own Weights
Lifting weights can be accomplished with heavy items in your home. Some such makeshift weights include:
- Canned goods from your pantry
- Heavy books
- Plastic water bottles
- Bags of rice
- Socks that are filled with pea gravel
One excellent choice that you need to save is a pair of 100-ounce laundry detergent jugs that have handles.
Some people use plastic milk or juice jugs, but the lids of these jugs can pop off or leak. Laundry detergent jugs have caps that screw on securely. The handles will give you a sturdy grip as you lift, making the jugs a better choice that those clumsy and dusty outdated encyclopedias from your grandmother’s attic.
Don’t have empty jugs? What’s a better excuse to start doing laundry. Once you have two empty jugs, start to fill each one with water until you reach the weight that you want to lift.
For an even heavier weight, you can raid the beach to use sand as a filler instead of water, that will make the jugs much heavier.
How Much Should You Lift
How much you should lift depends on how many repetitions you can make with the weight.
The standard repetition range is 8-12, not too low to risk injury but not too high to make it an endurance exercise. You could also go for 6-10 reps, but I suggest you build some technique before doing so.
To determine the weight of the object that you should use in your lifting exercises, do one set of 12 repetitions.
Too Light – If you finish the set without much effort and feel like you can keep lifting, then the weight is too light, you won’t gain much biceps size.
Too Heavy – If you crap out after four repetitions, then it’s too heavy, you should lower the weight.
Perfect Weight – If the first couple of repetitions are somewhat easy, but then each one becomes progressively harder and you are cursing, that weight load is just right.
Going to failure is how you achieve your goal of hypertrophy (a fancy word for saying your muscles are growing). When your muscles feel like they need to be stronger next time, that’s when they are growing.
If your biceps feel like “We can handle this weight just fine”, then they simply won’t grow or get as strong, they don’t need to. They may still grow a bit but not nearly as much as if they feel like “Damn, this weight is heavy, we need to get stronger to lift that shit”. That’s when real growth happens!
You’re going to have to stay mindful of how heavy your weights are. Once you can lift the jugs for more than 10 or 12 repetitions, it’s time to add more water or sand to the jugs to increase their weight.
Bicep Curls Without Weights
The most basic lifting exercise for working your guns is known as the bicep curl. Stand with your arms at your sides as you hold a jug in each hand. Your upper arms should be stay glued to your sides throughout the set.
Lift the jug in your right hand up in front of you as you breathe out, bringing it to your right shoulder. You should be flexing your right bicep as you lift, but only your forearm should be moving.
Once your right hand is in front of your right shoulder, squeeze hard and hold that position for a second, then inhale as you lower the jug all the way back down to its starting position at your side.
Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps, rest 90 seconds between sets.
Tips & Variations
- Lift one jug at a time, alternating sides with each lift. Right arm, left arm, right arm and so forth. For a total count of 8-12 reps for each arm for a total of 16 to 24 reps total for both arms.
- You can lift both jugs at the same time for a set of 8 to 12 repetitions.
- You can sit toward the front edge of a chair, sofa or bench seat instead of standing to do your bicep curls.
Towel Bicep Curls
This is a great exercise, so simple yet so effective and best of all, you can do it just about everywhere.
If you are travelling and don’t even have access to any heavy jugs, just use your bag and a towel. You can easily increase the weight of the resistance by stuffing your bag with whatever you can find around.
How To Perform
Slip the towel through the top of your backpack, grip the towel on each and slowly curl the bag up. As you move up through the movement, rotate your arms so that at the top position your palms are facing shoulders.
Tip: At the top position try to rotate your palms as away from the body as possible and hold that position for a second or two, squeezing really hard at the top position.
Concentration Curls with a Jug
For this variation on a bicep curl, which is also known as an over-the-knee bicep curl, you will only need one jug and a bench, chair or sofa. Sit down on your chair with your feet wide apart on the floor.
Take the jug in your right hand, and lean forward to place your right elbow against the inside of your right thigh, and have your arm fully extended downward with your arm and wrist straight.
You should position the jug near your right ankle. You can rest your left hand on your left knee. While flexing your right bicep and exhaling, lift the jug up until it meets with your chest. Hold that position for a second while flexing the bicep, and then lower the jug back to the starting position as you inhale.
After 8 to 12 repetitions, switch the jug to your left hand and work the left bicep in the same way.
As with the basic bicep curl, only your forearm should be moving. Do not rock your body or do any hoisting motions to lift the jug.
Perform three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions on each side.
Bodyweight Exercises for Biceps
Not all bicep workouts use weights. You can also grow your biceps by just using the weight of your own body as resistance.
Bicep Curls with Your Leg
To do this exercise, all you need is a chair, stool, bench or sofa. Have a seat. Use your right hand to reach under your left thigh, and hold your thigh just above the back of your knee.
Pull that leg up as high as you can. Keep this from being too easy by intentionally making sure that you do not use any leg muscles at all to help with the lift.
As this exercise becomes easier over time, take it up a notch by forcing your leg muscle to push your hand down as you try to lift the leg up.
After a set of 8 to 12 repetitions, switch sides and lift the other leg with your other hand.
I bet you though of chin-ups mainly as a back exercise, but they are also extremely effective for working your biceps.
Instead of fitness bars at the gym, you can install an exercise bar in a doorway of your home. If you have kids, you have an even easier alternative. You can take over their swing set while they’re in homework mode. Finally, if ou want to save money, just make your own chin-up bar.
With your palms facing you, grip the bar with your hands positioned slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
To work more the biceps, make sure your palms are facing you (this is called supinated grip or an under grip). If your palms face away from you (pronated grip), it will work more of your back muscles and less your biceps muscles. The under grip works more of the biceps muscles, while of course still hitting your back’s large muscles.
To do a chin-up, pull on the bar to lift your body weight straight up until your face meets the level of your hands.
Prevent yourself from swinging by keeping your body as straight as possible while you do the chin-ups, and keep your feet together. As you continue gripping the bar, slowly lower yourself back down most of the way.
Don’t drop all the way to the point that your arms are completely straight and you’re hanging like a monkey. Stop just short of full extension in order to keep the muscles constantly under tension.
To avoid your feet from touching the ground between each chin-up, keep your knees bent so that your feet are behind you and your overall form resembles the letter ‘L.’
How many repetitions should you do?
Performing chin-ups is a strenuous workout at first, so do as many as you are able to while maintaining a straight form.
Don’t be lazy. Push yourself as far as you can. The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to do, and the bigger your biceps will be.
Here’s another in-depth video showing how to emphasize your biceps when doing the chin-ups. In this video it is done in a gym but you can do this at your home, all you really need is a pull-up bar.
Resistance Bands Instead of Weights
Resistance bands or resistance tubes as some might call them, are extremely effective for working out your biceps. In fact, I would argue that they can be even more effective than weights to build biceps!
Why? Because resistance bands have variable tension. Unlike weights, with resistance bands, the exercise gets harder as you squeeze your biceps. This may work the ‘peak’ of your biceps more than a dumbbell would. You’ll be very surprised to know that even bodybuilders use resistance bands to grow their biceps.
I use the black mountain resistance bands set it has everything you need. It’s good for complete beginners and up to advanced lifters. It comes with a set of light resistance bands all the way up to hard ones, you’ll be hardly able to move (and you can combine several bands to make it impossible!). You can also use the Whatfit which is one of the most popular, as well as other brands.
We’ll do bicep curls by hold each end of the resistance band with your arms hanging straight down. Stand on the portion of the band that touches the ground, planting your feet at shoulder distance apart.
While keeping your upper arms against your sides, start moving your forearms towards your shoulders. Make sure to flex your biceps and pull the handles of the resistance band all the way up until your hands reach your shoulders.
Hold this position for a second or two, squeezing hard, then lower your forearms all the down to the original starting position.
Read the ultimate guide to resistance bands and you’ll see why I think it’s the most versatile training tool
Pose & Grow Your Biceps
You might as well admit it, you’re going to find yourself checking your progress every time you strut by a mirror.
You’re going to flex your biceps every once in a while, basking in satisfaction as you see those biceps grow bigger.
Hold that flexed pose for ten seconds, and then relax, wait a few seconds a repeat. That is also called isometric tension, meaning constant tension, where the muscle is held in place.
Tips: The key thing is to flex your muscle as hard as possible. Try to concentrate, imagining you are trying to bring your fists as close to your head as possible, as if you want them to touch your head.
Try to maintain the flexed position for more than a few seconds and you should feel quite exhausted. If your face shows agony, it means you are doing it right. This is something that you will get better at the more you flex your biceps.
Doing these poses is a great thing to do this right after your biceps workout.
Feed Your Biceps To Make Them Grow
Without good nutrition and lots of protein your biceps will not grow!
Working out is only the first part of the muscle growing process. Nutrition plays a crucial role in building muscle, so you had better feed those growing muscles.
When you work out, you create small tears (micro-tears) in the muscle tissue fibers. This breaking down of muscle tissue is the normal result of a good workout.
Your muscles response to the micro-tears in muscle fibers by building a stronger and bigger muscle.
You must feed your recovering muscles with amino acids. Your muscles need these amino acids for repair and growth.
These amino acids come from protein. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into usable amino acids. Aim to eat between one to 1.3 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. Example for a person who weight 160 lbs (72 kg) that’s around 160-200 grams of protein a day.
Prepare Your Own Meals to Get Bigger Arms
You can’t always count on eating out as you might get lousy fat promoting food which you don’t want. You want to me muscular, not just fat.
If you are serious about growing your biceps, I recommend you get the ultimate muscle building cookbook. It has more than 200 high protein recipes that are super easy to prepare. When you make your own food your biceps will thank you for that by getting bigger.
Try to divide that daily protein amount into 4 to 6 meals so that your body is being fueled by protein throughout the course of your day.
Some ideal lean protein food sources include:
- Poultry, such as turkey and chicken breast
- Fish such as tuna and salmon
- Lean meat
Whey protein isolate is another good protein source. You can find this in powder form to mix with milk, water or smoothies, and you can find prepared whey protein drinks on the market as well. Whey protein is advantageous post exercise as its absorption rate is quicker than food.
A word about water, it is equally important to stay hydrated for optimal metabolic function, including muscle growth. Skeletal muscle is made of 70 percent water. In fact, lack of adequate water intake can cause catabolism (muscle breakdown) which isn’t something you desire (unless you want smaller biceps!)
Drink plenty of water to aid in nutrients absorption and keeping your muscles hydrated during your workouts and throughout the day.
Enjoy The Pain
Whenever you perform any exercise, you may experience soreness the day after in the muscles that you worked, especially if you worked your muscles hard enough. That soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness or simply referred to as DOMS.
DOMS pain may start to appear a couple of hours after the exercise, may peak after 48 hours and depending on the intensity of the exercise, may take up to 7 days to go away completely.
DOMS are what I call good pain, like a badge of honor. Contrary to popular belief DOMS don’t just happen to newbies, they can also happen to experienced lifters and bodybuilders.
Higher level of workout intensity and change of exercises can trigger the soreness. Different people get DOMS in different bodyparts.
I have been working out for two decades, and I almost always get muscle soreness after chest workouts, but rarely do I get any pain in my biceps or triceps, it’s very individual.
While DOMS is good pain, pain from injuries is not good at all. Injuries may happen if you start lifting too heavy too soon. Don’t lift heavy right from the beginning, increase your intensity gradually to get your body accustomed to the stress from working out.
If you feel sudden, severe or pain of any kind during your biceps workout, stop the workout and see a doctor as soon possible for an evaluation.
So you’ve worked out hard and blasted your biceps and feel this nagging pain the next day. Now a couple of days later it’s time for your next workout, so now what?
Always consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any exercise or nutrition program.
How Frequently to Work Biceps
If you want to grow your muscles more is not necessarily better.
As a general rule of thumb, two times a week is plenty to make your biceps get stronger and grow in size. You can get good results from doing just a single arm workout a week especially if you are more advanced and work at high intensity.
Never work out the same muscle on consecutive days. That is counter-productive and increases the risk of injury.
If your biceps are not fully recovered from the previous workout, and you exercise them again they won’t grow and in some cases can even get smaller.
You can let DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) be your compass. That’s the pain you begin to feel 24 hours after an intense workout.(Recommended read: Should you Train with DOMS?)
I recommend you split up your body workout. One day you can work out your biceps and other muscles, the next day you can work your lower body, maybe do cardio the day after, have some rest days in-between and repeat. There are unlimited variations for splitting up workouts.
Working Your Biceps + Food + Rest = Bigger Biceps
Building your biceps takes patience and discipline. Don’t slack off in your workouts, work hard, give your muscles the nutrition and rest that they need. It won’t be too long before you notice your biceps grow and trust me, when they do, it’s very satisfying.