Old School Biceps Workout

February 17, 2020

Old School Biceps Workout

If there’s one muscle we all want to grow its biceps. Let’s be honest, having huge arms just looks cool.

The thing is building big biceps isn’t complicated. In fact, you only need a few basic exercises; old school exercises.

And that’s exactly what you’ll get below.

First, we’ll go over each biceps exercise you’ll be doing. After that, I’ll give you an awesome old school biceps workout you can do.

Even better, I’ll also show you some techniques you can use to make your biceps workout more intense.

Old School Biceps Exercises

The most effective exercises for biceps are simple. To add, if you stray from these exercises, you will limit your potential for arm development.

We’re going to just focus on basic movements for biceps. And these are the exercises that the old school bodybuilders used to build huge biceps.

Dumbbell Hammer Curls

Dumbbell hammer curls - bw

Dumbbell hammer curls are a great way to add both size and shape to your biceps. The ‘hammer’ grip works a part of your biceps you normally may not work.

Dumbbell hammer curls – ‘how to’ and tips:

  • Hold the dumbbells by your side with your palms facing one another
  • Curl one arm up our in front of your chest while keeping your palm facing the same direction
  • Repeat with your other arm
  • The key to making this exercise effective is to pay close attention to the negative part of each rep, taking the weight back down slowly

Barbell Curls

Barbell curls - bw

You can’t deny the mass building benefits of the oldest old-school biceps exercise: barbell curls.

This is an excellent exercise if your gym has limited equipment (you can always find a barbell to load weights on!). Heck, if all else fails you can do 8-10 sets of barbells curls and call it a day.

Barbell curls are also an exercise you can go heavy on. But do not sacrifice your form.

Barbell curls – ‘how to’ and tips:

  • Grab the barbell about shoulder-width apart and step into a comfortable yet stable position with your knees slightly bent
  • Curl the weight up while keeping your elbows close by your side
  • Do not arch your back or swing the weight up; this defeats the purpose of the exercise
  • Use a controlled motion throughout each rep

*If you’re goal is to gain more overall arm mass, check out my post: How to Build Bigger Arms: Intense Workout and Techniques

Alternating Dumbbell Curls

Alternate dumbbell curls - bw

Another awesome old school biceps exercise is alternate dumbbell curls. They’re similar to hammer dumbbell curls but there’s a twist (literally…you twist your wrist as you curl the dumbbell!).

What makes this exercise so effective is that you can really focus directly on your biceps. That twist allows you to get a better muscle contraction.

Alternate dumbbell curls – ‘how to’ and tips:

  • Start as if you were doing hammer curls
  • As you curl the dumbbell, gradually turn your wrist from the hammer position to where your palm is facing out (supinated) once you reach the peak of the movement
  • As you lower the dumbbell, gradually turn your wrist back to the hammer grip position
  • Going from the hammer to the supinated grip will allow you to get a good contraction so flex your bicep hard at the peak of the rep

Preacher Curls

Preacher curls - bw

Another exercise for your old school biceps workout is preacher curls. This exercise really targets your biceps by restricting movement from the rest of your body.

Preacher curls are often stated to help work the peak of your biceps. This is due to restricted body movement. In other words, preacher curls force you to only use your biceps.

Now, there are different types of platforms for preacher curls. You can do these with free weights using the cambered bar. Or most gyms have some sort of preacher curl machine (many of the old school gyms had the Nautilus preacher curl machine).

Preacher curls – ‘how to’ and tips:

  • Start in the seated position, grab the bar and curl the weight towards your body
  • Released the weight slowly back to the starting position
  • It’s important that you get the full range of motion on this exercise; many have a tendency to stop too short of the starting position

*If your gym doesn’t have a preacher curl machine you could do concentrated dumbbell curls.

This is where you would sit sideways on a bench and place your elbow against the inner part of your thigh, and curl the weight, mimicking the movement of a preacher curl.

Seated Incline Curls

Seated incline curls - bw

Seated incline curls somewhat like preacher curls in the sense that you’re limiting movement of your body. Again, the goal is to strictly target your biceps.

Actually, this is often a forgotten old school biceps exercise. But it’s an extremely effective one, and I encourage you to do it (don’t worry, this is included in your old school biceps workout below!).

Seated incline dumbbell curls – ‘how to’ and tips:

  • Set the incline one level up from where you would normally set it for incline dumbbell press
  • Both arms should hang down freely by your side with your palms facing each other
  • As you curl the dumbbell (one arm at a time) gradually twist your wrist as if you were doing an alternate dumbbell curl
  • Be sure to flex your bicep at the peak of each rep, and get the full range of motion at the starting position of each rep

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Biceps Workout

Now, this biceps workout is intended to be used one of two ways:

  1. On arm day with triceps (you would do 4-5 exercises for triceps as well)
  2. If you have an extra day and just want to focus on your biceps.

Of course, you could also use this workout after training a larger muscle such as back or chest. But in that case, you would want to reduce the number of biceps exercises.

Here’s your old school biceps workout below…

ExerciseSets x Reps
Dumbbell Hammer Curls3 x 8
Barbell Curls3 x 8
Alternate Dumbbell Curls3 x 10
Preacher Curls3x drop set*
Seated Incline Curls2 x 12**

*Triple drop set
**Do a rest-pause set on the final set

These techniques are further explained below…

If you’re looking for a full workout routine, check out this extremely intense workout in my post: FST-7 Workout Routine for Mass Gains

Techniques to Make Your Biceps Workout More Intense

There are 2 techniques in the old school biceps workout above. Let’s elaborate more on those and how to use them with these specific exercises.

The reason why you’re using these techniques is to exhaust your biceps. Your goal is to make your arms grow so you need to take your training to the next level.

Triple Drop Sets

Load the weight to what you can do for about 10-12 reps. If you’re using free weights or the plate-loaded machine, use smaller increments so that you can quickly reduce the weight for your drops.

For example, let’s say you normally do 50 lbs for preacher curls. Instead of loading 2 25lb plates you would use:

  • 1 25 lb plate
  • 2 10 lb plates
  • 1 5 lb plate

This would allow you to go from 50 to 35 (take a 10 and 5 off) to 25 (take a 10 off) for your triple drop set. Use the same concept if you’re using the free-weight cambered bar (smaller increments on each side).

Of course, if you’re using a pin-loaded preacher curls machine, it’s much easier.

Rest-Pause Sets

Rest-pause sets really force you to take your biceps workout to the next level and completely exhaust your muscles.

This where you perform a set, rest 10-15 seconds and do another set using the same weight. If you get 10 reps on the first set, you can expect to get about 5-6 reps on the rest-pause set.

In the case of doing seated incline curls, after your regular set, you would simply sit up with the dumbbells resting on your legs. Once your 10-15 seconds is up, lay back and pump out another set, for as many reps as you can do.

Another great technque not used in this workout is supersets.

After you do this workout, next I want you to try my superset arm workout in this post: Supersets for Bis and Tris: 3 Workouts to Build Massive Arms

Building Huge Biceps the Old School Way

As you can see, there aren’t any fancy exercises in this biceps workout. It’s old school, and it’s what any great bodybuilder with huge arms uses.

If you do these exercises right and use the techniques I gave you at the end of the workout, you will force your biceps to grow (or as C.T. Flecther says, ‘Command your biceps to grow!).

Give this old school biceps workout a try on your next arm day. Or if you want to head to the gym for an extra workout, just do the exact biceps workout above. You will be pumped!

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About the author

Jason Stallworth

Hi, I'm Jason Stallworth and I created The Muscle Program in 2010 for the purpose of helping you build muscle. I know first-hand how weight training and being in the gym has shaped my life in more way than one. And here is where I share that experience with you so that you can continue pushing yourself and becoming the best version of yourself each day!