If you're reading this, there's a good chance you want to improve your arms. Just to be clear, I'm not knocking the basic movements we all know and love. Barbell curls, dumbbell curls, and the like all have a place in a good arm-building program. But some less-common exercises can be just as effective, maybe even more so.
Try these four moves on for size—and watch those biceps grow!
1. Drag Curl
Drag curls have been around for decades, but for whatever reason, they are not nearly as famous as their more well-known cousin, the barbell curl.
So, what's the difference between the two? Instead of curling the bar up in an arch, with the drag curl you pull it straight up along your body. The bar quite literally drags along your body—hence the name—as you force your elbows to stay back. This leads to an intense contraction in the biceps. Slowly lower to the starting position and repeat.
Pro tip: If you have wrist or elbow issues with the straight bar, you can use the EZ-bar instead for this version. Whichever bar you use, go for 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps and keep them strict!
2. Cable Concentration Curl
Most of you know the dumbbell version of this classic arm-builder, but have you tried them at the cable station? The advantage to using cables is there will be constant tension on the muscle, and you can adjust the angle to hit every point in your peak.
Stand at the center of the cable station facing straight ahead while holding a handle attached to a low pulley. Lean slightly away from the stack where the handle is attached.
Without moving your upper arm, curl the handle in and squeeze your biceps. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Perform the same number of reps with your opposite arm.
Pro tip: If you want a great warm-up exercise or a move to pre-exhaust the biceps before starting the serious work, this is it. Use 3 sets of 10-12 reps per arm to help you establish that mind-muscle connection.
3. Spider Dumbbell Curl
The traditional incline curl is a popular exercise, but using dumbbells takes it to a new level. You might have tried the barbell version of this exercise, but since neither side can count on the other for backup when using dumbbells, this variation lights up the biceps.
Don't let your chest come off the bench, and make sure you can maintain balance before knocking out all the reps. Separating the load and forcing each arm to work independently will result in both improved strength and better growth for both arms.
Pro tip: Keep one side in the fully contracted position while you perform reps with the other arm. Once you finish with one arm, switch and repeat on the other side. Keep this pattern for 4 sets of 12 reps, and you'll be feeling the pump for days!
4. Hammer Preacher Curl
Hammer curls are awesome for the brachialis and the forearms but let's be real: Most guys do these because they can power up more weight. Using the preacher bench negates that "advantage." The upper arm is locked so you can't swing, forcing the muscles to work harder.
When it comes to growth, the bottom line is this: You have to do it right to get results. Leave your ego at the door, drop the weight if necessary, and commit to strict form. I promise your efforts will be well rewarded.
Pro tip: If you have a bar with vertical grips, go with that occasionally to add some spice to the life of your arms. Otherwise, stick with dumbbells. Doing 3 sets of 10-12 reps will finish the job nicely.