8 Exercises to Maximize Arm Gains (Without a Single Bicep Curl)

We’ve seen somewhat of a bicep curl renaissance in gyms, with many exercisers falling into the functional fitness bandwagon finding they sorely miss the instant dopamine hit that comes with a dirty arm pump.

For those of you who have never lost your faith, but still religiously sacrificed at the altar of the pulpit, you will no doubt still encounter those days when it just doesn’t seem like enough time to fit it all in, and that prioritization your trice and encore seems a bit self-indulgent and more than a little ineffective.

To that end, we’ve compiled a list of exercises that, while targeting other body parts, movement patterns, or goals, still give those arm cannons the glue that encourages growth in the process; arming you with everything you need to grow arms as a side hustle without letting the work of building the rest of your body fall by the wayside. Let’s begin.


A bodyweight burner that should be a staple in every exerciser’s arsenal. Stretch deep at the bottom of each rep to blow up your chest, but come down slowly—before exploding again—to share the glory with your triceps. Jump on a set of rings to double your winnings or increase the difficulty.

Jump onto two parallel bars or gymnastic rings with palms facing in and arms straight (A). Use two boxes or the backs of two sturdy chairs if you are at home. Slowly lower until your elbows are at right angles, making sure they don’t flare outward (B). Ride back to the top and repeat.

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By going from a wide overhand grip to a closer, supinated, or palm-facing grip, your biceps are pulled in to help your upper back and lat muscles. If only you could one exercise to pump up those encores that’s it.

Grip the pull-up bar with your palms facing your body. Lift your feet off the floor and hang freely with straight arms (A). Lift yourself up by bending your elbows, shrugging your shoulders. When your chin passes the bar, stop (B) before lowering to the starting position. Try not to swing too much.

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Drop the bench to blast those arms. By shortening the range of motion compared to the traditional bench press, your chest isn’t able to achieve the kind of stretch that helps bring the bar back up, instead requiring your triceps to keep increasing the reps. Keep your arms close to your body for extra triceps stimulation.

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Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Press a barbell or a pair of dumbbells above your chest, locking your elbows (A). Slowly lower them until the back of your hands rest on the floor (B), close to the body, pause here before explosively pressing back.

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Supinated. That word again. Just like the chin-up, gripping the barbell with a slightly closer underhand grip brings the biceps into play more in this back-building classic, beloved by old-school bodybuilders. Squeeze those pythons hard at the top of each rep to make the desired mind/muscle connection.

Bend down with soft knees and a straight back, gripping a loaded bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing up (A). Pull your elbows back, rowing the bar toward your hips, keeping your torso flat and your core tight. Contract your shoulder blades and squeeze your biceps (B) before slowly lowering the bar.

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Bring your hands closer and keep those elbows tucked in to your sides during the bench press to extend the range of motion your triceps move through, think of it as extra growth-inducing mileage. Slowly lower the bar below the center of your chest before explosively pressing yourself back up, strongly flexing your triceps at the top of each rep.

Lie flat on the bench, knees bent, feet pressed into the floor. Grasp the bar with your hands slightly closer than shoulder-width apart and lift it out of the rack, locking your elbows (A). Slowly lower the bar until the bar touches just below your chest (B) keep your elbows close to your body the entire time, pausing here before explosively pressing back.

ring order


By switching from the bar to the row rings, you are able to create a completely custom range of motion, which you can perfectly tailor to your sleeve stretching goals. At the bottom of each rep, with your arms extended, rotate your biceps so that the backs of your hands are facing each other to fully stretch your biceps. As you row your body up, rotate the rings, finishing each rep with your wrists facing you, biceps fully contracted.

They hang, parallel to the ground, with straight arms below a series of rings. Build tension throughout your body (A). Bend at the elbows, pulling toward the rings, rotating the rings until your palms are facing you. Squeeze your biceps at the top of each rep before slowly lowering back to the starting position.

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Just like the close grip bench press, keeping your hands pinned to your sides challenges your triceps much more than the garden variety bench press. Grab a pair of dumbbells or dumbbells that almost touch each other and try to shift your body weight forward as you lower to trigger new growth in the back of your arms.

Lower yourself into a plank position, with your core tight and your hands stacked under your shoulders (A)bend your elbows to bring your chest to the floor (B). Keep your elbows close to your body as you explosively push yourself up.

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If you look in the textbook, you will read that the primary function of the biceps is to create flexion at the elbow. But, in practical terms it means that they are made to pull heavy things close to your body and keep them there. No movement elicits this response from your bis like lifting a heavy bag of sand. You’ll be able to grip and rip significantly more than you can flex, creating real-world raw power (and size) just like you.

With the sandbag between your feet, bend down and roll it from side to side, working with your hands underneath. Keep your back straight (A). Lift the bag off the floor and rest it on your thighs. Now, pull it close to your torso and stand up explosively, using your momentum to roll the ball over one shoulder (B). Alternate shoulders on each repetition.

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