Biceps are a lot of guys’ favorite things to work at the gym. While biceps strength isn't as critical to your health as good core strength, or as functionally important as leg strength, it has to be admitted that a nice pair of rippling arms does look good under a hot summer sun.
There are a lot of great free weight exercises for biceps, but what if you want a change of pace from the dumbbells? What if your gym doesn’t stock many free weights? There are plenty of great biceps machine exercises out there. Let’s talk about some of them.
1. Machine Bicep Curl
The most obvious of the biceps machine exercises is the machine bicep curl. This machine's specifically designed to target nothing but your biceps. Similar to the free weight preacher curl, the machine bicep curl puts the focus on your biceps alone, without any other muscles assisting.
- To do a machine bicep curl, sit in the machine and grasp the handles.
- Move the weight by flexing your arm.
- Make sure that you feel the tension in your biceps—if you feel it elsewhere, you probably need to re-adjust your sitting posture.
2. Lat Pull-down
The machine bicep curl is hardly the only exercise for biceps out there, though. As the name suggests, the lat pull-down will also work your latissimus dorsi (one of your back muscles). You won’t enjoy the same sort of isolation in this exercise as you would in a machine bicep curl. However, your functional biceps strength may increase as you practice using your lats and biceps together.
- To complete a lat pull-down, set the appropriate weight and adjust the seat and pad to the proper settings.
- Grasp the bar above your head and sit down, placing your legs under the leg pad.
- Pull the bar down to your chest.
- You should feel the effort in your upper back and your biceps.
3. Assisted Pull-Up
The pull-up is one of the best equipment-free exercises for biceps; but if you're not up for this exercise you just so happen to be in luck: there's a biceps machine exercise that can help you work up to it. In the assisted pull-up, you will select a weight in the weight stack. However, unlike many machines, the higher the weight you select, the easier the exercise will be. This is because the weight that you pick is deducted from your body weight when you do the pull-up.
- After choosing the appropriate weight and climbing on the machine, grasp the bars above you and perform pull-ups normally. In many assisted pull-up machines, you will kneel on a pad while performing the exercise.
- However, there are other potential setups also. Make sure you keep your movement slow and controlled so as to avoid lifting off the pad.
The row is another great weight exercise for biceps that doubles as an exercise for the muscles of the back. You can find cable row machines in many gyms, often right next to the lat pull-down machines.
- Select the appropriate weight, place your feet against the foot pads, and grab the handle.
- Pull backward, keep your back straight, retract your shoulder blades, and tense your biceps.
- Keep the movement smooth, slow, and controlled. Avoid shrugging your shoulders, leaning back, or moving your torso too much during the exercise.
If you feel back pain during this exercise, stop immediately. Back pain's often an indicator you've improper form, and in extreme cases a precursor to injuries. Consult with a medical processional, and make sure that you can safely perform the exercise before you continue.
5. Cable Curl
Like the machine bicep curl, the cable curl is a great way to work your biceps in relative isolation. As opposed to many of the other exercises listed here, it will not require your lats work quite a bit (like the lat pull-down and assisted pull-up), as well as the muscles of your mid-back (like the row).
In a cable curl, the motion's similar to a free-weights curl or a bicep machine curl: the elbows will flex, using the biceps to bring the hands close to the shoulder joint. There are different stances that you can perform cable curls from, and each will differently affect the motion. In a standing cable curl, you will stand, beginning with the cable near your hips, and then bringing it up to about shoulder level. In an overhead cable curl, you will hold the cables at about head height, out to the sides and then curl them inward. You can also modify the standing cable curl by using one hand at a time for enhanced isolation of a single side.