The best bicep exercises for toning your arms according to a fitness trainer

Woman flexing her bicep

by Becky Fuller |
Published on

All you'll need is a pair of dumbbells to follow these exercises recommended by a fitness instructor

Getting older is a privilege that we love to embrace here at Yours, but it also undeniably brings about changes to our bodies that we perhaps don’t love quite as much. Muscle mass decreases with age and, coupled with our skin losing elasticity, this can give the appearance of saggy arms, or bingo wings as they’re commonly known.

However, there are ways to combat this. Strength training is of fundamenal importance, not just to make us look good but to combat many health conditions such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. It can help keep our muscle mass, keep us mobile and flexible, and even helps us live longer.

I specialise in strength training for women, and it’s amazing to see the changes that can be made to our physiques as well as our happiness and confidence with just a few simple exercises. I’ve already put together a guide on how to get rid of bingo wings, as well as some easy at-home exercises to follow or weight training at home, I’m going to show you the best bicep exercises you can do.

What is the function of the biceps?

Your biceps are found at the top of your arms, and they’re the muscles you can feel if you flex your arm (like Popeye). They work in conjunction with your triceps, found on the underside of your arms. When one contracts the other lengthens so between them, they enable you to push, pull, grip and twist.

Why do bicep exercises?

It’s important to keep our upper body strong as we age for many reasons. Accidents happen, and if you’re able to get yourself up off the floor after a fall it can quite literally save your life. To do this, you need to have strength in your arms.

Strong arms also make day to day activities easier, like reaching into high cupboards, carrying boxes, shopping bags or grandchildren, driving, opening bottles or jars – you name it!

Woman flexing her left arm
©Getty Images/ Jacqueline Veissid

How often should I do bicep exercises?

Everyone should do some form of strength work on at least two days a week, but if you can do three or even four sessions that’s even better. You don’t need to exercise your biceps on every occasion, but you’ll probably find they will work anyway with whatever exercises you are doing.

Strength training can take many forms. At home, you might like to learn how to use dumbbells or how to use resistance bands. Alternatively, you might like to head to a gym and take a class that uses weights, such as BodyPump, or work on the gym machines.

If you want to build the exercises below into your routine, I’d aim to do them twice a week. They won’t take long, and you can do them alongside the bingo wings exercises, or anything else you choose.

The best bicep exercises

Follow the routine below ideally with a set of dumbbells, but you can use full water bottles or cans if you don’t have any weights. You can also use a long resistance band with handles, just stand on the band to create tension then do the moves below.

Please consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before starting if you have any pre-existing injuries or medical conditions.

Bicep curl

  • Stand with your feet hip width apart and hold a pair of dumbbells at your side, palms facing out.

  • Keeping your elbows tight to your side, squeeze the weights and curl them up towards your shoulders, stopping when your knuckles come level with the top of your bicep, then bring them back down.

  • Work to the following tempo: “1-2-up, 1-2-down.”

  • Repeat for 10-12 repetitions for three rounds. Rest as needed.

Hammer curl

  • Standing with feet hip width apart, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in to your thighs.

  • Keeping your elbows tight to your sides, curl the weights up until you’re at the top of your biceps, then lower them back down.

  • Avoid swinging the weights using your back, concentrate on using the forearms for the movement.

  • Work to the tempo “1-2-up, 1-2-down.”

  • Repeat for 10-12 repetitions for three rounds. Rest as needed.

Wide curl

  • Hold a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing up, elbows in, as if you’re holding a tray. From here, take your arms our wide, keeping your elbows in place (as if you’re stretching a band). This is your starting position.

  • Curl the weights to the same tempo as above, but you won’t be able to bring them up quite as high.

  • Do 6-8 repetitions for three rounds, resting as needed.

  • Tip: If this is too hard, alternate arms.

Zottman curl

  • Start by holding a pair of dumbbells at your side, palms facing up and curl them up to the top of your biceps.

  • From there, rotate the palms in so they then face the floor, and push them back down.

  • At the bottom, rotate the palsm back to the starting position and repeat.

  • Aim for 8-10 repetitions, for three rounds. Rest as needed.


  • This exercise is a great way of working the whole range of motion in the arm.

  • Hold dumbbells at your side, palms facing out, and curl the weights only until your elbows come to 90-degrees (like you’re holding a tray), then lower.

  • Repeat for 7 repetitions.

  • Then, hold the weights at the middle of your body, keeping the elbows in (like you’re holding a tray), and curl them from there to the top of your biceps, and back to the middle.

  • Repeat for 7 repetitions.

  • Finally, curl the weights all the way from bottom to top (as the bicep curl above), for 7 repetitions.

  • Repeat for 2 rounds, resting as needed.

Cross body curl

  • Hold your dumbbells as if you’re starting a bicep curl.

  • Using one arm at a time, curl the weight up towards the opposite shoulder, then down.

  • Repeat on the other arm.

  • Perform 20 repetitions in total (10 per arm), for 2 rounds, resting as needed.

Becky Fuller is a senior digital writer for She is also a fully qualified personal trainer and strength coach, specialising in fitness and wellbeing for over 50s. Prior to joining Yours, Becky was a fitness writer for Saga, and a freelance entertainment and theatre journalist. Becky is passionate about helping people to move well and discover the many benefits of strength training.

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