Everyone likes to look their absolute best, and what better muscle is there to show off than your Biceps. Everyone wants bigger and better biceps, yet getting them to grow can be a bit of a struggle.
Not everyone likes going to the gym and benching hard, or lifting their weights. Some people would rather tackle this task in the comfort of their own homes.
Is it possible to give yourself god-like biceps from the comfort of your own home? what is more better?
In short, yes it is, you can 100% build your muscle from your own home, cutting out the trip to the gym and that uncomfortable changing-room experience.
It may sound too good to be true, but we promise we aren’t pulling your leg, it is entirely possible. You don’t even need to spend hundreds of dollars on an expensive home gym set up either.
Of course, if you do want to join a gym, or make a home-gym investment you should, but it is not for everyone and what we are saying is that if you do not want to do that you do not have to.
You can build up your muscle without using any expensive equipment, it can be as simple as using your own body weight, or just using household stuff that you have lying around to build the muscle you want.
If you do want to use weights, then you can easily make your own heavy concrete dumbbells at home too, this could cost you next to nothing.
You can always buy your own too, you can get weights that you can fill with materials, so you never need to buy new ones as you level up your strength, fill them with water, flour, rice, stones, whatever takes your fancy, or there are other adjustable dumbbells for working out too.
A thought about arms
Arms, and biceps in particular are one of the most sought after body parts to strengthen. There is a good reason for that.
Despite how muscular arms scream power and prowess, it is one of the top muscles that shows such immense difference when you flex and un-flex it. A big bicep when flexed can look like rolling hills or a steep mountain.
Big biceps draw attention from prospective admirers, and give you that steamy edge at the bar or at a party, and you are sure to get compliments from everyone, either in admiration or filled with envy.
And of course, what goes better with a set of big arms than a pair of perky perfect pectorals to match, which you can also develop at home too!
The anatomy of Biceps
Before you get working on strengthening any muscle in your body, it can really pay off to know exactly how that muscle works.
Knowing your muscles, how they work, and what they need can make building them up progress a lot faster. It is a bit like working with a car, the better you understand how it works, the smoother it will run.
The biceps is a two-headed muscle that is responsible for flexing your arms at the shoulder and elbow joints. Your shoulder and elbow joints are also exactly where the bicep muscles are anchored in.
The muscle that runs along the underside of your upper arm is the triceps, and the biceps is the muscles that runs along the topside of your upper arm. Biceps equals front upper arm and triceps equals back upper arm.
Both of these muscles are important and also highly visible, so you should work out both of them to the best muscular development. But, it is the biceps that is noticed first when someone is looking at you head on.
There are two primary types of exercises that you can do to get you on a fat path to those big biceps without even having to look at some weights.
TYPE 1– Lift things around your house. You didn’t see your household items as weights before, but now you will.
TYPE 2– Use your own body weight for resistance. If you are stuck somewhere without any access to household objects or other things, make use of the rest of your body and your own natural weight.
Lifting- DIY make your own weights
Lifting weights can be done by using any heavy item or a multitude of heavy items in your home.
You can get creative with this, and use whatever you have around you to do so.
Here are some ideas for you;
- Heavy books.
- Bags of rice or flour.
- Socks filled with pea gravel.
- Plastic water bottles filled.
- Canned goods from your pantry, on their own or a few in a bag.
A great suggestion on what you can do, if that you can save a pair of 100 ounce laundry detergent jugs, ones with handles. Or you can use plastic milk bottles, or juice jugs.
The only issue with these is that the lid can just pop off or leak, and it might make your work-out a little more slippery and wet than you would like. That being said, the handles will give you a sturdy grip as you lift.
Having handles is a much better choice for lifting in comparison to lifting a load of clumsy, dusty and outdated dictionaries or encyclopedias that have been sitting in the attic for years.
If you do not have any empty jugs then it is just an excuse to do more laundry, once you have those empty jugs then fill them with water until you reach the weight that you want to lift.
This can be extremely useful as you can vary the weight according to your own strength level and add more and more as you progress.
If you need a heavier weight however you can always raid the beach or the banks of a local lake, and use sand as a filler instead of water. This makes the jugs much heavier and can be really useful.
How much should you be lifting?
How much you can lift depends entirely on you and your body. It relies on how many reps you can do with the weight.
The standard rep range is between 8 and 12, it is not too low to risk injury this way but not too much that it becomes a tiresome endurance exercise.
You can also try for 6-10 reps, but before you reach this you should try to build up some technique first.
Remember to nail down your technique before you go racing into how many reps and sets you can do. Technique is much more important.
To determine if the weight of the object you are lifting is correct you should do some set of 12 reps.
- It is too light if you finish this set and feel like you can keep on lifting, if the weight is too light then you will not gain any biceps.
- It is too heavy if hitting four reps has you crapping out, lower the weight a bit.
- The weight is perfect if the first couple of reps are kind of easy, and then they get progressively harder.
‘Going to failure’ is exactly how you achieve hypertrophy, which is the posh word for your muscles are growing bigger.
When your muscles feel like they need to take on something stronger next time, this is when you know that they are growing.
If your biceps feel like they can handle the weight you are lifting just fine then they will not grow or get as strong, as they will not need to.
They may grow a bit but not nearly as much as you want them to. If your muscles are feeling like the weights are crazy heavy, they will decide they need to get stronger in order to comfortably lift what you are trying to and that is when you get that all important growth that you seek.
You are going to need to keep in mind how heavy your weights are. Once you can lift your jugs for more than 10 or 12 reps then it is time to add more water, or add sand, or get inventive and start using something even heavier if you need to.
Can you do bicep curls without any weights?
One of the most basic exercises for working out your guns is what is known as a bicep curl.
You should stand with your arms at your sides as you hold your jugs in each hand, your upper arms should stay glued to your sides as you complete the set, do not move them away from your body.
Then, lift the jug in your right hand up in front of you as you breathe out and bring it into your right shoulder. You should be flexing your biceps as you lift, however, only your forearm should move.
Once you have done this and your right hand is in front of your right shoulder, squeeze hard and hold for a second. Now, inhale as you lower the jug all the way back down to how it started.
To do this, you should do 3 sets of 8-12 reps, and resting around a minute and a half between sets.
You can vary this by lifting one jug at a time, alternating your sides with each lift, going; right arm, left arm, right arm, left arm, etc. Doing a total of 8 to 12 reps for each arm and an overall total of 16 to 24 reps for both arms.
You could also lift both jugs at the same time for a set of 8 to 12 reps. Or you can sit toward the front edge of a chair, sofa, or bench seat instead of standing to do your bicep curls.
However you want to do it is fine, what is important is the arm movement paired with the correct breathing.
What is a towel bicep curl, and how do you do it?
The towel bicep curl is a simple yet effective way of building up your arm muscles, and it is something that you can do pretty much anywhere.
If you are travelling and forgot your weight jugs, just use your bag and a towel. You can increase the weight of the resistance by stuffing your bag with whatever you have lying around.
How do I do this?
This can be done by simply slipping the towel through the top of your backpack, or whatever bag it is you have, grip the towel on either side and slowly curl the bag up.
As you progressively move up through the movement rotate your arms so that as you reach the top position your palms are facing your shoulders.
Then at the top position try to slowly rotate your palms away from your body as much as you can and hold this position for a few seconds and squeeze really hard before you release and return to the starting position.
No bag? Then you can try using the towel to lift the weight of your leg.
How can you do concentration curls with a jug?
For this variation of a bicep curl, also known as an over-the-knee bicep curl, all you need is a jug and a bench.
You can also use a chair or even a couch. Sit down on the bench, couch, or chair with your feet wide apart on the floor.
Pick up your jug in your right hand and lean forward, placing your right elbow against the inside of your right thigh.
Have your arm fully extended downward with both your arm and your wrist straight. You should position the jug near your right ankle, and you can rest your left hand on your left knee too.
As you flex your right bicep while inhaling, lift the jug up until it meets your chest.
Hold that position for a second or two while you flex your bicep and then lower the jug back down to the starting position as you inhale.
Remember that your breathing is just as important as the weight you are lifting and the position that you are in.
After 8 to 12 reps switch the jug over to your left hand and work your left bicep in the same way that you did your right to even them out.
This works the same as doing a basic bicep curl, where only your forearm should be moving. You should not rock your body or do any hoisting motions in order to lift the jug.
To make the most of this exercise you should perform three sets of 8 to 12 reps on each arm.
Doing body weight exercises for your biceps
Some people are not big fans of using weights in order to build muscle and this is fine.
It is entirely possible to build up muscle in any part of your body without using weights.
Not every bicep workout has to use weights. You can grow your biceps by simply using your own body weight as resistance.
Bicep curls… with your legs?
You can do bicep curls with your legs. As odd as it sounds you can use the weight of your legs to build muscle in your arms.
All you need is a chair, stool, bench or couch on which you can comfortably sit with your feet on the floor.
Take your seat and use your right hand to reach underneath your left thigh, hold your thigh just above the back of your knee.
Then pull that leg up as high as you can, keep your leg relaxed, do not tense and use any of your leg muscles, you want to use your arm to lift the dead weight of your leg.
As you progress with this exercise and lifting your leg muscle becomes easier over time, take it up a notch by trying to force your leg muscles to push down as you try to lift the leg up, creating a stronger resistance.
Do a set of 8 to 12 reps, then switch sides and lift your opposite leg with your opposite arm.
Can chin-ups be bicep builders?
Most people will think of chip-ups as a back exercise, however, you can also find them to be exceptionally effective in working out your biceps.
Instead of using those fitness bars at the gym, you can install an exercise bar in a doorway of your home.
If you do have kids, there is an easier alternative, by just simply taking over their swing set while they’re at school or doing their homework.
Or if you are the creative type who doesn’t want to spend money, and you don’t have kids, you can always create your own chin-up bar.
To work out your arms using one of these you need to start off with your palms facing you, grip with bar with your hands positioned ever so slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
If you want to go a little more hardcore, then you can make sure that your palms are facing you, this is something called the supinated grip, or undergrip.
If your palms face away from you with works your back muscles more and less of your biceps. An under grip does the reverse working more of your biceps and less of your back.
In order to do a chin-up, pull on the bar to lift your body weight straight up until you are face to face with the bar and your hands.
You should also refrain from swinging, to do this, keep your body as straight as you possibly can while you do the chin-ups, keeping your feet together can assist in this.
As you continue to grip the bar, gradually lower yourself back down most of the way.
It is not a good idea to drop all the way down so that your arms are completely straight, and you are hanging like a chimpanzee at the local zoo.
Stop just short of a full extension so that your muscles are constantly under tension. This will help to build up that muscle you seek.
In order to refrain from letting your feet touch the ground between each chin up, keep your knees bent slightly, you want your feet to be behind you and for your overall form somewhat resembles the letter ‘L’.
There is no real recommendation on how many reps you should do of chin-ups. It is a pretty strenuous work-out when you first do it, so you should just start off by doing as many as you can, do not feel bad if you cannot do that many at first, just keep at it, and you will get better over time.
Keep pushing yourself as far as you can and refrain from being lazy. The more you practice and the more you push, the more you will be able to do. And in likeness, the bigger your biceps will be.
Using resistance bands instead of weights
Resistance bands, or resistance tubes are a fantastic way to work out your biceps, or in fact any muscle.
If you don’t like weights and don’t feel like making your own, resistance bands can be fantastic. They have variable tension so you can constantly progress.
Realistically, in many ways resistance bands are better for building your biceps than using weights.
With their variable tension, the exercise will get harder as you squeeze your biceps, unlike weights. This works out the peak of your biceps more than any dumbbell or weight would.
Bodybuilders actually often use resistance bands to grow their biceps more than they would use weights to do so.
There are some fantastic beginners sets out there, and they will always have everything that you need. They are perfect for beginners or advanced lifters.
They will usually come with a set of band varying from light to hard, if you want an extra challenge you can use multiple at once to really push yourself to the limit when you get to that point.
You will get straps and holders for you to use, some even come with hooks or clasps so that you can connect them to objects around the house to do unique work-outs that you would usually do at the gym, in the safety of your own home.
One of the easiest bicep and triceps exercises to do with resistance bands is a biceps curl. You hold each end of the resistance band with your arms hanging straight down, like you would with a dumbbell, standing with your feet at a shoulder distance apart.
While you keep your upper arms against your sides, start moving your forearms towards your shoulders, ensure that you flex your biceps and pull the handles of the resistance band all the way up until your hands reach your shoulders, like you would with dumbbells.
Hold this position for a few seconds, squeeze hard and then lower your forearms all the way down to the original starting position.
A little vanity never hurt
Hey now, don’t be shy, we all do it. Who doesn’t give themselves a look up and down in the mirror after they have completed a workout?
Just admit it, you’ll be checking yourself out, keeping tabs on your progress, maybe taking a few pictures. Who doesn’t? So… why not use your mirror time as an extra little workout?
If you are going to flex your biceps once in a while anyway, keep on doing it when you check yourself out in the mirror.
We say this because, flexing those guns as hard as you can in front of the mirror can actually serve as an equipment free exercise in itself.
So when you go to look in the mirror and bask in your glory, hold that pose for ten seconds and then relax, then repeat. This is actually an exercise that is known as isometric tension, which means constant tension in which the muscle is held in place.
The key thing here is to flex your muscle as hard as you possibly can. Try to concentrate and imagine that you are trying to bring your fists up to your head.
Maintain your flexed pose for more than a few seconds, and you will likely feel exhausted, if your face shows signs of pain or tension then this means that you are doing it correctly.
The more you flex, the better you will get at doing it. You should do this immediately after your biceps work out as a final exercise, it will also leave you feeling fantastic!
Nutrition is all
Building up your muscle is about more than just exercising and growing your strength through training. Your muscles need good nutrition to be able to grow.
Working out is only half the battle, the rest is in what you eat. You need to feed those muscles, so they grow up to be big and strong.
When you work out, you create small tears in the muscle tissue fibers, this is the normal result of a good hard workout.
Your muscles response to these micro-tears in the fibers is to build a stronger and bigger muscle, so it doesn’t happen again.
So, like you would feed someone who is sick, you need to feed your recovering muscles with healthy amino-acids, which they need for repair and growth.
A vast majority of these amino acids come from protein, when you eat protein your body will break it down into usable amino acids.
You should aim to eat around 1.3 grams of protein per pound of your body weight every day. So, for example if you weighed 160 lbs then you would need to eat around 160 to 200 grams of protein each day.
One of the best ways to manage your protein intake is to cook your own meals. There are some great cookbooks and online blogs for recipes made for this exact purpose.
You should divide your daily protein into 4 to 6 meals so that your body is continually fuelled by a good protein source throughout the day.
There are many great sources of protein, you can have eggs, poultry, fish, and lean meats.
Vegetarians and Vegans can make up for this protein with supplements, and some vegetables, green peas and lentils are high in protein, but remember to get your daily amount in a way that is not harmful to your body.
If you don’t feel like eating your day away to gain muscle you can use a protein powder, you can often mix it in with milk, smoothies, or in water. Whey proteins are an advantageous when had post exercise as they absorb faster than foods do.
Do not forget to hydrate either. Hydration is very important. Staying hydrated ensures optimal metabolic functioning, this includes growing those muscles you seek.
If you do not have enough fluids then it can cause a muscle breakdown which is highly counter-productive.
Pain means progress
When doing any exercise you will likely feel a bit sore after in the days after in the muscles you worked out, especially if you worked those muscles as hard as you should. This is something called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
DOMS pain can start appearing a few hours after or even a day or two after, depending on how hard you worked out, it can also take up to a week to completely go away.
This pain can deter you from working out super hard but do not fret. This pain is a good pain, like a ‘well done’ sticker. This pain happens to anyone who works out, from gym going newbies to body builders and heavy liters.
Higher levels of workout intensity and a change of exercise can trigger soreness and everyone will get DOMS in different body parts.
DOMS is a good pain, however pain from injuries is not good, this can happen if you start lifting heavily too soon.
Do not go for those heavy weights right from the off, or you could injure yourself. Let your body grow accustomed to it as you increase intensity gradually.
If you get any sudden pains during your workout, stop immediately and see a doctor ASAP!
Timing is key
Wanting to grow any muscle is a bit like anything, more is not always better, sometimes less is more.
Two times a week is plenty to get your biceps bigger, you can get stellar results from just doing one arm workout a week, especially if you are more advanced and work at a high intensity.
Never work the same muscle consecutively as this is counterproductive, and you are more likely to hurt yourself.
It is also not unheard of to find your muscles don’t grow or get smaller if you do not give them time to recover from each work out.
Let DOMS be your compass. Split up your workout, do a day of biceps, a day of abs, a day of legs. Mix it up and you will be fine. Above all listen to your body.
The ultimate recipe for success
Building your biceps, and any other muscle takes patience and discipline, don’t slack off, work hard, know your limits, stay hydrated and get that nutrition in you.
Don’t forget to rest when needed too. Soon you will see improvements, and you’ll be well on your way to those bulky, bulging biceps of your dreams.
I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.
Get in touch: email@example.com