If you’ve been going to the gym, busting out those dumbbell curls like a madman, but still aren’t seeing any extra inches on your arms, then maybe it’s time to switch things up a little. Put down the dumbbells; machines are where the gains are at. Luckily, we’ve created a quick guide on the best machines for getting a skin-splitting pump in your biceps.
Trust us, once you add these gym machines and their exercises into your routine, every day will be the “gun” show!
Table of Contents
- 1 The 3 Best Gym Machines for Biceps
- 2 Benefits of Using Machines for Biceps
- 3 Anatomy of the Biceps
- 4 FAQs About Bicep Machines
The 3 Best Gym Machines for Biceps
- Preacher curl machine
- Smith machine
- Cable machine
Preacher curl machine
Benefits of a preacher curl machine
- Targeted muscle development
- Reduced risk of cheating
- Comfort and support
Targeted muscle development
The bicep curl machine is specifically designed to isolate and target the bicep muscles. Isolation can help with fixing muscular imbalances and perfecting form.
Reduced risk of cheating
The seated position and bicep curl machine setup make it incredibly hard for you to perform any cheat reps. This is helpful for maintaining proper form.
Comfort and support
The padded armrest generally provides ample comfort and support, reducing the risk of strain on the wrists and elbows.
Tips for using a preacher curl machine
- Adjust the seat
- Get your elbow position right
Adjust the seat
The seat height should always position your arms comfortably on the pad with your armpits just touching the top of the pad.
Get your elbow position right
Keep your elbows stationary and on the pad throughout the exercise. This helps to ensure maximum engagement of the bicep muscles.
Steps to using a preacher curl machine
- Sit on the machine and adjust the seat so that your upper arms rest comfortably on the padding.
- Choose a weight that can challenge you while still maintaining good form.
- Grab the handles or the bar with a supinated (underhand) grip. Make sure your hands are around shoulder-width apart.
- Slowly curl the weight up towards your shoulders. Focus on only moving your forearms and keeping your arms flat against the pad.
- Once you reach the top of the movement, squeeze your biceps to maximize engagement.
- Gradually lower the weight back down to the starting position. Try to avoid letting the weight stack touch between reps to maintain tension on the biceps.
- Perform the target number of preacher curls.
Using a bicep curl machine may seem pretty straightforward but there’s still room for error if don’t have the know-how. Check out this video to learn some advanced incline curl techniques:
Benefits of a preacher curl machine
- No need for a spotter
- Increased safety
- Guided movement
No need for a spotter
The Smith machine’s design eliminates the need for a spotter which is great for those who like to work alone.
Because of its built-in safety features, the Smith machine greatly reduces the risk of weights being dropped, like you generally see with free weights, making the workout environment much safer overall.
The Smith machine has guided tracks that facilitate controlled, smooth movements which is why it’s ideal for drag curls.
Tips for using a preacher curl machine
- Watch your elbows
- Grip width
Watch your elbows
Keep your elbows close to your torso to target the bicep muscles effectively and minimize strain on other muscle groups.
Use a grip width that’s comfortable and allows for proper targeting of the upper arm muscles. Avoid grips that are too wide or too narrow.
Steps to using a Smith machine for drag curls
- Adjust the bar to mid-thigh height and select a weight that you can control.
- Stand close to the bar with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grip the bar with a supinated grip, ensure your hands are about shoulder-width apart.
- Lift the bar by flexing your elbows and dragging it up along your body. Keep the bar close to your body throughout the workout.
- Once the bar reaches the top of the movement (near your lower chest), squeeze your biceps hard for a moment to really engage them.
- Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position, keeping it under control and close to your body.
- Perform the target number of reps and sets.
If you’re confused about how to do drag curls, don’t worry. Sometimes it’s a lot easier when you see someone else doing it, so here’s a clip of one of the most widely accepted ways to do it:
The cable machine is one of the most effective and versatile ways for training your biceps. In fact, we even dedicated an entire list to the best cable exercises for growing biceps.
Benefits of a cable machine
- Constant tension
Time under tension is extremely important when looking to build strength and muscle, as studies have shown that time under tension leads to greater muscle protein synthesis. The cable machine maintains constant tension throughout a bicep curl movement. This tension ensures the biceps are engaged from start to finish.
There are a lot of exercises that you can perform on a cable machine. This is a huge win when it comes to targeting different parts of the biceps and creating a comprehensive bicep workout.
Tips for using a cable machine
- Don’t rush sets
- Remain stable
- Get your posture right
Don’t rush sets
Perform each movement with as much control as possible. Try not to jerk the cable and opt for a lower weight if it gives you more control.
Make sure your core is tight and keep your feet flat on the ground. This will give you ample stability during each exercise.
Cable machine exercises for biceps
- Single-arm cable curl
- Rope hammer curl
- EZ bar curl
Single-arm cable curl
Focus on isolating the bicep muscle by keeping your elbow stationary and curling the weight up in a controlled way. Keep your wrist straight throughout the movement. Do 4-5 sets of 8-10 reps.
Take a look at how fitness industry legend, Mountain Dog, does this exercise:
Rope hammer curl
Keep your palms facing each other in a neutral position. Using both hands, grab the rope with this grip and curl it towards your shoulders, keeping your upper body muscles as stable as possible. Aim for 8-10 reps across 3-5 sets.
If you’re still confused about how to do this exercise, then check out the video below which explains it well:
EZ bar curl
Grab the bar with an underhand grip and keep your elbows tucked in. Curl the bar towards your chest, then slowly lower it back down. Repeat this exercise for 12-15 reps across 3-4 sets.
Top tip: Focus on the mind-muscle connection. Visualize your biceps contracting with each curl to maximize engagement.
This video shows you how you should perform this movement for growth:
Benefits of Using Machines for Biceps
Great for beginners
Machines move on a fixed path which makes them much easier for beginners compared to using free weights or even doing body weight exercises. Because they’re much easier to grasp, machines can help a lot with learning the correct form of exercises like the bicep curl.
Focused muscle targeting
Machines allow people to concentrate on specific muscle groups, like the upper arms. This is a huge win if you’re training to be a bodybuilder and thus need to ensure that the intended muscles are effectively engaged.
Machines are usually much safer than free weights, reducing the risk of injury from poor form and dropping weights. This safety aspect is very important when it comes to training until muscle failure.
Lower impact on joints
Free weights can put a strain on your muscles and joints. Machines offer a lower-impact option that takes the stress off stabilizing muscles and joints. This can be particularly useful for the elderly or those with joint conditions.
With certain machines, like dedicated arm machines and cable machines, you can make adjustments to suit your needs, which is something you can’t get with free weights. This means that you’re able to hit the target muscle groups with precision.
Anatomy of the Biceps
All the science talk can be a little overwhelming, but believe us when we say that understanding the anatomy of any muscle group you plan on working can be incredibly helpful in terms of knowing how to work it effectively and safely.
The biceps brachii, commonly known as the biceps, are one of the most prominent muscles in the upper arm. While they tend to look good, they’re not just about aesthetics. They play a crucial role in the movement of both the shoulder and elbow.
The biceps brachii has two heads: the long head and the short head. The long head originates from the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula. The short head comes from the coracoid process. These heads work together to facilitate arm flexing, forearm supination, and shoulder elevation.
The brachialis sits just beneath the biceps brachii. This muscle’s main function is elbow flexing. Unlike the biceps brachii, the brachialis doesn’t play a role in forearm supination, making it a pure elbow flexor. It comes from the lower half of the humerus and inserts into the ulna, the longer bone in the forearm.
The coracobrachialis is a much smaller muscle in your arm but it also plays a key role: stabilizing the shoulder joint. It originates from the coracoid process of the scapula and inserts into the medial humerus. This muscle also helps with arm adduction and flexing, providing support with various arm movements.
FAQs About Bicep Machines
To pack size onto your biceps quickly, you need to blend targeted exercises with optimal nutrition. Do your standard bicep, preacher, and hammer curls, ensuring to progressively overload to encourage muscle growth. Complement your workouts with a protein-rich diet to repair and build your muscle fibers. Remember that consistency is important if you want to see results quickly.
Building noticeable biceps usually takes about eight weeks for beginners but more experienced lifters could see changes in three to four weeks. It’s important to bear in mind that muscle growth depends on factors like workout intensity, frequency, and nutrition.
Despite what many think, chin-ups mainly target the biceps but they’re also relatively effective for the back, especially the lats (latissimus dorsi). By using a supinated grip (palms facing you), chin-ups engage your biceps more directly, while still working your back, core, and shoulders, which is why they’re such a good way to target your upper body muscles.
There isn’t a bicep exercise that’s necessarily better than all the others and the “best” one could vary depending on individual goals and fitness levels. But, if bicep growth and strength are your priority, studies have shown that the EZ bar curl is one of the most effective exercises for stimulating the biceps.
When doing bicep exercises, it’s advisable to straighten your arms without locking your elbows. Locking your elbows can lead to hyperextension and increase your injury risk. The key is to utilize the full range of motion without forcing yourself into locked hyperextension.
Do note that this could vary depending on the part of the arm and the exercise/machine being used, as you would lock out on the seated dip machine, for example.