Resistance or weight training is traditionally thought of as ‘male exercises’ and if you go to the weights session of your local gym, you’ll likely find a male dominated area with a random brave girl or 2 in between.

But research is telling us that weight training is just as important for women as for men in a well rounded fitness program. Such a program should be a combination of strength (weight) training to improve bone, joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, as well as cardio or aerobic exercise to improve your heart and lung fitness and stretching or flexibility and balance exercises.

Women often shy away from weight training fearing that they will turn into something reminiscent of the hulk but trust me girls, I’ve been including resistance training in my fitness routine for the last few years and I’ve never been so toned plus the hulk is no where in sight! Additionally women don’t produce the same amount of hormones as men to achieve big muscle gains. Learn more on why women should include resistance training here: to learn more.


But what exactly is weight training…

Weight training (also know as resistance training and strength training) is a type of training that uses weights for resistance. This provides a stress on your muscles, which they adapt to over time and get stronger. Weight training can be performed in various ways for example with your own body weight, with dumbbells, barbells, kettle bells or weight machines. To see improvements you don’t even need to weight train for hours each week either, just a simple 20-30 minute routine on 2 or 3 days and your on your way.

In general you want to train your whole body and there’s numerous ways to do this. Some people like to pick one or 2 muscle groups and focus on these only during their training session and then do other muscle groups on different days, while others like to do 1-2 muscles from all muscle groups at each training session. Totally your choice! We’ll be looking exercises to work your biceps in this article.

But first what are the biceps…?

The biceps are one of the more ‘famous’ muscle groups and while guys often like to work these muscles and get big ‘guns’, women shouldn’t shy away from working them. It is highly unlikely that you will get big and bulky from lifting weights, you simply don’t have the hormones to support that type of muscle growth like men do.

The biceps (also know as bicep brachii) are a two-headed muscle at the front of the upper arm located between the elbow and the shoulder. They are attached to the arm bones by tendons. Working your biceps will not only strengthen this muscle but also help define them, which FYI looks great in a sleeveless dress or top! Other muscles worked in this area also include the brachialis and brachioradialis which are muscles also in the upper arm that flex the elbow joint. They are found deeper than the biceps brachii but work in synergy to flex the elbow.

Best biceps exercise for women

4 of the best bicep exercises for women

There are many exercises available to work your biceps. I’ve selected 4 great ones that can be done at home or the gym with limited equipment. Start at a light weight and do 2-3 sets with 10-12 reps each having a 30-60 second break between sets. You may want to include these as part of your biceps day or choose a few as part of your full body workout. Speak to a personal trainer or exercise physiologist if you’d like a specific program put together for you. Note: don’t forget to stretch after your session to cool down your muscles and help reduce risk of injury and soreness.

So what are you waiting for? While it can be intimidating being the only girl in the weights session at the gym, these exercises can be performed at home or you can take the weight you need to a quiet section of the gym and do these there. After a while you may just find yourself getting addicted to your weight training routine and you won’t even notice the guys!

Dumbbell concentration curls

Dumbbell concentration curls are excellent isolation exercises that mainly targets the biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis.

Dumbbell Concentration Curls
  • Dumbbell (Choose appropriate weight for your level)
Instructions Set-up Sit at the end of a flat bench or chair with your feet wider than shoulder width apart. Rest your elbow on the side of your thigh. Lean slightly forward. Grab a dumbbell in one hand with your palm facing forward (underhand grip) and arm hanging down straight.
  1. Keeping your elbow locked in place against your thigh, slowly curl the dumbbell up bringing it up all the way to your chest. Then bring the dumbbell down back to starting position.
  2. Compete the number of reps and then perform the exercise with the other arm.
Breathing Breath out as you pull the dumbbell up.Breath in as you lower the dumbbell down.
  • Be sure to keep your back flat and chest lifted throughout the movement
  • Perform the movement with a controlled pace, not allowing momentum to contribute

Supinating biceps curls

While most people do bicep curls to target their bicep muscles and this is a great way to work them using the flexion movement, doing supinating biceps curls takes your bicep workout to a whole new level. This move targets the whole biceps bringing it through both of its main motions: flexion and supination.

Supinating Bicep Curls
  • Dumbbells (Choose appropriate weight for your level)
Instructions Set-up You can do this exercise standing up or sitting with your back straight or against a backrest. Maintain an upright posture with your feet hip width apart. In each hand hold a dumbbell at your hips with your palms facing inward. Aim for dumbbells between 2 and 5kg depending on your strength, avoid using weights that are too heavy.
  1. Curl both dumbbells up to the front of your shoulders, rotating the forearms so your palms face the ceiling at the top of the movement.
  2. As you lower the weight, reverse the rotation so your palms face your hips again at the bottom of the movement.
  3. Repeat for the set number of reps and sets
Breathing Breath out as you curl the dumbbell up.Breath in as you lower the dumbbell down.
  • For proper form, avoid locking your knees or arching your back.
  • To encourage stability, keep your body stationary with the exception of your forearms.
  • Perform the movement with a controlled pace, not allowing momentum to contribute

Biceps hammers

Biceps Hammer (also know as Hammer Curls) activate the brachialis and brachioradialis helping to give the biceps and your forearm a nice toned shape.

Bicep Hammers
  • Dumbbells (2-5kg depending on your level)
Instructions Set-up This can be done standing or seated in a chair with a flat back that you can press the back of your upper arms on (this helps with stability and reduces cheating or poor form)If standing, stand straight with arms on the side and a dumbbell in each hand. Brace abs. If sitting, sit with back flat against chair and the back of both arms pressed against chair, arms straight down with a dumbbell in each hand.
  1. Raise both dumbbells up by curling your elbow and moving forearms up only with your forearms moving up.
  2. After a short pause at the top slowly lower the dumbbells back down to starting position.
  3. Repeat for specified reps.
Breathing Breath out as you pull the dumbbell up.Breath in as you lower the dumbbell down.
  • Keep your back straight
  • Brace your abs and keep arms still as doing movement
  • Perform the movement with a controlled pace, not allowing momentum to contribute

21s Biceps curls

21s are a great way to finish off a biceps workout. 21s will completely burn out your biceps and use the brachialis also. They are tough especially the last 7 reps, but well worth the effort. The number “21” refers to the number of total reps you do in one set. It is divided into three 7 rep segments that target the entire bicep.

21s Biceps Curls
  • Dumbbells or barbell (Choose appropriate weight for your level, be conservative with this exercise)
Instructions Set-up Stand upright with 2 dumbbells or a barbell in your hands with your palms facing forward. Keep your core engaged and elbows under your ribs as you do the movement.
  1. Curl either dumbbells or barbell half way up to make a 90 degree angle. Then lower them down to starting position. Perform 7 repetitions.
  2. Without pausing, bring the dumbbells / barbell completely up to the front of your shoulders and then lower it halfway down, again making a 90 degree angle. Perform 7 repetitions, only lowering halfway.
  3. Without pausing, lower the dumbbells / barbell back down to starting position and then raise these completely up to meet the front of the shoulders. Perform 7 repetitions.
Breathing Breath out as you pull the dumbbell / barbell up.Breath in as you lower the dumbbell down.
  • Keep your back straight
  • Brace your abs
  • Keep your upper arms still during move and avoid swinging the body too much during the reps.
  • Don’t choose a weight that is too heavy as your muscles really begin to fatigue in this exercise



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