Having arms that are lean and show good muscular development is a common desire for many exercisers. At the most basic level, displaying a lean physique requires attention to diet and exercise. A diet that meets your nutritional needs, but does not go over your required daily caloric intake, and a comprehensive well-rounded exercise program are the two keys to success in this scenario. For healthy nutrition information, visit the ACE website and use the Daily Caloric Needs Estimate Calculator to calculate your energy (calorie) needs and get ideas for healthy recipes and meal suggestions. You can also find tips on comprehensive exercise programs that include aerobic and resistance-training routines on the ACE website.
You asked specifically about biceps exercises. If you’re looking to stimulate hypertrophy (build muscle mass) in the biceps, the following exercises are great options:
• Biceps curl
• Hammer curl
• Preacher curl
To build muscle, these exercises can be performed for 12–15 repetitions for 4–6 sets at a weight that causes you to fatigue by the end of each set.
You’ll notice that the exercises suggest different hand and forearm positions. This is because the biceps are responsible for both elbow flexion and forearm supination (bringing the palm into an upward facing direction). For example, the “Hammer Curl” position works the biceps in their role as elbow flexors, while the “Preacher Curl” position targets the biceps in their role as elbow flexors and forearm supinators. Interestingly, the biceps are relatively small muscles, even though they are involved in so many of our daily activities. Therefore, I also recommend that you work the entire upper-extremity (e.g., triceps, back, chest, and shoulders) to provide a well-rounded routine for the upper body.
Furthermore, don’t forget to work the rest of your muscles, as well! Whole-body resistance training will help you get to your leaner-physique goal more efficiently than solely focusing on your arms in training. Lastly, aerobic exercise must be included in your plan for getting leaner—even if it means only performing high-intensity intervals for short periods of time.