A good physique is wasted without good arms, and biceps take pride of place for most men. But strong biceps are more than just cosmetic—they help with every pushing, pulling and lifting action that a person might have to do in a day. Strong arms can also prevent backache by reducing the stress on your lower back muscles when you lift something.

Photographs: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

The Barbell Curl

The most basic bicep exercise is also the most effective for building arm strength and muscle mass. As a bonus, it gives your forearms a pretty good workout too. Stand with your feet shoulder length apart, your knees firm and feet planted flat on the ground. Grab the barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing upwards), making sure that your hands are placed equidistant from either end of the barbell. Hold the barbell at thigh level without letting it touch your thighs—this is the starting position. Your elbows should be as close to your sides as possible without actually touching your body. Curl the barbell up from your elbows towards your collarbone. Feel the contraction in your biceps, and then lower the weight slowly, controlling the movement instead of letting gravity do the work. That’s one rep. Do a set of 10 reps with a comfortable weight, and then add a little more weight for 10 more, and increase the weight a little more for a final set of 10 reps.

The Hammer Curl

The movement and body position are exactly the same as the barbell curl. But by changing the grip, so that you are holding the dumbbells like a hammer with your palms facing each other, the biceps get a very different workout. It also helps sculpt overall shape and definition of the muscle. Do three sets of 10-15 reps each after completing the barbell curls.

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Source: Devashish Singh, fitness manager, Fitness First, Connaught Place, New Delhi; Model: Nikhil Grover, personal trainer, Fitness First.

Coordinated by Rudraneil Sengupta.