Ask a dozen strength trainers what the best overall triceps builder is, and most will say either close-grip bench presses or dips. These are compound movements that can create the greatest overload of the triceps. They affect other muscle groups (pecs and delts) as well, but are still considered the best way to start a triceps workout.
Think about all of the major muscles in your body and the big exercises you would do to hit them: pecs, lats, quads, ham, triceps, delts, etc. They all have their own compound movement or bread-and-butter -Move.
For pecs the bench press (or dips), for delts the military press, for quads the squat, for hamstrings the Romanian deadlift and for the upper back either barbell rows or pull-ups.
Listen, there’s also a great base for multiple joints for the biceps: the supinated (palms facing you) close-grip pull-up. This exercise demonstrates greater bicep activation than most direct bicep exercises while using a heavier load. Remember, you are lifting roughly 97% of your body weight without adding weight, and adding weight will be even more effective.
If you want to build your biceps, start your workout with the tight supinated pull-up. Load it up pretty hard so your reps fall in the 6-10 range. Your goal should be to get stronger in this area while maintaining proper form.
But what if you can’t even do 6 proper bodyweight pull-ups?
You have two main options:
1. Use a partial range of motion.
Start from the bottom and pull yourself up as high as you can (without cheating or warping). In time, your goal will be to get higher and higher.
2. Use a lat pulldown.
If you can’t even do a partial rep, use a supinated tight grip lat pulldown. For it to work you need to feel like you are pulling it down towards you, not just down.
This should be your first exercise in biceps training. Don’t go for failure as pull-ups respond well to the daily practice approach.
Related: Double Your Pullups In 30 Days
Related: The Chin-Up Project