Build Bigger Biceps: Nine Golden Rules
Let me guess…you want bigger arms but aren’t making the progress you’d hoped for? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
I know just how difficult it can be to beef up your arms; I struggled for years to pack size onto mine, before discovering the best ways to increase the size of my biceps. While there isn’t an overnight cure to small arms (or arms not as big as you’d like them to be), there are nine golden rules that you can learn and follow to speed up your arm muscle growth and start bursting out of your t-shirt sleeves!
How to Build Bigger Biceps
Where bicep training is concerned, there is one constant – curling motions, i.e. a movement during which your elbow contracts against resistance. However, if just doing curls was the answer, I’m pretty sure you’d not be reading this article because you’d already have huge guns! Building huge biceps take more than curls. It takes knowledge and understanding of both anatomy and training, both of which you’ll learn in today’s post.
Bigger Biceps Rule #1: Learn the anatomy of your biceps (and arms)
On the face of it, bicep training may seem straightforward given that bicep muscle only has two heads; however, it’s actually a little complex than it first appears. The brachial – an upper-arm muscle that flexes the elbow – sits underneath the bicep muscle, and even though it is a relatively small muscle, increasing the size of it will boost the overall size of your upper arm. Furthermore, the biggest muscle in your forearm, the brachioradialis, which is situated on the top of your forearm near the elbow joint, also plays as a role in elbow flexion.
Being aware of these muscles (and how they work) and factoring this into your arm workout will help to induce the biggest size and strength gains possible. If you want bigger arms, you can’t solely focus on the bicep itself; you must work every single arm muscle.
Bigger Biceps Rule #2: Your Back
I know what you’re thinking: ‘What has my back go to do with my biceps?’. Well, let me explain. When training back, your back muscles are the prime movers (obviously); however, your biceps are involved in all back movements, which is why so many gym-goers train back and biceps on the same day. To maximise bicep growth, you should either train your biceps on the same day as your back – always training back first, followed by biceps. Or, train biceps on a separate day to back, ensuring that you don’t train your biceps the day after back day; otherwise your biceps will be too fatigued, and your training intensity and volume will decrease – the opposite of what you want.
Bigger Biceps Rule #3 – Start with Compound Movements
Regardless of which body part you’re training, you should always begin with compound movements, i.e. the exercises that you can lift the most weight with/exercises that incorporate the maximum amount of muscles. Although there isn’t a specific compound movement for the biceps, most consider the standard standing barbell curl and pull-ups to be the closet things; therefore, you should focus on these at the beginning of your workout (ideally barbell curl first, followed by pull-ups), then use isolation exercises to finish off your arm training.
Bigger Biceps Rule #4 – Choose the Right Weight
If there’s one thing that will slow down your bicep growth and increase your chance of injury; it’s using a weight that’s too heavy. On the flip side, using a weight that is too light will also do nothing to induce bicep hypertrophy; therefore, getting the right weight is vital to ensuring a progressive increase in muscle size. It’s easy to get comfortable and merely bust out the reps and move on without really fatiguing yourself. Always start with a weight that will challenge you; the start of your workout is when you will be freshest and strongest, so make the most of it!
We always advise starting with sets involving as little as six reps to begin (after warming up thoroughly of course), as this will really push the limits of your strength, which is the foundation of building not only strength but muscle too. Put all of your efforts into the first three or four sets. After that, just pump the hell out of your biceps; the combination of strength training plus pump-style training will work wonder, trust us!
Bigger Biceps Rule #5 – Grip Width
Although it’s not possible to completely isolate one bicep head over another, you can place more emphasis on each head by altering the width of your grip. The long head, i.e. the bicep peak, is situated on the outer side of the short head; therefore, by using a narrower grip, you can place more stress on the long head. Conversely, a wider grip will place more emphasis on the short head.
Bigger Biceps Rule #6: Isolate the Muscle
As effective as compound movements are, isolation of the muscle is also need to induce hypertrophy and maximise growth; therefore, it is imperative that you include isolation movements in your bicep workout. The best examples of effective isolation exercises are preacher curls and concentration curls that are performed when the arm(s) are stabilised by either a preacher curl bench or your body. This eliminates any momentum, which will place more stress and tension on the bicep, which will lead to further muscle breakdown and potentially more growth.
Bigger Biceps Rule #7: Don’t Forget the Brachialis
As mentioned above, the brachialis is situated underneath the biceps brachii; however, regular biceps movements that involve an underhand-grip will do little to target this muscle, which may leave it underdeveloped. Instead, utilise exercises that empty a neutral grip, such as hammer curls, which have been proven to increase the thickness of the upper arm.
Bigger Biceps Rule #8: Forearms
Very few people I know actually isolate their forearms and dedicate a portion of a workout to maximising their strength and size. This isn’t surprising given that your forearms are involved in every exercise that uses your arms, but that doesn’t mean they should receive some attention of their own! One of the best forearm-building exercises is the reverse grip barbell curl, which will give you a forearm pump like nothing else. Additionally, wrist curls are also a useful weapon in the forearm-building arsenal. Although you won’t be able to curl as much weight as a reverse grip barbell curl, you’ll still be able to place specific focus on the forearms, which will help to increase strength and hypertrophy. Always train your forearms at the end of a workout; doing so at the beginning will hamper any other exercises you do. If you’ve ever tried to barbell curl as doing a tonne of wrist curls, you’ll know exactly what I mean!
Bigger Biceps Rule #9: Lock Your Elbows
The vast majority of upper and lower arm training exercises are single-joint movements. Still, these single-joint movements soon turn into multi-joint movements when the weight used it too heavy for the user to control with perfect form. When this happens, it’s common for your elbows to move away from your body in the midst of performing an exercise – something that will result in less tension being placed upon the focus muscle – in this case, the bicep. Therefore, your elbows need to be locked into your sides at all points during the set.
Furthermore, when a lifter’s elbows become flayed during an exercise such as a barbell curl, more stress is placed on the shoulders, which is something you should actively avoid doing as it will hinder bicep strength progression and hypertrophy. By locking your elbows into your side, you will place maximum stress on your biceps – even though you may have to use lighter weights. Remember, prioritising perfect form will always have a greater effect than prioritising heavy weights. No-one builds big biceps using cheater curls, that’s for sure!
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