Ah, the biceps. The most famous glamor muscles aside from abs. Ask a little kid to show you their muscles and they’ll bend their arms to show off the biceps (or the lack thereof). Legendary bodybuilders would flex their biceps for the crowds and fighters will flex them for “weigh ins” and after being declared victor in a match. For such a small muscle it sure gets a lot of hype and attention. So, how do you make them grow?
Biceps need volume, lots of volume in order to grow. This due to the design of the biceps. First, it’s small. It only makes up roughly 1/3 of the upper arm (sometimes as little as ¼). Smaller muscles need more stimulation. Second, the bicep is predominantly made up of slow twitch muscle fibers. Slow twitch fibers, again, need lots of stimulation for growth.
Knowing this information is critical to developing the biceps. So, how many sets/reps should you do to help make them grow?
You only need 8 sets per week with 8-15 reps per set. Why so little? If you’re a true beginner then your biceps will grow from other pulling exercises such as pull-ups, chin ups, and rows. Isolated focus on biceps will be minimal when you first start. So, don’t go crazy with chasing a hard pump from the get go. Just pick 2 days out of the week to work your biceps. Stay with 2 exercises and 2-4 sets for each exercise on each day.
Your biceps have become stronger due to the heavy pulling exercises and some isolated work. Now, it’s time to kick things up a notch. You’ll stick with the 8-15 rep range but you’ll be allowed to work 14-20 sets of bicep isolation exercises throughout the week. This means you’ll have to spread load your sets even more. For example, you might perform 2 bicep exercises for 4 sets each on a Monday (making 8 sets total). Then, on Thursday you’ll perform 2 bicep exercises for 3 sets each (6 sets total). Finally, if you need to work them a little more then you’ll do another 2-3 sets on Saturday.
If you already have big, bulging biceps then here’s some good news…you don’t have to do so much work! You’re at the point where you simply need to maintain the size you’ve built up over the years. This means you’ll only have to perform 4 to 6 sets of bicep exercises. You could do them all on one day or spread load them throughout the week. My suggestion? Perform 1 bicep exercise 2-3x a week for 2-3 sets. It’ll be just enough to help support the mass and not tire you out for heavy pulling exercises.
BICEP BLASTER CIRCUIT
If you’re looking for a killer biceps circuit then I have just the one for you! It’s a take on Charles Poliquin’s triple compound circuit with a focus on heavy, moderate, and lighter weight used in a brutal bicep circuit. Here’s a version I’ve created and currently use once a week…..
A1. Narrow Grip Chin Up x 4-6 reps (5s negatives)
A2. Incline DB Curl x 10-12 reps (steady tempo)
A3. Preacher DB Hammer Curl x 20-25 reps (fast! à chase the pump)
(2 min. break)
I perform this circuit four times but I would suggest 2 or 3 sets for those new to this circuit. What’s the biggest takeaway from this circuit? Go much lighter than you think on the exercises in A2 and A3. It will be very humbling. Remember, you’re focusing on building the muscle and the biceps don’t need a lot of weight….but they do need a lot of volume.
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!