Exactly what the title suggests
Hi people! I just realized I’ve been using biceps a lot in my blog – in the humorous sense. Like contrasting the research-related contents to “biceps and explosions“, or something like that. As if biceps were something inferior to FEA and electrical machines…
Anyway, then it hit me that I have exactly zero posts about actual biceps. Nil. Nada.
And that, my friends, is downright abhorrent.
I mean, who doesn’t want big biceps? Everybody does. Some people might be too much holier-than-thou to admit it, but they do. Oh, they do. Young boys do, and old grandpas do. Even girls and women do it – they simply call it toning or whatnot, but it’s still essentially the same thing.
So look no further. Here are some tips for hyoooge gunz that I’ve personally observed to work quite well.
Consider this as a disclaimer: The best way to get huge arms is to be born with them. Or rather, a good combination of genes for growing them later in life.
Some people are more lucky in this respect, while some are very much not. Indeed, studies on training method regularly report non-responders – people who didn’t get any stronger, bigger, or faster despite the controlled training environment.
Now, this does not mean those people are forever doomed to below-mediocrity – it simply means they didn’t respond to that kind of training. They could very well get quite good results from another type of program. They probably won’t win any future Olympic, though.
The take-away for you is simple – simply aim for the best you can be, by being better than you were. Keep striving, but don’t be too hard on yourself when progress is slower than you expected. To quote a nice resource: be proud, but stay hungry.
This bears repeating: get the basics in check. Make sure that at least 50 % of your gym time (and 80 % of effort) is spent on the big multi-joint movements. That means squats, deadlifts, benches, shoulder presses, plus chins and rows of some kind. Each time you train any of them, do 3 sets of each or more, with 6-12 reps per set with 2-5 minutes rest between sets. (Deadlift can be done for slightly lower reps, though.) And train each of them (or a close variation) between 1-3 times per week, with 2 being a nice average.
The same applies to your nutrition too – eat like an adult. And sleep enough.
Don’t get too carried away with my previous point, though. The best way to train your biceps is, gosh, to actually train them. That means not trusting your chin-ups and rows to give your those coveted huge arms. A few years ago, everybody tried to do that, but the fad’s luckily passing.
For those not intimately familiar with the happenings of the brosphere: do some isolation work for your biceps. Even more than just “some” is fine, too. Push yourself on those big movements I mentioned in the previous tips, but don’t forget to give your smaller muscles their fair share of attention, too.
Things like basic bicep curls work nicely, done with a bar or with dumbbells. The variations are numerous. Simply pick one or two that you like most, that also allow you to use a decent amount of weight. Train them at least twice a week. Or, you can pick different movements for the second workout if you like. In any case, do them mostly for reps in the 8-15 range, for at least 3 sets each.
Ignore your Ego
Regarding the “decent amount of weight”: that simply means picking a reasonable movement that does not force you to work against asinine leverages. Simply put: choose a normal curl of some kind. The weight itself does not matter, as long as it forces you to work hard.
Nobody cares how much you bicep curl – that’s what the bench is for. Increases in curl-weight every now and then are good, yeah, but don’t chase them at all costs. If they come easily – good for you. If they don’t, who cares.
Instead, try to increase your training volume first. Do more sets in a week (the easiest way), more sets in a workout (harder), or more reps per set (the hardest, but usually still easier than adding weight).
Focusing on technique can also be a huge factor. No need to get obsessed with it, but sometimes lowering the weights a bit to really focus on making the right muscles work can pay huge dividends. This is especially true with biceps training. It’s very easy to use a bit of momentum to shift the main stress anywhere but where it’s supposed to be.
Don’t do that. Move like you’re supposed to move, instead of flailing around like a windmill.
Things like pump work, burn, or feeling the muscle have gotten a bad rap recently.
And partly for a reason. They probably shouldn’t be the prime focus of your entire workout, at least for most of the time. However, when it comes to biceps training – they work.
In case your brocabulary is lacking, here’s a quick rundown:
Pump = getting your temporarily swollen, typically with light-ish weights with lots of sets and reps. Requires some muscle mass and a decent body-fat level to actually be visible. Several combinations of these two factors can work by the way – mountain-sized behemoths can be a bit chubbier.
Burn = the burning feeling you get in your muscles when working them hard enough. Commonly understood to be due to lactic acid build-up, which incidentally also is one factor driving muscle growth. A minor factor it seems, but a factor nonetheless.
Feeling the muscle = mind-muscle connection = intense mental focus on the particular muscle being worked. It actually seems to increase muscle fiber activation, at least according to some studies. Probably not worth it in bigger movements, but still a good idea to consider for the smaller ones.
Stupid Training also Works
In a supplementary role at least. Mind you, I mean the right kind of stupid – not the kind that gets you kicked out of the gym. Or hurt.
Maybe an example will clarify this division. Here’s something that worked for me: a two-month block of high-frequency biceps training on top of normal training.
Here’s how you can do it. On the first day, do a set of 20 reps. Ridiculous light weights, that is. The next day, do 21, and 22 the day after that. Keep on adding a rep per day, until you do a set of 80 reps on day 60.
The starting weight is already so light, that this kind of progression is very well doable. You may need to add some body English on the last few weeks, but that’s fine. Your pain tolerance will be sorely tested, though. So consider yourself warned.
Or, simply throw an ultra-high-rep set to the end of your training session. Something in the excess of 50.
These kind of very high-rep biceps training also appears to have the benefit of keeping your elbows healthy. Weird, but it works. To give credit where it’s due: this is where I first learned about this one.
But, just please don’t make your entire workout focused on this. See tip number 2 in case you’ve forgotten.
Lose some Fat
Nobody can see your pipes if they’re covered in grease. Lose some chub.
Yes, your beloved arms will get smaller in the beginning, as the fat is melting away. But, once you get to the better side of the kneepoint…magic happens. That point varies from person to person, but it’s usually around 12 to 15 percent bodyfat for most males.
And the magic in question?
Every pound of fat you lose is instantly visible on your arms. Veins and definition appearing literally overnight. The pumps you get from the gym seem to be getting better and better. (Well they might, due to the perhaps-increased insulin sensitivity and biochemical stuff like that, but mostly the effect’s purely visual). Oh and by the way – the same applies to each and every muscle in your body. Lose some fat, and watch the definition to appear.
Have another tip?
Let us know in the comments!
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