How to Get Bigger Biceps

Posted March 20, 2009 in Your Questions 5 Comments »
Your Questions
Your Questions

I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.

Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.

From now on I want to take a more proactive approach to answering Your Health Questions by posting them separately in the blog. This way we can be sure that everyone benefits from the Q & A.

JD wrote:

“I know you don’t approve of an “arms” day, but I’ve always had more trouble adding mass and strength to my arms, as opposed to my torso.

I started including an arms day into my routine for the past 4 or 5 weeks in an effort to combat my naturally scrawny arms. I’ve seen definite progress with my triceps, but no matter what I do, I can’t seem to improve my biceps.

I do several relevant compound exercises during the rest of the week (chin-ups, bent-over barbell rows, close-grip cable rows, etc.), in addition to my arms workout.

Any thoughts or suggestions? FYI: I’m 6’0, 165 pounds. Thanks!”


Arnold Biceps
Arnold – King of Biceps

You are right, I do not recommend an “arm day”. You might have a day where you focus hard on triceps and add in some biceps, but that sounds like about a 25-30 minute workout to me, unless you are building your triceps workout around these 5 best triceps exercises.

But enough of that. I will not tell you what not to do. Instead I have 10 suggestions, which I’ve presented below in order of importance:

  1. Are you eating?
    At 6’0, 165 lbs, you are either shredded or skinny. If you want to get bigger, eat more and train heavy. There’s no reason you can’t be 190 lbs and still be shredded at 6’0. Up your protein intake throughout the day, your carb intake around workouts, and make sure you’re getting proper post workout nutrition.
  2. Are you squatting?
    If not, start squatting. Your upper body won’t grow if your lower body isn’t growing. Check out the best leg exercises for quads.
  3. Are you deadlifting?
    If not, start deadlifting. Checkout the best hamstring exercises.
  4. Are you overtraining your biceps?
    Biceps are a small muscle. Smaller than the triceps by half. If you are overtraining them with all that back work and an arms day, that might be why they are not growing.
  5. Do you need increased frequency?
    I often promote frequency over volume. Instead of working biceps on “arm day” [ ::shudders:: ] work biceps literally every other day, for example Mon/Weds/Fri.

    There’s no need to do more than 2 sets of 2 exercises each day, but for a period of maybe 6 weeks you could try throwing in a hammer curl type movement and a straight or rotating biceps curl type movement interspersed or superset with other exercises. Just don’t train bis before back.

  6. Are you lifting heavy enough?
    If you have been doing hypertrophy training for biceps (10-12 reps), switch to a strength building phase (3-7 reps) for 6 weeks.
  7. Are you lifting light enough?
    If you always do 5-7 reps on biceps, switch to a hypertrophy phase for 6 weeks.
  8. Are you too structured?
    If you always train with sets under 15 reps, try something new. Once a week try running the rack, 21s, isometrics, or adding resistance bands.
  9. Do you always train with weights?
    If all you do is lift barbells, dumbbells, cables, and machines, maybe you could try Kettlebells, Springs, Bands, Chains, Chairs, Medicine Balls, Sandbags, Rocks, Trees, Cinder Blocks, or even Another Person. Switch it up!
  10. Do you ever prioritize back?
    I realize you do include great back exercises, but do you ever prioritize you back?

    I’m talking about training back first thing, on the first workout of each week.

    I’m talking about adding one horizontal and one vertical back exercise into each workout (assuming you train Mon/Weds/Fri).

    I’m talking about working diligently at making your bent over row stronger than your flat bench press.

    Yes, it can be done, and yes your biceps will go to root if you do this.

Your best bet is to use all of these tips at various times throughout the year. Try that and let me know how you fare!

In addition, refer to a previous post regarding the best biceps exercises and another regarding the best back exercises.

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5 Responses to “How to Get Bigger Biceps”

  1. I m 5’8 and i weigh 165lbs, I want to build big arms. The workouts i hv been doing are:
    Incline Dumbbell curls, Alternate Dumbbell curls, Concentration curls,skullcrushers and tricep extensions. 4 sets and 12 reps for each workouts, 4 times a week. I would like to know if this routine is suitable for me or do i need to make any changes?

  2. Great information, Steve! I love the fact that you discourage “arm days”. An entire workout for a muscle group smaller than fist? jeez.

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