Nothing says “Bro, you’re jacked!” like big arms. At least, that’s what us guys tell ourselves. Filling out a sleeve when you put on a shirt is the ultimate milestone especially for someone who struggled to add size their whole life.
C’mon Arms! Don’t let me down!
A funny thing about biceps, that even I have trouble accepting today. They get plenty of stimulus from all the pulling work you (should) be doing for back.
Lesson One - If you have 15+ sets/week of direct bicep work, and your biceps STILL aren’t growing? You’re doing too much
The Reality - What seems like 15 sets to you, actually becomes 20-25+ sets when you factor in that every time you do pull-ups, rows, lat pulls, etc. The biceps are still getting a lot of stimulus from those. Sure they aren’t as direct as a curl, but 6 sets of back work should really be seen more as 3 extra sets of bicep work added to your weekly volume. If you are doing 15+ weekly sets, try lowering it to 8-10 weekly sets (that includes back work. Just count those as half the amount).
Lesson Two - If you don’t feel the muscle working, it isn’t being maximally stimulated. For such a small muscle group, I find this rule even more important because it’s so easy to forget.
The Reality - Focus on being able to hit a peak contraction on each exercise. Play around with SLIGHT changes to the angle to see if you feel a better contraction more in different areas. Being a smaller muscle group you can take these exercises and reps to failure. It is not as taxing on the nervous system, so as long as you find you are recovering and making progress week to week you should be at least only leaving 1-2 reps left in the tank.
Tension should never leave that muscle during a set. No more quick breath breaks when you have the weights down on a curl so you can get ready to swing it for the next rep. The bicep needs to ALWAYS be flexed even at the bottom. Act as though, if you stop flexing your bicep at any given point, you are no longer allowed to continue the lift. You’ll get humbled real quick as to how much weight you can actually handle. That’s ok, that means there is so much untapped muscle gain around the corner now.
The New Plan
I have other articles on body parts and specific programming, so feel free to check those out if you need a full overhaul. For those who like their current program, but need a checklist to make sure they’re maximizing the muscle growth potential here’s what you NEED in your program to guarantee leg growth. Without these your legs WON’T grow.
Sample Routine - These can be added into your workout day that you see fits. Usually a pull day, back/bi day, or full body.
Bicep Day 1
Barbell Bicep curl - 2 sets of 6-8
Dumbbell Hammer Curl - 2 sets of 6-8
Bicep Day 2 (make sure to have 1-2 days of no bicep or pulling work in between these two days)
Preacher Curl - 2 sets of 6-8
Dumbbell Curl - 2 sets of 6-8
I know this probably looks like a LOT less than you are used to, but keep in mind this is still 8 total weekly sets. If you are training back you likely have somewhere around at LEAST 12-15 sets (which equates to 6-7 extra sets of secondary bicep work). You want QUALITY of quantity.
-Because we are lowering the direct sets, MAKE IT COUNT. FLEX, FLEX, FLEX ALL THE TIME!
-Only add weight when you can KEEP that steady, always flexed pace throughout the full range of motion, at a given weight for 6-8 reps. The moment you can’t stay constantly squeezed for the entire range will show your current work capacity. This is a good thing cause it shows you are actually working for once.
-You should feel a little sore the next day. If you are so sore you can barely curl your arms, pull back 2 sets. If you don’t feel soreness at all, add 1-2 sets. A little soreness is a great sign. It means you are now hitting the target area and signaling growth.