Just about anyone who steps foot into a gym has a goal of building an impressive set of arms. Now, you might not want to have biceps the size of the Terminator, but you’d definitely like them to look toned and well-developed.
Still, many individuals struggle to get results from their biceps training for a myriad of reasons.
Here are 9 mistakes sabotaging your biceps training.
Top 9 Things to Avoid While Training Your Biceps
Calories are king when it comes to building muscle or losing fat.
Basically, if you want to gain weight (i.e. build muscle), then you have to eat more calories than you burn each day.
One of the main reasons that many gym rats fail to see significant results from the biceps training (or any other muscle group for that matter) is that they simply don’t eat enough calories to support muscle growth.
Remember, lifting weights simply provides the stimulus your muscles need to grow. Calories are what actually do the growing.
If you need help figuring out how many calories you need to gain muscle (or lose fat), click here.
#2 You’re Not Training Your Biceps
This might seem a bit paradoxical (or obvious, depending on how you look at it), but in order to build bigger biceps, you do need to train them directly (i.e. isolation movements).
A lot of the “functional fitness” pundits will say that all that you need to grow big arms is to do a lot of rows and pull ups (compound exercises). And, make no mistake, those movements will help increase the size of your biceps (since the biceps are involved in all pulling movements), to some degree.
However, to grow your biceps to their full potential (as well as make them as strong as possible), you need to train them directly with various types of curls. You need to look no further than the individuals who have the biggest biceps on the planet -- bodybuilders.
How do you think they got their biceps to be that big? -- training them directly with various curls (and lots of consistency and proper nutrition, too). Therefore, if you want to maximally grow your arms, you need to train them with exercises that directly emphasize them, which in the case of the biceps are curls.
#3 Training Your Biceps Too Much
Going from one end of the spectrum to the other are individuals who train their biceps far too often.
Yes, it is important to train a muscle group if you want it to grow, and some research indicates that training muscles more frequently (2-3x per week) may be superior to less frequent training (1x per week) for growth.
But, that doesn’t mean you should train a muscle group every day of the week.
No muscle will grow if it’s continually getting beaten down by heavyweights and high volume training, regardless of how much you’re eating and sleeping.
The body needs time to recover, repair, and grow, and that can’t take place if you’re training your biceps hard and heavy each day.
If you’re currently training your biceps more than four days per week, consider dialing back the frequency and volume of your training. You just might be surprised to see your arms start growing!
#4 Neglecting Your Triceps
Another big reason individuals struggle to grow big arms is that they neglect to train their triceps.
We realize the point of this article is about growing the biceps but did you know that the triceps account for ~⅔ of the upper arm mass?
What that means is that if you want to have really impressive arms (the kind that makes people stop in their tracks and take notice), then you want to train your triceps at least as hard as your biceps.
#5 Not Using Compound Movements
Earlier we mentioned that to grow your biceps to their fullest extent, you need to perform some isolation movements to target them directly.
However, this doesn’t negate the importance of including compound pulling exercises in your training.
Isolation movements cannot be loaded nearly as heavily as compound movements, which ultimately limits the loading you can use on an exercise.
Since compound exercises involve multiple muscle groups, you can use heavier weights which will expose your biceps to greater amounts of tension, ultimately helping spur greater muscle growth.
#6 Skipping Leg Day
The last place you probably thought you’d hear about training legs was an article about biceps training.
Well, pay attention, because this pointer is something you’ll definitely want to keep in mind.
Research shows that training legs before arms exercises led to bigger, stronger biceps after 11 weeks of training compared to only performing arm exercises.
Part of the reason for this is that compound exercises (squats, lunges, deadlifts), elicit greater spikes in anabolic hormones like testosterone and growth hormone which help support greater muscle growth.
If for no other reason to not skip leg day, do it for your biceps!
#7 Not Varying Volume
We’re all guilty of getting comfortable in our training and following the same old paradigms we’ve done for years.
In the case of biceps training, this usually amounts to 3-4 sets of an exercise for 8-12 reps (the “hypertrophy” zone).
While this approach may work for a time, eventually you’ll reach a plateau and need to tweak your training if you want to keep your biceps growing.
Feel free to expand beyond your current training volume. Experiment with high rep sets and low rep sets. Research has shown that muscle growth can happen across a broad spectrum of rep ranges.
Therefore, if you want to take a more scientific approach to build massive arms, try incorporating both high, moderate, and low rep biceps work in your weekly training.
#8 Performing the Same Exercises
Building off the previous point, you can’t continually do the same thing and expect to see new results. In the case of muscle growth, you need to progressively overload them through a mix of tension, volume, and/or exercise variation.
Most biceps routines call for barbell curls and some dumbbell curl variation, but you don’t have to be limited to just those two exercises.
You can try using kettlebells, EZ-bar, bands, or a cable machine. Each of these training implements provides a unique challenge for your muscles that will shock the system and spark new growth.
#9 Not Forging an Iron Grip
The stronger your grip is, the heavier weights you can handle, which ultimately allows you to overload your muscles to a greater extent.
In your pursuit of bodacious biceps, don’t forget to increase your grip strength as that will enable you to lift heavier dumbbells, barbells, EZ-bars during your curling movements.
Some of our favorite grip-strengthening exercises are farmer’s walks (loaded carries), sled drags, heavy deadlifts & rows, and using fat grips or thick bars on other exercises.
- Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J, Krieger J. How many times per week should a muscle be trained to maximize muscle hypertrophy? A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies examining the effects of resistance training frequency. J Sports Sci. 2019;37(11):1286-1295. doi:10.1080/02640414.2018.1555906
- Rønnestad BR, Nygaard H, Raastad T. Physiological elevation of endogenous hormones results in superior strength training adaptation. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011;111(9):2249-2259. doi:10.1007/s00421-011-1860-0