The Forgotten Principles of Bicep Training

The principals of hypertrophy are all fairly constant across the entire body, but when you’re talking about building muscle and specifically bicep training, you need to remember two things.

1) The first thing you’re going to do with the information is try to build bigger arms.

2) Biceps training has some key principals that may not be totally unique to their growth, but definitely apply to them to a larger degree than other muscle groups. These key principals seem to be all but forgotten when you look around your neighbourhood gym as well, but that is what I’m here to fix.

Building up the biceps has become something of a guilty pleasure lately. In some circles, just the simple act of direct arm training is considered laughable. But yet, if you took an anonymous poll I BET you almost every male and many females would rank a muscular set of arms towards the top of the list of their physique goals.

Because of this stigma around the desire for big muscular arms, it seems that no one is interested in this goal anymore. At least not many people are admitting it. It just isn’t ‘OK’ to list “jacked arms” among your top fitness goals anymore.

Because of this, most fitness information is steering away from this goal. Everything revolves around fixing the ‘butt wink’, or trunk rotation training vs. anti-rotation training. And I get that, its cool, applicable and necessary stuff. But what about the people who just want a big ol’ set of jacks for arms? 

Well this one is for you.

We are going to get into the key principles in building a big muscular pair of arms. Some of these are common knowledge, and some of these are all but forgotten. If you put it all together, and most importantly execute it, you will be well on your way to seriously testing the integrity of your t-shirt sleeves.

#1 Get Strong at the Compound Movements

In particular, upper body pulling movements. This is number one for a reason, and it’s number one by a landslide. You need to get impressively strong in the upper body compound movements (presses and pulls) in order to build big arms. This is like the cake, and everything else I list after #1 is like the icing.

Focus on exercises like a variety of pull-up variations (underhand should be the focus if big arms are your goal), and heavy barbell and dumbbell rows.

Apply the above listed exercises to the hypertrophy range, which is between 35-50 reps. The following set/rep schemes are very powerful for muscle growth: 6×6, 4×8, 5×10, 3×15.

#2 Time Under Tension

This is one of those principals that applies to all muscle groups, but is especially important when training your biceps.

The muscles that flex the elbow (biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis) respind very well to prolonged time under tension. This means using either higher reps or slower reps in order to get the desired time under tension. Shoot for anywhere between 30-60 secs of time under tension per set. If you have been shy of this time under tension range for a long time, you will notice some rapid gains in biceps growth once applying this method.

Why do most people only perform sets that last 10-15 seconds? Because performing a set for 30-60 seconds takes guts. Its long, grueling, and it burns. But I promise the return on that investment is very high, and worth every second.

#3 Constant Tension

This one piggy backs off of the last point about time under tension. It isn’t enough that you maintain your set for 30-60 seconds, you also need to make sure that tension is constant. This will take some focus and mindfulness during your set.

If you are simply completing reps without being completely focused and mindful of muscular tension, then naturally you will find points to rest during the movement. Usually this is either at the top or the bottom of the movement, and eliminating this rest point will effect your ability to perform as many reps as usual. This is why this principal is often ignored in favor of more weight and more reps.

However, when building big biceps, this is a principal you absolutely should apply. Focus on the tension your biceps are under during your pull ups, rows and curls, and make sure there isn’t a moment at any point during your 30-60 second set that you let that tension go in order to catch a split second rest or alleviate the pain of the burning sensation you’re feeling.

This is the zone not many are willing to enter, and this is why not many are successful in building jacks for arms.

Let’s spin that the other way. The above principals are the reason you WILL be successful in building up big muscular arms. These three principals are the difference makers, and if executed with force, will be the reason your arms won’t fit your polo shirt sleeves anymore.

Bicep Training

By Fitmo Coach, Mitch Heaslip

Mitch is going to get you into the best shape of your life! But what’s his secret? Mitch has developed solid methods that work for both men and women in losing weight and building muscle. With his very flexible approach, Mitch can tailor his methods to anyone. When it comes to building strength, muscle, and losing fat, his approach is second to none!

Learn more about Mitch, and working with him via the Fitmo app here.