Biceps Blast: Training Tips for Better Arms

Q: My biceps are a weak point. How can I get them to respond? Should I train them more frequently or use more sets? Help!

A: First, don’t fall into the trap of thinking a higher training volume will bring about better muscular development. You must realize that it’s the quality, not the quantity, of training that breeds results. This is particularly true of the biceps, which are heavily active in exercises for the back, as well as some chest movements, and therefore get significant ancillary work during these movements. And given that the biceps is a small muscle complex that’s easily overtrained, you should heed the adage that less is more and keep volume to no more than about six to nine total sets per week.

That said, a couple of strategies can be used to maximize biceps development. For one, you should train them from multiple angles. The biceps has two heads: a short head and a long head. Exercises in which your arms are extended behind the body (such as incline curls) will stress the long head; exercises in which your arms are in front of your body (such as preacher curls) focus more on the short head; and exercises in which your arms are at your sides (such as straight bar curls) involve fairly equal activation of both heads. Best results are achieved by using a combination of these types of movements, selectively varying your exercises from one workout to the next.

Moreover, it can be beneficial to prioritize the biceps and train them first in your routine. This will ensure that you are fresh and have the energy to commit total intensity to the lagging muscle group. When you employ this strategy, make sure to structure your routine so that your biceps are not trained on the same day as your back or chest. As previously stated, exercises for the back and chest require significant biceps involvement and, by pre-fatiguing the biceps, you’ll compromise their ability to sustain performance.

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Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., CSCS, CSPS, FNSCA is an internationally renowned fitness expert and widely regarded as one of the leading authorities on training for muscle development and fat loss. He is a lifetime drug-free bodybuilder, and has won numerous natural bodybuilding titles. He has published over 60 peer-reviewed studies on various exercise- and nutrition-related topics. Brad is a best-selling author of multiple fitness books including The M.A.X. Muscle Plan (Human Kinetics, 2012), which has been widely referred to as the “muscle-building bible” and Strong and Sculpted (Human Kinetics, 2016), which details a cutting-edge, body-sculpting program targeted to women. Brad also has authored the seminal textbook Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy (Human Kinetics, 2016), the first text devoted to an evidence-based elucidation of the mechanisms and strategies for optimizing muscle growth. In total, Brad’s books have sold over a half-million copies. For more information, visit For more information, visit

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