For maximum bicep growth and strength gains, IFBB Men's Physique Pro and KM athlete Daushon McGregor recommends working through two primary rep and set ranges: 4 sets of 10-15 reps and 3 or 4 sets of four to eight reps. “Switching between the set and rep ranges can help overcome plateaus,” he explains.
The biceps and triceps should be trained using rep ranges between 5-20 reps to best maximize strength, muscle growth, and overall development of the muscles.
The Minimum Effective Volume (MEV) for biceps requires you to perform at least eight sets of direct bicep workouts per week. It means that you need to complete eight sets of biceps throughout the week.
Three sets are not enough to build muscle. Increasing the number of sets of each exercise, even while only performing 10 reps, can build muscle because you will be pushing your muscles to fatigue because they are under tension longer.
2 Studies by Barbalho et al. (2018, 2019) find that when training a muscle only once per week and trying to train to true momentary muscle failure, the optimal training volume is only 5-10 sets per week. Groups doing 15 and 20 sets per week achieved worse muscle and strength gains.
“But to build bigger biceps and triceps you have to focus on perfect form, moving through a full range of motion and, crucially, never lifting too heavy. The key to adding arm size is to getting a good pump through lifting lighter for longer – and executing every rep as perfectly as possible.”
When designing a routine, choose three to four different biceps exercises, doing each for three sets of 12 reps. You can also do them as part of a circuit, performing one bicep exercise after the next with no rest. You will generally need to go lighter for this, but will definitely feel the burn.
For instance, our biceps grow best when we train them with a mix of chin-ups and biceps curls. Dr Israetel also points out that weekly volume needs to be split up intelligently over multiple training sessions, with around 4–12 sets coming from each workout.
The number of exercises that make an effective arm workout can range from 1-3 movements per session, with any more than that resulting in excessive fatigue and inconsistent form and technique.
There are two main training errors people make that keep their biceps from growing. These are overtraining the biceps (often unintentionally) and a lack of variation in training techniques. Adding additional biceps focused workouts and trying multiple biceps exercises doesn't work.
Through weightlifting exercises, you may be able to put an inch of muscle on your biceps in a week. You may be able to gain another inch in two weeks, but soon your body will plateau and you won't see that kind of growth every week.
Biceps are best suited for intermediate reps. High reps tend to make them look flatter once the pump subsides, but very low reps aren't effective at stimulating maximum growth.
Howell is a fan of relatively light weight and high volume (reps in the 12 to 15 range) for biceps training, as the volume will tax both slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers over time. Incorporating a large variety of biceps exercises performed with high sets and high reps will also help you build bigger arm muscles.
To ensure that your muscles have time to recover between sessions, aim for two to three bicep workouts per week. As for the number of sets, most experts recommend three to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions.
Typically, it takes around 6-8 weeks for you to start noticing changes in the appearance of your arms. At around the 12 week mark, this is typically when you can expect to see more significant changes, especially if you didn't already have a large amount of muscle mass in the area!
There is no set weight to start with when using dumbbells, some people may feel comfortable beginning at 5kg and others at 15kg. It is important to start with a manageable weight, nothing too light or too heavy, as you want to be able to feel some impact.
Overtraining arms is easily done. You often involve biceps and forearms during back training, with triceps getting a beating on chest day. If you're on a split that has you train through the entire body twice per week you could be hitting the same muscles almost every day, directly or indirectly.
Generally speaking, 16 inch arms are a respectable size. In fact, anything over 14.6 inches is above average for men. And over 13.4 inches is above average for women. However, you might want to be more than “above average”.
Recommendations suggesting 12-20 total work sets per week for intermediate lifters. Performing as little as 6-8 sets per week can also suffice for some lifters who are performing a lot of pulling, as the biceps are also responsible for this movement.
Since you'll be doing a fair amount of biceps work daily, you won't do anything else for biceps for 3-4 weeks. You'll get significant growth, and the daily heavy work will increase your biceps' capacity to recruit its fast-twitch fibers, making your bi's even more responsive to training after those 3-4 weeks.