Estimated Read Time: 13 minutes

“MY BICEPS AREN’T GROWING…”

Have you ever felt that no matter how much you trained your biceps you’re left saying… “My Biceps STILL Aren’t Growing?”

I believe I know exactly why and I’ll share with you the main reasons why your bicep training is failing you.

Guys, I’ve got to be honest with you here.

When I was younger my biceps were my biggest trouble spot.

I had skinny arms.

At one point they were almost non-existent!

It was through my perseverance in wanting to build bigger biceps that I made a whole hell of a lot of mistakes, but I ultimately wound up being able to increase the size of my arms thanks to what I learned in the process.

So, what I want to do is help YOU today.

I’ll tell you the two biggest reasons why your biceps aren’t growing and more importantly, I’ll help you fix it with three biceps building techniques for fast growth!

biceps muscle anatomy including long head, short head and brachialis

2 BIGGEST REASONS YOUR BICEPS WON’T GROW

There are two biceps training mistakes you’re probably making that may be keeping your biceps from growing.

  1. Many people overtrain the biceps without even realizing it!
  2. Most people have a lack of variation in bicep training techniques… and I’m not talking about exercises.  I mean techniques!

Let’s look at each of these mistakes in a little more detail.

REASON 1: OVERTRAINING IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK…

Many people think that more is better when it comes to training the biceps. However that’s not the case, especially since it is such a small muscle group. 

With biceps training frequency the first important thing we need to recognize is that the biceps are pretty limited in terms of their function.

They supinate the forearm, and you can see the bicep activate just by doing this.

FOREARM SUPINATION

One function of the biceps is to supinate the forearm.

Their biggest driver and function is to flex the elbow because of their attachment at the shoulder.

ELBOW FLEXION

The most important function of the biceps is elbow flexion.

They also have the ability to do some shoulder flexion because of the long head’s attachment at the top of the glenohumeral joint.

SHOULDER FLEXION

The biceps also contribute to shoulder flexion.

It’s important to realize that any time you’re bending your elbow in any back exercise or anything you do on your pull day including pullups, chin-ups, pulldowns, barbell rows, inverted rows, one-armed rows, you’re also working your biceps.

Believe it or not, your biceps are an incredibly small muscle, occupying only a very small portion of the anterior side of your arm. Because of all this accessory work, it’s easy to get too much volume in the biceps.

Any time you’re bending your elbow in any back exercise or anything you do on your pull day including pullups, chin-ups, pulldowns, barbell rows, inverted rows, one-armed rows, you’re also working your biceps.

Let’s say you’re training a push, pull, leg split and training each function twice a week. If you throw any direct bicep work in on top of that you’re actually hitting your biceps three times in that week and you’re not giving them enough time to recuperate.

Many people’s mistake is often to continue to add more and more frequency when you are trying to force a change in muscle size.  The right thing to do is to first step back, take away some volume and frequency and monitor how your body responds.

It’s not about protein synthesis every 48 hours!

It’s about giving that muscle group a chance to recover so that you can stimulate it again in a meaningful way. You don’t want to just coast through another half-assed workout, but actually hit it in a way that leads to progressive overload.

REASON 2: PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD… YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!

One of the keys to growing the biceps (or any muscle for that matter) is progressive overload.

Usually this comes in the form of adding weight to the exercises that you are doing, and increasing that weight over time.

Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon a muscle during training in order to achieve growth.

Some people try to add more and more biceps exercises as a form of stimulus overload to keep the gains coming.

But with the biceps this just doesn’t work!

When we’re trying to progressively overload the biceps, it’s important we remember that they are limited in their function.

The biceps have a hinge joint at the elbow that functions primarily to flex and extend the elbow.

Conversely, the shoulders are a ball and socket joint.

This means that exercise variety for shoulders is a lot greater than what we have for biceps. The shoulder joint has lots of different angles and planes that we can work in because of the variety of movement that the three-dimensional ball and socket joint provides.

Simply put, the hinge joint of the elbow dramatically limits our options for biceps exercises…

To a lot of different curls!

You’re curling with dumbbells, you’re curling with a barbell, you’re curling with a concentration curl, you’re curling with a preacher curl… you’re freaking curling no matter what you’re doing!

The hinge joint of the elbow dramatically limits our options for biceps exercises to a lot of different curls.

Take a look at all of these different types of curls, and you’ll see exactly what I mean!

BARBELL CURL

HAMMER CURL

PREACHER CURL

INCLINE CURL

CONCENTRATION CURL

You can see that the idea of switching up bicep exercises to create new overload isn’t going to work, because they’re all basically formed around the same movement at the elbow joint.

Not to mention…

Most biceps exercises are pretty limited in how much we weight we can add to them over time.

When is the last time you actually increased the amount of weight you’ve used on dumbbell curls?

If you have, how much have you really increased?

Progressive overload and overload in and of itself is pretty difficult to achieve with the biceps.

You need to do something dramatically different to stimulate those muscles, and that is to vary the way in which you’re performing your curls!

3 BICEPS GROWTH TECHNIQUES THAT WORK

Switching techniques is far more effective for biceps growth than adding more and more training days or exercises to your routine.

I’ll show you three ways to achieve progressive overload in the biceps.  The sliced reps technique will give you more time under tension and peak contraction.

The arc variation technique allows you to train to and through failure by manipulating the moment arm of the biceps as you fatigue.

Finally, the In10sity technique will show you how to use heavier weights on your curls and get more high intensity reps completed in a workout.

TECHNIQUE 1: SLICED REPS

This sliced reps technique gives you a great deal of time under tension and time under peak contraction.

This will help you intensify the curl and achieve progressive overload to increase your biceps mass.

To perform this technique, choose a weight you can normally use for 15 reps and perform a curl all the way to the top. When you come down, drop only 1/9 of the way.

You don’t have to get out your compass or your goniometer to figure out what that is!

Just drop it an estimated 1/9 of the way, and come back up to the top and contract.

On the next rep, drop down a little more to 2/9 of the way, then come back to the top. Then 3/9 and come back to the top. It will take you through all nine levels to get all the way to the bottom of the curl.

Then you’ll come all the way back up to the top and on the next round you slice it into 8 pieces. The following round is 7 pieces. When you get down to the round with 2 slices, you’re going down halfway, then coming back up to the top, then you’ll go all the way down, and your last rep is one full rep.

SLICED REPS

The sliced reps technique increases time under tension and time under peak contraction.

BENEFITS OF THE SLICED REPS TECHNIQUE:

  • Increased volume within a set
  • Increased number of contractions within in a set
  • More time under peak contraction in the curl because we return to it on every slice
  • Increased time under tension throughout the course of the set
  • Over the course of the ladder, you’re getting full range of motion in the exercise

TECHNIQUE 2: ARC VARIATION

The next technique in my bag of biceps tricks is arc variation. To understand it, I’m going to give you a short physics lesson.

I promise it will be short!

When we vary the arc of a movement, we can change the moment arm of the elbow joint and increase or decrease the force exerted on the biceps muscle.

What the heck is a ‘moment arm’?

moment arm is the length between a joint axis and the line of force acting on that joint. The longer the moment arm is the more load will be applied to the joint axis through leverage, and with a shorter moment arm, the load will be less.

moment arm of a biceps curl with definition, downward force of gravity, lever arm and axis of rotation

So what does this mean when we apply it to our curls?

When I perform a curl with my elbows in toward the front side of my ribcage and I use a long and complete range of motion, keeping my forearms as straight as possible, I’ve got a big long arc going.

This long moment arm for the biceps makes that weight feel extremely heavy and puts a great challenge on the biceps.

Once I hit fatigue, I don’t have to stop. Instead, I’ll bring my elbows in to my sides and continue pushing out reps. I’ve shortened that moment arm, effectively lightening that weight in my hands to allow me to keep going.

CHANGING THE MOMENT ARM

Changing the moment arm of the curl from longer to shorter will help you to continue to perform reps after fatiguing on the first position.

Then we can drop our arms back even more into a drag curl variation that really shortens the moment arm on the biceps. Not only that, it changes the strength curve of the exercise, so the most difficult part isn’t in the middle of the exercise, but instead at the peak contraction of the exercise.

The final arc variation in this technique is a drag curl which greatly shortens the moment arm on the biceps and also changes the strength curve to the peak contraction of the exercise.

BENEFITS OF THE ARC VARIATION TECHNIQUE

  • Manipulates the moment arm of the biceps as you fatigue
  • Intensifies the curl by allowing you to train to and through failure
  • The drag curl version changes the strength curve of the exercise to occur at peak contraction instead of at the middle

TECHNIQUE 3: IN10SITY

The In10sity technique allows you to increase the amount of productive reps you’re performing with a heavier weight.

To perform this technique we’ll first choose a weight that will allow us to get to failure in the five or six rep range. Then we rest pause for 10 seconds.

We don’t put the weight down.

We just rest pause.

You’ll see that after about 10 or 15 seconds you can crank out another three reps.  Then you rest again 10 to 15 seconds, and try for another two or three reps.  Then ultimately you’re getting into single reps.

If you do this for a five minute period of time, when you count the number of high intensity reps that you did with heavier weight in one five minute set, it’s going to be more than you probably did when you broke your sets up into the traditional three sets of 12.

IN10SITY

The In10sity technique allows you to complete more high intensity high weight reps in a single set.

BENEFITS OF THE IN10SITY TECHNIQUE

  • Allows for use of heavier weights on your curls
  • Accumulates more high intensity reps in a workout than a typical 3 sets of 12

Remember, it’s not varying your exercises or adding additional focused biceps days that will force the biceps to grow.  In fact, these things may work against you!  Instead, it’s the variation of the intensity techniques you’re using on those exercises that will matter the most.

As far as frequency goes, dial it back and see how you do. I promise you, you’ll probably see a better result from doing that than you will by adding more and more workouts.

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THE HIGHLIGHT REEL:
2 BIG REASONS YOUR BICEPS AREN'T GROWING

  1. 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.
  2. Adding additional biceps focused workouts and trying multiple biceps exercises doesn’t work. The biceps muscle is a hinge joint, so all biceps exercises are essentially just curls.
  3. For this reason, changing techniques is a better strategy for biceps growth than adding training days or additional exercises.
  4. There are three biceps training techniques that do work well to create progressive overload and grow the biceps. They are sliced reps, arc variation and in10sity.

The exercises by themselves NEVER make a workout complete. If you are looking for a program that takes you step by step to your fastest and best gains ever with all the sets, reps and TECHNIQUES that produce the fastest gains check out our ATHLEAN-X programs.

If arms are a tough-to-grow area for you, all of these techniques and more are built into my Ultimate Arms program. It’s not just arm training, but an entire program with a specialization for arms that helps you overcome all the mistakes I made. Build your biggest biceps possible in the shortest amount of time by training like an athlete and taking your intensity to a whole new level!

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