We all want bigger biceps, well maybe not all of us – but certainly the important people out there!
One of the most common exercises you see in the gym are bicep curls, they’re probably only second behind bench presses.
So how come so few people have huge biceps then? Well the main reason is that a lot of people tend to make big bicep mistakes that limit growth.
In this article we are going to look at some of the most common mistakes, and attempt to fix them. Leaving you with the boulder biceps you always dreamed about.
Mistake #1. Range of Motion
This is not so much a mistake, but pure laziness or ego. Having a poor range of motion during a bicep curl will prevent you from getting optimal growth. This is because less muscle fibres will be activated, meaning there will be less muscle damage. Having less muscle damage will result in less hypertrophy.
In 2014 a study by McMahon et al found that full range of motion delivered greater strength and hypertrophy gains when compared to shortened range of motion .
Even though the shortened range of motion allowed for a heavier load to be used. Meaning that you quarter rep barbell bicep curl at 70kg is going to be less effective than a full rep bicep curl – even if the weight was 40kg or less!
Mistake #2. Ignoring Compound Lifts
When most people think about bicep exercises, they normally think about isolation movements such as the bicep curl. But there are many compound exercises (movements that work multiple muscles at once) that also work the biceps.
Not only are these a great way to cut down the amount of exercises required, but they are also a great way to train the individual muscles.
For example the underhand pull up (or chin up) mainly works the muscles of the upper back, but also works the biceps. In fact the humble chin up may have some advantages as you are now lifting your bodyweight, you are also completing a full range of motion for the biceps.
Try adding pull up, chin ups, and underhand bent over rows into your program and you should start seeing rapid results.
Mistake #3. Getting your Rep Ranges wrong
Whilst you can get hypertrophy using any rep range, a lot of fitness coaches believe that some muscles respond better to certain rep ranges depending on their muscle fibre type.
It is believed that the bicep muscles respond best to low rep, heavy weights rather than high reps and low weight. This is because the Bicep Brachii muscle is made up of 60-65% type II muscle fibres .
This does not mean that you can’t mix it up rep-wise, adding the occasional drop-set or back off set could really upgrade your session.
But if you don’t have some heavy-as-hell bicep curls (performed with full range of motion of course) then you are definitely making a big mistake.
Mistake #4. Not being Consistent
Clearly all those gym bros who train arms 4 days a week aren’t being inconsistent, but a lot of gym-goers are. Particularly those of you who place more emphasis on strength training or Olympic lifting.
Whilst this article is absolutely not going to say that prioritising strength training over hypertrophy is wrong, you won’t get particularly big biceps if you don’t devote some time to them each week.
If you want bigger biceps, you need to treat these muscles like you would any other. Put them into your program, don’t skip them when you’re running out of time or because you’re getting bored.
Most of all, look to progress your bicep exercises. Try to hit personal records each session – like you would for deadlifts.
Mistake #5. Ignoring the rest of your arms
Did you know that your triceps make up more than 50% of your arm muscles? With between 12 and 17% also coming from the Brachialis muscles, you might not want to place all of your effort on the Biceps Brachii (which only takes up around 25%).
You should train your arm muscles in this order: Triceps, Biceps, and then forearms. Great exercises for triceps would include close-grip bench press (go heavy), dips, skull crushers, and pressdowns.
Great exercises for the biceps would be chin ups, bicep curls, underhand bent over rows, and you could perform hammer curls to hit the biceps and forearms.
Other things to consider
Don’t forget that you still need to recover from your session, sleeping 8 hours a night is a great way to improve recovery which can help with hypertrophy.
You also need to increase your protein intake, in fact if you’re really looking to build your biceps then you’ll want to avoid dieting. Being in a calorie surplus is the best way to build biceps (whilst still training them obviously).
Also remember not to over-train them. Give them at least a day’s rest before hitting them again.
 McMahon, G., Morse, C., Burden, A., Winwood, K., Onambélé, G. 2014. Impact of range of motion during ecologically valid resistance training protocols on muscle size, subcutaneous fat, and strength. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28(1): 245-55