Your biceps do a lot of work outside of the gym every day, helping you to bend your arm and lift things. They're the focal point of a nicely developed arm. Big and muscular or toned with less size, whichever look you prefer, it's difficult to know how often you should work your bi's without consulting a personal trainer. And always consult your doctor before beginning this or any new exercise or weightlifting regimen.
Whether you want to build big muscles or want to tone and sculpt without building size, Matt Siaperas, an Idaho personal trainer and owner of Hardbodies Gym, advises working biceps twice a week. You have to allow time between biceps workouts for your muscles to rest and repair, so Siaperas recommends a three-day split beginning with biceps and back on day one, legs on day two, chest, shoulders and triceps on day three, then taking a rest day before starting over with back and biceps again on day five.
You may be impatient about seeing some size in your upper arms, but if you work your biceps more often than every 72 hours, you run the risk of over-training them. Not only will this cause you to plateau in your muscle growth, but you'll run the risk of injuring your biceps or tearing your tendons. Injuries to your biceps and the related tendons are more likely to occur if you overtrain them in the gym because you also use them for everyday tasks outside the gym.
Toning Versus Building Size
If your goal is to tone and not build your upper arms, you might think that twice-a-week biceps workouts are too frequent. However, if you only train your biceps once a week, you'll lose any gains you've made by allowing too much time to pass between workouts. Exercise your biceps twice a week no matter what your goals are; just work them differently than you would if you wanted to build muscle. For toning, perform 3 sets of each biceps exercise with a lighter weight, one that you can lift for 12 to 15 reps. You won't want to step up the weight often, either. To build size, lift heavier weights. Still do three sets, but only complete 8 to 12 reps in your size-building routine. Again, consult a fitness professional for the final word.
Change Up the Workouts
Keeping your muscles guessing is an effective way to stay on track with your goals and avoid plateaus. Perform different exercises and in a different order each time you do a biceps workout. For example, you could do hammer curls, concentration curls and barbell curls one week, then switch to alternating dumbbell curls, reverse grip barbell curls and preacher curls the next week. For muscle building, change up the weight and reps, too. Go heavy on your first biceps day, lifting the usual amount you can repeat for 8 to 12 reps. Increase the weight amount by about 5 percent if you aren't fatigued by the 12th rep. On the second biceps day of your training week, decrease your heavy amount by approximately 5 percent. This will allow you to do more reps, at least 12 to 15. Again, these are just general guidelines; consult a fitness professional to find the best plan for you.
- ShapeFit.com: Muscle Building Questions
- Men's Body Sculpting; Nick Evans
- Human Kinetics: Tips to Tone the Biceps or the Triceps in the Gym or at Home
- The Men's Health Hard Body Plan; Editors of Men's Health
- Matt Siaperas: Former Body Builder and Personal Trainer, Hardbodies Gym, Blackfoot, Idaho
- Teens Health: Proximal Biceps Tendonitis