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Biceps Exercises: High Versus Low Reps

author image Paul J. Fabritz
Paul J. Fabritz is the founder of PJF Performance LLC, a fitness company based in Tempe, Ariz. Fabritz specializes in athletic performance enhancement, and is certified through the NSCA-CPT, ACE and FMS.
Biceps Exercises: High Versus Low Reps
Growing bigger biceps requires multiple rep ranges. Photo Credit: Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Many gym goers believe that training the biceps through high repetition weight training is the best thing since the invention of protein powder. However, others may strictly use low repetitions and stand by their methods like a proud father of a new born. The truth is, everyone has different goals, which you can achieve through the use of specific optimal repetition ranges.

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Biceps Building Plan

Before you decide how you want to train your biceps, you first must examine your goals. Ask yourself whether you want to improve strength and grow bigger biceps or to increase their muscular endurance. To grow bigger, stronger biceps, you need to train with heavy weights using low to moderate repetition sets. If muscular endurance is the goal, train with lighter weights utilizing high repetition sets. If you're pursuing muscular strength and endurance, train with both rep ranges alternating by workout or by monthly cycle.

High Rep for Improved Endurance

Using a light weight while performing 15 to 25 repetitions is ideal for improving muscular endurance in your biceps. This high repetition strength training targets the slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are built for endurance. In addition to working the slow-twitch muscle fibers, high reps increase blood flow and improve the biceps' oxygen utilization.

Jaw-Dropping Biceps

If you would like to improve strength and fill out your shirt, you'll need to stay in the six to 12 repetition range using moderate to heavy weights. This targets the fast-twitch muscle fibers, which have the most potential for growth. Performing heavy chinups or biceps curls in this repetition range helps you develop larger biceps; however, keep in mind that low repetition weight training induces greater muscle damage and requires a longer recovery period between biceps workouts.

Best of Both Worlds

If your goal is to achieve balanced muscular strength and muscular endurance, you need to mix up your rep ranges. Beginner and intermediate exercisers may benefit from a linear periodization -- focusing on high repetition training for four weeks and then performing lower repetition during the next four weeks. Advanced exercisers can experiment with undulating periodization -- alternating high repetition and low repetition strength training each workout. Allow your biceps 36 to 48 hours of rest in between workouts for best results.

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  • The Biophysical Foundations of Human Movement; Bruce Abernethy, et al.
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