How Many Sets of Reps Should I Do When Working the Biceps?

Your biceps lie along the front of your arm and help to bend your elbow and raise your arm. Strengthening this muscle will increase the muscle definition of your arm as well as aid daily activities, such as lifting a baby or carrying groceries. To determine how many repetitions and sets you should do when working your biceps, you need to define your goals, or ideal outcome from exercise.

Reps and sets for biceps depends on your fitness goals. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

General Fitness Recommendations

To improve your general fitness level, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you train each muscle group, including your biceps, two to three times per week on nonconsecutive days. Choose one exercise and perform one set of eight to 12 repetitions. Use a resistance such as free weights, a biceps curl machine or even an exercise tube. The resistance should be challenging but allow you to complete your repetitions with proper form and technique.

Improving Strength

Muscular strength is the external force a specific muscle or group of muscles can exert. If you want to get stronger biceps you need to perform sets and repetitions that will cause you to challenge your muscles and lift heavier and heavier weight. For strength, perform two to six sets per biceps exercise for no more than six repetitions. It is also important to give your biceps adequate rest time between sets so that you can continue to lift heavy. Rest two to five minutes between your sets and increase the weight if you can do more than six reps. Strength-training workouts for your biceps should only be done one day per week.

Gaining Muscle Size

Getting big muscles is training for muscular hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is defined as the muscular enlargement that results from training. Bodybuilders are one group of athletes that train to have large, well-defined muscles. To get bigger biceps perform three to six sets of six to 12 repetitions per exercise. Rest 30 to 90 seconds between each set and choose a weight that allows you to perform the recommended number of repetitions while challenging your biceps. Adding size is challenging and will require time and consistency to see results. To build bigger muscles, do your biceps routine only one day per week.

Improving Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle to contract repeatedly over an extended period of time. Often people that want to tone their muscles without adding size train for muscular endurance. Perform one to three sets for 12 to 20 repetitions to improve muscular endurance. Rest periods are short and last 30 seconds or less. Resistance is lighter than what you would lift for biceps strength or hypertrophy but is still challenging. If you can do more than 20 reps, increase the resistance.

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