No matter how hard you hit the bench, snatch, or squat, all roads seem to lead back to your bedroom mirror with a python-flexing session — as is tradition.
The gains are there.
But you won’t be 100% satisfied until those T’s fit tighter, your upper arms noticeably bulge, and that gal at the bar needs two hands to wrap around them entirely.
Just how long is that journey between 13” biceps and 15”, 16”, or even 17” guns? And what kind of path are you about to begin?
The secret to 15-17” biceps lies below …
Table of Contents
- How to Measure Biceps (Flexed or Unflexed?)
- Should You Measure Average Bicep Size by Height?
- Bicep Measurements of the Pros
- Building 15 Inch Biceps
- Building 16 Inch Biceps
- Building 17 Inch Biceps
- How Do You Build Bigger Biceps?
How to Measure Biceps (Flexed or Unflexed?)
The “consensus” in the bodybuilding community is that it doesn’t matter if you measure your biceps flexed or unflexed. Most lifters will measure their peaks while flexing to add an extra inch or two to their biceps.
To measure your biceps accurately:
- Put your elbow on a table, chair, or even a wall shelf (anywhere you can lie your elbow flat while you get a measurement).
- Make a fist with your hand while positioning your forearm at about a 45° toward that same shoulder.
- Wrap a cloth measuring tape around the highest “peak” of your biceps.
- Flex your biceps as hard as you can.
- Read the measurement where the cloth tape begins to overlap.
- Measure twice more to verify your reading.
You’ll use this number to see how you compare to the rest of your age group, your favorite bodybuilders, and how much work you have left to achieve your “ideal” biceps!
So, don’t forget it.
Should You Measure Average Bicep Size by Height?
There’s one reason you won’t find this answer online: It doesn’t matter.
Besides your waist and maybe your hips, the “average” measurements of other muscle groups — like calves or biceps — are more accurately compared to your wrists or ankles.
The Wrist to Bicep Ratio
The theory is that guys with larger frames and thicker joints can carry far heavier loads, making bulkier muscles that much more likely. Thick wrists = massive bicep potential.
So, a 5’10” guy with 5” wrists would ideally have 12.5” biceps … as would a 5’3” guy with the same exact wrist thickness. With 7” wrists, both of those guys might enjoy 17.5” biceps better.
Age is a far better indicator of “average” biceps size.
Biceps Size Chart By Age and Gender
You’ll notice that having around 13 inch biceps is pretty normal for most guys. If you find yourself with smaller biceps like 12, 11, or even 10 inches… you may have poor genetics (sorry).
Generally, guys who lift religiously will ideally have 14” to 20” biceps. However, keep in mind that the muscle-to-fat ratio in the upper arms can make a massive difference in biceps appearance.
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Bicep Measurements of the Pros
The idea of having 15” or 20” peaks might already be on your bucket list. But just how do your current — and “dream” — biceps compare to those in the big leagues?
Let’s take a look:
- Bobby Lashley: 18”
- John Cena: 19”
- Arnold Schwarzenegger: 19 ¾”
- Lee Haney: 20”
- Jay Cutler: 21”
- Phil Heath: 23”
- Ronnie Coleman: 24”
Considering average is just below 14”, and most of the bodybuilding, wrestling, and MMA stars fit within the 18-24” range, 15-17” biceps are a reasonable goal.
… though, not without a good deal of hard work!
Building 15 Inch Biceps
Assuming you’re “about average” in terms of biceps circumference (13.3-13.9”), achieving 15” pythons is possible with a few minor routine touch-ups.
Now, here’s the thing.
These “biceps” measurements include your entire upper arm. The triceps make up about ⅔ of your total upper arm volume, so enhancing mass on either side will add much-needed inches.
To reach the next level, 15” biceps, here’s what you need to do:
Target the Biceps (& Triceps) From All Angles
The most basic biceps exercise is none other than the standing biceps curl (dumbbell or barbell). Yet, converting doughy biceps into thicker muscles requires a more complex approach.
It’s time to lift for thickness from all angles via:
- Dumbbell curls
- Hammer curls (a brachialis and forearm focus for added thickness)
- Preacher curls (a more direct biceps focus)
- Close-grip bench presses
- Cable triceps extensions
- Lying triceps extension (targets both heads of the biceps)
- Seated triceps extension (hits the long head best)
There are dozens (if not hundreds) of biceps and triceps exercises. Regardless of which you add to your arm routine, be sure they all have a purpose and hit each muscle uniquely.
Create a Hypertrophy Routine
The problem many of us make is obsessing over mass-building … to the point where we’re doing more harm than good. Being at 80% on arm day is the biggest gain-killer out there.
The solution: At least two days of rest between upper-body workouts.
Of course, following a hypertrophy routine that nurtures gains is a surefire way to ignite growth like never before, too. A 15” biceps routine will include:
- 2-3 arm workouts a week
- 8-14 sets per week (per muscle)
- 6-12 reps per set
- 90-120 seconds of rest between sets (unless you’re doing super-sets)
- 65-85% of your 1RM for each exercise
Take a look at this sample 15” biceps routine that can “shock” your muscles into growth and get the gains rolling already.
Sample 15” Biceps Routine
- Dumbbell Curl – 3 sets x 6 reps (90 seconds)
- Close Grip Bench Press – 3 sets x 6 reps (90 seconds)
- Hammer Curl – 3 sets x 8 reps (90 seconds)
- Cable Triceps Extension – 3 sets x 8 reps (90 seconds)
- Preacher Curl – 3 sets x 10 reps (90 seconds)
- Lying Triceps Extension – 3 sets x 10 reps (90 seconds)
- Chin-Up – 3 sets x 12 reps (90 seconds)
- Seated Triceps Extension – 3 sets x 12 reps (90 seconds)
Repeat this program twice a week, and be sure to leave at least 1-2 rest days between this workout and your other upper-body workouts (back/chest). Tweak as you see fit.
Building 16 Inch Biceps
It could take upwards of 6-12 months to widen your upper arms that extra inch. Tacking on another inch for an even 16” measurement will require more than a workout routine overhaul.
Here are some tips for securing that noticeable extra inch:
Prioritize Tempo With Each Rep
With mass in mind, the urge to “cut corners” to fast-track growth is hard to fight. Unfortunately, this underlying desperation often leads to sloppy reps, injuries, and little progression.
The possible fix: Tempo.
Slowing down your reps to spend slightly more time in each phase of the lift (i.e., 3:1:1) can help you nail proper form while also activating even more muscle fibers for a longer period.
Never end your workout with 5+ sets left in the tank again!
Hit Your Forearms
Will beefy forearms directly add an extra inch or two to your biceps? That’s a resounding, “no.”
Yet, adding a little girth to your forearms can help with stabilization during heavy lifts (i.e., Keeping your wrist still during curls) while also making your upper arms look bigger creating the illusion of having a larger, ideal arm.
Add wrist curls and reverse wrist curls to your routine, and stick to sets of 15-20.
Overhaul Your Diet
Ah, everyone’s least favorite part of accomplishing mass goals. To become a proud owner of 16” guns, you may need to clear the fridge and pantry and pursue a more balanced diet.
The easiest change to make is stuffing even more protein in your diet. Bare minimum, you need at least 0.8g/pound of bodyweight, though 1.5g/pound can make that last inch easier to reach.
Building 16” biceps via dieting requires two approaches:
- Eating more: The only way your body will add visible muscle mass is if you’re eating in a caloric surplus (you eat more than you burn). About 500 extra calories a day should be a decent start for packing on about a pound a week — readjust as necessary.
- Eating less: On your trek toward massive peaks, you’ll also want to unravel those fatty layers that keep your biceps a mystery. Slash alcohol, high-fat foods, excess carbs (but not entirely), and any pre-made foods — convenient, but pure garbage.
Remember: There absolutely is too much of a good thing. Nabbing 200 grams of protein a day yet entirely cutting carbs and fat from your diet will keep those beefy biceps at bay for good.
Building 17 Inch Biceps
17” biceps are nearing the point of pro bodybuilder status. To make these bad boys your “norm,” you’ll need to take everything you’ve done so far … and crank ‘em up a few notches.
Securing 17” pythons that catch eyes at the gym requires:
With every extra rep, set, and plate, your upper arms suffer microtears that cause fatigue. It takes 48-72 hours for the fibers to recover and return to 100% strength for another workout.
Creatine not only reduces recovery time to get you back into the gym sooner, but it can also double your gains without any extra steps.
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One scoop a day (about 5g) could be the final nail in the coffin to amplify your volume. Lift heavy, cause more tearing, recover faster, and do it all again — 17” biceps, here we come!
The muscles are always repairing themselves after a workout. But your human growth hormone and glycogen levels will never be as high as they are as you sleep.
Those ideal 8-10 hours each night are prime-time for those biceps and triceps microtears to repair themselves to return bigger, thicker, and denser.
Your next challenge: Nab 8.5+ hours a night to maximize growth by up to 40%.
Pre-workout powders often get a bad reputation. Of course, it certainly doesn’t help that many pre-workout supplements are placebos and don’t do anything on their own.
But a special few do.
Lob a scoop of pre-workout into a water bottle, give it a shake, and chug it within 30-60 minutes of your next upper-arm workout.
Many lifters swear by these supplements because they:
- Improve focus and mental clarity
- Reduce lactic acid build-up mid-workout (lift more with less fatigue)
- Enhance your strength while lifting to set new PRs
You’ll be surprised about just how much “potential” you unlock by dosing with pre-workout powder before your next biceps/triceps workout.
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How Do You Build Bigger Biceps?
The answer is not adding more bicep curls to your routine and hoping that volume was your only issue. Sculpting your peaks and packing on mass will come from several angles, including:
- Targeting the different muscles that make up the upper-arm (including the triceps)
- Replenishing with at least five grams of creatine a day
- Crushing through workouts after taking pre-workout
- Setting aside sessions for just your biceps and triceps
- Paying a little more attention to your forearms
- Bulking up, eating more calories, and fueling with more protein each day
Remember: No matter how many preacher curls you crank out, your biceps are among the smallest muscles in your body. 15” biceps are in the cards, but more likely in 6-18 months.
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