Let’s be honest, 10-inch biceps aren’t that impressive. They’re not going to register on anyone’s scale and they aren’t going to help you lift that much without some massive help.
So if genetics dealt you a crappy hand (and shrimpy arms) are you doomed to a life of twig arms forever? Not if I have anything to say about it!
Below are the steps you should follow to build bigger arms and finally fill out the sleeves in those baggy t-shirts.
Understanding the Biceps
A little basic, but to gain biceps, you need to understand biceps.
Biceps, or biceps brachii, are the muscles in front of your upper arm with two tendons attached to the shoulder and one to the elbow. The biceps helps us lift, pull, and–very important here–twist the forearms.
The biceps has three parts: the long head (the outer or lateral side), the short head (the inner or medial side), and the brachialis (closer to the elbow). Different exercises target different parts of the biceps, so it’s imperative to get variety in your exercise to punch them up to 15, 16, or even 17-inch biceps.
Now let’s talk about what you should do to build these muscles up…
Step 1: Get the Right Equipment
The key to getting the big biceps is having the right equipment. Nothing too fancy, just things like:
- Protein & supplements
- Pull-up bars
Protein & Supplements
We’ve all seen it scrolling through Instagram or Twitter: a guy like Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson poses over a blender with who-knows-what inside and calls it his protein shake. He lists the ingredients of the shake and it’s more calories than you’ve ever seen in one place, much less imagine putting in your body.
Well, there’s a reason buff guys consume protein shakes and share supplement recommendations. It’s because it works.
A study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism states that exercise and muscle growth can only work if muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown.
Working out on its own cannot give you the muscles you want. You have to work out and start working on a high-protein and low-fat diet.
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A little hand-in-hand with protein and supplements, but having solid numbers is paramount to making sure you’re on the right track to gaining muscle.
Trust me, you don’t want to be one of those athletes that retire and they balloon up because they’re just used to big meals and haven’t done the workout necessary to keep up with their diet.
You don’t, because at least they once had the athletic figure and you, presumably, never had it.
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So spoiler alert: you’re gonna be doing pull-ups and chin-ups, hence you’re gonna need to pull up from something. Thus, pull-up bars.
A few factors to consider before purchasing pull-up bars:
- Where do you want to install the pull-up bar?
- Does the place you’re considering have enough room to lift my chin above the bar?
- Does it have enough room to hang after doing a pull-up?
- Can it fully support your body weight without damage?
Now most pull-up bars you’ll see on the market will be a straight, horizontal pull-up bar, but for the sake of variety, I would recommend bars that are perpendicular and straight with various grips.
Neutral-grip–a grip with palms facing each other–may not be what one would think of when they think of the classic pull-up/chin-up, but they’re easier for beginners and are a more natural way of pulling yourself up.
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Second spoiler alert: growing big biceps means doing a lot of bicep curls, and for that, you’re going to need weights.
Assuming you have truly small biceps, you probably want to start off small–two five-pound dumbbells–but if you’re serious about growing muscles, you’d want to move on from those basic weights pretty fast.
Instead of buying several different-sized dumbbells, buy an adjustable dumbbell set. They save on money and space and can prevent you from going back to the store on the off chance you picked a heavy first weight.
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There are a lot of variations of bicep curls–and when I say a lot, I mean a lot–with one of those variations being the incline curl. The incline curl is a bicep curl done on an incline bench.
Do you see where I’m getting at here?
Of course, the incline bench is only for one variation of the bicep curls, which begs the question: Is it really needed?
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What to Do with No Equipment?
Ditching protein is a nonstarter. You have to eat protein to get big muscles-but do you need everything else?
If you’re just starting off, then not really.
If you have a seat with an incline back you can comfortably do bicep curls in, then you’re set for the incline curls. If you have a local park with monkey bars or a high horizontal bar somewhere around your home, then you don’t need to install a pull-up bar.
Even the dumbbells can be replaced with water bottles or bags of rice, anything you can comfortably do a curl with. Live with people and are too embarrassed to do bicep curls with two water bottles?
Then you can do these exercises instead:
- Diamond push-ups
- Reverse hand push-ups
- Side planks
Along the line, you’ll probably have to buy a dumbbell or two if you’re really serious, but that can be after getting used to the exercises.
Still, want the equipment but don’t have the space or money to fully deck out? Join a local gym. Gym memberships can go as low as $10 a month and offer perks and motivation that home gyms sometimes can’t beat.
Step 2: Target the Biceps in Your Training
Now, if your biceps are 13 inches or less, then I’m going to have to assume your workout game isn’t that great. Not a problem!
Training your biceps doesn’t have to start as an all-in. It can start one at a time with these simple exercises.
- Dumbbell rows
- Dumbbell curls
- Hammer curls
- Incline curls
For those just starting out, two sets of six to eight reps should suffice. Once you get comfortable, you should aim for three sets with eight to twelve reps with 30 to 60 seconds of rest between sets.
Once you get comfortable with that, then it’s time to amp it up. For biceps, you want to at least do eight to ten sets a week–and remember; you want to get out of the basic weight range and to something moderately heavy.
Learning Proper Form
While you’re doing your exercises, it’s important to follow proper form. Injuries are common and most times it’s because people don’t follow the proper form.
- Arms straight.
- Keep your elbows in.
- Pause at the bottom.
- Lift your chin above the bar/handles.
- Don’t swing your weight wildly. Slow, controlled movements are the way to go.
- Don’t lift the weight beyond your shoulder.
- Keep your elbow next to your side.
- Keep your upper arm still.
Step 3: Train Connected Muscles
There’s no use training your biceps if you aren’t going to train the rest of your upper body. Muscles are interconnected and help each other improve.
While working out your biceps, you should also work out your:
One exercise that hits all three is the push-up. Simple, easy, doesn’t require any equipment, and can be done anywhere large enough for you to lie down in.
Here are some other exercises to consider…
- Lateral raises
- Shoulder press
- Overhead press
- Front raise
- Chest/pec fly
- Chest press
- Bench press
- Dumbbell overhead extension
- Tricep kickbacks
Step 4: Take a Break
What’s the saying? Does a watched pot never boil?
Well, an over-exercised muscle will never grow bigger. In fact, it could end up injuring your bicep.
For example, bicep tendonitis is a condition in which mini tears in your bicep tendon cause ache and pain in your tendon. Enough repetitive motion or heavy lifting, and that bicep tendonitis can cause a bicep tendon tear, which is not what you want.
So how do you prevent that? How do you prevent your muscles from bulging out of their weak tendons and causing immeasurable pain?
You take a break. Muscles need to rest to grow, and, as stated before, over-exercising can lead to injuries that are hard, if not near impossible, to spring back from.
But then how many times should I exercise my bicep without taking it too far?
A study published in 2016 recommends training your muscles at least two times a week to maximize muscle growth, and most bodybuilders agree. Two times a week, non-consecutively at 30-ish minutes a day, and you’re golden.
Want to spread it over three times a week? That’s fine so long as you don’t strain yourself, but any more than that and you run the risk of bicep tendonitis or other overtraining injuries.
Step 5: Train Just Short of Failure
I know, I know, I just said you should take a break and now I’m telling you to train to almost failure? Why would I do that?
Simply put: because it’ll help.
You’ve been training your biceps for months and you’ve got some muscle growth, but it’s nowhere near where you wanted. By the point that you’re considering this, you should be doing around 15 sets a week at eight to fifteen reps with moderately heavy reps.
Meanwhile, you’ve done all the steps. You’ve gotten out of the basic weight range, you’ve upped your reps and sets–(by this point you should be doing around 15 sets a week with eight to fifteen reps)–you’ve worked the rest of your upper body, you’re consuming proteins and supplements.
It’s time to test your limits, AKA up the weight, and keep doing reps until you only can do one to three reps left and then stop. This is what training to almost failure means, and it is typically safer and easier on your body than training to failure is.
Now throw away the notion that you choose weights so heavy that you can’t do a few reps.
If you can’t do two to three reps, then the weight you’ve chosen is too heavy and you are definitely liable to hurt yourself. On the contrary, if you’re able to do a full set, then the weights you chose are too light.
And above all, remember that you must keep the proper form. If you’re lifting heavier-than-usual weights but compensate by using momentum to lift them or have your elbows flared out, then you either need to lighten the load or try again.
Train to Almost Failure Sparsely
Remember: training to failure is something that sounds like it can go wrong, and it will if you aren’t careful. You should not dedicate an entire day’s workout to training to failure.
In fact, it’s recommended to train to failure only on the last set of the day or one day a week.
Pull-ups/Chin-ups and Training to Failure
I am once again going to be my contrarian self and say: don’t train to almost failure for your pull-ups and chin-ups. At all.
The problem with training to failure on pull-ups and chin-ups is that it’s very easy to tear your rotator cuffs or mess up your elbow by doing repetitive motions and… Well, the only way to train to failure with pull-ups and chin-ups is to do more push-ups and chin-ups, which use the shoulder. You could add a dip belt, but that exacerbates the problem, not solve it.
So what now?
Now you grease the groove AKA, do lots of sets with low reps. It also involves taking long breaks between sets so your body rests before training again.
Find out you can do twelve pull-ups max in a set? Then do a set with six reps every hour or every other hour.
Feel comfortable doing five reps an hour? Then bump it up to six next week, so on and so forth. Greasing the groove can really help up your maximum pull-ups without overtaxing your body.
And keep in mind: maintain proper form.
How to Make Your 10-Inch Biceps Bigger…
If you want to make your 10-inch biceps bigger, then follow these steps:
- Get the right equipment
- Target the biceps in your training
- Train your connected muscles
- Take a break
- Train just short of failure
There’s a lot of factors to building bigger biceps and chances are you won’t see results super quick, but remember, time and perseverance are your pals.
You may never get biceps like the greatest bodybuilders in history, but there’s still nowhere to go, but up.
Good luck and happy bicep growing!