Big ‘ol biceps are definitely something to flex if you want some attention – pun intended. Just a pity they’re extremely hard to grow, especially if you don’t have great arm genetics.
Are 12-inch biceps big? Honestly, no, 12-inch biceps aren’t really big by most standards. But there’s a saying that for big arms, you need to “train biceps like a bodybuilder and triceps like a powerlifter.”
So, allow me to show you how to train your biceps.
A Crash Course In Biceps Anatomy
Before we can get into how to train the biceps, we need to understand what they are, what makes them tick, and what their favorite movie is – first date type of stuff.
The “everyday” explanation of what the biceps do is simply described as causing the elbow to bend by bringing the forearm closer to the shoulder. The scientific explanation is that the bicep causes the flexion and supination (outward rotation) of the forearm.
Now, you might also be surprised to learn that the biceps are made of multiple muscles…
- Biceps brachii short head
- Biceps brachii long head
They all serve particular purposes, and when we design our workouts (or choose our movements), we have to take this into consideration. If all of the biceps aren’t growing, then the whole bicep won’t look or get bigger.
In general, we have to choose movements that’ll allow us to practice progressive overload best while also providing a great amount of stability.
Step 1 – Train ‘Em Suckers
By most standards, 12-inch biceps wouldn’t be considered “big biceps.” We’ll be honest … if your bicep is 12 inches, well …
So this shouldn’t come as a surprise. You really have to train them extremely hard, especially if you struggle to grow them already.
Yes, certain parts of you will grow faster than others, and that’s simply the genetics you were given, my friend. Them’s the facts.
Spoiler Alert: The Best Bicep Exercises Are…
So, now that you’ve made your way to the gym, which movements will you have the most success with? The movements I program for most of my clients are as follows:
- Preacher curls (with a dumbbell, using the pulldown machine’s leg pads as the pad you brace your elbow against). This allows for great form and allows you to really shorten the bicep fully. It offers great stability, and because it’s unlikely you’re going to be curling 150s, there’s an endless possibility for progression.
- Barbell curl. This movement allows for massive progressions, and if you keep a stable core, you should be pretty stable. If you suffer from elbow or wrist pain when doing this, instead of barbell curls, you can also try… (wait for it)
- EZ bar cable curls. EZ bar cable curls are a great substitute for barbell curls because the structure of the EZ bar could allow for less pain around the wrist and elbows.
- Rope cable hammer curls. Rope cable hammer curls allow for precise progression while training the “thickness” of the biceps.
- Cable curl (facing away). Cable curl facing away from the cable attachment is one of the best movements you can do to put the bicep in a long position.
- Dumbbell hammer curls. Dumbbell hammer curls are a great alternative to a rope hammer curl due to the ease with which they can be executed, and you’ll always have dumbbells to curl.
- Incline curls. Incline curls are very similar to the cable curls facing away from the cable machine, seeing as the arm is placed in a very similar position, and the movement of the arm is almost identical.
These are just some of the movements you can do. Of course, it’s important to experiment with different movements and see which works for you. What gives you a great contraction? What actually makes your arms bigger?
How to Train to Inflate Your Biceps
Preferably, to grow your biceps, you would want to train them at least twice per week. Professional bodybuilders can get away with just once – but not you.
This is how I would split the two training days:
|Back or Pull Day
|Preacher curl on the pulldown machine
|The preacher curl with a machine
|EZ bar cable curls
|Rope hammer curls
|Dumbbell hammer curls
|Cable curl facing away from the cable attachment
The sets and reps are actually really simple. It’s often said that “getting stronger in all rep ranges will get you the most growth.” And while that could be true, you want the very best of growth. You want the Rolls Royce of growth, right?
For that reason, I would stick to two sets per exercise, 5 – 10 reps, and get within 2 reps of failure. This is what seems to be creating the biggest individuals in the sporting world. That said, you can always experiment with other schemes.
Above all else, make sure your form is always good. This means no rocking of the body, elbows stay still, and certainly no cheat reps.
You should also aim to be getting stronger week to week. This means that if you were curling the 20s for a set of 5 this week, you should be doing them for 6 next week. And this cycle goes on and on; that is literally how the body grows best.
Step 2 – Eat Like an Adult
We tend to forget that in order for the biceps to grow past 12 inches, all of your needs to grow. Just like how we cannot spot-reduce fat, we cannot spot-grow muscle – I mean, you can, but you still need to eat.
So, you cannot get away with eating maintenance calories and expect 14-inch biceps. It’s simply not possible, and you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot. Simply put, you’ll be eating slightly more calories than needed in order to create new tissue.
Here’s what you should try to do:
- Aim to consume 200 – 300 calories more than your maintenance.
- Aim to consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
- Split the rest of your calories between carbohydrates and fats as you wish.
- Once your weight gain stops, simply add in an additional 200 – 300 calories and see the scale change again.
Is it really that simple? Why yes. Yes, it is. That said, I have one last trick for you. It is called Peri Workout Nutrition.
What You Need to Know About Peri Workout Nutrition
Peri workout nutrition is the nutrition you consume before, during, and after training. There’s some evidence showing that certain food choices in this time frame can result in greater gains.
So you’ll want to follow these few tips:
- The portion around 60% of your daily carbohydrates around your workout.
- Combine easy-to-digest protein sources with these carbohydrates.
- Keep fats lower in these meals.
- Drinking carbohydrates combined with essential amino acids could help in growing muscle.
When we look at the literature around performance athletes, there seems to be a definite shift towards running a higher-carbohydrate diet vs fats. Carbs seem to be a better fuel source than fats, and they also make you secrete a bunch of insulin.
Why would you want insulin? Well, insulin can help shuttle your carbs and amino acids into muscle tissue, which is going to allow you to build the most amount of muscle mass. This is why we see bodybuilders, the biggest people on the planet, all running a higher-carb diet.
These tips will only work if you do everything else perfectly.
Step 3 – Literally Everything Else
Now that you know how to train and eat correctly, we can look at the finishing touches to add a few inches where they count most:
One thing that I recently found helps my own training is making sure the muscle actually has enough blood flow. The muscle needs blood in order to contract and get food, so having ample amounts of blood flow would help.
You could look at supplements for this. However, stretching the muscle between different exercises seems to be doing the trick. This shouldn’t be confused with a DC stretch, where the goal is to stretch the muscle fibers as much as possible. But you should aim for a decent stretch – around 75% of your max.
This would theoretically increase blood flow, as well as build a better mind-to-muscle connection.
Another thing you can play around with is volume.
We discussed volume and load earlier, and I definitely believe load is going to be the main driving factor behind increasing your mechanical tension. However, you can effectively use volume as well.
The one problem with using more volume is the effect it has on recovery. We know from anecdotal evidence that humans are very quick to increase “junk volume” – or volume that doesn’t really cause any metabolic changes.
That said, if you’re eating a ton of food and you’re getting plenty of rest, you can try increasing your volume by maybe one or two sets per arm session. Then, run this new program for a set amount of weeks and document the changes.
My last trick is hormones, baby! Training your legs could release more growth hormone and testosterone than any other muscle in the body, so combining bicep training with leg training, you could see a small benefit. It won’t be enormous, but it might help.
Are 12 Inch Biceps Big? Conclusion
Growing your biceps is a hard business for most. Certainly for me and my 6’4’’ frame. That said, you can still make them grow! You just have to make sure you do the basics damn well:
I broke it down into three steps:
- Train ‘Em Suckers
- Eat Like an Adult
- Literally Everything Else
But other tips that’ll definitely help you to increase your biceps size are:
- Pick movements that train the targeted muscle, and make sure you use the perfect form.
- Practice progressive overload as best you can, and get dirty strong.
- Get plenty of sleep and rest, at least 8 hours per night.
- Eat in a calorie surplus, and eat sufficient amounts of protein.
- Don’t give up!
That last point is crucial. It’s estimated that to add an inch to your arms, you need to increase your weight by several pounds. Gaining weight is not a glorious business, at least when you’re gaining muscle mass and not fat.
Employ some patience, and know that all the hard work you’re putting in will pay off in the end when you’re bursting your sleeves.