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How To Get Big Biceps: 5 Mistakes Keeping Your Arms Skinny

by Jeremy Ethier - September 24, 2022

"My arms are like twigs!" If that's you, read this article. Discover how to get big biceps (read: turn your biceps from barely there to my-sleeves-are-about-to-burst) by leveraging 5 lesser-known techniques in your arm training.

There’s nothing that can shatter your confidence more than having twig-like arms. Trust me, I’ve been there, and I know exactly how it feels. But the good news is that growing your arms into big, sleeve-hugging biceps is possible. When it comes to how to get big biceps, the secret really lies in getting smarter with how you train them.

In this article, I show you how to get big biceps by leveraging 5 techniques that the latest science suggests can help increase the size of your arms dramatically. Continue reading to learn how to properly use them to get your biceps growing faster than they ever have before.

Before that: not just interested in learning how to get big biceps? If you're looking for a training program that'll help you set up every single one of your workouts for optimal muscle growth, I've got just the thing for you. Every BWS program is designed to be an all-in-one, science-based process that’ll get you to your dream physique FAST. And best of all? It's all rooted in science. For more information:

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Technique #1: Complement Compound Movements With Isolation Exercises For Bigger Biceps And Arms

The first technique actually has to do with your back training. Whenever you train your back with compound exercises such as rows, lat pulldowns, or pull-ups, your biceps will be heavily involved.

Because of this, if you ask around to get advice on how to get big biceps, some will say all you need to do are compound back movements. Is that true, though?

A 2021 study put this theory to the test.

They compared the growth of the biceps from dumbbell rows versus dumbbell curls. After 8 weeks, although the dumbbell rows did lead to significant growth of the biceps, the dumbbell curls led to over double the growth.

These findings mean two things for those interested in learning how to get big biceps (i.e., you!)

  1. You will still experience a lot of biceps growth from your big back exercises: So don't overlook their importance for big arms. Get stronger with your back training, and your biceps will grow as well.
  2. It's important to train your biceps directly with 1-2 exercises after back training: This helps maximize their growth. Why? As we’ll explain in the next tip, back exercises have a downside when it comes to biceps growth. That said, it’s important to pick the right bicep exercises. Recent evidence suggests that certain bicep exercises may be better options than others. This is where the next tip on how to get big biceps comes in.
How to get big biceps by adding isolated biceps exercises to compound back exercises

Technique #2: Make Use Of "Stretch-Mediated Hypertrophy"

When it comes to the topic of how to get big biceps (or big anything, really), one of the most exciting areas of recent research has to do with something called “stretch-mediated hypertrophy”.

To explain this, let’s take a look at a recent 2021 paper.

Researchers had two groups of subjects perform the preacher curl twice a week, but either only the bottom half or the top half of the curl. After 5 weeks, they assessed the growth in the biceps.

The subjects that performed only the bottom half of the curl experienced almost 3x the bicep growth as those who only performed the top half of the curl.

How to get big biceps by prioritizing full range of motion

The reason for this seems to be the result of a powerful muscle-building stimulus that happens when a muscle is fully stretched under load, such as at the bottom of a bicep curl. Now although I will admit this study design does have its flaws, the findings are consistent with other similar studies on the biceps as well as with research on other muscle groups like the hamstrings.

How To Get Big Biceps: Maximize The Amount Of Stretch They Go Through

Wondering how this knowledge helps you in learning how to get big biceps?

See: there are 3 things you could do in your workouts to maximize the amount of stretch your biceps go through (which, in turn, maximizes their growth).

Use a full range of motion on all your bicep exercises.
This applies especially at the bottom position. This means fully extending your arm at the bottom position to get a full stretch in your biceps each rep.

How to get big biceps by using full range of motion

Choose bicep exercises that challenge the biceps most when it's in a fully stretched position.
This is important because it’s something that the back exercises we talked about earlier just can’t do. The best options here are the slight incline dumbbell curl and the behind-the-body cable curl. I’ll explain how often to do these exercises later on in this article.

How to get big biceps choose the exercises that put the biceps in a stretched position

Perform half reps of the bottom part of the curl once you've reached failure (or are very close to it).
This is an even more powerful muscle-building stimulus. That's because doing so allows you to push past your normal point of failure and will further prioritize this all-important fully stretched position.

How to get big biceps use partial motion when close to failure

As you can tell, when it comes to how to get big biceps, there are many tiny tweaks you could make to your workout programming. The same goes for all your muscle groups, too. Discover how to optimize your muscle-building efforts in a well-balanced way with Built With Science programs:

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Technique #3: Increase Your Weekly Bicep Volume (By Just A Bit)

The next tip when it comes to how to get big biceps has to do with your workout volume.

There’s a good chance that as long as you don’t overdo it, a small increase in your weekly bicep volume will be met with faster gains.

Illustrating this phenomenon is a 2015 paper.

Within it, subjects all trained 3 times per week but were split into groups that performed a weekly total of either 3 sets, 9 sets, or 15 sets of bicep curls. After 6 months of this, there was a clear dose-response relationship with 15 bicep sets per week providing the most bicep gains.

How to get big biceps increase your bicep training volume

However, you don’t want to overdo this especially if you’re a beginner.

Even if you're desperately trying to learn how to get big biceps, my recommendation is to use 15 sets of direct bicep training as more of an upper limit.

Instead of jumping straight to that, take a look at how many weekly bicep sets you’re doing right now, and add a couple of sets to that. If you don’t feel overworked and your performance stays high, then great, keep doing that increased volume, and in the future consider increasing it even further to see if it helps speed up your gains.

I would however recommend splitting these sets up so you’re not doing it all in one session.

This could, for example, look like 3 sets of 2 bicep exercises on one day during the week, and another 3 sets of 2 bicep exercises on another day during the week.

How to get big biceps split up your bicep volume

That said, as you perform these sets, it’s important to apply the next tip if you want to experience the most growth out of them.

Technique #4: Mind To Muscle Connection (Really Feel your Biceps Working)

Old school bodybuilders have long preached the benefits of focusing on feeling your muscle working as you train it.

Not until fairly recently in a 2018 paper has this method been put to the test.

Researchers had one group of subjects perform the bicep curl while really focusing on squeezing the biceps and really feeling the muscle work. The other group was simply instructed to lift the weight.

After 8 weeks of this, the group that focused on feeling their biceps working experienced almost double the bicep gains.

How to get big biceps with mind to muscle connection

So, if you're wondering how to get big biceps? A key that'll potentially speed up your bicep gains, is to really feel your biceps doing the work whenever you do curls. It can help to think about pulling the bar or dumbbell into your body rather than just lifting the weight up.

However, as you apply this tip, it’s important that you don’t end up sabotaging your bicep growth in the process. This leads me to my final tip.

Technique #5: Avoid Just "Training For The Pump"

In order for a muscle to grow you need to continuously challenge them with more than they’re used to.

It sounds simple, but most people don’t do this when they train their biceps. Even if they're truly interested in learning how to get big biceps, they forget about progressive overload completely and only focus on getting a good pump.

Instead, to force your biceps to grow every week, first pick 2-3 bicep exercises that you’ll stick to week after week. Here are a few that I’d recommend based on what we talked about earlier.

Then, whenever you do a workout, write down how much weight you used and how many reps you did.

How to get big biceps note load used

Use these numbers as a goal to beat during your next workout by trying to do 1-2 more reps than you did last time or add a little bit more weight.

Compared to your big compound exercises, progression with your bicep exercises will be slow.

How to get big biceps remember to progress on your bicep exercises too

But when it comes to how to get big biceps, focusing on tracking your progress and making small improvements week after week will help you quickly notice your biceps growing faster than they ever have before.

How To Get Big Biceps: Takeaway

There you have it: these 5 techniques are the secrets to how to get big biceps.

Diligently apply them to your workouts, and you’ll notice faster biceps growth almost immediately. And who knows, you might even reach Arnold status.

But guys, in all seriousness, if you want to get results faster then it’s important that you take a science-based, detailed approach to every single muscle you train. That’s exactly what I show you how to do step by step within my programs. It’s worked for thousands of others and it’ll work for you. So take the quick analysis quiz below and I’ll let you know which program is best for you and your body:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

And if I were to guess, you're probably not just looking for help on how to get big biceps — but also big ... well, everything (um, muscle groups), right? In that case, I’d also suggest you give the following a read:

By the way, here’s the article summed up into a YouTube video:

BIGGER BICEPS: 5 Techniques To Speed Up Growth

How To Get Big Biceps: 5 Mistakes Keeping Your Arms Skinny