Building Big Biceps And Triceps – Full Guide
In this article I am going to be going into detail on building big biceps and triceps that you can be proud of and that get attention in social settings. Like everyone else, when I first started training I was fascinated with building bigger arms. As I mentioned in the “About Gurds” section of my site; when I first started training in my teen years I could barely even curl a 5kg dumbbell! It was pathetic, now I have 18 inch arms and can do zottman dumbbell curls with fat gripz with two 24kg dumbbells for 7 reps and standard dumbbell curls without fat gripz with a lot more. We all start from somewhere, this is why when I see young 16 or 17 year olds at the gym I give them encouragement. In this article I will explain the importance of building the biceps and triceps for complete upper arm development and truly muscular and imposing arms that exude power. In another article I will talk exclusively about forearm training.
Building Bigger Biceps
The biceps are the classic show off muscles that we all love to display when we are flexing or showing another person our muscles. The truth is they are not large muscles when compared to the triceps. The biceps will get worked indirectly from all pulling movements such as rows, pulldowns, pull ups, etc. As you progressively overload those movements your biceps will benefit from that extra stimulus and grow indirectly. However I also recommend doing direct bicep work, especially for beginners and those who are not yet satisfied with the size of their biceps. There are many great movements for the biceps that will help to induce growth:
- Concentration Curls – This is an old school exercise and was a favourite of mine starting out. Simply sit down on a bench with a dumbbell in your hand and your elbow resting on your thigh. Lower the dumbbell down between your legs and then curl back up. Is a great exercise to really stretch the bicep and also emphasise the peak contraction.
- Dumbbell Curls – Another classic exercise. It needs no explanation other than you should try to avoid excessive cheating and swinging. For an additional grip challenge use dumbbells with fatter handles or add fat gripz to the dumbbell.
- Dumbbell Hammer Curls – Great exercise to really hit the brachialis hard, as well as hitting the biceps this will work the forearms as well. Again, try to avoid excessive swinging. The movement can be made harder by adding fat gripz to the dumbbells for a greater grip challenge.
- Barbell Curls – Can do the same curling exercise but using a barbell instead. Can also do EZ bar curls instead.
- Preacher Curls – Can be done on a special preacher bench using a small straight bar or EZ bar. Most gyms now have dedicated preacher curl machines as well which offer a great alternative.
When doing these movements you want to shoot for high reps, in the 10-15 range for hypertrophy and use the concept of progressive overload over time in order to get stronger arms and in turn bigger arms as well. With curling movements it is not recommended to go ridiculously heavy and do very low reps as there is a great risk of tearing a bicep. Isolation movements in general such as these are not intended for this purpose.
Building Bigger Triceps
When aiming to build muscular arms and powerful ones at that, tricep training is essential. The triceps make up 2/3 of your upper arm therefore it is imperative to have big triceps if you want to have powerful arms. The best compound movements for getting bigger triceps are the close grip bench press and the JM press. You should do both if you wish to maximise the size and strength of your triceps.
The JM press is a movement that not many bodybuilders know about but it is amazing at building big and thick triceps. The best way to do this exercise is to do it in a smith machine as then you don’t need to stabilise the weight. You can focus exclusively on working the triceps. The basic idea is to position a flat bench in the smith machine, lie down and take a thumbless grip on the bar with a close grip. The movement is a cross between a skullcrusher and a bench press. Think about this when you lower the bar down, you want to bring the bar down so that it ends up just above your chest in a high position. Pictured below is where you want the bar in the bottom position. When driving up you want to just use your triceps. Try to avoid leg drive on this exercise as it will force you to work and overload your triceps even more! The big benefit as well of the JM press is the fact that it doesn’t put a lot of stress on the elbows compared to skullcrushers. I advise against doing heavy skullcrushers as they put too much stress on the elbows and tricep tendon and are more likely to lead to a tricep tear when done heavy. JM presses are very safe when executed properly and done in the smith machine.
As well as these compound movements I would also recommend doing isolation movements for the triceps to add definition and for vanity – these would include tricep pushdowns and dumbbell tricep extensions. You can do your dumbbell tricep extensions in a “rolling” fashion so that you can use slightly more weight, you would essentially roll the dumbbells back in the bottom position of the extension and then use some of that momentum when extending back up.
Importance Of Monitoring Your Progress
Along your training journey it is very important to keep a journal to monitor your progress. This is so that you can see how you have developed over time and it can help to keep you motivated. Loss of motivation is a big factor behind why so many people end up giving up on their training and losing their gains. By tracking your progress on all your exercises you can see where your weaknesses are and work on them. It may be that your biceps are weak and triceps strong or vice versa.
Biceps And Triceps Exercises I Do
The exercises that I do regularly in my own training for my biceps and triceps are the following:
- Standing dumbbell curls with Fat Gripz
- Standing hammer curls
- Close grip bench press
- JM press in smith machine
- Rolling dumbbell tricep extensions
- Tricep Pushdowns – alternate attachments
Over the years I have done many other exercises as well such as concentration curls, preacher curls, Tate presses, etc. It is a good idea to rotate different exercises into your programme every few months to keep things from going stale and to provide different challenges.
In this article I have given a detailed explanation on how to build big biceps and triceps that you can be proud of. It all comes down to consistency over a long period of time, tracking your workouts and putting forth the effort. Enjoy the journey and you will stay motivated to see it through. If you are performing some of these exercises already please comment on which ones are your favourites and the benefits they have given you in your training. If you have any questions regarding anything I have mentioned in this article please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you!