Why Your Biceps Are Not Growing – Detailed Look

January 12, 2022 4 Comments


In this article I will examine why your biceps are not growing and a detailed look at all the potential reasons why. At the end I will provide a prescription to remedy this problem. Having big biceps is something that we all secretly want, it is the classic muscle that we flex first when asked to show off our muscles. For many guys their biceps have stopped responding as well to their training or have become a lagging body part for various reasons which I will outline.


Over Emphasis On Compound Movements

One big reason why your biceps are lagging or not growing as you would like is over reliance on compound movements. It is true that compound exercises like deadlifts, bench presses and squats give you the best bang for your buck in the gym. They use the most muscles and are the most taxing, however it is very important to have sufficient isolation movements in your routine.

There is a reason why bodybuilders have lots of isolation exercises in their routines for all the muscle groups, to compliment the compound movements. Isolation exercises help a lot to hypertrophy the muscles and stimulate them from different angles.

In the case of biceps there are a plethora of isolation movements to choose from to hit the biceps from different angles. Concentration curls, dumbbell curls, cable curls and preacher curls are just a few that can be incorporated. You should rotate isolation movements into your routine regularly to keep things fresh, induce growth and avoid overuse injuries from repetitively performing one exercise.

The biggest compound pulling exercise around is the deadlift. If you get very strong on the deadlift and pull with a double overhand grip/hook grip your forearms will grow a lot over time and your grip will improve. However this will not in many cases lead to massive biceps. There any many instances of strong deadlifters being incapable of dumbbell curling the same weight as a normal gym bro. Even though the deadlifter is a lot stronger, this is down to specificity of training. If the strong deadlifter incorporated dumbbell curls regularly into their program they would benefit enormously from the extra bicep stimulation and induce more growth.


Sloppy Form On Isolation Exercises

Another big culprit for lagging biceps is sloppy form on isolation exercises. You are indeed performing isolation exercises for the biceps but are doing them in a very sloppy manner. This is very common in many gyms, you will see guys swinging and heaving dumbbells around when curling and using lots of momentum for exercises such as preacher curls.

Not only is this injurious but is also preventing your biceps from growing. It is true that cheat curls were made popular by bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger. However it must be remembered that Arnold had great genetics for big biceps and was also a steroid user. Most people do not have the same circumstances and therefore should not train in that way.

Instead the focus should be quality reps performed in a strict manner. Even light weights can induce a lot of growth in the biceps. A good example of this is the curl variation that Flex Wheeler advocates. This is where you curl the weight up to a mid range position with your elbows drifting back as you curl up. This makes the curl a lot harder and therefore you will use lighter weights, in addition it will give a much bigger pump in the biceps.

flex curl

Not Progressively Overloading

Another reason for lagging biceps is the lack of progressively overloading the isolation exercises for biceps. Many people don’t treat their isolation movements the same way as compound movements. You will see people coming into the gym and using the same weights for years on isolation exercises.

This is a recipe for lagging growth and plateaus. In order to see gains in size you have to build in a progressive component into your training. For instance, in my own training I did 12kg dumbbells for two sets of 12 reps on dumbbell zottman curls with fat gripz (4 sec negative on way down). The following week I would do 14kg dumbbells for sets of 10 reps on this same exercise. I would then aim for 12 reps with 14kg the week after.

Of course you will not always be able to hit the reps that you are looking for but you have to factor it in. It may well be that next week I only manage 12 reps on the first set and 10 on the second set. But this is okay, training is a marathon not a sprint. The objective is to just make slow gains over a long period of time.

By applying the progressive overload principle you will allow your muscles to grow in relation to your strength, this is true for isolation exercises in the same way as compound movements. It is just that subconsciously many people pass off isolations as just “fluff and puff” and don’t treat those exercises with the same focus and intensity. This is a mistake that can lead to plateaus and sub optimal hypertrophy in the corresponding muscle.


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To conclude, in this article I have looked closely at why your biceps are not growing and a detailed examination of the reasons pertaining to this. In short, it is a combination of the reasons I have outlined. Over emphasis on compound movements and not treating isolation exercises with the same intensity, sloppy form on isolations and not progressively overloading your isolation exercises.

A prescription to solve the problem of lagging biceps growth would be to incorporate appropriate isolation exercises on a long term basis with a good intensity, strict form and to apply the concept of progressive overload. This would then allow your biceps to keep growing and bust through plateaus in terms of hypertrophy.

If you have any questions about anything I have written in this article, please leave me a comment below. I would love to hear your views regarding this topic and to interact with you further. Have you fallen victim of making one of these mistakes?

As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

4 thoughts on “Why Your Biceps Are Not Growing – Detailed Look”

  1. Nice and thorough article.  I have had a lot of failures trying to body build and you hit the nail right on the head when you speak about isolating the muscles.  Once I started doing that, it really made a difference.  I’ve seen people in the gym trying to isolate the biceps and end up using their backs to assist any curls.   Proper technique is so important.  I found that isolating one bicep at a time and to keep the rest of my body as rigid as possible.  Well done.

  2. Hi Gurds,

    Thank for this interesting article. Biceps are what most of us want to see and show off. I have a question for you: what are the kind of exercises you think can effectively and in relatively short time increase your biceps? – The one that you do not necessarily have to go to gym.

    Thank you.

    1. you can use resistance bands which are highly effective and inexpensive to do band curls for biceps. Check out my review of resistance bands here

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