The biceps are, probably, one of the most coveted muscles that most worry athletes who do weight training, due to the impact they cause when we first look at them. Culturally, a well-developed bicep is a sign of virility. It is common to find a guy who works his biceps on a regular basis, hoping to show off his strength through stronger and jutting biceps. However, there are a few mistakes you might be doing without even noticing and that may be keeping you from reaching the results you should have reached already. Take that factor into account, because besides the fact that the mistakes you make are bad for your muscle development, in many cases, they may lead to injuries. Do not hesitate to ask the personal trainer for help at the gym, because there are a few common mistakes that are easy to correct.
1. Using an inadequate technique during the exercise.
People have different needs and different rhythms. Do not follow the workouts of bodybuilders whose videos you usually watch on videos, because workouts’ methodologies vary accordingly to the level of physical preparation.
– Use a load that allows you to perform the exercise with 12 complete reps;
– Perform the exercise slowly, controlling the up and down movements of the barbell and dumbbell. Try to keep maximum contraction of the biceps in the positive phase of the exercise, focusing all your strength in that area and lowering your arm almost completely, until your elbows are bent so you can go back and lift the weight again (take, approximately, 2 seconds to lift the weight, hold it for 1 second and lower it in 2 seconds);
– The main mistake in bicep workouts is doing the movement completely wrong. There’s probably no other part in the body where performing the exercise with a complete range of movement is as necessary as with biceps. Bend the biceps completely with every contraction, put your elbows in the right position and keep steady without moving them;
– During the curl, make sure the palms of your hands are correctly placed on the side of your body.
2. Performing an unreasonable number of sets.
Quantity is not synonym of quality. There’s no rule that says that, the more sets you do, the bigger your biceps will get. It is better to perform 12 well-executed sets than 20 quick and clumsy ones. While performing each rep, look at your biceps and focus on the right movement. A short, but well-done workout is always the best option.
How many reps should I do?
There’s no conclusive answer on this issue, because bodybuilding has lots of different requirements. However, there’s this basic concept: heavy loads and low reps encourage muscle gains and make muscles stronger.
To get the better results, perform 6 – 10 reps (maximum), lifting a good load. If you’re a beginner, you should choose 6 sets for the biceps (during the workout sessions and not per exercise) and only a few months after should you increase the number of sets. Use the last set to go beyond stagnation through techniques like drop-sets, forced reps, etc.
3. Lots of workout, little rest.
The muscles need rest to grow, especially biceps and triceps because they are small muscles that you use even when you perform exercises for other muscle groups (you also use the biceps with rowing, pull downs, pull-ups, etc.). Overtraining happens when you work out a muscle that hasn’t totally recovered from the previous workout. There’s your answer for the lack of progress. The ideal is 2 -3 (maximum) exercises for the biceps. Sometimes, 1 well-executed exercise is enough.
4. Using the same workout routine.
After a few months working out, your muscles adapt to the exercises and the loads, reaching a stagnation point. You should change your bicep workout every 2 – 3 months, so that you muscles can stay stimulated in different ways and so that you can keep developing. The curl is the standard exercise for bicep-building and, during the first months or even years, it should be very present in your workouts. However, you can stimulate your biceps in varied ways, by performing the curl exercises alternately, performing one exercise standing, one other sitting and another one using a support for the arm (ex: curl on the scott bench), doing at least one unilateral exercise per workout, performing exercises that hit the biceps through different angles (using the TRX, for instance), performing one exercise with the normal barbell, with the dumbbell and another one in the machine, for example.
Read also: When should we change our workout plan?
5. Working out the biceps in the end.
If you want to increase your biceps, it is important to give priority to the muscle. One common mistake is to work out your back before working out the biceps. When you work out your back, the biceps are exercised in practically every exercise and when the moment comes for the bicep workout, you muscles will already be worn out.
6. Don’t do unilateral exercises.
Many people have forgotten that barbells and dumbbells may provoke lack of muscular balance. What should you do to avoid that? Perform exercises that use both sides simultaneously, like: direct curl, alternating curls, etc.
7. Bad diet.
In order to be successful when you stick to your workout plan, you need to follow a diet that suits your goal – increasing muscle mass, for instance. To do so, you can’t skip the basics: proteins, carbs and healthy fats. The amounts will vary accordingly to your weight, time spent exercising, nutritional shortages of your body, etc. Besides the diet, you can also complement with supplements that will help speed up the process of muscle building, recovery, and that will strengthen your defenses and increase performance so you can maximize your gains.
As standard supplement for muscle growth, we recommend:
Dean Goudie, 5 Exercise Mistakes And Solutions!, 26th of April 2004, translation and adaptation of the original version
Greg Merritt, Top 5 Shoulder Training Mistakes And We Show You How To Correct Them, n/d, translation and adaptation of the original version
Marcelo Sendon, Principais erros cometidos no treinamento de bíceps, 10th of October 2012, translation and adaptation of the original version