Q: More than anything, I want big biceps. Right now, I’m training them twice a week, but could I move up to three times a week for added intensity?
DORIAN: I’ll spare you the lecture on the importance of focusing on every bodypart equally as opposed to fixating on a single bodypart. But I cannot go easy when it comes to the matter of training frequency.
Training twice a week is more than enough for any bodypart, particularly biceps, which is a small muscle group. In fact, to my way of thinking, hitting biceps two times per week constitutes overtraining. If you truly fatigue a muscle during your workout, then it should require about a week to recuperate adequately before training it again. Still, I see so many guys training their biceps several times a week, with the same kind of work they put into their chest training, then they wonder why they’re constantly stuck at a plateau.
Unlike bodyparts like thighs and back, where I would go to failure and then perform forced reps, partials and negatives to push well past positive failure, I generally never trained my biceps past the point of failure. Sometimes, I might go to failure, put the weight down for 10 seconds and then perform another two reps in rest-pause fashion. What I would never do, though, is hammer my biceps past the orthodox failure point as I would with a larger bodypart, like back.
Overdoing forced and negative reps delivers too much stress on the fragile joint and muscle-fiber structure of the biceps. This can ultimately have a negative effect on the central nervous system, leading not only to stagnant gains in muscle, but potentially to a breakdown of the immune system and illness. Early in my career, I experienced such deleterious side effects and, I can assure you, nothing cuts into muscle growth like a bad cold. For beginners and intermediates, I recommend training only to failure for biceps.
I’d train biceps for only 10 minutes a week. You read that right. One 10-minute workout, done with sufficient intensity, was all the stimulation my biceps needed to recuperate and grow. The workout comprises three basic movements — concentration curls, straight-bar curls and camberedbar curls — which are preceded by stretching and then a light warmup set of alternate dumbbell curls. For beginners and intermediates, I’d advise three sets of each exercise, and more advanced trainers may want to try a two-sets-per-exercise regimen before going to my routine.
I’m a firm believer in thoroughly warming up a muscle group before training it, especially when working to failure or beyond. As with overtraining, I’ve experienced my fair share of injuries and, as such, became ingrained with the importance of doing all I possibly can to avoid them. I’ve included the biceps routine that I used throughout much of my competitive career. As a point of interest, I would train my biceps after my chest. By doing this, I would help to ensure that plenty of blood was already flowing through my arms, although my biceps themselves would be fresh for the battle that lay ahead.
I’m confident that you’ll get the growth you’re looking for by training your biceps less, not more, and never forgetting that no matter how big they get, they’re still a small muscle group.