Who better than Arnold Schwarzenegger to give advice on how to get big biceps fast. Arnold’s favorite bicep exercises, tips, and tricks revealed. .
In The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding Arnold talks about how building huge biceps had always been a priority for him.
He recalls that by the age of 10 he was already flexing his arms every day.
By the age of 15, when he first started lifting weights, biceps were already his most developed body part.
Arnold says that by flexing his biceps since an early age allowed him to enforce greater control over them.
Of course, it took Arnold years of hard work and proper training technique to develop his towering bicep peaks.
The shape of Arnold’s biceps largely came down to his genetics.
Not everyone has the same potential when it comes to muscular development.
Everyone’s biceps will ultimately vary in terms of size, shape, length, and peak.
Arnold was famous for his towering peaks.
Larry Scott was noted for his long, full, and thick biceps.
Franco Columbo had short but peaking biceps.
The shape of your biceps ultimately comes down to factors outside of your control.
The Bottom Line:
Focus on factors that you can control, i.e. diet and exercise, and work your way towards building your biceps to their maximum potential.
Anatomy of the Bicep
The bicep muscle is made up of two heads: Short head and long head.
The short head is the part of your bicep that is closest to your chest.
The long head is the part of your bicep that runs along the outside of your arm and forms the peak when you flex.
If you have come across a guy with biceps that seem huge from the side but tiny when viewed from the front, it is a clear sign of the short head lagging in development compared to the long head.
If you want fully developed biceps you will have to perform exercises that target each head individually.
Arnold’s Favorite Bicep Exercises
In The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding Arnold reveals the exercises he used to build the greatest biceps of all time.
Exercise 1: Cheating Barbell Curl
Arnold classifies the cheating barbell curl as the “ultimate mass builder for biceps”.
The cheating barbell curl entails using a slight jerk of your body to get the weight up past sticking points.
When doing cheating barbell curls, use a heavier weight than usual.
Hold the barbell with a shoulder wide grip and use the momentum from a slight jerk to get the weight up.
Concentrate on going to full bicep flexion.
Lower the barbell slowly back to the starting position and repeat.
Exercise 2: Incline Dumbbell Curl
The incline dumbbell curl is another one of Arnold’s favorite bicep mass builders.
The way to do them is on a 45 degree incline bench.
Fully extend at the bottom portion of the movement and maintain the contraction all the way upwards.
The great thing about incline dumbbell curls is that your arms are behind your body and you can feel an elongation of the bicep at the bottom portion of the movement. This results in extended time under tension.
Strive for full contraction and extension to recruit the maximum amount of muscle fibers in your bicep.
Exercise 3: Concentration Curls
Proper technique is critical if you want to get the most out of this exercise.
Arnold preferred to do them standing in a bent over position.
You can also do them sitting on a bench.
Keep your elbow and arm stationary. Move only the forearm as you bring the dumbbell up to your shoulder.
Focus on squeezing your bicep at the top portion of the exercise.
Return back to the starting position slowly.
Exercise 4: Standing Alternate Dumbbell Curls
Walk into any gym and it is likely that there will be a bunch of guys doing curls.
The important tip to keep in mind when doing standing alternate dumbbell curls is to supinate your grip at the upper portion of the movement.
This technique further brings out the bicep peak.
Arnold says that the supination of the grip at the top was responsible for bringing him maximum thickness and separation between the two bicep heads.
Build Huge Biceps…With Your Mind
Arnold considered the mind as a major component in determining how the body will turn out.
Arnold recalls that throughout his training career he was constantly playing tricks on his mind.
He began to think of his biceps as mountains rather than just plain flesh and blood.
Arnold says that these thought patterns are largely responsible for the rapid growth of his biceps.
Visualizing his biceps as mountains put no limit in his mind to how much they could grow.
In four years, from the age of 15 to 19, Arnold grew his arms by 5 inches.
At the age of 19 Arnold was rocking a pair of 20 inch guns.
Begin with the end in mind:
How big do you want your biceps to be?
How much work are you willing to put in to get there?
Arnold’s Bicep Routine
Arnold varied his training routines based on his goals:
- Offseason (The 9 months after competition)
- Pre-contest (The 3 months leading up to competition)
The offseason was focused around building mass.
The pre-contest period was focused around bringing out maximum separation between the muscles.
The exercises would remain pretty much the same, but Arnold varied the sets, reps, and intensity with which he performed them.
Arnold’s Offseason Bicep Routine
Exercise 1: Cheating Barbell Curls – 5-8 sets of 8-12 reps
Exercise 2: Incline Dumbbell Curls – 5-8 sets of 8-12 reps
Exercise 3: One-arm Concentration Curls – 5 sets of 10 reps
Exercise 4: Standing Alternate Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets of 10 reps
Arnold’s Pre-contest Arms Routine
Arnold preferred doing bicep and tricep supersets during pre-contest.
This involved very high intensity and minimal rest in between sets.
For a sample of what Arnold’s pre-contest routine looked like check out this arm workout for mass that I put together based on his training principles.
Shock Your Biceps To Grow
Your muscles will only grow if they are shocked to grow.
To ensure muscle growth over the long term, it is important to keep your muscles guessing.
Don’t stick to one particular training routine for too long.
Vary your reps, sets, weights. exercises, and tempo.
Arnold was always shocking his muscles:
One day I would do 20 sets of extremely heavy bicep work for 4-5 reps each. In the next workout I would do 10 sets of 15 reps each with a relatively lighter weight.
This way his body never knew what was coming and had no choice but to grow.
I recommend that you change your training methods every 2-3 months or so.
Arnold’s Top 5 Guidelines For Building Bigger Biceps
- Never let your biceps get used to the type of training. Vary your methods by using barbells, dumbbells, and cables.
- Don’t let other muscles get involved when training your biceps.
- Proper technique. Focus on getting that full range of motion so you target the maximum amount of muscle fibers in your biceps.
- Practice the movements until they become second nature so that you can perform them without much conscious thought.
- Develop a mind-muscle connection with your biceps and concentrate on feeling the full contraction with each rep.
(P.S. Discover the 7 biggest muscle building myths and mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated)
What Does This Mean For You?
Arnold was training with the vision of becoming the greatest bodybuilder in the world.
If you are a complete beginner, following Arnold’s routine may do you more harm than good.
Your training methods will largely depend on your goals and where you currently stand.
In The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding Arnold provides tips for beginner, intermediate, and advanced lifters.
For beginners, Arnold recommends starting off bicep training with dumbbells and a barbell:
Exercise 1: Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 10 reps
Exercise 2: Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets of 10 reps
Your focus should be kept on perfecting the proper movement and adjusting to the motions that put maximum stress on the biceps.
After seeing some results Arnold advises taking an analytical look at your bicep development.
Figure out what the weaker parts of your bicep are and do the exercises that will bring them out.
To build more fullness of the bicep focus on heavy curling movements.
To build a better bicep peak focus on dumbbell work, particularly concentration curls.
As you move into the advanced area of training you should focus on building additional mass and creating separation.
Arnold advises super-setting biceps with triceps to create added intensity and shorter rest periods.
At this point, you will once again look at your weak points and focus on how to bring them out.
Best Way To Build Biceps Without Weights
If you don’t have access to weights, the only other way you can build biceps is using your body weight.
Pull ups and chin ups are the best body weight exercises for the biceps.
Either go on Amazon and order a chin up bar or just head to the playground in your neighbourhood and crank out some chin ups on the monkey bars.
While I was taking some time off from the gym I used to do 100 reps of a combination of pull ups and chin ups through as many sets as it would take.
Putting It All Together
There is no “secret” for building bigger and better biceps.
What it comes down to is doing the right exercises with correct technique.
Varying your training methods overtime will prove vital to sustain long term growth.
Methods on how to get big biceps fast involve training past your pain barrier, training your biceps twice a week, and eating for sufficient recovery.
Arnold has revealed how to get big biceps fast.
The only questions are:
Are you willing to put the work in?
How bad do you want them?