One of the most popular muscle groups that bodybuilders yearn to improve are the biceps, with possibly the most common question asked of successful weight lifters from curious onlookers being "how big are your arms?" Bodybuilders will focus upon a wide variety of biceps exercises in order to improve the size and shape of their arms, but despite such a targeted focus with isolation exercises, many bodybuilders find that their upper arm size does not reach what they would consider to be an ideal level.

What is the missing ingredient that many bodybuilders neglect while attempting to build impressive upper arms? Other than wasting time with a wide variety of exercises when only 1-2 are necessary for complete biceps development, the most common mistake is believing that impressive upper arm size is contingent solely upon biceps growth, while in reality, there is a much more important factor controlling upper arm circumference.

Most are unaware that the majority of upper arm mass is occupied by the triceps, and since many bodybuilders in hopes of developing maximum upper arm size focus solely upon a wide array of biceps movements, triceps are often neglected, which amazingly, has more of a negative impact on upper arm size than if a bodybuilder were to avoid direct biceps training. Since biceps shape cannot change regardless of the lifting method or exercise selection (this characteristic is genetically determined), instead of wasting time and effort on a wide range of biceps exercises, choose the most effective movements (such as standing barbell and preacher curls) for the biceps, and focus an equal amount of volume and effort on the triceps to encourage far greater overall size gains.

Even bodybuilders who already feel as if they have nicely shaped triceps should not neglect direct triceps exercise in favor of extra biceps work, because adding 1-2 inches of triceps thickness will automatically result in an apparent biceps size increase, a fact that many bodybuilders do not realize. Many seek to reach a specific arm size, but since approximately 66% of the upper arm is occupied by the triceps muscle, logically, the triceps actually becomes far more important than the biceps in achieving this goal, despite many classifying this as a "biceps" measurement (nobody seeks to learn the size of a bodybuilder's triceps, when this in fact is a more significant factor comprising the upper arm measurement). There is no effective way of measuring the biceps without also accounting for triceps thickness, and although this may seem obvious, there are many bodybuilders who do not consider the importance of building massive triceps in providing an illusion of a larger, thicker, more impressive biceps muscle.

Although the triceps occupy more upper arm volume than the biceps, a bodybuilder need not train the triceps with more sets (volume), as the heavier weight used during triceps exercises will address the size disparity. The key is to train the triceps and biceps with an identical total number of sets, realizing that targeting both for maximum growth will produce impressive upper arm volume. Those who have reached a long term plateau in biceps size may find that by training the triceps in a more focused way, upper arm size will begin to increase, and the added triceps mass will at least offer the appearance of improved biceps development.

Lastly, make sure that you avoid isolation exercises for both the biceps and triceps, such as concentration curls and triceps kickbacks, as these are not mass building movements; instead, implement exercises that allow for heavier weight (such as standing barbell curls and close grip bench press) to promote maximum size gains in the upper arm region. If you begin focusing on the triceps muscle with as much emphasis as the biceps, you will find that upper arm size may experience a newfound growth spurt that others will mistakenly assume is due to added biceps mass.

Author's Bio: 

Francesco Castano is the owner of IncrediBody, a physical fitness company dedicated to helping others learn exactly how to gain muscle mass and lose weight without supplements or drugs. He authors two programs, one called MuscleNOW, teaching the correct bodybuilding diet and weight training program for muscle gain at, and Fat Vanish, which teaches how to lose weight & burn fat for natural weight loss, at He includes lifetime email personal training with both programs, where he personally assists all of his clients with training and diet questions, and has hundreds of testimonials validating the effectiveness of his techniques. He also offers weight training equipment, protein powder and fitness accessories at Please visit his web sites, and feel free to contact Francesco at any time with your muscle building or weight loss questions!