When it comes to building muscles, the arms are often a popular point of focus because of how they look; they are a prominent area of the body that is frequently on show. Your upper arm muscles consist of three separate muscles; the biceps, triceps, and brachialis.
Your biceps, the double-headed muscle that runs at the front of your upper arm, are a popular exercise target for those focusing on aesthetic body image, however, your triceps make up two-thirds of the upper arm, which is why they are sometimes larger.
You might also be not eating enough to build your biceps, or you could be overtraining your arms or simply focusing on the wrong exercises.
Here, we will look at 5 reasons why you might have big triceps and small biceps, before then detailing how you can address the issue.
5 Reasons why you have big triceps and small biceps
1. Not eating enough
In order for muscle growth to happen, you need to be in what is called a calorie surplus – this means you are consuming more calories than you are burning each day. When you are building muscle, you are adding to your body weight and to do this, you need to eat a sufficient amount every day.
So, first, work out the number of calories you need to consume each day to maintain your current weight, then begin to eat roughly 200-300 calories above that number every day. Food products like peanut butter have high caloric value and also offer healthy fats and proteins.
Protein intake is particularly important because it promotes muscle growth and repair.
2. Overtraining your arms
A common mistake that those in pursuit of muscle gains make is to overtrain the areas of the body they want to focus on; in this instance, the arms. Performing an arm workout every day isn’t going to bring you the best results as you aren’t allowing the muscles to recover.
Recovery between workouts is essential as this is when your body makes its ‘adaptations’ – i.e. your muscles become stronger and larger. Without this rest, you increase the chance of injury plus you are hindering the muscle growth in your arms as they will not be able to perform at their best.
3. Focusing on the wrong exercises
If your biceps are underdeveloped despite consistent training, it could be because you’re focusing on the wrong exercises. Bicep curls, for example, are an isolation exercise and while they certainly activate your biceps, their benefits are limited.
Instead, you should ensure you’re incorporating compound movements into your workout routine. These are exercises that engaged several joints and muscle groups at once, and they allow you to lift heavier weights.
Bicep exercises certainly have their place, but to get serious muscle gains then more complex exercises like the bent-over row should also be utilized.
4. Not lifting heavy enough
In order to build your biceps, you need to perform heavy exercises that are going to train the muscles enough to enhance muscle mass. The weight you use for each set should be not too heavy that you can’t maintain proper form, but it should provide a solid challenge in the final few reps, during which you should feel a strain across the relevant muscles.
Correct form, however, is essential. Before you move on to heavy weights you should ensure you are able to perform bicep exercises with proper form.
5. The triceps are the bigger muscle
Simply put, your triceps are naturally bigger than your biceps. They make up a larger portion of your upper arm and this is often why they appear a lot bigger. There are ways to address these differences – which we’ll go into below – but it’s worth remembering that there is a natural discrepancy in size.
How to fix big triceps and small biceps
The most effective way to address a muscle imbalance between your biceps and triceps is to use isolation exercises. Although we stressed the importance of compound movements above, this is to prevent an imbalance from happening. In order to solve an imbalance that has already occurred, isolation exercises like bicep curls are necessary.
There are various types of curls you can use to isolate your biceps, and once you’ve reached a stage where you’re happy with the muscle mass of your biceps, you can begin to reintroduce tricep exercises into your workout routine.
Curl exercises are the most effective bicep exercise as they use the muscle as the primary mover with very little activation of any other muscles, plus they are not one of the more complex movements that can cause complications.
1. Barbell curls
- Hold a barbell with an underhand grip and your arms straight, keeping a slight bend in your elbows.
- With your core tight and abdominal muscles activated, engage your biceps and curl the bar up toward your chest. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement and hold for a moment.
- Lower under control to the starting position and repeat for 12-15 reps.
2. Cable curls
- Stand in front of a cable machine with the pulley attachment set to its lowest point. Take hold of the bar attached to the pulley and stand back up so that it sits across your hips, maintaining an underhand grip.
- Like the barbell curl, activate your biceps and bend your elbows to bring the cable bar up to your chest.
- Lower the bar back to your hips – the starting position – and repeat for 12-15 reps.
3. Preacher curls
- Sit at the preacher bench and lay your arms, with palms facing up, on the preacher pad. Take hold of the handles with an underhand grip. This is the starting position.
- The preacher curl maintains a similar range of motion to other curl variations. Engage your biceps and curl the handles toward your face until your arms move beyond a 90-degree angle.
- Lower the handles back down and repeat for 10-12 reps.
There are a handful of reasons for your triceps being bigger than your biceps, and in general, they can be easily addressed. Using bicep-targeting exercises in your arm training is an effective way of improving the imbalance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do biceps or triceps make arms look big?
Both! As the larger muscle, your triceps play a big part in how your arms look, but both muscles are important when it comes to aesthetics.