If you are a guy who lifts and has been doing so for a while, you will probably agree that one of the reasons you started lifting in the first place is to get big arms – or more precisely, biceps. Yes, this sounds very superficial, but to a testosterone-ridden young man who wants to look as powerful as possible, it is a very solid reason.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to have big, strong arms. As a matter of fact, they look attractive and will probably bring you more benefits than downsides in life. If you are one of the people on this magnificent quest, it would be a great idea to start tracking your progress, and you do this by taking measures of your biceps regularly.
Now, there are many questions online concerning this matter, so we decided to jump in and help out. Today, we will introduce you to the proper way to measure biceps.
Why Measure Biceps?
Let’s be frank, big guns look good, alpha and any man alive wouldn't object to having a pair. Bicep size seems to be an innate male obsession, and if you go into any gym on the planet, you will find sweaty guys curling themselves unconscious only to achieve bicep hypertrophy.
So, the main reason for measuring biceps should be to track progress and see whether you are making any gains in this area. This is essential because if there is no increase in size, it means that your current program might not be working for you, or that you need to pay more attention to nutrition and rest.
What Influences Bicep Size?
People who want to measure their bicep size are the ones trying to build them up, so let’s talk a bit about the ways to do this and the factors that influence biceps development.
The first thing that plays a major role is, of course, exercise. This is a no-brainer, but still, we wish to mention it because some people may not be familiar with all the movements and exercises that recruit the bicep muscles. Each time you pull, lift, carry, grab or hold something, these muscles get activated. Therefore, remember to wear safety gears such as resistance bands and deadlift shoes during your training. These actions can refer to many exercises so let’s highlight the ones you should be focusing on:
- Dumbbell curls – make sure to hit your biceps from every angle, not just the regular up-down curl. Try different variations and speeds of this exercise (e.g. hammer curls, preacher curls, eccentric curls, slow negatives.)
- Chin ups – pulling your bodyweight up takes a lot of power and biceps do a lot of work in this movement. Same as with the curls, try different variations of chin ups (close grip, isometric, slow negatives.)
- Barbell curls – this exercise is a powerful muscle builder, and we advise you to implement it in your program along with dumbbell curls.
The second factor that has a big influence is genetics. If the lower end of your biceps is close to the elbow joint (low insertion) it means that you have more potential for hypertrophy. The farther away it is (high insertion), the smaller the chance to develop big, nicely shaped biceps. The latter doesn’t necessarily mean that they will remain small, but it will not be possible to have Arnold-like arms.
What You Need To Know Before Measuring Biceps
First and foremost, always make sure to take the measurements ‘cold’, meaning that you haven’t worked out yet and that your muscles are ‘unpumped' because only in this way you will have a realistic picture of the muscle size.
It is also advisable to take the measurements at the same time of the day, and if you want to be even more detailed, at the same state of hydration. A good example would be every noon or morning.
Second, measuring your biceps every day is not advisable. Muscles such as this one do not grow on a linear time basis - they grow sporadically. So how often should you do this?
For example, if you are starting an arms hypertrophy program you should take the measurement before beginning and after finishing the entire program; so after a few weeks. If this sounds too long for you, then feel free to do it more frequently, but don’t do it at least for 48 hours after a hard bicep workout.
How To Measure Biceps Most Accurately?
This section is the meat of our article, and here we will describe the proper technique to measure biceps.
- Extend your arm fully so that it is parallel to the floor.
- Bend the elbow and flex your biceps hard.
- Place one end of the measuring tape on the inner part of your biceps and wrap it around the highest point of the muscle (peak of the biceps).
- Make sure that the measuring tape is perpendicular to the ground.
- See where the tape overlaps and take the measurement.
Tips And Advice
When it comes to the measuring tape used the most obvious choice is the seamless tape (that’s the one that a tailor normally uses). A better option would be a flexible steel tape which is connected to a tension measuring device, also known as a Gullick tape (if you can get your hands on one, of course). What this tape does is allow you to measure with the same level of tension on the tape, thus making sure that your measurements are accurate every time.
Another good advice would be to get someone else to do the measurement for you so that your ego doesn't come in the way and add a few extra inches. Whether you do it by yourself or with the help of a friend, please be objective and precise every time because there is no one to cheat here except for yourself.
Average bicep sizes range from 13.1”-13.6”, depending on your age and genetics. Bodybuilders aim for around 20”, but don’t get carried away by their looks. Keep in mind that a bodybuilder couldn’t possibly achieve this size without PED’s, and if you are an average Joe, you probably won’t even want biceps that large. A good goal for anyone would be anywhere in between average and bodybuilder, and also according to you personal preference.
In the words of the famous trainer Charles Poliquin "The human body is a finely-tuned machine that will only allow for a certain amount of asymmetry." By saying this, he meant that you cannot get gigantic arms while having chicken legs because the body will inhibit the growth of certain body parts if the others are lacking in development. In simple words, focus on training the whole body, not just the arms because you will eventually come to the point of complete stagnation because you've been neglecting the legs, for example.
While good aesthetics are impressive, health and function are more important, so we wholeheartedly advise you to prioritize the latter. A strong, lean, healthy, and functional body will inevitably look good so focus on this first and let the good looks follow. Stay strong and persistent!