Last updated on October 29th, 2022 at 12:03 pm
5×5 is a strength-training protocol, typically aimed at compound movements, so should you be using it for bicep curls?
I guess the thinking behind this is that 5 sets of 5 reps will involve lifting heavy weights, this in turn can help to increase strength.
And, the stronger a muscle, the more developed you would hope it would be.
So, is 5×5 a viable option for bicep curls?
Let’s find out.
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5×5 Bicep Curls – Here’s What You Need to Know
You can use 5×5 for bicep curls. However, many trainees find that biceps generally respond better to higher rep ranges, e.g. 8-20 reps. That being said, if you’ve never trained your biceps in this rep range you may find that you activate “new” muscle fibres. And this, of course, can lead to greater muscle growth.
5×5 is Usually For Compound Exercises
Firstly, I’ll repeat, YES, you can use 5×5 for bicep curls.
In fact, you can use any rep and set scheme you want for bicep curls, or any other exercises for that matter.
However, 5×5 is most commonly associated with StrongLifts, and typically used for strength training the major compound movements;
- Bench Press
- Overhead Press
- Bent Over Rows
The main reason for this is that compound exercises obviously activate many muscle groups with one movement.
Therefore, the more muscle groups an exercise requires, usually the more weight you can lift.
So, bicep curls are clearly an isolation exercise, so they may not be suited to extremely heavy weights and low rep schemes.
In fact, the vast majority of trainees find that their biceps respond better to higher rep ranges, such as 8-20 reps.
This allows you to really isolate the biceps during curls, while ensuring that you use perfect form without momentum.
And it is this that will help your biceps to grow.
However, once more I’ll repeat, I see nothing wrong with using 5×5 for curls.
The Biceps Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibre Conundrum
Something else to consider is the types of muscle fibres found in the biceps.
Fast twitch muscles typically respond better to heavier weights and lower rep schemes, e.g. 5-7 reps.
Slow-twitch muscles will usually respond to higher rep schemes, e.g. 8-20 reps.
It just so happens that the biceps are made up of both types of muscle fibres, although they are slightly more fast-twitch muscle fibres.
When it comes to the brachioradialis, the number of fast-twitch muscles increases to 60%
This in itself tells us that perhaps heavy weights and low reps could be better for biceps.
This is especially true for exercises which focus more on the brachioradialis, e.g. hammer curls.
However, as I’ve mentioned, most trainees find that they achieve better muscle activation when performing curls with higher reps.
Is This a Better 5×5 Bicep Alternative?
From a personal perspective, even though I’ve said that you can use 5×5 for bicep curls, I prefer not to.
I do use the 5×5 training protocol, but this is more geared to the big compound movements.
Plus, I find that doing very heavy rows activates my biceps enough to stimulate growth.
That being said, I know this isn’t the case for everyone.
In fact, many trainees who have used the main 5×5 training protocol, find that their arms are severely lacking in development.
However, there is one exercise, which when performed for 5×5, that can help you achieve some serious bicep growth.
I’m talking about weighted chin ups.
Essentially, you are bicep curling your entire body weight, with a little “extra” weight added.
Chin ups are, of course, more of a compound movement.
They still focus on working the lats, traps, and various shoulder stabilizer muscles.
That being said, with the addition of some extra weight, I can attest to the fact that chin ups will literally blow your biceps up.
So, for me, if you are going to do 5×5 for biceps, you’d be better off training weighted chin ups, as opposed to bicep curls.
Chin Ups: Best Bodyweight Biceps Exercise (3 Steps)
You’ll Never Know What 5×5 Bicep Curls Will Do Unless You Try
Okay, I’ve mentioned enough times now that it is perfectly feasible to use 5×5 for your biceps.
Granted, myself and many other trainees usually see far better bicep gains by using lighter weights and higher reps.
However, something else to consider is that if you train biceps 5×5, and you’ve never worked your biceps in this rep range before, you may stimulate growth.
Essentially, your biceps aren’t used to this rep range, and therefore you may activate certain muscle fibres that you never have before.
Plus, let’s not forget that the majority of the biceps are fast-twitch muscle fibres, which typically respond better to lower reps.
My advice, try 5×5 and see what it does for you.
Are you seeing better gains in strength and size?
Or do feel as though you’re not stimulating your biceps enough for growth.
You must remember that we are different from each other, so our bodies may also react slightly differently to exercise.
So, you’ll never know if 5×5 bicep curls are a viable option for YOU unless you try.
Performing 5×5 for biceps curls is absolutely fine.
That being said, many trainees report that their biceps respond better to higher rep ranges.
I, myself, can confirm this, as my biceps feel far better activated when performing 8+ reps.
However, I have a great love for WEIGHTED chin ups, and have found that performing 5×5 with weighted chins stimulates bicep growth much more than bicep curls.
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Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.