Soft Biceps Even When You Flex? Here’s Why & How to Fix it!

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The main reason your biceps are soft when you flex them is because they’re carrying a layer of fat. It’s impossible to spot reduce fat from the body or to control where fat may form. You should ensure that you properly contract the muscles when training biceps. Additionally, don’t go too heavy when working biceps, but concentrate more on maintaining tension. You may also find that your biceps are soft if you’re taking creatine, as this draws water into the muscles.

Your Biceps Have a Layer of Fat

Menno Henselmans: "Soft biceps can be caused by high body fat. If you're trying to cut fat, make sure you're still training your arms so you don't lose muscle mass."

Unfortunately, there’s no way around it, pure and simple, your biceps are carrying a layer of fat.

You could even have a set of rock-solid triceps, and yet your biceps are as squishy as hell.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose what areas of our body hold onto fat.

And everyone is different.

So, what works for one person in terms of fat loss may not work for another.

Plus, it’s impossible to spot reduce fat from the body.

Basically, we are all individuals, so our body will decide where fat will settle and where we will lose it first.

The first place to look is of course your diet.

I know we all expect to typically see our stomach hold onto fat if we’re not eating right, but as I’ve said, we don’t really have much control over where fat decides to settle.

Additionally, if you’re going through a bulking phase then you can expect the body to store some of the additional calories as fat.

And this will typically mean that your muscles will feel softer.

However, this will only be a temporary thing until your bulking phase is over.

Taking diet and bulking out of the equation, the way you train your biceps could have an impact.

So, I want to cover these in more detail now.

You’re Not Properly Contracting When Your Train Biceps

One of the main mistakes I see when it comes to training the biceps is people not contracting the muscles.

With every exercise you perform, irrespective of body part, you should look to contract the target muscle.

Basically, this lets you know that you’re really working the muscles.

Lee Priest: "Focus on the mind-muscle connection. Squeeze the bicep at the top of each rep, and feel the burn!"

I will also say that when it comes to bicep training the most important aspect is to ensure that your elbows stay fixed in the same position throughout.

Let’s take barbell bicep curls as an example.

For me, the exercise ends once the barbell is in line with your nipples.

However, most people will continue the trajectory of the bar until it’s at around throat height.

Firstly, take a look at where your elbows are.

They are definitely no longer in the same position as when you started the curl and have moved forward.

Secondly, once you travel past the nipple line you are no longer working the biceps, but have now brought the shoulders into play.

So, keep your elbows tucked into your sides and ensure they never move, not even an inch.

Curl the bar up to your nipple line and then squeeze the biceps as hard as you can.

You can even hold the squeeze for a count of three.

Then slowly lower the bar under full control to the starting position.

That is how you perform a barbell bicep curl.

You may find that you can’t get as many reps, and that’s fine.

This is all about performing the movement correctly and getting the best out of the exercise.

You’re Lifting Too Heavy

Something else to consider is how much load you’re using when you train biceps.

The biceps are an extremely small muscle and therefore to work them correctly you don’t really need a huge amount of weight.

In fact, I’m willing to bet that if you’re working your biceps with more weight than they can handle, you’re not actually working the biceps at all.

It’s likely that you’re using body momentum to get the weight up and you’re probably using your forearms more than your biceps.

Plus, I can guarantee that your elbows aren’t in a fixed position either.

Look, I’m all for progressive overload and lifting heavier weights.

However, this should never be done at the expense of proper form.

Layne Norton: "Building muscle takes time and consistency. Don't expect to get huge biceps overnight. Stick to a good program and your diet, and you'll see results."

Plus, I also feel that the biceps respond better to higher reps and higher volume.

So, it’s probably time to leave your ego at the gym door and reduce the weight for your bicep training.

Trust me, this could make a huge difference to strength, size, and the hardness of your biceps.

Tension is Important When Training Biceps

Tension plays a huge role in how well-developed your biceps are, as well whether they’re hard or not.

I’ve mentioned contracting the biceps hard at the top of the movement, but the stretch at the bottom is just as important.

This is often referred to as resting tension.

Basically, you want to keep the biceps tight throughout the entire movement.

However, this is typically done in the wrong way.

Going back to the example of barbell bicep curls, the muscles aren’t usually stretched enough at the bottom.

In fact, most of us maintain a slight bend in the elbow, although this is more down to the fact that our quads get in the way.

Athlean-X (Jeff Cavaliere): "For biceps, aim for a time under tension of 30-40 seconds per set. This will create significant metabolic stress and muscle breakdown for growth.

This is also why I much prefer to train biceps with dumbbells and cables.

This allows me to create a full stretch at the bottom of the movement, which will work the long head of the bicep.

I would also say that time-under-tension has a part in bicep growth and hardness.

I like to work a muscle for around 40 seconds for optimum hypertrophy performance.

However, this means that I can’t completely relax at the bottom of the movement.

So, even though my biceps are being stretched, and therefore “relaxed”, I still maintain tension in my arms throughout.

The best way to achieve this is to contract the triceps at the bottom of the movement.

One of my favourite bicep exercises that allows you to adhere to all of these factors is the seated incline dumbbell bicep curl.

Are You Taking Creatine?

I’ve already spoken about the importance of your diet I will cover this in more detail in the FAQ section below).

Definitely the number one reason for soft biceps when flexed is fat.

Obviously, this can also occur when you’re bulking.

However, another consideration is whether you’re taking creatine.

If you are then this could provide an explanation for your “soft biceps”.

Creatine draws water into the cells of the muscles.

This is actually why many people feel sick when they first start taking creatine, simply because they’re not taking on enough water to compensate.

With that being said, due to the excess of water being drawn to the muscles, they will typically feel softer.

This may also mean that you find many of your other muscles feel softer to the touch too.

However, once you stop taking creatine you should notice that the muscles feel noticeably harder (obviously, as long as you’ve training them effectively).

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Can’t I Flex My Left Bicep as Much as My Right? (& Vice Versa)

It’s quite common to notice a difference in strength or flexibility between your left and right biceps . 

This usually boils down to the concept of ‘dominance’. Most of us have a dominant side that we use more often in daily activities. 

For instance, if you’re right-handed, you might naturally use your right arm more often for tasks like writing, lifting, or throwing. 

This increased use can lead to the muscles on your dominant side, including your biceps, becoming stronger and more developed over time.

On the flip side, your non-dominant arm, which gets used less, might not develop the same level of strength or muscle memory. 

This can make it harder to flex the bicep as effectively. 

Charles Poliquin: "Asymmetry is common, even in pros. It can stem from dominant hand use, injury history, or even subtle postural imbalances."

It’s not just about muscle strength, though. 

Nerve connections and coordination play a role too. 

When you’re more used to using one arm, the brain’s neural pathways that control that arm are more developed, making movements more coordinated and seemingly effortless.

How to Address the Imbalance

To address the imbalance between your left and right biceps, incorporating unilateral exercises into your workout routine can be very effective. 

Unilateral exercises target one limb at a time, ensuring each arm works independently and receives equal training stimulus. 

Here’s a tailored exercise plan you can follow:

Dumbbell Bicep Curls: Start with a weight that is challenging yet allows you to maintain good form. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps for each arm. Ensure you perform the exercise with equal intensity and control on both sides.

Hammer Curls: These are similar to bicep curls but with a different grip, targeting the muscle slightly differently. Again, aim for 3 sets of 10-12 reps per arm.

Concentration Curls: Sit on a bench, and place your elbow on the inside of your thigh, curling the weight towards your shoulder. Perform 3 sets of 8-10 reps per arm. This exercise is excellent for focusing on the bicep without other muscles assisting.

Cable Bicep Curls with Single Arm: Use a cable machine with a handle attachment. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps per arm. The constant tension from the cable machine provides a unique stimulus to the bicep muscle.

In terms of progression, you might find it more challenging to complete these sets and reps on your weaker side initially. That’s okay. 

Start with what you can manage without compromising your form, and gradually increase the reps and weight as you grow stronger. 

It’s important to maintain consistency in your workout routine, as muscle balance and strength take time to develop.

How Do I Make My Biceps Feel Harder?

I’ve covered the main reasons why your biceps are soft, so let’s look at exactly how you should go about cirrecting this.

It’s essential to focus on two main aspects: increasing muscle mass and reducing body fat.

Muscle firmness is often a combination of having well-developed muscles and a low enough body fat percentage to make these muscles more prominent and palpable.

Firstly, to increase muscle mass in your biceps, you should incorporate a variety of bicep exercises into your workout routine.

John Meadows: "Choose exercises that effectively target the biceps and vary your rep ranges to keep things interesting."

Secondly, as I’ve already mentioned, reducing body fat can help make your muscles feel harder. 

This involves a combination of regular cardiovascular exercise

Lastly, your diet plays a crucial role.

Ensure you’re eating enough protein, which is essential for muscle repair and growth. 

Additionally, keeping a check on your overall calorie intake is important. 

Eating a slight caloric deficit can help with fat loss, while still providing enough nutrients and energy for muscle growth and recovery.

Bicep Hardening – a Three-Pronged Attack

So, you’re now aware of what you need to do, but what does this actually look like? 

Here’s a more detailed plan:

Strength Training for Biceps
  • Barbell Curls: Perform 4 sets of 8-10 reps. This exercise is great for overall bicep mass.
  • Preacher Curls: Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps. This isolates the biceps effectively.
  • Incline Dumbbell Curls: Complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps. The incline angle hits different muscle fibers in the biceps.
  • Concentration Curls: Aim for 3 sets of 12 reps per arm. This exercise helps with peak contraction.
Cardiovascular Exercise
  • Running or Brisk Walking: Aim for 30-45 minutes, 3-4 times a week. This helps in overall fat burning.
  • Cycling: A 30-60 minute session, 2-3 times a week, is effective for cardiovascular health and calorie burning.
  • Swimming: Engage in 30-45 minute sessions, 2-3 times a week. It’s a full-body workout and less impactful on the joints.
Diet and Nutrition

A balanced diet is crucial for muscle development and fat loss. 

I’ll provide you with a sample meal plan now, but this is based on my own 2,800 maintenance calories per day.

You will need to adjust this accordingly to fit in with your own calorie and macro requirements.

For someone needing 2,800 calories per day, the goal is to distribute these calories across meals and snacks in a way that supports muscle growth and overall health, with a focus on protein, healthy fats, and good carbohydrates.

🍽️ Energizing 2,800 Calorie Meal Plan 🍽️

Meal Description Calories Macros
Breakfast Omelet (3 eggs, veggies), whole-grain bread, Greek yogurt with berries 700 45g Protein, 60g Carbs, 25g Fats
Lunch Grilled chicken breast (200g), brown rice (1.5 cups), side salad 800 50g Protein, 80g Carbs, 20g Fats
Dinner Steak (200g), baked sweet potato (250g), steamed vegetables 800 55g Protein, 60g Carbs, 30g Fats
Snacks Morning: Protein shake and a banana. Afternoon: Nuts (30g) and an apple 500 (Total) 30g Protein, 55g Carbs, 20g Fats
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This plan provides a balanced mix of macronutrients, aligning with the goal of muscle building and overall health. 

The protein in meals and snacks supports muscle repair and growth, carbohydrates provide energy, and fats ensure proper hormone function and provide essential fatty acids.

Remember, individual needs can vary based on factors like metabolism, activity level, and specific health goals. 

It’s important to adjust portion sizes and food choices to suit personal preferences and nutritional requirements. 

Staying hydrated and adjusting the plan as needed based on your body’s response is also key to achieving your fitness and health goals.

Final Thoughts

So, you should now have a better understanding of why your biceps are soft when you flex.

In the main, this is down to the biceps having a layer of fat.

With that being said, you can also ensure that you train the biceps more effectively.

Don’t go too heavy, always contract the bicep at the top and aim for full stretch at the bottom.

You should also try to maintain tension on your biceps throughout any exercise.

Finally, your diet, whether you’re bulking, or if you’re consuming creatine can all have an impact on bicep softness.

Next, while sticking with the subject of biceps I want to introduce to a strange, yet common phenomenom, namely feeling bicep curls in your neck.

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