Arm Imbalance? Here’s Why Your Forearms Are Bigger Than Your Biceps

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There’s nothing more impressive than a pair of muscular, rippling, vein-popping arms.

And this is especially true if your biceps, triceps, and forearms appear to be proportionate to each other.

However, I know for a fact that many trainees wonder why their forearms are bigger than their biceps.

Plus, this often seems to be the case even when they specifically focus on training their biceps.

So, what exactly is occurring here?

Allow me to reveal all and explain why your forearms are bigger than your biceps

One of the main reasons why your forearms are better developed than your biceps comes down to “cheating”. In effect, you’re not actually working your biceps properly. This could mean that you’re not getting full range of motion, bouncing at the bottom, using momentum to get the weight up, rushing the eccentric portion of the lift, etc. Furthermore, depending on your lifestyle, you could be stimulating your forearms much more regularly, especially if you play particular sports, e.g. rock climbing, tennis, baseball, etc.

You’re “Cheating” on Your Biceps Workout

I am actually specifically going to focus on “not training your biceps” in a later section.

However, the size of your forearms compared to your biceps can actually be impacted even if you are performing bicep exercises.

A Muscular Man Performing Bicep Curls

Firstly, regardless of the exercise, when you train your biceps you’re going to stimulate your forearms too.

Just the simple fact that you’re holding a weight in your hands will automatically activate the forearms.

The exact same can be said for any exercise that involves testing your grip.

Any grip-based exercise will once more automatically work the forearms too.

By the way, this is something that you should be wary of when performing bicep exercises.

The harder your grip, the more forearm activation there will be.

And, in truth, you don’t actually need to grip a barbell or dumbbells that tight when you’re working the biceps.

With that being said, you can train the biceps without actually “working” them at all, or simply work them extremely poorly.

What I mean by this is that it’s likely that you’re cheating and therefore giving the biceps very little direct stimulation.

The most common forms of cheating include:

  • Not going through the full range of motion. In fact, most people don’t extend far enough at the bottom of a bicep curl and take it too far at the top.
  • Using your body or momentum to get the weight up.
  • Bouncing at the bottom of the movement rather than coming to a complete stop and then curling the weight back up.
  • Concentrating on the curling portion of the lift and rushing the eccentric.

If you are guilty of any of these it will severely hamper your bicep growth.

Plus, the simple fact that you’re holding a weight in your hands will mean that your forearms are heavily stimulated throughout the entire movement.

In essence, your forearms are getting a fantastic workout, and you’re not even hitting the biceps correctly.

This will obviously lead to greater growth in the forearms.

So, if any of this rings true to you it’s time to fix your form.

Focus on the Mind-Muscle Connection

A Hand With a Pen Drawing Arrows to and from the words MIND and MUSCL£

Something you’ll often hear when training biceps is to concentrate on the mind-muscle connection.

Initially, this probably sounds a little strange, and perhaps even impossible to do.

However, by really focusing on contracting and squeezing the biceps at the top of the movement and then fully stretching at the bottom can make a world of difference.

In fact, using the mind-muscle connection has been responsible for many trainees experiencing significant gains.

So, as silly as it may sound, it definitely works.

A great way to bring the mind-muscle connection into your biceps training is to begin with some low-weight, high-rep work.

To be honest, this could be as simple as performing a couple of 20-rep sets with resistance bands.

Something else to consider is that actually using a lighter weight during your bicep workout can pay dividends.

More often than not, much of the “cheating” I mentioned earlier is because you’re trying to lift too much weight.

However, the biceps typically respond much better to using lighter weights.

This allows you to go through the full range of motion, perform exercises at a slower pace, whilst really ensuring that you fully contract your biceps at the top of the movement.

If you can do this then it won’t be long before your biceps catch up and eventually overtake your forearms.

Genetics, Lifestyle & Sports

Another reason your forearms are bigger than your biceps actually has nothing to do with your time in the gym.

Firstly, love it or loathe it, genetics always play some part in how our bodies look.

And unfortunately, some of us are predisposed to having small biceps.

Genetics can also play a role in the shape of our biceps, and even how much we can grow them.

This is not to say that you can’t get bigger or more defined biceps, but you may be limited to what you can achieve.

I will also say that your general lifestyle or even the sports you play could have an impact on your forearm to bicep ratio.

As an example, someone who goes rock climbing regularly will probably have a great set of biceps, but their grip and forearms are likely to be phenomenal.

The exact same can be said for sports like tennis, baseball, or any sport that requires you to use your grip.

In effect, you’re training your forearms on a regular basis, probably without even realising it.

So, the simple fact that your forearms are being trained much more than your biceps reveals the probable cause.

You’re Not Actually Training Your Biceps

Ronnie Coleman:"If your forearms are bigger than your biceps, you're training wrong."

Okay, I mentioned earlier that you could be training your biceps without actually properly activating them.

However, it could also be a case that you’re not actually training your biceps at all.

As popular as the biceps are, there are still many people who don’t train them directly.

I would say that this is typically limited to those who perform a lot of pulling-based exercises.

So, if you have a healthy diet of lat pulldowns, bent-over rows, one-arm dumbbell rows, seated cable rows, pull ups and chin ups, you may feel that this is enough.

Plus, through proper progressive overload of these exercises, as well as good nutrition and a calorie surplus, you may find that your biceps develop quite well.

However, the simple fact that for all these exercises you’re required to hold a weight in your hands (or hang from a bar while supporting your entire body weight) means that your forearms are constantly being stimulated.

There are those lucky ones among us who can produce a fantastic set of guns by simply performing these pulling exercises.

With that being said, there are just as many of us who won’t experience much bicep growth at all unless we specifically train them.

So, if you do perform a lot of pulling exercises, but you feel your biceps are starting to lag behind, it’s probably time to get a few sets of bicep exercises done every week.

Don’t Neglect Compound Movements

Mike Mentzer: "Heavy compound exercises like rows and pull-ups will naturally build your forearms. Don't waste time with isolation curls."

Now, this is going to seem like a catch-22 considering what I’ve just said.

So, I’ve mentioned that you may be solely focused on compound pulling movements when it comes tobiceps stimulation.

While this may lead to some bicep growth, it will also stimulate your forearms at the same time.

However, the opposite is also true, in that if your training is solely focused purely on bicep-specific movements you will struggle to get your biceps to grow.

Therefore, you require a good mix of both compound and isolation movements to force biceps growth.

In fact, one of the “go-to” workouts in Lee Hayward’s Blast Your Biceps workout program is squats, chin ups, and dips.

So, in reality, there is only one exercise (chin ups) in this workout that will directly stimulate the biceps to some degree.

But, this mainly comes down mainly using exercises that will provide the best bang for your buck in terms of overall muscle growth.

And this is something that is very important, if you want your biceps to grow then you need to put on muscle mass all over.

I have previously spoken about how long it takes to add an inch to your biceps, and I also discuss that it takes approximately a 10lbs weight increase to add that inch to your biceps.

So, it makes a great deal of sense that if you want to grow your biceps you’re going to need to pack on muscle as a whole.

And the best way to achieve this is to focus on heavy compound lifts mixed in with bicep isolation exercises.

Focus on Nutrition

Foods That Build Muscle Including Chicken, Beef, Eggs, Nuts, Milk, Yoghurt, Fruit & Vegetables

I hope this makes a lot more sense now that I’ve spoke about having to put of weight in order to get your biceps to grow.

Clearly, your nutrition plays an important role in putting on weight as muscle mass, as opposed to body fat.

So, if you want to gain weight and add muscle mass you need to be eating at a calorie surplus.

However, most people go about this the wrong way and typically eat a lot more than they currently do.

Realistically, this is not the right way to bulk and will lead to more fat gain than muscle.

A great way to start adding weight and bulking is to simply increase your caloric intake by around 200 calories per day.

Essentially, you could eat exactly the same as you do when you’re trying to maintain or lose weight, but you’re simply adding a smal snack.

You don’t really want to be gaining 1-2lbs per week, as this is guaranteed to be mainly fat.

So, try the 200 daily caorie excess first, test this for a couple of weeks and see how you feel.

Once your body has become more used to the excess calories, and as long as you’re not gaining a lot of fat, you can then increase your calorie intake slightly more.

I would also suggest that your initial 200 calorie increase should be a good mix of protein, carbs, and healthy fats.

Sure, protein is the main building block of muscle, but you also need energy to increase the intensity of your workouts.

So, you do need to mainly focus on increasing protein, but don’t neglect carbs and fats.

Can You Shrink Your Forearms & Build Your Biceps?

Lee Labrada: "Isolation exercises like preacher curls are like the finishing touches on a masterpiece. While compound movements build the foundation, bicep curls add definition and detail."

If you search the above phrase online you’ll be greeted with results that discuss fat loss or simply adding size to your biceps.

However, I have focused more on your forearms being big and muscular while your biceps lag behind.

I would hazard a guess that this is the issue that you currently have.

In reality, it’s going to be difficult to “shrink” your forearms while your biceps grow.

As I’ve mentioned, pretty much every single bicep exercise you perform will stimulate the forearms in some way.

The simple fact that you’re holding a gripping a weight will activate the forearms.

Therefore, your main focus should be on the things I have already discussed, namely, ensuring that you are training your biceps correctly.

Furthermore, if you’re overly stimulating your forearms in normal non-training daily activities, e.g. rock climbing, tennis, baseball, etc. then perhaps look to reduce the number of times you perform these activities.

Realistically, it comes down to what your main training goals are.

As an example, if you’re specifically training to get better at one of these sports then reducing your training time won’t help.

However, if your main aim is to be fit, healthy, athletic and muscular, then it makes sense to perform these other activities less often.

Of course, if your big forearms are due to genetics there’s not much you can do in terms of shrinking your forearms.

I would still suggest performing compound movements and eating at a calorie surplus in order to gain weight and therefore add muscle mass.

This is the only way that you’ll get your biceps to grow.

However, you can focus more on your bicep specific training on exercises that isolate the biceps to a far greater degree.

Sure, your forearms are still involved, but not as much.

Some example of great biceps isolation exercises include, preacher curls, concentration curls, seated incline curls, and drag curls.

Final Thoughts

So, I hope you understand that there are a variety of reasons why your forearms have outgrown your biceps.

Initially, this may come down to poor form when performing bicep exercises.

The simple fact that you’re holding a weight in your hands will automatically stimulate the forearms.

However, you can “cheat” your biceps by not using a full range of motion, bouncing at the bottom, using momentum to get the weight up, or rushing the eccentric part of the lift.

It also helps to focus on the mind-muscle connection, which can be achieved by stimulating the biceps prior to your main workout.

You should also be aware that genetics play a role, as well as your overall lifestyle, or if you take part in certain sports.

As an example, rock climbing, tennis, or baseball will all train your grip and therefore activate your forearms.

That being said, many pull-based exercises, such as rows and pull ups, will stimulate both the forearms and the biceps.

However, while compound movements like these are required to grow your biceps you shouldn’t ignore bicep-specific and bicep isolation exercises.

Want to build a pair of seriously muscular biceps? Then check out Lee Hayward’s Blast Your Biceps workout program.

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