Last updated on October 29th, 2022 at 11:59 am
Who’s asked, “Why Do My Biceps Fatigue So Fast?”
The biceps are probably one of most focused-on muscles in the gym.
I mean, who doesn’t want a huge set of impressive guns?
However, there’s nothing more frustrating than cranking out a few sets and finding that your arms are just too tired to continue.
In fact, you may even find that your biceps tend to fatigue quicker than any other muscle.
So, what exactly is going on here?
Why Do My Biceps Fatigue So Fast?
There are various reasons why your biceps fatigue so fast. Firstly, you don’t need as many sets of biceps exercises as you probably think. Biceps are a small muscle and they fatigue relatively quickly, say within 3-4 sets. However, If you adhere to strict form throughout these few sets your biceps are more likely to grow than if you perform endless sets with poor form. You may be using too much weight for the rep range, plus you may lack strength in your “pull” muscles. Additionally, when you perform biceps exercises during your workout could have an impact on how quickly you fatigue.
1. Your Biceps Don’t Need As Many Sets As You Think
I wouldn’t specifically say that most people “overtrain” the biceps, but there is a tendency to do much more work than is required.
I guess we have Arnold Schwarzenegger to blame for this.
Arnie initially felt his arms needed a lot more work, so he set about using a higher volume to train them, especially his biceps.
In fact, his biceps workout could stretch to 18 sets in total.
However, this forced his guns to grow, and at the time he was famed with the best biceps that anyone had ever seen.
With that being said, for us mere mortals we certainly don’t need to be pumping out that many sets for biceps.
The biceps are a small muscle, and if you adhere to strict form, they will fatigue pretty quickly.
This involves ensuring that your elbows remain fixed and don’t swing forward.
You shouldn’t be using any body momentum to get the weight up.
Plus, you should only take the weight to nipple level and no further up.
If you follow this strict protocol you should find that your biceps are pretty wiped out after only a few sets.
In fact, this could happen as quickly as performing just 3 or 4 sets.
So, in truth, you could train biceps twice a week with just 3-4 sets each time.
You may be able to perform more sets in one workout, say 6-8, but be honest with yourself.
Are you using strict form with every single rep?
When trained with perfect form and regular progression, the biceps will get bigger and stronger.
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2. You’re Using Too Much Weight
Pure and simple, I think most people use far too much weight for biceps exercises.
I guess the thinking here is that more weight equals bigger and stronger muscles.
Yes, I’m all for progressive overload.
You should be looking to eventually add more weight to an exercise.
But, not before you’re ready, and not at the expense of good form.
Plus, progression can also be achieved by adding more reps or taking less rest between sets.
Your initial aim with any biceps exercise is to have a number of reps and sets in mind.
So, let’s take the bicep barbell curl as an example.
You should look to perform 4 sets of 10 reps.
So, choose a weight that allows you to achieve this.
As the biceps are a small muscle, I would keep the rest period to around 60 seconds.
So, if you find that you’re struggling to hit 10 reps by the second or third set then you’re using too much weight.
Only once you’ve achieved 10 perfect reps for 4 sets with 60 seconds rest between sets are you ready to “progress”.
However, my aim would then be to perform 12 reps for 4 sets with the same exercise or reduce the rest time to 45 seconds.
Once you’re able to perform 4 sets of 15 reps or 4 sets of 10 reps with only 30 seconds rest between sets, you’re ready to progress to a heavier weight.
3. You Lack “Pull” Strength
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen anyone with an impressive set of guns and poor upper back development.
Okay, I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule out there.
But, in the main, most people who train the “pull” muscles effectively will see some decent biceps gains.
In fact, training heavy compound exercises is what you should be doing for size and strength anyway.
And this is especially true if you’re new to training.
I would go as far to say that there are even people who rarely use isolation biceps exercises, but have a great set of arms.
You should be working on row variations and pull variations before you go anywhere near a biceps exercise.
And as I say, once you have your pull training on-point you may need very little further bicep stimulation.
4. When Are You Training Your Biceps?
When you actually train your biceps could have a huge impact on how quickly you fatigue.
If you train a push/pull/legs split you will typically perform your biceps training straight after exercises for your upper back, lats, and traps.
Your biceps could be pretty wiped out already from these various pull movements, so you’re not going to be able to hit your guns as hard as you want.
The same could be said if you train back and biceps on the same day, or even if you train chest and biceps together, but the day after back day.
I would always say that you should perform compound movements first in your workout.
Basically, they give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Plus, let’s not forget that most pulling exercises will stimulate the biceps in some way.
However, if your aim is to specialize and focus on your biceps then it makes more sense to move things around.
So, in effect, you could start off the week by training biceps, chest, and calves on the same day.
You could then hit your upper back and lats two days later.
And a couple of days after that you could perform a few more sets of bicep work.
If you perform the typical “bro-split”, i.e. chest, back, legs, shoulders, arms, just make sure there is at least 48 hours between training back and biceps.
5. What Types of Biceps Exercises Are You Performing?
It’s also important to realise that various biceps exercises can have an effect on each other.
Let’s say that you want to perform 3 sets of preacher curls and 3 sets of hammer curls.
You really want to isolate the biceps first so you start off with preacher curls.
However, by the time you get to your hammer curls you will typically find that the elbow flexors are already pretty fatigued.
And this of course will impact on how well you perform hammer curls (and with how much weight).
Once again, this could come down to a lack of strength in the “pull” exercises if you do seem to fatigue very quickly.
Additionally, it could be a case of having to play around with various biceps exercises to see which ones are best suited to you.
With that being said, there is still no need to over do it.
You can easily stimulate growth with just a couple of sets of two different exercises in one workout.
Remember it’s all about adhering to proper form and then progressing from there.
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Your biceps will feel fatigued if you’re trying to perform too many sets or exercises. If you adhere to perfect form your biceps can be well-trained in as little as 3-4 sets. So, you shouldn’t use too much weight and “cheat” your way through your reps. Additionally, training and getting stronger will “pull” exercises will also increase size and strength in the biceps. Plus, be wary of when you’re training your biceps and the specific exercises you’re using.
Here’s My Review of Lee Hayward’s “Blast Your Biceps” Workout Program – Lee Claims His Training System Can Add 2 Inches to Your Arms in Just 8 Weeks
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.