Let’s face it; big bulging biceps aren’t going out of style any time soon. Have you ever wondered how you measure up to the average size of biceps? Well, you came to the right place; in this post, we cover the anatomy of the biceps, average size (for men and women), and tips on how to build those 15, 16, 17, 18, or 19 inch arms you’ve been working toward. Plus, we arm you with a sample biceps workout that is sure to give you an enormous pump!
ANATOMY OF BICEPS BRACHII
Before we get into the average biceps size and how to grow those guns, we should briefly cover the anatomy of the biceps and how they function. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to target the biceps more effectively so that you can build 15, 17, or even 19-inch biceps!
Here’s a quick breakdown of the biceps:
The biceps are comprised of two heads; the long and short head. The name biceps come from Latin, which translates to “two-headed-muscle.” The biceps sit on the front of the upper arm opposite the triceps.
Long Head: The long head of the biceps is the bigger of the two heads, and it helps to create the peak of the biceps. The long head begins at the supraglenoid tubercle (small projection of the glenoid cavity close to the coracoid process) of the scapula then converges with the small head of the biceps. This mass then crosses the elbow joint and connects to the radius via the biceps tendon.
Short Head: The short head of the biceps is smaller than the long head, but it adds width to the bicep; you can think of it as the base to the peak. The short head begins at the coracoid process of the scapula then intersects with the long head in the mid-region without sharing any muscle fibers.
The primary functions of the biceps are:
- Flexion of the elbow while forearms are supinated or pronated (bending your arm in the same motion as a biceps curl)
- Supination of the forearms (turning your wrists outwards)
Secondary functions of the biceps brachii are assisting in shoulder elevation and shoulder stabilization.
It’s important to note that the amount of force the biceps can produce is directly related to the position of the forearm and shoulder.
Two other muscles that should be mentioned when covering the biceps and how to build them bigger are the brachialis and the brachioradialis. The brachialis is located underneath the biceps and is the primary elbow flexor, producing up to 50% more force than the biceps. The brachioradialis is located at the radial side of the upper forearm; it also helps flex the elbow and rotate the forearm. Reverse curls will specifically work the brachioradialis more due to the pronated grip.
Biceps muscle fiber type- The biceps consist of roughly 60% fast-twitch muscle fibers and 40% slow-twitch muscle fibers, according to this study. Knowing the breakdown of the biceps muscle fibers helps to focus the type of training you should be doing to grow your biceps bigger than the average size. With fast-twitch muscle fibers being dominant, you should skew your bicep training towards slightly more explosive sets.
ARE BICEPS HARD TO GROW?
Biceps aren’t necessarily hard to grow if you follow the progressive overload principle, eat right, and train properly. Biceps might seem more difficult to grow, but they should grow at the same rate as other muscles; the main difference is that biceps aren’t large muscles to begin with. So, to see noticeable changes in the size of the biceps it might take longer than you’d see with larger muscles like the glutes or quads.
WHY ARE YOUR BICEPS AREN’T GROWING?
There are several reasons why your biceps aren’t growing, including poor training techniques, overtraining, or an inadequate diet. Many people make the mistake of overtraining the biceps because they place too much emphasis on growing them.
The biceps are worked in many pulling exercises such as bent-over rows, lat pulldowns, and pull-ups. If you add a ton of extra biceps isolation exercises on top of these, you might not be giving the muscle enough time to recover.
Try switching up training variables such as volume, body positioning, grip, and tempo during biceps isolation exercises. We’ll go into these muscle building tips later on.
HOW TO MEASURE BICEPS
To find out how you measure up to the average biceps size, you need to recognize that you can get two different measurements depending on if you contract the muscle or not. The more common approach would be to measure the flexed or contracted bicep size because it’s larger.
Measure Flexed Biceps:
- Sit down next to a table, then place your arm on it with your palm facing up towards the ceiling
- Make a fist, then flex at the elbow bringing your fist towards your shoulder, squeeze your biceps as much as possible
- Use a soft measuring tape to wrap around the highest part of the biceps to get the measurement
Measure Unflexed Biceps:
- Stand up with your arms at your sides
- Ask someone to help measure the circumference of your biceps midway between your shoulder and elbow with a soft measuring tape
IS HEIGHT RELATED TO BICEPS SIZE?
Height isn’t a good marker to base biceps size on. A more accurate relationship to biceps size would be wrist circumference. It’s much more likely that someone with thicker wrists will also have bigger biceps than someone tall and skinny.
ARE 15 to 19 INCH BICEPS GOOD?
Yes, 15-to-19-inch biceps are bigger than average. Biceps size is largely dependent on several factors, including gender, fitness experience, fat percentage, and overall body proportions. 15-inch biceps could be impressive for an average size male, whereas they would be small on an NFL lineman or professional bodybuilder, you get the point.
WHAT SIZE BICEPS ARE CONSIDERED BIG?
Hopefully, you have an idea of your biceps size now; below is a rough guideline of how you might compare to the average man or woman:
- 11-12 inches (28-30cm): Smaller than most, you probably should start looking to gain some mass.
- 12-14 inches (30-35cm): Average size, but you have your work cut out for you.
- 14-16 inches (35-41cm): Muscular, you’re on the way to impressive guns.
- 16-18 inches (41-46cm): Strong; people know you work out.
- 18-20 inches (46-51cm): Elite, you made it to the promised land of the gun show.
- 20+inches (51cm+) – Absolute monster, you’re making the rest of us look weak.
- 10-11 inches (25-28cm): Skinny, time to eat more.
- 12-13 inches (30-33cm): Average size; keep it up.
- 14-16 inches (35-41cm): Bigger than most of your peers including men, definitely turning heads.
- 16-18 inches (41-46cm): Stacked, you garner attention from people who think you’re a bodybuilder.
- 18-20 inches (46-51cm): New territory, armed and ready to break all records.
Note: Keep in mind that these ranges are assuming that you’re not extremely overweight and that muscle mass is responsible for the majority of the mass in your upper arms.
AVERAGE BICEPS SIZE MALE & FEMALE
The average biceps size has a lot to do with age, gender, and BMI. This report from the CDC measured the average biceps size by age and gender from the years 2011-2014.
Average Man’s Biceps Size
Average Woman’s Biceps Size
13.3 inches (33.8cm)
12.4 inches (31.5cm)
13.8 inches (35.1cm)
12.9 inches (32.8cm)
13.9 inches (35.3cm)
12.9 inches (32.8cm)
13.5 inches (34.3cm)
12.9 inches (32.8cm)
13.4 inches (34cm)
12.7 inches (32.3cm)
12.9 inches (32.8cm)
12.6 inches (32cm)
12.1 inches (30.7cm)
11.4 inches (30cm)
Note: Keep in mind that this measurement doesn’t purely indicate muscle mass. With the majority of the US population overweight, the average biceps size will be skewed due to fat in the upper arm.
If you don’t measure up to these average biceps sizes, read on below for some tips and tricks on building the big guns.
BODYBUILDERS & BICEPS SIZE
The 20-inch biceps have been a baseline to shoot for in the bodybuilding world for decades now.
However, as you can see below, this goal-line has been inching forward, with some female bodybuilders almost reaching that size!
- Ronnie Coleman: 22 inches (55.9cm) – some reports say as much as 24-25 inches
- Arnold Schwarzenegger: 20 inches (50.8cm) – some reports claim 22 inches at his peak
- Chris Bumstead: 20 inches (50.8cm) – on competition day
- Phil Heath: ~22.5 inches (56-57cm)
- Iris Floyd Kyle (Female): 17 inches (43.2cm)
- Nikki Fuller (Female): 18 inches (45.7cm)
These are of course measurements in their prime.
CELEBRITIES BICEPS SIZE
- Ryan Reynolds: 15 inches (38cm)
- Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson: 20 inches (50.8cm)
- Justin Bieber: 14 inches (35.6cm)
Note: It proved too difficult to get a good read on female celebrities’ biceps sizes, but we would assume that most would be in the average range of 11-12 inches.
HOW 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22 INCH ARMS LOOK
Here are examples of how 15-22 inch arms look for reference.
Note: As you have probably gathered by now, body fat percentage makes a big difference for how your arms will look, no matter what size they are. A lean 18 inch arm is going to look a lot more aesthetic than a 21 inch arm with fat.
15 INCH ARMS
16 INCH ARMS
17 INCH ARMS
18 INCH ARMS
19 INCH ARMS
20 INCH ARMS
21 INCH ARMS
22 INCH ARMS
HOW TO BUILD 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 INCH BICEPS
Not all people want to build 15-19 inch arms; it’s a matter of personal goals and preferences. Whatever size biceps you’re looking to build, just try to keep them proportional to the rest of your body. Don’t fret if you have average or below average biceps; try to implement the tips below, which can help you add mass to your upper arms.
Train for Hypertrophy: If your goal is to grow your biceps, you should base your training around hypertrophy rather than power or endurance. The ideal rep range for hypertrophy training is 6-12 reps. Try to center your exercises around this range unless you’re doing drop sets of supersets. Remember that these should be hard reps; if you get to your last rep and still have enough in the tank to complete a few more, you might not be lifting a heavy enough weight to stimulate new muscle growth.
Related: How Much Do Rep Ranges Matter for Hypertrophy (Science Based Info)?
Don’t Overtrain: One reason why you haven’t seen the gains in the arms you’d wished for could be that you’re simply overtraining the biceps. Many upper body exercises require the biceps and triceps to be engaged to perform the movement properly. This means that you’re working the biceps more than you probably realized. The biceps shouldn’t be trained more than twice weekly; this doesn’t matter on the split you’re using. The ideal volume for hypertrophy is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-2 sessions for a total of 10-20 total sets per week for most muscles except for abs and calves. Make sure there are at least 24-48 hours of rest between workout sessions that work the biceps.
Change Up Grip: The grip you use with different exercises will target the biceps differently. The traditional biceps curl is a great overload exercise to build those pythons, but you need to add more variety to the mix if you want to accomplish more growth.
Here are a few ways that different grips can hit your biceps differently:
- Wide grip (supinated): Doing biceps curls with a wider grip on the bar will work the long head of the biceps a tad more than the short head.
- Close grip (supinated): Biceps curls with a narrower grip will shift the tension towards the outer bicep or long head. You will lift less weight with this grip compared to a wide grip.
- Neutral grip: Performing biceps exercises like hammer curls with a neutral grip will move some tension onto the brachialis and brachioradialis. This is great because building the brachialis will help increase the size of your biceps.
- Reverse grip (pronated): Reverse curls also remove some burden from the biceps and transfer it to the brachialis and brachioradialis.
Mix Up Training Techniques: Arnold famously said, “you have to shock the muscles for them to grow,” to do this, try changing up sets, reps, loads, tempos, and rest times. You can focus on hypertrophic sets, reps, and loads for the big biceps lifts like barbell curls or EZ bar curls.
However, try to change it up once in a while by adding in pyramid sets, drop sets, supersets, or lengthening the tempos of the lift to have longer eccentric phases. Working your biceps through a wide spectrum of these training variables will keep the muscles from adapting and getting used to the same old 3 sets of 8-12 reps. This variety can unlock new gains and bring you from 15 inches to 16 or even 17-inch biceps!
Eat Adequate Protein: To make gains, you need to consume enough protein so that your muscle protein synthesis outpaces your muscle protein breakdown. When this ratio drops or goes into negative territory, you won’t build muscle and will lose muscle. Don’t be that guy or girl that trains hard, then lets it all fall apart on the nutrition side. Eat at least .8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily to support all the hard work you’ve been doing in the gym.
Lift Heavy Weights: The biceps are engaged with many pulling exercises that target the back. So, when doing compound exercises like bent-over rows or reverse grip lat pulldowns, try to lift heavier loads to break through your plateaus while adding some mass to the back and arms.
Improve Mind Muscle Connection: Training with intensity is a must but to get the most out of every rep, try to focus on the muscle contraction. For example, in every curl or other biceps exercise, you make sure to squeeze the muscle, especially when doing slower reps, to concentrate better.
Train Triceps: When you measure the biceps size, the triceps play a huge role in determining whether you’re above average or not. The triceps make up roughly 2/3 of the total mass of the upper arm. To neglect the triceps would be disrespectful to your biceps. Work your triceps just as often or more with the same intensity as you do for your biceps.
Use Supplements: We keep it on the natty side, so the supplements we’re talking about can be found at your local nutrition shop or online. A few supplements that you might want to consider getting to bolster your bicep growth are:
- Pre-workout: Both stim and stim-free pre-workout can give you the added boost to squeeze out those last few reps when you thought you had nothing left. These are the reps where the muscle is built!
- Protein Powder: As we mentioned before, protein intake is vital to muscle growth. Many people might find it difficult to get their recommended protein through normal meals. This is where you can use the help of whey or plant-based protein. Have a shake between meals and before you go to sleep at night.
- Creatine: One of the safest fitness supplements out there, creatine can help you build more muscle mass, recover faster and get bigger pumps. Try to get 5 grams of creatine daily!
Get Enough Sleep: A lack of sleep can be detrimental to your potential gains in both strength and muscle size. This study found that even one night of bad sleep can result in an 18% reduction in muscle protein synthesis. Therefore, quality sleep is one of the most important factors when trying to build the brolic biceps!
Note: Genetic potential may limit how big you can naturally get your arms, but if you follow the above, you can maximize the size of your arms and for most build up some impressive biceps.
BEST WORKOUT TO BUILD MASSIVE BICEPS
Below is a sample workout to go from average biceps size to off the charts:
Perform each rep in each set with full intensity and take a 1-2 minute break between sets.
- Barbell or EZ Bar Curl 3 sets x 8-10 reps
- Hammer Curls 3 sets x 6-8 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Curls & Close Grip Curls (Superset) 3 sets x 10 reps (total of 20 reps per set)
Note: Try using this biceps workout for one month 1-2 times per week, then switch up some of
the exercises and training variables after one month so that you keep shocking your biceps for more potential growth.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU TRAIN BICEPS?
Biceps should be trained similarly to other muscles. The common consensus is that the optimal training frequency for muscle growth is 2 times a week per muscle group. Try to stay within 10-20 total sets per week. Remember that when you’re doing many back or pulling exercises, the biceps are engaged, so you’re probably training biceps more often than you imagined.
HOW MANY EXERCISES SHOULD I DO TO BUILD BICEPS?
You should include a variety of biceps exercises in your workout routine that will hit them from different angles. You shouldn’t need more than 3-4 different biceps exercises in any particular workout session as you don’t want to run the risk of overtraining.
HOW TO GET THE BICEPS PEAK TO GROW?
Growing the biceps peak involves spending more time tweaking how to work the biceps through exercise selection, grip position, and body position to emphasize the long head of the biceps.
Here are a few tips for growing the biceps peak:
- Exercise selection: Focus on biceps exercises that target the long head over the short head
- Grip Position: Close grip curls emphasize the long head of the biceps, so bring your hands closer together than shoulder-width. Neutral grip exercises like hammer curls also work the long head of the biceps.
- Body Position: Try doing curls where your elbows are behind your body, such as the incline dumbbell curl or Bayesian curl.
Related: 8 Best Long Head Biceps Exercises
HOW MUCH CAN YOUR BICEPS GROW IN ONE MONTH?
There isn’t an exact answer to how much you can grow your biceps in one month because too many factors are at play. The fact is everyone gains muscle at different rates depending on genetics, diet, training protocol, sleep patterns, gender, and so on. We’d venture to say that at the most, you might be able to grow your biceps up to one inch if you’re a new trainee, but this wouldn’t be sustainable growth. It could take a year for advanced trainees to get that same one-inch gain if body fat percentage remained constant.
WHO HAS THE BIGGEST BICEPS IN THE WORLD?
There’s some debate around this question as to who has the biggest biceps in the world because some people actually inject Synthol oil into the muscle to make them bigger. Other people vying for the top spot are also most likely using some enhancing substances in the form of steroids. Without mentioning names, the biggest biceps range anywhere from 25-30 inches. You can expect many of the bigger professional male bodybuilders to have 20-24 inch biceps. Female bodybuilders will generally fall in the 14-18 inch biceps range.
Let’s say you have around average size biceps now; you might be able to add an inch or more to your biceps within the year with the proper training, diet, and lifestyle, which would bring you closer to the 15-inch mark. If your biceps are above average now, then you can grow them into 15-19 inch behemoths with extreme dedication over years of training. Once you break into the 20-inch biceps territory, you’re in an elite group assuming most of that mass is a muscle, not fat.
All in all, building big biceps shouldn’t be your only focus. The glory days of the bros with giant biceps up top but chicken legs below are long gone. Design your training and nutrition program around overall health and wellness. It’s not only the size that matters, right?!
Related: 5 Best Workout Splits