Q: Why do you recommend as many sets for biceps as for chest or back? These are way bigger than biceps.
1.Higher volume for bigger muscle groups.
In other words when we train chest or back we use much heavier weight than for biceps. So even if we use the same amount of sets and reps the volume for the big muscle groups is still higher than for the small ones. For example let’s compare Bench Press (V1) with Biceps Curls (V2):
Volume 1 = 100kg *10 reps *3 sets = 3000kg
Volume 2 = 50kg *10 reps *3 sets = 1500kg
So as you can see we did 3 sets of 10 repetitions for both exercises. We pressed 3000 kg for the chest but we curled only 1500kg for our biceps. Despite the exact number of sets and repetitions total volume for the curls was only half of the volume for the bench press.
2. One exercise hits different muscle.
One of the exercises for biceps in any of our workouts is done with the different grip like hammer or reverse grip. Training this way doesn’t hit directly the biceps but focus more on a different part of an arm – Brachialis and Brachioradialis – muscles on the top of the forearm and underneath the biceps.
Most of people doesn’t know that these muscles exist however training them will make your arms look much bigger and muscular.
3. Depends what body parts you are training together
Any pulling exercise like Pull-Ups or Row involve the work of biceps. On the other hand any pressing exercise: Bench Press or Military Press hits hard the triceps. I don’t recommend to train muscles that work together on the same day, especially for beginners, that’s why in most of my programs chest is trained with biceps and back with triceps so the smaller muscle groups aren’t so fatigued after first part of the workout. However there are many different routines and if it happened that we had to train triceps after chest or shoulders I simply wouldn’t advise to do as many sets for the smaller muscle group.
At the end of the day everybody is different. Some people’s arms will be getting bigger without even hitting them directly, others will need to perform 9 strict sets to make small muscle groups grow. That’s why you have to ‘listen to your body’ to see what really works the best for you. If you feel that your biceps had enough don’t do any more sets just because everybody else is doing it. If certain exercise doesn’t work for you, you don’t feel the right muscles working, change it. Replace it with something different. Experiment, discover and have fun. Bodybuilding becomes boring if we only follow the instructions and do exactly the same stuff over and over again.