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Got big biceps but small triceps? Try these fixes!

Bulk up your small triceps with these mass-building training tips.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 2nd May 2022
A man showing that he has big biceps and small triceps

Having big biceps and small triceps can seem like a curse, especially because the triceps are supposed to be bigger than the biceps. Heck, some people say that your triceps should be twice as big as your biceps!

So if you're all biceps and no triceps, then clearly, you need to make some changes to your workout routine.

But there is some good news.

If you genuinely have big biceps but no triceps, that's good because, well, you've got big biceps, which is an important muscle for looking like you lift. And second, your triceps might still have a lot of growth potential if they're not that big right now.

Related:

Why you might have big biceps but small triceps

Here are some reasons why you might have big biceps and small triceps. If your bicep tricep imbalance is particularly severe, then it could definitely be for more than one reason.

Your arm genetics are bicep-dominant

A man showing that he has small triceps and big biceps

While just about everyone can make a particular muscle grow if they train it hard enough, there's no denying that genetics influence how fast and how big you can grow your triceps. [1]

Some people do a few sets of bench presses and almost instantly see the tricep gains come pouring in.

On the other hand, some lifters do pushdowns, overhead extensions, and skull crushers religiously and still can't seem to improve their lagging triceps.

If the latter case sounds like you, then there's a chance that you might have poor tricep genetics.

Or, you might have normal tricep genetics but amazing bicep genetics, which has the effect of making your triceps look small even when, objectively, they're normal-sized, and it's your biceps that are big.

You're really good at curls

A weight lifter demonstrating that his biceps are bigger than his triceps

Bicep curls are a super easy exercise. A good personal trainer should be able to teach their client to curl within 10 minutes. You literally just move your forearms toward your biceps while keeping your elbows and shoulders still.

Of course, many people curl with bad form, but in the grand scheme of things, bicep curls are definitely one of the more straightforward exercises that you'll do in the gym.

And that's the problem for people who have biceps that are bigger than their triceps.

Curls are so easy that you can establish a rock-solid mind-muscle connection and put a ton of tension through your biceps, which gives them a massive growth stimulus.

Tricep exercises, on the other hand, can often be very elbow-intensive, which can make it hard to gain strength and perform high-volume training. Ultimately, this can lead to stagnant tricep development.

You've had elbow problems in the past

A man holding his elbow

If there's one reason why people are all bicep and no tricep, it's this.

Elbow problems can stop your tricep training dead in its tracks. As soon as you feel a pop or click during overhead extensions or skull crushers, you know that you have to take the next sets easy.

Obviously, you can't do easy workouts all the time and expect to get results.

If your elbow problems are preventing you from training your triceps to their full potential, then your biceps can easily surpass them in strength and size, especially since curls rarely cause any problems (except potentially making your biceps too big compared to your triceps!).

A decent workaround is to stick to high rep tricep training. Save the heavy stuff for your pressing exercises and stick to high reps on your isolation exercises. More on that later.

You rely on compound presses for your triceps

A man performing a close grip bench press

Although close grip bench presses can definitely build your triceps, they neglect arguably the most important triceps muscle; the long head.

The long head of the triceps accounts for around two-thirds of your total tricep size.

Crucially, the long head is the only tricep muscle that crosses the shoulder joint, meaning that you need to train it with overhead exercises if you want to develop it to its full potential.

Since close grip bench presses and other such exercises don't put much tension on the long head, you can't rely on them for building your triceps.

Lying extensions and overhead tricep extensions are actually much better mass builders than the close grip bench press and, as such, should take precedence in your workout if you truly have big biceps but small triceps.

How can you improve your bicep tricep imbalance?

If your triceps won't grow, then be sure to implement some of these training tips.

Do more tricep isolation exercises

A weight lifter with a bicep tricep imbalance training his arms

If you've got big biceps but no triceps, then isolation exercises should be your first port of call, and here's why: If you get stronger on skull crushers, overhead extensions, and pushdowns, then your triceps have pretty much no choice but to grow and get bigger.

I made the mistake of hopping between different isolation exercises, which meant that I never really gained any strength. So it wasn't surprising to look back on things and notice that my triceps never really grew.

My biceps, on the other hand, got much bigger because I consistently did my dumbbell curls—with perfect form—every single week.

The moral of the story is that you need to choose 2-3 tricep exercises and then stick with them. This way, you'll actually be able to gain strength. And if you gain strength on an isolation exercise, then you know that it's because of your triceps.

Maintain (don't build) your biceps

A weight lifter who is clearly all biceps and no triceps

Having biceps that are bigger than your triceps is a luxury problem seeing as many lifters have the opposite issue.

Still, if you want to make your triceps look bigger, then it might be a good idea to maintain your biceps for a while so that your triceps can catch up. [2]

You can likely maintain your bicep gains with one isolation exercise performed once per week. Throw in some reverse curls as well for your brachialis and brachioradialis muscles.

On the other hand, if your biceps are already big, then they might not grow much more anyway, so you could just train them as normal. After all, if your biceps are a strong body part, then why not take full advantage of that by making them as big as possible?

A good compromise is to train your triceps first and with more volume.

So, should you work biceps and triceps on the same day? Yes, but make sure to prioritize your triceps by really focusing on your form and giving each set everything that you've got.

Exercise your patience

A muscular man praying

As someone who used to be all biceps and no triceps, I can safely say that my biggest problem wasn't my tricep genetics; it was my lack of patience.

It doesn't matter how hard you train in your next workout; your triceps won't grow overnight. So don't rush.

Give it 8-12 weeks, and if you've been doing everything correctly, you'll likely notice that your triceps have improved.

Of course, a true triceps transformation can take much longer, sometimes 6 months to a year. So in the meantime, enjoy your training and be thankful that you have the knowledge to get those tricep gains that you're looking for.

Conclusion: What to do if you have big biceps but no triceps

A man with big biceps but no triceps

First and foremost, make sure that your tricep training technique is on point. Using good form is so much more important than lifting heavy weights when it comes to isolation exercises.

Yes, you should aim to get stronger and increase the resistance. But that should happen after you've learned the proper lifting technique. Always use a complete range of motion (deep stretch and full elbow lockout) and a controlled lifting tempo to really make your triceps work.

Finally, if you have big biceps but small triceps, make sure to focus on exercises—skull crushers, overhead extensions—that train the long head of the triceps seeing as this muscle has the most growth potential of all three tricep heads.

Follow this advice consistently, and you'll definitely be able to fix your big biceps small triceps problem.

References

  1. Danielsson, M. (2019, January 23). Genetics: How Will They Affect You? Bodybuilding.Com. https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/matt27.htm
  2. Burick, B. (2021, November 15). Everything You Need to Know About How to Maintain Muscle. BarBend. https://barbend.com/how-to-maintain-muscle/
James Jackson
James Jackson is a personal trainer who uses his expertise in strength and conditioning to create helpful workout tutorials that show fitness enthusiasts how to build muscle while staying safe in the gym. He draws on the latest sports science data as well as tried and tested training techniques to get the best results for his clients without them having to live in the gym.
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