When You Should Train Biceps and Triceps

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My stance on biceps and triceps has changed a little bit recently.

A couple months ago I viewed hitting arms as accessory and not important.

With most of the people I work with we are trying to help them perform better in their sport. In the time that I have to work with these athletes, bi’s and tri’s do not get a lot of attention. It simply is not a good use of time.

This shouldn’t mean that they are not important. Even if I do not prioritize them with most of our athletes, they still serve a purpose.

Personally, I have had elbow issues dating back to Babe Ruth baseball in the 7th grade. I played catcher and throwing down to 2nd gave me some issues. It really is too bad that I never threw the right way because it definitely could have been avoided.

Lately, bench pressing has been pissing my elbow off. To remedy this I figured I would hit the arm farm. Turns out my elbow hurts a lot less when my biceps and triceps are activated.

Lets take a look at the facts and my mentality here:

  1. My elbow hurts
  2. The elbow is supported by the muscles of the upper and lower arm
  3. Those muscles get no direct activation/training
  4. Ignoring muscles that play a major role in a joint’s function is not ideal

The claim that biceps and triceps are glamour muscles and should really only be done for aesthetic reasons is what skews the logic here. Globally, those two muscles don’t do a ton for athletic performance. They mostly fill out a jersey quite nicely.

Locally, those muscles are huge players on elbow stability. Both muscles cross over the elbow. In order to have good joint stability we need strength in the surrounding muscle and connective tissue. Having absolutely no direct training to those muscle groups is going to make strength tough to come by.

Now, I do not work with anyone that needs to get on a stage and pose for a living. I cannot really comment on biceps and triceps training for that goal.

For athletes and general public my recommendation has become more defined. In terms of my elbow and using this training as activation I like a lot of volume, low weight, and variety. I almost think that it does not matter what you do specifically, just do a bunch of it (pain free of course).

The same goes for the general person that is not a body builder. Whatever you pick, just do a ton of it. Mix between bilateral and unilateral as well as different angles. The following bicep curls all train the biceps but they all have different angles of pull, loading patterns, and/or demands.

Barbell curls- hopefully not in the squat rack

  • EZ bar curls
  • Dumbbell Curls
  • SA DB Curl
  • SA Hammer Curl
  • Preacher Curl

You are allowed to be creative here and that is coming from someone that hates variation. The goal is to get a good amount of volume in with different ways.

It is easy to dismiss an exercise(s) as useless. I held on to that for arms for a long time. Someone would ask what they should do and my answer was “whatever you want, it doesn’t matter.”

That is just too shortsighted of a way to look at it and it took a painful elbow to figure out that the answer always depends.