Everyone who lifts weights has at least a passing interest in the size of their biceps. The biceps is the most famous muscle in the human body, and even non-exercisers can identify them.
Big biceps really capture the imagination. So much so that a lot of exercisers dedicate an inordinate amount of time building the ultimate arms.
Some people go so far as to inject noxious oil into their biceps to make them bigger. We’re not talking steroids but substances that cause inflammation and swelling. Needless to say, that’s not an approach we recommend!
Instead, we recommend you train your arms as part of a balanced bodybuilding workout. Remember, too, that your triceps actually make up more upper arm mass than your biceps, so if you want bigger arms, train your bis and tris equally.
That said, a lot of people want to know how their biceps measure up against the average arm circumference. Are your biceps too big (impossible!), too small, or just right?
While the ideal biceps size is clearly objective, we can tell you how your arms compare to the average for your age.
How To Measure Your Biceps
Before we start comparing biceps size (yours are probably bigger, right!?), we need to standardize how we’re going to measure our biceps.
Firstly, make sure your biceps and triceps are “cold,” i.e., not pumped full of blood from your recent workout.
Then, decide if you’re going to measure your arms straight or flexed. Straight is probably more accurate but flexed is better for your ego. The average biceps measurements outlined below are for relaxed biceps. So, if you are interested in making a comparison, make sure you also take a relaxed measurement.
Finally, ask a friend to measure your arms for you. It’ll be a) easier and b) more likely to result in an accurate measurement. There is less chance of any creative “rounding up” that would inflate your measurement.
Ready? Grab your tape measure…
To measure your relaxed biceps
- Stand up straight with your arms relaxed at your sides.
- Measure around the mid-point of your arm, which is halfway between your elbow (olecranon) and the tip of your shoulder (acromion process). This will also probably be the thickest part of your arm.
- Measure your left and right arms to see if there is a difference.
- Record your results.
To measure your flexed biceps
- Sit at a table and rest your arm on the tabletop.
- Make a fist. Curl your forearm up toward your shoulder as if doing a bicep curl. Flex your arm as hard as you can.
- Measure the circumference of your arm with the tape measure passing over the highest point of your biceps. As before, measure both arms to check for left to right differences.
- Record your results.
Average Biceps Size By Age
Average arm circumference tends to decrease with age. That’s because muscle mass usually peaks when you are in your mid-30s and decreases gradually after that. Most people lose around ten pounds of muscle per decade unless they follow a rigorous strength training regimen and eat healthily.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), the average arm measurement for men by age is (1):
|Age||Average biceps size in inches|
And these are the average arm measurements for women, who tend to be less muscular than most men (1):
|Age||Average biceps size in inches|
Building Bigger Arms
If you work out regularly with weights, your arms are probably larger than average already. Some people ARE genetically blessed with big biceps, but they’re the lucky few. For the rest of us, biceps size is mainly determined by training.
While your biceps are involved in every back exercise you do, and your triceps are involved in most chest and shoulder exercises, direct arm exercises are usually the best way to increase arm mass.
That’s why most bodybuilders dedicate so much time and energy, and even specific workouts, to arm training.
There are lots of exercises you can use to build bigger arms, but some of the best include:
- Barbell curls
- Dumbbell curls
- Preacher curls
- Zottman curls
- Hammer curls
- Close grip bench presses
- Skull crushers
- Triceps pushdowns
- Diamond push-ups
- Barbell curls – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Preacher curls – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Close grip bench press – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Skull crushers – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
You could also try biceps and triceps supersets for even better results.
Change exercises every 4-6 weeks to maintain your progress and avoid boredom.
Remember, though, that you should not attempt to develop bigger arms in isolation. You’ll get better results from your time and energy if you combine arm training with workouts for the rest of your body. It’s very unlikely that your arms will grow to their full potential if you neglect the rest of your body.
Estimate your ideal body part measurements with the Grecian ideal calculator.
A weekly training plan like this should get the job done:
|Chest||Back||Rest||Legs||Rest||Shoulders and arms||Rest|
Remember, Size ISN’T Everything!
Gaining weight will make your arms bigger. People with a higher BMI typically have larger arms.
But, if your diet sucks and you don’t train, any gains in arm size will probably be fat rather than muscle. While that will push the measuring tape out, it won’t do a lot for your appearance. After all, you can’t flex fat!
Instead, focus on staying reasonably lean and building muscle. Your arm measurement might not be as big but could look bigger simply because your biceps are better defined. With less fat obscuring them, your biceps will really stand out, giving the illusion that they’re bigger than they actually are.
Average Biceps Size – Wrapping Up
Elite bodybuilders often have arms measuring 20-inches or more. While these measurements are sometimes exaggerated or obtained when the bodybuilder’s arms are pumped, seen up close, their arms are truly huge and SOOO much larger than average.
If you train hard and consistently, there is no reason that you can’t surpass the average arm size for your age – and probably by a significant margin. However, very few people have the genetics to grow bodybuilder-sized arms. 20-inches is out of this world!
Remember, however, that big arms are a lot less impressive when they aren’t accompanied by a muscular chest, back, shoulders, and legs. Train your arms, and even spend extra time on them, but don’t neglect the rest of your body.
1 – Centers for Disease Control: Anthropometric Reference Data for Children and Adults https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_03/sr03_039.pdf