A gym-goers worst nightmare is losing their gains. If you’re putting in all that hard work in the gym only to have your biceps appearing smaller, it is very discouraging.
Why Are My Biceps Shrinking?
Your muscles need nutrients to grow so your diet must be in check. You should also ideally be training each muscle group twice a week, training with intensity, and allowing your muscles to recover properly for growth.
You Aren’t Eating Enough
If you aren’t feeding your muscles enough nutrients, they will shrink. If you are eating fewer calories than your body burns, your body will burn fat and protein storage. When the body starts to tap into protein storage, this will lead to muscle wasting which results in shrinking biceps.
You have to eating in a calorie surplus for optimal muscle growth.
Protein is required for your muscles to grow. Protein supplies the body with amino acids that build and repair muscle.
Carbs are what keep you energized and going through tough workouts. They are converted into glycogen in the muscles which is broken down and used as fuel.
Simple carbs provide a quick burst of energy, while complex provide a longer lasting good source of energy.
Candy and chocolate are examples of simple carbs, leaving you energized for a short period usually followed by a crash. Bread, rice, fruits and veggies are examples of complex carbs. They provide a lot more nutrients and are digested slower. This means that you will have the energy from them for longer periods of time.
If you aren’t eating enough carbs, you may not have enough energy to train your biceps properly. Post workout carbs help prevent muscle loss and help repair muscles. This means they will grow bigger and stronger. After a workout you’ve used up most of your glycogen storage so you need to replenish them.
It should also be noted that if you are carrying a lot of excess body fat, your body will actually produce less testosterone. If you’re interested in trying one of the top rated weight loss supplements for 6 months free, see here.
You Aren’t Working Out Enough
Muscles simply cannot grow if they are not being trained enough. Twice a week is plenty for the biceps as they are a smaller muscle group. Once a week should be enough to prevent them from getting smaller.
It’s also important to note that the biceps are a smaller muscle group and don’t need to be trained with crazy intensity or heavy weights.
For beginners, 2 to 3 bicep exercises per bicep workout is plenty. Do 4 sets of each with 8-12 reps. Don’t just aim for 10 reps and then stop. Stop once you cannot complete another rep with proper form.
As you get more advanced, consider increasing and throwing in a drop set or super set in for your 4th exercise of the set.
Consider hitting all heads of the bicep. Have one exercise that hits the entire bicep such as the standing barbell curl or dumbbell curl. Then have one that will hit your bicep brachii such as hammer curls. Make sure to also have one that will focus on the short head such as preacher curls.
More advanced lifters can do 4 exercises of 4-5 sets per bicep workout. They can also increase the intensity by increasing weight, decreasing rest times, and doing more reps than last time.
Note that your biceps are also somewhat trained when you do back. Barbell rows, pull ups, and dead lifts are all back exercises that also target and grow your biceps.
Proper form will also make sure that you are getting enough out of your bicep training and prevent your biceps from getting smaller. Curling with improper form can lead to injury and stop you from achieving the most muscle growth.
Whether you are doing a barbell curl or a dumbbell curl stand with your back straight and chest up. Keep your elbows tight to your sides and lift the weight up to your shoulders while contracting your biceps.
Keep the movement slow. Don’t swing your back or use your body for momentum. Your biceps should be doing all the work. Keeping your shoulders pinned back will allow for your biceps to do all the work when curling.
The biceps only need to be worked out twice a week with about 20-30 min per workout including about 3-4 exercises. The biceps are a small muscle group and don’t need high amounts of volume.
If you are training with high intensity, using correct form and mind muscle connection then this is all you need. Anything more will result in overtraining and less muscle growth.
Yes, overtraining can actually cause your biceps to shrink as well. That is because the biceps won’t be able to properly recover and rebuild if they are over trained.
Leave 48 hours between bicep workouts to allow them to be at full strength when they are trained once again.
Many heavy back movements will work your biceps a great deal as well. Deadlifts, pretty much all variations of rows, and pull ups will work the biceps.
You Aren’t Working Out With Enough Intensity
Progressive overload is the best way to make sure your biceps are constantly growing. This is where you gradually increase the intensity every workout by either increasing the weight, reps, or sets that you do for an exercise.
Here’s an example. Last week you did 8 reps of barbell curls with a 50 lb barbell. You will overload this week by doing 9 reps or by doing an extra set. Or you decrease your rest times from last week. This ensures that your biceps will always be growing as you are introducing them to new stimuli.
Other ways to increase intensity include using drop sets, super sets, and using mind to muscle connection. Drop sets are where you do an exercise with a weight, then immediately after do the same exercise with a lighter weight without resting in between.
Super sets are similar, but you switch exercises without any rest in between. Mind to muscle connection is when you really focus on feeling the contraction in your biceps when you curl.
A great way to do this is to slightly lift your pinky above your other fingers at the top of your dumbbell curls. Slowing down the movement and decreasing weight will also play an important role.
All of these methods should be implemented to increase muscle breakdown and increase the size of the biceps.
You’re Experiencing Muscle Atrophy
This is a bit rare, however still a possibility. Muscle atrophy is the wasting of or loss of muscle tissue.
There are two types; disuse and neurogenic. Disuse happens when the muscles are not being used frequently. A sedentary lifestyle without physical exercise can cause this.
Neurogenic atrophy is more severe and happens after injury or disease.
This happens to many people in the hospital for a long duration due to illness or injury. If the muscle aren’t being used, it leads to muscle wasting. It is treated with physical exercise, physical therapy, ultrasound therapy, and sometimes surgery.
You Aren’t Recovering Properly
If your biceps aren’t recovering properly, then they won’t be growing at their full potential. Nutrition is the first step to proper recovery. Protein is a must so that your body can repair muscle fibers.
Try foam rolling as it will work out all the toxins built up in the muscles. It applies pressure to the muscles to break up and move the fascia, allowing them to separate and relax. This results in less muscle soreness following a workout. Read more about foam rolling here.
Make sure that you are stretching out your arms before and after working out, especially if they are sore.
This will reduce tightness and increase blood flow into the muscles. Also perform a few lightweight sets of which ever exercise you are doing to prepare the muscles for the heavier load coming.
You must be getting at least 7 hours a sleep a night for your muscles to recover properly. Protein synthesis and growth hormone release happen while we are asleep. This will allow your muscles to rebuild and grow back stronger.
Blood supply to the muscles is also increased while we sleep. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you risk still having muscle pain for your next workout.
Consider taking BCAA’s to help facilitate muscle recovery. Branched chained amino acids will deliver amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins into the body.
The amino acid leucine has shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. BCAA’s also decrease protein breakdown during exercise and decrease levels of creatine kinase, which is an indicator of muscle damage. This will make DOMS not as severe.
Sometimes light movement is a great way to speed up the recovery process even if it’s painful. Light activity will increase blood flow in the legs, increasing nutrient flow to the muscles which helps them recover.
The stress hormone cortisol is a huge factor in muscle growth. If you have a lot of stress in your life, it may be impacting the size of your biceps. This is because stress actually lowers testosterone and causes catabolism of muscle proteins which decreases muscle size.
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