For many years now, the biceps have been one of the most popular muscles to work out. Because of this, it’s common to overtrain them. How much rest do your biceps need?
Between workouts, biceps need approximately 48 hours of rest to fully recover. During a workout, between sets, allow your biceps to rest 1-3 minutes before your next set.
Rest is a crucial part of building muscle and strength. Overtraining can kill your gains, so it’s very important to take rest seriously.
Down below, I’ll go over everything you need to know to make sure your biceps are getting proper rest.
How Much Rest Do Biceps Need?
There are two aspects of rest I’m going to go over, rest between workouts, and rest between sets. They’re two very different issues, but they end up having the same effects if done right and if done wrong.
Rest Between Workouts
You probably know this, but muscle is actually built outside of the gym, after your workout. In the hours and days following a workout, your biceps will be repairing themselves bigger than they were before.
Because biceps are used so much in day-to-day life, it’s even more important that they get a proper resting period between your workouts.
Within 48 hours after a workout, barring injury, or an extreme workout, your bicep muscles should be fully recovered. You may still feel a bit sore, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you need more rest.
During these 48 hours, your biceps are building themselves back up. If you work them out during this period, you can actually impair their growth and make it more difficult to build muscle.
Because of this, be sure to work out your biceps every other day, or every 48 hours. You may feel like you want to work them out as much as possible for the most growth, but giving them rest during this period will yield more growth than another workout.
Rest Between Sets
To put it simply, the longer you rest between sets, the more reps you can do during your next set.
However, there’s something to be said about higher intensity, more rapid sets, as it strains the muscle more and therefore builds the muscle more.
For your biceps, give them 1-3 minutes between sets. This will give your muscles enough rest to be able to function properly during your next set, without so much rest that you miss out on potential gains.
If your biceps “fully recover” between sets, you’ll forgo some of the potential gains made by working them out while they’re still recovering in the short term from your last set.
Avoid Overtraining Your Biceps
Overtraining is the enemy of muscle growth.
If you keep working out your biceps before they’re fully recovered, it can completely stop your muscle-building process.
Muscle growth occurs by breaking down muscles in the gym, then repairing themselves stronger and bigger than they were before. If you break them down again before they’re built back up, how can you expect to actually build muscle?
As I said before, give your biceps at least 48 hours of rest between workouts. After these two days, if you feel they still need recovery, give it some more time.
Nobody wants to skip or miss a day at the gym, but proper rest is more important than high frequency.
Along with simply hindering your muscle growth, if overtraining keeps you out of the gym or even injures your muscle, you’re missing out on even more gains.
It’s important to balance workout out intensely enough to stimulate muscle growth, while not so intensely that you can’t get back into the gym within 2 days.
Another point that I will add is how annoying overtrained biceps are.
As a personal anecdote, as an experiment, I once tested out a bicep curl workout where I lifted a very light weight (I believe it was 15 pounds) until failure, which ended up being over 100 reps.
Over the next day, my biceps swelled up probably 50% bigger than their usual size, and I couldn’t extend my arm past 90 degrees.
It was not fun. Overtraining your biceps can make day-to-day tasks very difficult and annoying, not to mention the gains you missed out on by not being in the gym.
Although ice eventually got the swelling in my biceps down, that’s something I won’t do again!
Biceps: Increasing the Speed of Recovery
Instead of sitting around waiting for your biceps to recover, there are a number of things you can do to make the process go by faster.
First, make sure that you’re getting enough protein and nutrients. Protein, especially, is crucial for rebuilding muscle. Without the proper nutrition to build muscle, your growth will stall.
Providing your muscles with protein will speed up their recovery.
If you’re experiencing soreness or swelling in your biceps, use an ice pack. It will reduce inflammation, which overall, will speed up your biceps’ recovery.
Another thing you can do, which applies to all muscles rather than only biceps, is getting more sleep.
Sleep is another crucial element for building and repairing muscle. Without the proper amount and quality of sleep, you’re sacrificing gains as well as increasing the amount of time it will take for you to recover.
Higher Intensity With Lower Frequency for Biceps
There’s also something to be said about high intensity and lower frequency for biceps. This means training your biceps less often, with more rest, but when you do train them, training with very high intensity.
Take reps until failure as an example. If you do a set of an exercise until failure, you’re literally using every muscle fiber until it can’t function anymore. This is extremely intense, and has some risks associated with it, but can be a key to exponentially growing your muscle.
If you do 4 sets of 8 reps of biceps curls, you might only be activating 80% (as an example) of your muscle.
This ends up leaving 20% (again, just an example number) of your muscle fibers untrained and unstressed. Even though you did a lot of sets of biceps, not all of your muscle was utilized.
Higher intensity training, for biceps, in this case, can compound your muscle growth and make you much stronger, but it requires much more rest because you’re doing so much more work.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that recovery is essential to muscle growth. Your biceps need 1-3 minutes of rest between sets, and 2 days of rest between workouts.
If you’re still recovering after 2 days, you’re likely overtraining and need to either reduce intensity, or deploy some strategies to improve your rest and recovery.