Biceps or Triceps First: Which One Should You Prioritize

by Josh | Last Updated:  September 24, 2020
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If you are looking to improve the aesthetics or the strength of your arms, every gym, fitness instructor and website you visit for suggestions will have a variety of information available to you.

One of the first pieces of information that will be present in all of the different solutions will be the differentiation between bicep and triceps exercises.

Although the best solution for each individual should have a slightly more custom-tailored approach, there is an overarching question regarding these exercises. So then which should you prioritize for your workout is it your biceps or triceps first?

As the triceps make up the majority of the upper arm, they are the best muscle to prioritize first. They have the largest potential for growth and will contribute the most in terms of pure strength to your arms. This will net you the best results and also still train the biceps and brachialis.

The triceps are by far the largest muscle in your arm, making up almost 70% of the size of your upper arms. If you prioritize the biceps, you will be missing out and neglecting on such a huge portion of your overall arm size and strength.

No matter what kind of exercise you are doing using your upper body, having stronger triceps will assist you in many of your other exercises and motions that you may make on a daily basis.

Strengthening such an integral muscle will improve the stability of your entire body and allow it to withstand far greater levels of resistance and stress.

This is due to the fact that the triceps are so important when helping to build other muscle groups in the upper body, such as the chest and shoulders.

Various other exercises, such as the bench press and many lifting exercises that target the shoulders and chest will require strong triceps. Prioritizing and strengthening the triceps first will help to open up a world of other possibilities in improving your overall strength.

The triceps posses three important parts that are integral to the stability of the arm. The long head, which assists in movement and functionality around the shoulder. The medial head, which assists in the usage of the forearm. Finally, the lateral head, which helps with support at the elbow joint.

All of this information doesn’t necessarily mean that you should neglect the biceps. It’s important to train all the muscles together, including the other important muscle in the upper arm that hasn’t been mentioned yet, the brachialis.

Generally, if one group of muscles is particularly strong, you should try to focus on the weaker groups to prevent the stronger groups from picking up the slack on tasks that require multiple groups. With this in mind, instead of prioritizing on one, you could opt to train both together.

Is it OK to Train Your Triceps and Biceps on the Same Day?

Assuming that you are doing a set of exercises that trains both of the muscles at the same time, then it’s completely fine to train both your triceps and biceps on the same day.

The best way to achieve this is to focus on “super-set” routines, these will exercise the respect push and pull of the bicep and triceps muscles together.

The main benefit of this is the fact that you’ll no longer need to focus so much on the question of which muscle to prioritize first, as you’ll be sharing the workload between them equally.

Also, depending on the routine that you are using you will be able to complete both triceps and bicep exercises more regularly due to being able to space out your rest days easier.

It should be noted that doing both biceps and triceps will be quite tiring for your arms.

If you would prefer to avoid putting excessive strain on your arms or simply have a routine where you would prefer to avoid doing them both on the same day, you should consider the mechanical function of the two different muscles.

For example, back exercises will commonly put a heavy requirement on the biceps, whilst chest and shoulders will put a larger focus on the triceps.

Keep this in mind when deciding whether or not to train both biceps and triceps on the same day, as they may not be fully recovered for the exercises planned for the next day.

Which is Stronger, the Biceps or the Triceps?

As we have previous discussed, the triceps are a significantly larger and stronger muscle. A mistake of many people seeking to increase the overall size of their arms is that they should focus on their biceps.

Although doing this will give that much desired “pop” of muscle when flexing, the triceps will yield far greater results when trained.

Not only will there be a vast visual improvement in terms of arm girth, you’ll also find out that by improving the triceps you improve the ceiling on how much stronger the biceps can become.

Although there are some exercises that focus mainly on the bicep, even they will see greater improvement in your strength gains if you are coming from the position of having strong triceps.

Training arms in gym pumping up your muscles - Biceps or Triceps First
Training arms in gym pumping up your muscles

Possibly the most important thing to note here however, is the fact that a lot of the time this will vary from person to person. Just because one person finds it easier to have huge amounts of growth in one muscle doesn’t necessarily mean the next person will find it as easy.

The same logic applies to the types of exercise and when you prefer to do them. Due to how interconnected the strength of the upper arms will be with the shoulders and back, certain exercises may be more or less difficult to perform for each individual person.

With this in mind, when answering what muscle is stronger, the question doesn’t have as much of a definitive answer as it does a subjective one. The answer is whatever muscle is stronger for you is the stronger muscle. This information applies to all areas of attempting to gain in strength.

You should always prioritize whichever muscle is weaker for you and attempt to tailor, test and experiment with your own regime and sets of exercises in order to find the best fit for you.

What’s the Best Exercise for Biceps?

If you have equipment or a gym at your disposal, then without a doubt the best exercise for your biceps are curls. This is one of the most common staple exercises for improving bicep size.

This can be done with barbells also. If you perform the exercises without letting momentum do the work, you will give your biceps an intense workout.

The ever popular push-up will also help to train this muscle if you don’t have access to any equipment.

What’s the Best Exercise for Triceps?

One of the other most iconic exercises with a barbell, and the one that will net you the largest gains in your triceps strength and size, is the bench press.

There is no other exercise for the triceps that will allow you to put the same amount of load on the triceps muscles.

For those without the equipment to do presses, there are a variety of dips that you can do which will help to target the different areas of the triceps.

Pros And Cons to Working Bicep and Triceps on the Same Day

There are some very specific benefits and drawbacks to working out these two muscles on the same day and same workout.

Pros to Same Day Workout (Bi/Tri)

Cons to Same Day Workout (Bi/Tri)

Final Thoughts on Working Out Biceps or Triceps First

Depending on your goals and needs you may want to look at pairing the natural mix of biceps and triceps to give you a chance to make your arms really pop.

This can limit your other workouts though and must be carefully weighed and considered when making the choice to workout your arms as their own workout.

I fall much more into the push/pull camp as this is what I learned in my P90X and Body Beast workouts and it allowed me to push myself more I feel than a focused arm workout does.

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