Working your biceps every day will not cause your muscles to explode or your arm to fall off. But while the consequences aren't that dire, when it comes to resistance training, more is not necessarily always better. At best, working your biceps every day will simply waste your time; at worst, it will sabotage your fitness goals.
If you've ever experienced the soreness that follows a new workout, it shouldn't surprise you that working your muscles causes microscopic tears in the fibers. Whether you're doing 10 biceps curls or 50 and whether you're using 5-pound dumbbells or 100 pounds on a barbell, it isn't during the exercise phase that your muscles grow. It's during the rest phase, when those micro-tears heal, that muscle growth occurs. Consequently, you should never work the same muscle groups two days in a row.
The results of overtraining are worst when it comes to cardio, where too much can lead to loss of appetite and a lowered immune system, among other symptoms. But you can overtrain your biceps, too. If you're just starting out and using low to moderate weight or the standard eight to 12 repetitions every single day, you may not notice any major symptoms. But you won't be gaining strength as quickly as you would by taking some time off. If, along with working your biceps every day, you also use too much weight or do too many repetitions, you may eventually injure yourself or, at best, fail to give your muscles adequate time to heal and grow.
When it comes to cardio, the general recommendation is at least five times per week, with more being better. With strength training, most people can make significant gains by working a muscle group just two times per week. Three times per week will bring about more gains, but more than three workouts per week won't add significant benefits and could lead to injury.
Recommended Rest Periods
By now it should be obvious that you don't want to work your biceps, or any muscle group, every day of the week. A period of 24 to as much as 72 hours is required between working the same muscles. Generally, longer rest periods are required on the low and high ends. That is, if you're just beginning your biceps workouts, 48 to 72 hours or until soreness subsides is probably best. Also, if you're into weightlifting or heavy competition, you may need a longer recovery period. The IDEA Health and Fitness Association recommends as much as a week of "tapering," that is, with little or no training, following competitions.
- Muscle & Strength: 3 Step Bigger Badder Biceps Workout
- MayoClinic.com: Muscle Toning: Improve Your Muscle Fitness
- CDC: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- IDEA: Tapering: Science and Practice
- ACSM: Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise
- ExRx.net: Strength Dose-Response Curve
Nancy Cross is a certified paralegal who has worked as an employee benefits specialist and counseled employees on retirement preparation, including financial and estate planning. In addition to writing and editing, she runs a small business with her husband and is a certified personal trainer with the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).