Ratio of Triceps to Biceps Workouts

A 1:1 bicep-to-tricep exercise ratio ensures proper arm development.
i Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Your biceps and triceps are the primary muscles making up your upper arm, located between your forearm and the deltoids of the shoulder. These muscles work together in the same way your hamstrings and quadriceps or your abdominals and lower back muscles work in conjunction. As your bicep flexes, your tricep stretches, and vice versa. The primary muscle being exercised is called the agonist; the other is called the antagonist.

Suggested Ratio

The bicep-to-tricep strength ratio should roughly be 1:1, since these muscles work in conjunction with one another. To achieve a 1:1 bicep-to-tricep strength ratio, you may need to exercise one muscle more than the other. This usually means exercising the bicep muscle a bit more, due to the fact that it’s a smaller muscle, although this can vary from person to person.

Why It’s Important

When dealing with any agonist-antagonist muscle relationship, it’s important to maintain the proper strength ratio to ensure proper muscle development and posture. For example, too much exercise on your chest and too little on your upper back can lead to poor posture and a rounded back. Likewise, focusing too much on the bicep or tricep can lead to less-than-optimal arm strength, movement and appearance. A 1:1 ratio also helps lower the risk of injury while playing sports such as tennis.

Achieving Optimal Ratio

Always exercise your weaker muscles first during each arm workout, since that’s when you have the most energy. You may also benefit from doing an extra set of exercises targeting your bicep or tricep -- whichever is weaker -- as part of your arm workout. You can get a rough guess of your current bicep-to-tricep strength ratio by comparing your bicep curl strength with lying tricep extension strength, also called skull crushers. Use an EZ curl bar loaded with enough weight so that you can do at least five repetitions but no more than eight. Test how many bicep curls you can do, and use the same bar and weight to perform the skull crushers. If you can do about the same number of reps for both, your bicep-to-tricep strength ratio is on target. In this case, you’d want to exercise the biceps and triceps at a 1:1 ratio moving forward to maintain the balance.

Bicep and Tricep Exercises

Aside from EZ bar bicep curls and skull crushers, add other exercises into your arm workout to add variety. Choose two or three exercises per workout to target each muscle group. Some effective bicep exercises include dumbbell curls, concentration curls, preacher curls, underhand pullups and hammer curls. Isolate the triceps by using overhead dumbbell extensions, dips, close-grip pushups or bench presses, tricep kickbacks and cable pulldowns.

the nest