Got hard-to-grow biceps? Use the clever and challenging 5-10-20 protocol in your next biceps workout and try not to cry.
This hypertrophy protocol requires you to do three specific types of exercises back-to-back, using 5, 10, and then 20 reps in that order.
All three exercises are beneficial on their own, but combining them in one sadistic set multiplies their effect. The 5/10/20 protocol works by exposing you to a variety of muscle-building stimuli at once.
Basically, it looks like this:
- Do a heavy, multi-joint exercise that hits the biceps (5 reps).
- Now do a moderate-weight isolation exercise for biceps (10 reps).
- Finally, grab a resistance band for one final biceps exercise (20 reps).
There are many exercises to choose from, but here’s an example.
- A1. Overhand Narrow-Grip Inverted Row
5 reps with a 4-second eccentric, rest 10-30 seconds.
- A2. Zottman Curl
10 reps with a normal lifting speed, rest 10-30 seconds.
- A3. Overhand Band Bicep Curl
20 reps squeezing hard, 2 minutes rest.
Do 2-4 total sets.
Start with a heavy, multi-joint exercise for 5 reps, taking 5 seconds to complete each rep. Take 4 seconds to lower and 1 second to lift (a 4-second eccentric with a regular concentric lifting speed).
Although you’ll be using a relatively heavy multi-joint movement, you’ll still want to maximize biceps recruitment, as opposed to your back. For that reason, narrow-grip rows and pull-ups tend to work best. Just actively squeeze your arms throughout each rep.
To get a sufficient muscle-building effect, perform each rep a little slower than you might normally, taking about 25 seconds to complete your set of 5.
After a 10-30 second rest, move to a moderate-weight exercise with more isolation for a set of 10 reps.
Dumbbell curl variations work particularly well. Use a regular lifting speed (2 seconds to lower with 1 second to lift), and try to select a grip that corresponds to what you did on your previous exercise. If you used an underhand grip on your multi-joint exercise, then use an underhand grip here too.
An overhand grip should pair with an overhand grip curl, and a hammer (neutral) grip with a hammer-grip curl. The grip you start off with will be determined by the areas of your upper arms you’re trying to target the most.
After resting 10-30 seconds, transition to a set of resistance band biceps curls.
The band resistance should be strong enough so your final 20 reps are challenging. Since you’ve lifted heavier in the previous exercises, you’ll get a little potentiation effect here (the band will feel light at the start), but the reps will quickly catch up on you by the end. Again, try to use a grip that matches your previous exercises.
That’s one set completed. Take about 2 minutes off to check out your biceps swoliosis, then repeat for 2-4 total sets.