Tip: Build Your Biceps With 5-3 Countdowns

This is one of the best training methods we've used for biceps. It's very different, but very effective. Check it out!

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Coach Chad Waterbury calls this the "5-3 Countdown Method." While it can be used for almost any stubborn muscle group, we've found it especially beneficial for lagging biceps. You know, like yours. Here's how it works.


Do multiple weekly training sessions where you squeeze the biceps under load for a pre-set time, then follow that isometric hold with full range reps.

How To Do It

After a warm-up, get set up for cable curls. Cables work better than barbells for this method.

  1. Curl the weight up and hold it at the top position. Squeeze intensely for 5 seconds. (This is the first isometric hold portion.) Now, without rest, do 5 normal reps using the full range of motion. Rest for only 10 seconds and move to the next step.
  2. After your 10 second "rest" you're going to do it again, but you'll only hold the isometric at the top for 4 seconds, then do 4 normal reps. Again rest of 10 seconds.
  3. Repeat once more, only this time the isometric hold will be for 3 seconds and you'll follow it immediately with 3 normal reps.
  4. All of the above is one "set." Rest for about 3 minutes and repeat for three total sets.

The Key is Frequency

Three total sets of that one exercise is all you do for biceps that day. It doesn't seem like much, but the magic here is in the frequency. Perform this routine 3-4 times per week with at least a day off between each biceps workout. You can train other muscle groups or lifts that day, but always start with the biceps work since this is a specialization plan.

Many lifters like to also use this method for triceps on the same day. Rope pressdowns work well with this method.


It's optimal to pair the longest isometric contractions with the highest reps. You're frontloading the majority of the work when you have the most energy, and then the duration of the holds and reps drop to account for the accumulation of fatigue.