Whether you’re powerlifting or reaching for a bag of chips, your arm muscles play a huge role in your day-to-day activities. So many activities, in fact, that it’s easy to overlook how crucial they are.

To make sure you don’t take them for granted, we’re giving some love to the two main arm muscles — the biceps and triceps. We’ll break down their similarities and differences and cover some top-notch training and recovery tips.

Fast facts

  • The biceps and triceps are crucial for pushing and pulling function.
  • The biceps is thought to be the stronger of the two, but the triceps is the larger muscle.
  • The two muscles need each other in order to function properly.
  • These muscles can experience similar injuries and recover with similar treatments.
  • There are plenty of exercises that target both muscles individually or as a pair.
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It’s hard to argue that the biceps isn’t the most popular arm muscle. Seriously, how can a muscle reach emoji status 💪🏼 and not have some serious bragging rights? But it’s not all talk — there’s plenty of functionality in its flex.

Location in the arm

The biceps (aka biceps brachii) is located on the front of your upper arm.

It gets the “bi” in its name because it has two distinct heads — a shorter inner head and a longer outer head. Both heads stem from the shoulder blade and insert (attach) on the radial tuberosity, which is close to the elbow.

The muscle attaches to the forearm by way of the distal biceps tendon.

Function (what it helps you do)

Your biceps helps you with pulling movements. Here are the function facts:

  • Shoulder elevation: allows you to raise your arms
  • Forearm supination: allows you to turn your palms upward
  • Flexion of the elbow joint: allows you to bring your forearm into your body (flexing motion)

Ways to train it

The biceps is a fairly small muscle that, due to its position and functionality, can be either toned or bulked up. Whatever look you’re going for, it’s best to work it out on a somewhat regular basis to make sure it’s doing everything you need it to do. The general recommendation is at least twice a week.

Here are 10 banging biceps exercises:

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The triceps could be considered the underrated arm muscle, but that doesn’t mean it’s the underdog. For a muscle that faces behind you, there’s plenty of weight behind it.

Location in the arm

The triceps (aka triceps brachii) is located on the back of your upper arm. The “tri” comes from the muscle’s three heads — a long head, side (lateral) head, and middle (medial) head.

The side and middle heads surface on the upper arm bone (humerus), while the long head starts at the rear of the shoulder blade. The three heads insert at the bottom of the elbow.

Function (what it helps you do)

The triceps is in charge of pushing actions. Here are its responsibilities:

  • Shoulder stabilization: allows you carry things over your head
  • Shoulder extension: allows you move your arms behind your body
  • Elbow extension: allows you to extend your forearm away from you

Ways to train it

When it comes to working it out, your triceps can benefit from a wide range of exercise reps. Depending on your vibe, 6–12 reps per set should keep it in pretty good shape. If you’re a fitness newb, start with 2 sets per sesh and work your way up.

Here are 10 terrific triceps exercises:

Which muscle is stronger?

Although we point to the biceps as a symbol of our strength, the facts paint a bit of a different picture.

The triceps accounts for around 55% of upper arm muscle mass, while the biceps takes up about 30%, according to a 2007 study. Though the triceps is a bit bigger than the biceps, both are equally important. Also, they’re antagonists, which means each muscle needs the other to function well.

So it’s hard to say which of the two muscles is definitively stronger. But a lot depends on which muscles get utilized the most.

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Triceps and biceps injuries like sprains or strains can feel similar. You might be able to tell the difference by the location of the discomfort. Triceps pain tends to radiate from the back of the elbow, while biceps pain is usually focused around the upper arm.

In addition to pain, you may experience:

  • swelling
  • inflammation
  • a burning sensation
  • bruising or redness
  • an inability to bend or extend your arm

Common causes of injury include:

  • lifting something that’s too heavy
  • performing an exercise incorrectly
  • overextending or stretching your arm
  • overuse or repetitive upper arm motions


Treatment for triceps and biceps injuries can be similar, but it depends on the extent of your symptoms. Here are some ways to manage discomfort at home:

  • Apply ice to the injury for up to 15 minutes every hour during the acute period (the first 24 to 48 hours after you get hurt).
  • After the acute period, heat therapy can help reduce inflammation and stiffness.
  • Use a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
  • Place your arm in a sling to prevent unnecessary movements.

PSA: Call your doc ASAP if the pain is severe or if you don’t feel better after a few days.

How to prevent an arm injury

Here are some great tips to help you prevent a triceps or biceps injury:

  • Stretch. Give your muscles some TLC on the reg. Here are some 10/10 triceps and biceps stretches to try out at the gym or in your home.
  • Rest. Pushing past your limits can increase your risk of injury. So make sure you give your muscles enough time to recover between sets and workouts.
  • Don’t work out cold muscles. Always warm up before a strength training session. Ten minutes of cardio should do the trick, but some folks need more time to get their muscles ready to work.
  • Avoid overuse. If you’re a baseball pitcher, this might be a tough tip to follow. But most folks can avoid overuse by alternating arm workouts with other muscle groups.
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The biceps and triceps are two important muscles that handle the bulk of arm functionality. Both muscles play vital roles to help you stay mobile and perform everyday tasks.

The triceps helps you perform pushing movements, while the biceps helps you with pulling movements. You don’t have to be a gym rat to keep these muscles strong and healthy, but it’s a good idea to do strength training exercises a few times a week to keep them engaged.