Pythons, guns, plain ‘ol “biceps” — no matter what you call ‘em, massive biceps are universally respected in the gym, a symbol of masculinity, a lady pleaser, and worthy of bragging rights.
We look to professional bodybuilders to show us just how far we can take the human body.
This list of the seven biggest biceps in bodybuilding history might just inspire you to curl just a little more (grow those 10-inch biceps), load up on the protein, or skip the Coors tonight.
(Disclaimer: Many of these bodybuilders admitted to steroid use in their prime. We also weeded out any 25+ inch biceps literally filled with cement or oils because … no comment.)
1. Roelly Winklaar (24 Inches)
Known by his intimidating stage moniker, the “Dutch Beast,” Curaçao native Roelly Winklaar shook the bodybuilding world when he debuted a set of 24-inch biceps several years back.
The then-32-year-old Winklaar entered the limelight in 2009 after claiming his first big victory at the 2009 IFBB Arnold Amateur Championships.
He later secured a career-best third-place finish at the 2018 Mr. Olympia competition.
The Dutch athlete — also known for his tree trunk, 29-inch thighs, and impeccable conditioning — owes his modern “bodybuilding hero” status to an unlikely mentor: Sibil “Grandma” Peeters.
The so-called “Trainer From Hell” appeared alongside Winklaar in the documentary Generation Iron. (Though, the duo has since disbanded after brewing tension between the two.)
Facts About Roelly Winklaar’s Training & Diet
- Winklaar cuts down from his 320-pound off-season weight to a much slimmer 297 pounds while competing.
- He admits that his biceps don’t grow nearly as quickly as his triceps, which is why he takes multiple approaches to biceps training: barbell curls (lifting his elbows up during the last eight reps), incline curls, preacher curls, and hammer curls.
- Two-a-day workouts aren’t unusual for Winklaar; he often trains larger muscle groups during an early 6 AM workout and smaller muscles at 4 PM for maximum energy.
- Maintaining a physique like Winklaar’s requires eight meals a day, and he uses weight-gainer shakes.
- Winklaar’s daily routine includes at least an hour of cardio, only resting on Sundays.
- He sleeps ten hours a night to maximize growth hormone release and muscle recovery.
2. Flex Wheeler (23 Inches)
Kenneth “Flex” Wheeler — also known as the “Sultan of Symmetry” — is an American bodybuilder and the proud owner of 23-inch arms at the height of his career.
Nicknamed “Flex” after a martial arts upbringing and his impressive flexibility feats, the police officer turned bodybuilder debuted his legendary physique in amateur circles in 1985.
The 18-year career that unfolded included four Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic victories (1993, 1998, 1998, and 2000) and a seven-time Mr. Olympia contender.
He was crowned champion in 48% of his 33 professional competition appearances.
The bodybuilder, whom Arnold Schwarzenegger dubbed the “greatest bodybuilder,” sported an ultra-wide 54-inch chest and thick 31-inch upper legs before his retirement in 2003.
Facts About Flex Wheeler’s Training & Diet
- Wheeler’s inspiration for training was rooted in a desire to stay on the right path, avoid drugs and gangs, and flee his suicidal tendencies.
- In his prime, Wheeler’s workouts followed the high-weight-low-rep training style while prioritizing classic exercises, like rows and deadlifts.
- He ate six meals per day, each containing carbs and 6–8 ounces of meat.
- While slimming down to his typical 265–275-pound competition weight, Wheeler’s meals included 12 egg whites for breakfast and 6–12 ounces of meat three times per day.
- Wheeler overcame a broken neck in a car accident, later returning to the bodybuilding stage and winning contests after recovering.
3. Phil Heath (23 Inches)
Widely regarded as one of the most legendary bodybuilders in history, the Washington-born Phil Heath — sometimes called “The Gift — peaked with his ridiculous 23-inch biceps.
He discovered his passion for bodybuilding while attempting to boost his jump height through weightlifting while on a full-ride basketball scholarship at the University of Denver.
Heath officially entered the bodybuilding world back in 2002 and nabbed his first pro victories, back-to-back titles, just three years later.
However, his greatest feat wasn’t his 23-inch arms, 54-inch chest, or 32-inch quads. It was tying Arnold Schwarzenegger for the second-most Mr. Olympia titles ever with seven.
He even did the unthinkable, clinching six consecutive Mr. Olympia titles (2011–2017) before being dethroned by rival bodybuilder Shawn Rhoden.
Facts About Phil Heath’s Training & Diet
- The seven-time Mr. Olympia trained 5–6 days per week and prefers a split routine — chest, back, legs, shoulders, and arms.
- Heath’s favorite fitness supplements included glutamine, BCAAs, pre-workout, and whey protein isolate.
- The athlete consumes more than 20 pounds of chicken per week and prefers white rice over the traditionally healthier brown rice.
- Heath maintains his physique with eight meals and two protein shakes per day.
- Heath crushes through two 30-minute cardio sessions per day in the lead-up to a contest, preferring the stairs.
- He spent his earlier years focused on widening his deltoids to compensate for his narrow clavicles, which he blamed for losses early in his career.
- Heath’s diet includes 5,000 calories per day and 400g of protein in the off-season.
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4. Lou Ferrigno (22 ½ Inches)
In fourth place on our list is the legend with 22 ½-inch biceps, Lou Ferrigno, who became a household name after his starring roles as The Incredible Hulk and Hercules.
The 6’0” tall and 285-pound (in his glory days) Ferrigno discovered bodybuilding at the ripe age of 13, envisioning himself as the next Steve Reeves, the pre-Golden Era “Hercules.”
He won his first-ever amateur competition seven years later and was crowned IFBB Mr. America two years later.
The bodybuilder appeared alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron, following the two rivals as they competed for the Mr. Olympia title.
Ferrigno bowed out of bodybuilding in 1993. However, his 59-inch chest towering above his slim 34-inch waist is still considered one of the most aesthetic physiques in history.
Facts About Lou Ferrigno’s Training & Diet
- Beginning his career before resistance machines were mainstream, much of Ferrigno’s training revolved around compound lifts with free weights — dumbbells and barbells.
- Ferrigno preferred sets of 12, though he also experimented with pyramid and supersets.
- His training regimen sometimes included more than 80 sets per workout!
- Ferrigno’s untraditional high-carb diet packed a 3,500-calorie punch in 3–7 meals.
- With a tight budget, Ferrigno’s newbie days featured plenty of chin-ups and homemade equipment, including broom handles and buckets.
- Ferrigno sometimes ate 8,000–10,000 calories per day to reach his 300-pound goal.
5. Ronnie Coleman (22 Inches)
Nicknamed the “Greatest of All Time” (or GOAT), Ronnie Coleman remains one of the most accomplished bodybuilders in modern history — his 22-inch biceps being yet another feat of his.
The Louisiana native attended Grambling State University on a football scholarship. But down on his luck after graduation, Coleman bounced between jobs before becoming a police officer.
There, a fellow officer inspired him to join a free gym owned by Brian Dobson, who offered to train the GOAT for an upcoming Mr. Texas competition, which Coleman won.
However, the first few years of his career were full of low points. He placed no higher than third place in ten competitions before reviving his success and capturing 24 titles in a decade.
Eight of those titles were consecutive Mr. Olympia victories (1998–2005), tying Lee Haney for the record. His win streak, unfortunately, fell when Jay Cutler unseated him as the champion.
Facts About Ronnie Coleman’s Training & Diet
- Coleman’s training philosophy revolved around lifting the heaviest weight possible.
- When he wasn’t cranking out heavy low-rep sets, his preferred rep range was 10–20.
- His personal best deadlift record was 800 pounds for two reps, and the eight-time Mr. Olympia could squat 585 pounds for ten reps.
- The GOAT’s diet consisted of 65% protein, up to 25% carbs, and <10% fats.
- Coleman ate up to nine times per day, often downing more than 5,500 calories.
- Coleman’s strategy included “chasing the pump,” performing 12 reps in set one, adding weight for the next set, and only ending the exercise when the pump disappears.
6. Kai Greene (22 Inches)
New York native and owner of 22-inch monsters, Kai Greene was a self-proclaimed outcast and troublemaker until his seventh-grade teacher convinced him to pursue bodybuilding.
Dubbed “The Predator” by his loyal fans, the 5’8” 265-pound Greene turned his newfound hobby into a career full of respectable competition finishes and a few understandable lulls.
With impressive 33-inch thighs and 22-inch biceps, Greene placed second at Mr. Olympia for three consecutive years (2012–2014), rebounding from a third-place finish in 2011.
The bodybuilding icon solidified his career as a three-time Arnold Classic victor and six Mr. Olympia appearances. Greene’s tenure in the bodybuilding world spanned more than 22 years.
He was also the subject of three documentaries: Generation Iron (as well as its two sequels).
Facts About Kai Greene’s Training & Diet
- Greene’s physique responds best to moderate reps (10–20 reps per set) while training just one muscle group per workout.
- The Predator’s diet consists of 5–7 meals per day, up to 1.5g of protein per pound of body weight, and the occasional cheat meal.
- He’s a huge advocate for building the mind-muscle connection and insists on slow reps, contracting the muscles instead of relying on the sub-par form.
- Greene typically follows a five-day split and rests on the weekends.
- He hits each muscle group 1–2 times per week and enjoys high-volume routines.
7. Arnold Schwarzenegger (22 Inches)
Neither Arnold Schwarzenegger nor his 22-inch upper arms require an introduction, still considered one of the most celebrated bodybuilders since his career took off in 1963.
The so-called “Austrian Oak” and the future “Governator” of California secured his first major victory when he stole the podium at Mr. Europe when he was just 19 years old.
His classic 6’3” 225-pound physique was the pinnacle of bodybuilding’s “Golden Era.” He also inspired the creation of one of the most popular bodybuilding contests: The Arnold Classic.
His record-setting career unfolded with wild success. He earned the title of Mr. Universe during three consecutive contests (1968–70) and won Mr. Olympia seven times, six back-to-back.
Schwarzenegger’s seventh Mr. Olympia victory required the Austrian Oak to come out of retirement and defeat the reigning three-time champion, Frank Zane.
He also dabbled in both powerlifting and weightlifting, starred in the documentary Pumping Iron, and solidified a successful acting career.
Facts About Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Training & Diet
- Schwarzenegger’s personal records include a 520-pound bench press, 545-pound squat, and 683-pound deadlift.
- His preferred lifting style included an explosive lift followed by a slow negative.
- Schwarzenegger trained abs daily and calves up to six days per week (the calves were his weakest muscle), and he wasn’t afraid to use cheat reps while doing bicep curls.
- He was a fan of pyramid sets and training to failure, preferring sets of 6–12 reps.
- His diet featured 30–50g of protein per meal, 5–6 meals per day, and a limit on eggs.
- Schwarzenegger’s post-workout recovery often included an entire chicken and a large pitcher of beer (supposedly).
- He ate about 3,262 calories per day, including 216g protein, 132g fat, and 310g carbs.
This list features seven of the largest biceps in the bodybuilding record books. Yet, we’re positive there are plenty of other bodybuilding legends sporting 22–24-inch arms out there.
Whether it’s Winklaar, Wheeler, Heath, Ferrigno, Coleman, Green, or Schwarzenegger that inspires you to train, only one thing matters: progress.
Not a single one of these athletes sprouted out guns measuring about two feet in circumference with a 90-day program or even a year’s worth of training.
If you want to compete with the best, you need to train like the best:
- About ⅔ of the upper arm is the triceps; don’t neglect them!
- Eat a caloric surplus, down 1g of protein per pound of body weight, and add whey protein and creatine supplements to your routine.
- Treat each muscle equally for a more symmetrical physique, but don’t be afraid to give your biceps and triceps a little extra attention during the week.
- Stick to the 8–12-rep range and increase the weight by 2 ½ or 5 pounds when you can meet your rep goals without reaching failure.
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Lastly, remember that many of the legends carrying around 22-inch biceps weren’t natty (or steroid-free). Twenty-two inches may be out of the picture, but 18 (like Jeff Nippard) are still considered big biceps!