Many coaches think bicep curl exercises are not functional and do not carry over to sports performance. I couldn't disagree more. Ever try to run or jump with a strained or torn biceps? You can't, because biceps play a functional role in both those activities.
Below, are three methods we use in the Performance U training system to help athletes get more out of their Bicep Curl exercises and build bigger and stronger biceps.
Use an Offset Grip on Dumbbell Curls
Basic anatomy tells us that our biceps are not only elbow flexors, but also forearm supinators. Based on this, we've found the best way to ensure maximal biceps recruitment when doing Dumbbell Biceps Curls is to hit both (resisted) elbow flexion and forearm supination by holding the dumbbell in a unique way.
Instead of gripping the dumbbell in the middle (in the traditional manner), grip it all the way to the thumb side, with your hand as far to the side as possible.
This small change makes a huge difference. The grip forces you to resist forearm pronation. You use more of your biceps as supinators while also using them as elbow flexors.
The following video shows you how to do this Dumbbell Biceps Curl variation:
Hold the Handle This Way When Doing One-Arm Cable Curls
Grab a PV-style cable handle attachment and fold the strap in on itself. Pull it to one side to create a new grip, with both sides of strap on the same side.
Grab the handle so the strap comes out of the same side as your pinky finger (as shown in the photo).
Just as with the dumbbell, gripping the cable handle this way increases biceps recruitment. You add an element of resisted supination to the curl, provided you perform the movement in the manner displayed in the video above.
Mix Up Your Force Angles
You may be under the impression that each time you change the exercise, you change the force angle. This is not so. Although they look different, many Biceps Curl exercises—e.g., Barbell Biceps Curls vs. EZ-Bar Curls vs. Dumbbell Biceps Curls—create the same force angle, affecting your biceps in basically the same way.
Here's a quick lesson on muscle mechanics to help you better understand force angles:
All exercises that involve free weights and cables have a point within the range of motion (ROM) where the exercise is hardest on the muscles involved and another point where the exercise is easiest. The most difficult point is where the lever arm becomes the longest, making the muscles work the hardest.
During Biceps Curls with a free weight (dumbbell, barbell or EZ-bar), the point at which your biceps is being maximally loaded (stimulated) is the point in which your forearm is at a 90-degree angle with the load vector. In the case of free weights, gravity is your load vector.
In other words, when you do a Biceps Curl using free weights, the point of maximal loading on your biceps is when your elbow reaches 90 degrees of flexion and your forearm is parallel to the floor.
Now that you understand force angles, you can better understand how you can alternate Leaning Biceps Curls (shown in the video below) with regular Biceps Curls to continually hit your biceps in a different manner.
You can change the force angle on cable curls as well, by using the technique shown in this video:
Again, I recommend mixing these variations with traditional free weight and cable Biceps Curls to ensure you're hitting your biceps in different ways.
If your goal is to build bigger stronger biceps, I recommend using a general set/rep range of 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps.