If you're hitting the gym, you're probably doing it for one of two reasons—to improve your health and fitness, or to look better. Maybe both.
But for those guys focused more on aesthetics, you better believe most want bigger, more well-defined arms. But relying solely on the on the Dumbbell Curl for a couple sets of 8-10 repetitions probably won't get you the the arms of your dreams. You need something more.
Higher-volume protocols incorporating some exercise variety may be the jumpstart your arm training needs. Keep in mind that these protocols are still subject to the rule of progressive overload. If you want your body to adapt, you need to provide it with a new stimulus, whether that is more reps, sets or increased load.
With that in mind, next time you're tempted to grab a pair of dumbbells and mindlessly perform some Dumbbell Curls in front of the mirror, give one or more of these routines a try.
1. The EZ Bar Curl Walk
This is one of the most challenging curl variations you can do. Load an EZ curl bar (although this can be done with dumbbells too). Pick out a distance that is around 30 feet. Do 6 repetitions. On the end of the 6th rep, hold your arms at roughly a 90-degree angle and walk the 30 feet. Next, turn around, and do six more Curls. On the 6th rep, again hold the weight around 90 degrees and walk back to the start.
Ways to Progress: For this routine you can add weight, reps or distance.
2. The Dumbbell Curl Walk
This is the second Curl walk routine. Think of this as a pyramid loading protocol with very brief rest between repetitions. Do one curl, take one step. Now do two curls, take two steps. Do this until you get to six repetitions, and then pyramid back down. You will end up doing 36 repetitions in total, so chose your weight wisely!
Ways to Progress: To progress this routine you can add weight. You could also add another repetition to the top of the pyramid, but be aware that adds on an additional 13 repetitions!
3. The Curl Microset
For this routine, pick a weight that you can do for 15-20 repetitions. Do any many as you can, rest 45 seconds, and then strive for half of the number you achieved on the first set.
Ways to Progress: You can add weight to this routine or drop the rest periods down by increments of 5 seconds.
4. The Rope Curl
This is a fun partner drill, but it can be done solo, as well. Pick two different pairs of kettlebells, one light and one heavier. In this case, we used 15- and 30-pound kettlebells. For any light kettlebell, do 10 repetitions, and for any heavy one, do 6 repetitions. Work your way down the rope until you curl each kettlebell.
Ways to Progress: You can add weight or increase the repetitions. You could also do a burnout on the last kettlebell in the series.
5. The Two-Direction Curl
This one's a favorite for getting bigger biceps. You can use a kettlebell or a dumbbell. Do a traditional curl first. Then, on the second rep, curl the weight farther away from your body so your biceps turn more outwards. If your biceps are facing the wall in front of you on a traditional curl, then they should be facing more toward the two walls on either side of you with this outward curl. Continue alternating between these two different directions of curls until you complete 16 total reps.
Ways to Progress: Aside from adding weight or extra reps, add a Reverse Curl to make this a Three-Direction Curl routine.
6. The Dumbbell Mechanical Drop Set
Changing body angles can make an exercise more or less difficult. A Curl done on a bench with a slight decline is more challenging than a standing Curl with the same weight. For this drop set, do 8-10 repetitions on a bench or seat where your spine is at a slight decline compared to standing. Next, immediately move to a standing Curl and do 8-10 repetitions. Once this is completed do 8-10 cheat curls where you can use your body to help get the weight up (you don't want to make a habit of this form, but it can you eek out some extra volume in this sort of drop set).
Ways to Progress: Add extra reps or weight.
If you want to read more about mechanical drop sets, check out the previous article on the subject.
7. The Cable Mechanical Drop set
Reverse Curls are generally more challenging than regular Curls. We take the same concept from the last exercise and do the more challenging version first. Do 8-10 Reverse Curls and then switch over to 8-10 Traditional Curls.
Ways to Progress: Nothing too complex here, still add extra reps or weight. You could also add a traditional drop set to the mechanical drop set. Once you have finished your last set of Curls, drop the weight by 20-30% and do 10 more repetitions.
Photo Credit: milan2099/iStock
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