The way most people do Biceps Curls is flat out wrong.
OK, that might be an exaggeration. But you’re probably not getting the most muscle building benefits from the exercise.
When you first learned how to curl, odds are you were told to keep your elbows to your sides so you don’t cheat. Otherwise, people have a tendency to swing the weights or even drive their elbows back so it’s easier to lift heavier weights.
In fact, you probably secretly judge others if you see them perform it any other way than with their arms pinned to their sides.
Sorry to break it to you, but this isn’t the best way. And it all comes down to anatomy.
What you consider your biceps are actually two primary muscles—there’s a third muscle called the coracobrachialis, but it’s small and not relevant to this article.
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The brachialis sits toward the lower half of your upper arm, under the biceps brachii. It attaches to your humerus (upper arm bone) and the ulna bone of your forearm, and it’s the most powerful flexor of the elbow. Put simply, it helps to bend your elbow.
The biceps brachii is a two-headed muscle that attaches the radius bone of the forearm to the scapula, or shoulder blade. It’s also a flexor of the elbow, and it helps turn the forearm so your palm can face outward (i.e., supination), plus it helps you bring your upper arm forward and upward as if giving an upper cut (i.e., forward flexion of the shoulder).
Standard curling technique completely ignores that last part.
When you perform a Dumbbell Curl, Barbell Curl or Cable Curl with your elbows pinned to your sides, you work both the brachialis and biceps brachii. But it’s not possible to create maximal tension in the biceps brachii because of the lack of forward shoulder flexion.
You are certainly working the muscle, but just not to the full extent.
Fortunately, the fix is simple.
Next time you perform a Bicep Curl variation, keep your elbows pinned to your sides as you initiate the movement. Curl the weight up with your elbows to your sides until you hit your end range of motion, where you can’t curl the weight any further. At this point, bring your elbows forward a few inches and squeeze the heck out of your biceps.
Do not bring your elbows forward at the start of the movement, and absolutely do not swing your elbows back and forth. Control the entire rep—and for a bonus, try to crush the weight with your hands to increase the tension in your biceps.
The result: bigger and stronger biceps without having to change your training plan. Your shirt sleeves should fear what’s coming for them.
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