Is there a better-known strength training exercise than the biceps curl? The push-up, maybe, but almost anyone can do a bicep curl, with the right weight, while I know plenty of people who can’t even do a single push-up. (A jaded friend of mine, who refuses to do weight training, dropped on the floor one summer afternoon to show the world that she’s easier than she looks. I think she’s still there.)
The biceps curl – “biceps” is the same word for singular and plural – is the move most people start when they want to grow their arms. The main functions of the biceps are flexing the elbow, rotating the forearm outward, and looking good when wearing a well-fitting t-shirt. Simply put, the curl involves engaging the biceps to lift a weight up to the shoulder. Nothing simpler, right? Bad.
Looking for more workout inspiration? Read what happened when I did 30 supermans a day for a week here, and when I did 50 sumo squats a day for a week here.
How to do a bicep curl
Start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward. Your arms should hang down at your sides, close to your torso. Choosing the right weight is crucial. You want to lift something that allows you to complete three sets of 10 curls without losing shape. The final rehearsals should be hard, but not so hard that you rock back and forth like that wedding guest who thinks dancing has nothing to do with moving your feet.
With your upper arms stationary and your shoulders relaxed and back, exhale and bend your elbows to lift the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Hold for a moment at the top of the movement, then inhale as you lower the weight back to the starting position. He is a representative. Keep your elbows close to your torso throughout; if they tend to flare, lighten the load for now.
You might be tempted to drop the weight only about three-quarters of the way down, leaving a slight bend at the elbow. To get the most out of the movement, go all the way down, maintaining tension in your biceps, before coming back up.
It’s a fairly simple move, but it’s just as easy to do it incorrectly. The most common form error is the aforementioned swing, which means you’re using other parts of your body (mainly your hips) and your momentum to swing the weight up. The bicep curl is an isolation exercise, so the rest of your body should stay still as you raise and lower the weight. Engage your core to help you stay upright and look forward. If you find yourself swaying or swinging to lift the weight, choose lighter dumbbells. The heavier ones will still be there when you build up your strength.
Control is paramount. Lift slowly and take the same time to lower the weight. The benefit comes from the whole movement, not just the lifting.
I Did 30 Bicep Curls Every Day For A Week – Here’s What Happened
I started with two 17.5 pound dumbbells and was surprised at how difficult it was to maintain form. I leaned on the hips to lift the weights for the last repetitions and I breathed hard at the end of each set. I was a little disappointed with myself, but much more when I solved the problem. My adjustable dumbbells are the kind that allow you to slide plates, and I hadn’t taken into account the weight of the bars and the metal collars (spinlocks) that hold these plates in place: 4.5 lbs each. So I was lifting two 22-pound weights, which was more than expected. So I dropped the weight down to 17.5 pounds each side and felt like a drug for a while. (If you’re looking for new dumbbells, check out the best adjustable dumbbells for home weightlifting here.)
On the second day, I finished the sets with no problem, although I again noticed a tendency to arch my back during the last repetitions. Be careful of this, because it’s an easy mistake to make and one that can take root quickly. Just go to a gym and watch some of the guys – and they’re almost always guys – almost arch their backs as they try to lift their own body weight with each arm.
On the third day, I alternated arms to achieve the same number of reps and sets. It took a little longer, but lifting one weight at a time was, of course, easier. But it can also encourage a slight sway of the shoulders as you develop a rhythm, so keep an eye out for it if you choose this method.
Fourth day: I maintained the alternating method and added five repetitions to each series; giving each arm that half-second break before a rep made all the difference.
For the fifth day, I decided to try the hammer curls: the movement is the same, but you start with your palms facing (neutral position). You may find that you can lift slightly heavier with this variation, which also targets the brachioradialis muscle, a muscle in the forearm used in flexion, as well as pronation (palms down) and supination. (palms up, as in the standard bicep curl) .
On days six and seven, I mixed things up for the sets: standard curls, hammer curls, both arms at once and alternating. The deformities had been ironed out and I was enjoying the feeling of completing all three sets with greater ease as the week progressed.
I wasn’t expecting noticeable muscle gains after a week of bicep curls, but if bigger arms were a goal, I’d definitely incorporate them into my bodybuilding: My arms at least feel bigger. That said, if you’re really looking for a gun show, you’ll also need to work your triceps muscles, which are bigger than your biceps. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go put on a T-shirt that’s a little too small for me.
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