STOP Doing Bicep Curls Like This (5 Mistakes Slowing Your Gains)

Biceps training isn’t complicated. Although there are tons of different exercises, they pretty much all boil down to one movement: bicep curls. Hold a weight, flex the arm. Simple, right? Not really. There are 5 common mistakes almost everyone makes on the bicep curl. Fix these, and your curls (no matter what kind — dumbbell curl or barbell curl or cable curl) will instantly become far more effective at growing your biceps.
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Mistake number 1. You might’ve already noticed that as you curl a weight up, it gets harder and harder and becomes the most difficult mid-way when your forearm is perpendicular to the ground. After this point, it gets easier. Your body can sense this and finds ways for you to “cheat” through this difficult bottom half of the movement without you even realizing. One way it does that is by initiating each rep with a slight swing. Unfortunately, that additional load goes straight to your lower back which is now helping you get the weight up by using momentum. So, try doing a standard set of curls with your regular form. Then, stand with your back against a wall to prevent your body from swinging at all. If you had to drop the weight considerably, then it means you’ve likely been incorporating too much momentum into your regular curls. Although I wouldn’t recommend doing all your curls against a wall, you’ll see far better biceps growth and reduce your risk of injury if you simply lighten the weight and minimize the amount of swing you use, especially towards the end of your set.

For the next mistake, two really interesting studies have found that participants experience more muscle growth when they only do the bottom half of the exercise (i.e., where the muscle is fully stretched). What does this mean? Well, I wouldn’t recommend doing only partial reps from now on, but it does seem that the bottom part of an exercise when the muscle is fully stretched provides a powerful stimulus for growth. Especially in the distal regions of a muscle like the bottom part of your biceps. So, whenever you do your bicep curls, avoid cutting the range of motion short at the bottom position. Instead, extend your arm fully by flexing your triceps at that bottom position before you go into your next rep to ensure your biceps get fully stretched.

Third mistake: flexing your wrist on the bicep curl. The function of the inside forearm muscles is to flex the wrist. Many people, when they curl, subconsciously flex their wrist when trying to get the weight up. This can lead to the forearms working harder than they have to be, and eventually lead to fatigue and cramping. Instead, next time you do a curl, first bend your wrist back so that it’s aligned with your forearm, and then keep it that way as you curl.

Next, let’s talk about the elbows. The primary function of the biceps is to flex the elbow. But whenever you curl with a weight that’s too heavy for your biceps to lift, your front delts will start to help by swinging your elbow forward. Biomechanics expert Coach Kassem tested this and found that allowing the elbows to excessively sway forward during the curl (note: across all variations, including the barbell curl) led to less biceps activation and more front delts activation. So instead, keep your elbow locked and focus on the biceps’ primary function – flexing the arm. A little bit of elbow movement is perfectly fine and hard to avoid, but anything more than what’s shown here will likely lead to more of your front delts taking over instead of your biceps.

Last mistake: forgetting about mind muscle connection. If you struggle to feel your biceps even with proper form, try this out. With your arm by your side, flex your biceps as hard as you can. Then, bring your arm up in front of your face and again flex hard. You should feel a very strong biceps contraction when your arm is in that position. You don’t want to do curls in that position, but you can do this to actually feel what a strong biceps contraction is like. Then, when you go into the dumbbell curl (or whichever curl you prefer), rather than thinking about simply lifting the weight up, think about pulling the bar or dumbbell into your body. And, as you curl the weight up, focus on driving your pinkies up towards the ceiling. This emphasizes another function of the biceps, supination, which can help you get an even stronger contraction to get the most out of every single rep.

Next time you do curls, apply these 5 fixes and let me know in the comments below just how much of a difference it makes!

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