Whether you want to dominate the rowing machine or just crush that #FlexFriday pic, it’s time to turn your attention to the biceps curl. This move is incredibly basic – but building front-of-arm strength has a ripple effect: “Strong biceps are important for more than just vanity,” says Cara Bonney, a Club Pilates master trainer in Dallas. “They’re involved every time you bend your elbow, so you need to keep them strong.”
How to do a biceps curl
A few things first: You can either do a biceps curl sitting on a bench or standing. It’s mostly personal preference, but Bonney says standing challenges your core more. And whether you want to do a single arm curl or curl both arms at once depends on your goal, she adds. If you’re working for strength or size, alternate arms since you’ll be able to lift more weight. For muscle endurance, or to earn a little core and shoulder stability, curl both arms simultaneously.
How to: Sitting or standing, hold a pair of dumbbells by your side, palms facing forward. Bend your elbow, pulling your hand(s) towards your shoulder slowly and with control. Your upper arm and wrist should stay still; only move your forearm from the elbow joint. Curl all the way up, leaving a little space between your hands and shoulders. Pause, and lower down slowly all the way to the bottom.
Form tips: Keep your torso stable and spine straight. “Avoid bending backwards as you pull the weight up,” says Booney. “This will assist the biceps instead of isolating and strengthening them.” Prevent this common error by engaging your abs and back, and using lighter weights.
Reps/sets for best results: If you’re training for strength or endurance, opt for a weight that’ll let you hit three sets of eight to 12 reps, one minute of rest between sets. If your goal is hypertrophy (size), choose a heavier weight for four to five sets of four to six reps, Bonney advises.
Benefits of the biceps curl
The most obvious benefit of the biceps curl is sculpted arms. But it can also make you better at other exercises.
“The biceps main function is to flex or bend the elbow,” says Bonney. “This is a movement used in a lot of other upper body exercises – like rows, where your biceps work to bend the elbow to pull the weight back to your body.”
Because biceps curls involve a lot of stabilisation, the move also helps train your shoulder to be more stable and teaches your core to engage. Triple whammy!
Make biceps curls part of your workout
First off, there are other ways to work your biceps: “If you did all your other upper body work, such as rows and pulls, you don’t necessarily need to isolate the biceps, because you’re already hitting them,” says Bonney.
In other words: Consider what moves were in your workout yesterday and today – accessory muscles (like the biceps) are smaller so they fatigue faster and need more rest, even if you’re hitting them unintentionally.
If you prefer isolation exercises or are trying to build big guns, incorporate biceps curls with a heavy weight on upper body day, at a max of two to three times a week, says Bonney. The move pairs well with other arm and shoulder moves for supersets, particularly triceps exercises – both visually and functionally, your biceps complement your triceps, so you want to develop them evenly, she adds.
If training for endurance or maintenance, Bonney suggests using light weights and turning the curls into more complex movement patterns to challenge your core and brain as well. That means hitting them via a squat curl press, lunge with biceps curls, or plié with biceps curls. “These complex moves are perfect for incorporating into a barre or step aerobics routine, or on a total-body day,” she adds.
And when it comes to equipment, dumbbells are just the beginning – changing things up can help challenge the biceps and surrounding muscles differently. Use the biceps curl machine, or crank out some curls with a TRX suspension trainer.
Once you’ve mastered
the basic biceps curl, there are all kinds of variations to try. Check out all
the great biceps exercises you can try next.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com
Image credit: iStock