Sunday, July 7, 2013

A New Look at the Bicep Curl

by Michael Reynolds
The Importance of The Bicep Curl

The Most Loved.

The Most Hated.

As American as Apple Pie.

The Bicep Curl.

On any given day you can walk into a commercial gym and see at least one person doing curls.  Just hopefully not in the squat rack. Sons of bitches.

Lets get that squat a little lower bud

That is probably why the bicep curl has gotten so much hate over the last few years.  But I'm here to change that.

Some say curls are not "functional." "Don't do isolation" "Curls?!?!?!" Says the man with 11" arms who only does functional movements and does a HARDCORE Mud RUN every other weekend.  Tell me again how badass you are.

Curls are most certainly functional.

First off lets define functional.  Functional is something of practical use rather then for vanity. So before you go off claiming something is not functional make sure you know what it is that person does and why they are doing curls.  If you are runner, bicep curls may not be functional for you.  Bodybuilders, Strongmen, Powerlifters, Olympic Weightlifters, Crossfitters, average gym goers, Wrestlers, Basketball players, rowers, football players, and many others should all be doing curls somewhere in their training.  Here is why:

Throughout our day we use our biceps for a lot of different things such as holding our groceries, loading them into the cart, on the court or gridiron when two people are fighting for the ball.  Loading stones, deadlifting, pullups/chinups, flipping a tractor tire, your pull when rowing, to flex on stage, and many other movements, events, and activities.  Throughout your day consciously think about how may things you use your biceps for but the main ones are picking up odd objects such as chairs, tables, couches.  You know the feeling on moving day when you're the big strong guy/gal who everyone looks to to pick up heavy things like a couch and you can barely hold on as you go down the steps.  Or the 5 cases of 24 pack of water that you can only take one at a time.

Yes, some of those things are trivial and are not all bicep dominant movements there are many sports where bicep strength can enhance performance and thats what we are all after.

As well as everyday activities that everyone does there are specific sports that shun curls.  They have been banished and exiled never to be seen done.  Lets start with why Crossfitters should do bicep curls.  CrossFit is know for its functional movements and never doing isolation movements.  I have heard stories of people getting kicked out of their box for doing bicep curls.  But how many people do you see stuck doing banded pull-ups cause they just can't get their chin over the bar or the guy who does regular pull-ups either strict or with a kip who never gets his damn chin over the bar.  Granted these people may just need more scap and lat work, but elbow flexion exercises will certainly help.

For most sports, bicep curls are an off season exercise but for some such as strongman and possibly powerlifting but this really all depends on the athlete.

How about the weightlifter with bad elbow pain. Bicep curls can virtually cure this after a few sessions.  For Strongman distal bicep tears are very common in the sport.  Higher rep (15-20) sets of curls can strengthen your distal bicep tendon so this may never happen.  Pain can dissipate, surgeries can be avoided, and above all careers can be saved or elongated.


You don't need to hit your biceps 8 different ways. Your workout shouldn't consist of preacher curls, hammer curls, Zottman's curls, strict bar curls, fat bar reverse curls, and seated incline curls.  Just make sure you train them.  They are still a supplemental exercise and should not be your meat and potatoes exercises. If they are your weakness you better train them hard and often.  Powerlifters understand this concept well, train your weakness, kill your weaknesses, and make them your strength.

Choose an exercise stick to it for about x weeks, progress in weight, reps, or sets each week and switch up the exercise when it stops working for you.  Remember don't major in the minors but isolation exercises help bring up weak points.  Re-think what functional is to you. It is functional if it makes you stronger and better at your sport even if it's an isolation movement.

Next time somebody says something about you doing curls just give them two tickets to the GUN SHOW and ask when their next mud run is.

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