Biceps are the ultimate show muscles - and it isn’t just power lifters who can benefit from working on them. After all, once you combine sculpted upper arms with a sleeveless dress or tank top, you have the makings of some serious arm envy!
Great guns don’t ‘just happen’. They demand targeted attention - and one of the best exercises for this is the bicep curl. But despite looking like one of the easiest moves you can do, mastering the curl can be harder than you think. If you are currently cranking out those curls without noticing any difference, here’s how to up your game…
Biceps: What are we talking about?
Your biceps are those muscles that sit on the top of the upper arm. When you lift a suitcase from the floor, pull a door towards you or unscrew a jar lid, it’s your biceps that take the strain.
A word of warning though: For all-round strength and to avoid imbalance and injury; don’t ignore those equally important muscles on the reverse side of your arm - i.e. the triceps. (Tip: it’s a good idea to combine bicep curls with push-ups and tricep extensions as part of a single routine).
Bicep curls: The basics
Here’s how to do a classic alternating dumbbell curl:
- Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing forward.
- With one arm, bend your elbow to lift the weight upward. Keep lifting until your elbow is completely bent.
- Hold for a second and then slowly lower the dumbbell back down to your side.
- Repeat with the other arm.
What weight level should I start off with?
It all depends on your level of baseline strength. The weights should be heavy enough so you feel your muscle tensing up with each curl. However, they should not be so heavy that you are unable to bend your arm all the way up and lower it in a controlled manner.
If you’re new to this move, try it with a pair of 2.5kg dumbbell weights to start off with.
How many sets should I do?
Aim for three sets of approximately ten curls for each arm. By the third set (assuming you are working with the right level of weight), you should be reaching the point of failure - always a sign that your workout is hitting the mark!
Which are better for curls: Individual weights or a barbell/resistance machine?
With a barbell, you work both arms in unison as you curl the bar. The same applies to most arm curl resistance machines. Curling both arms at once can deliver a thorough, effective workout - and it generally enables you to lift a larger weight overall.
However, just be aware that for most people, one arm is usually stronger than the other. With barbells and resistance machines, the force of the weight is distributed across the plane of the load. This means that without you even realising it, your dominant arm will tend to compensate for the weaker one. Therefore if you only use barbells or resistance machine, you could find that the difference between both arms actually increases.
By contrast, individual weights let you alternate arms - concentrating on one side at a time. This makes it easier to spot any significant difference in strength levels and focus your efforts to fix it.
Am I doing it right? Bicep curl mistakes to avoid
Pay attention to these…
No swinging. Keep your legs still - and try not to swing or flex your body to curl that weight all the way up. Swinging brings your lower back muscles and shoulders into play to do the job - which isn’t what you’re aiming for. Tip: to make it easier to keep your form, have a go at the mini-band curl (below).
Hold your lift for a second. When you reach the top of the curl, try to keep your arm still for a second. This maximises the lactic acid burn, which is vital for muscle growth.
Take it slow. Banging out your reps might feel good, but it’s not the best way forward for arm sculpting. The steadier and more controlled your curls, the more time your muscles are actually working.
How to do a bicep curl without free weights
You don’t actually need to shell out on a bunch of dumbbells to do your bicep curls. In fact, all you need is a set of resistance bands. Here’s how it’s done…
- Take a light-resistance mini band.
- Get into a single-kneeling position with your right foot in front and your left knee on the floor. Place one end of the band under the arch of your right foot.
- Take hold of the other end of the band with your right hand and place your right elbow on your front knee.
- While keeping your foot on the band and your elbow on your knee, curl your right arm upwards until your elbow is completely bent.
- Do 10 reps and then swap sides.
Give your biceps a boost…
At home or on the go, the Proworks mini-band set is just the ticket for supercharging your arm routine. Best of all, for one week only, you can use the code BICEP20 for 20% off your order. Promotion is only valid for the Proworks mini resistance band set (any colour).
Offer expires 30/08/2019 23:59. Limit of one use per customer.