The bicep curl – the one exercise that every (and I do mean EVERY) gym-goer has done at some point of their training. After all, having sculpted arms is something that both men and women aspire towards. Curls of any kind are also known as isolation exercises, due to the fact that they isolate a particular muscle for training purposes. However, making the curl an effective bicep-builder is more than about making it a super-strict exercise.
A strict curl, as in one that only see the elbow joint in motion, places the stress of the movement squarely on the bicep. The more tension is placed, the more stimulated the bicep is, which is more beneficial for growth. As such, it’s logical to assume that strict curls are the only way to go for glorious guns; no cheating allowed!
However, the problem with strict curls is that it automatically limits the amount of weight you can use, which poses a problem as far as mechanical tension goes. While strict curls can induce significant amounts of muscle damage and metabolic stress, the absence of mechnical tension leaves a lot of gains on the table.
Does this mean that “cheat” curls are kosher? It depends. If you’re using your body’s momentum to swing the weight up or flailing your arms around like someone just tasered you, then no. The idea of the curl is still to load the biceps in a controlled manner, so that requires movement discipline.
Employing a small amount of shoulder flexion will allow you to effectively maximise the load potential for bicep curls. During the concentric portion of the curl, begin rotating your shoulders skywards once the joint angle of your elbow reaches 90°. Doing so makes it easier for you elbow to achieve full flexion under heavier loads.
Employing a mix of both strict curls and not-so-strict curls allows you get the most out of loading, tension and stress for your biceps. For a complete arm routine, try starting your workout with a compound movement like chin-ups before following it up strict curls. Ending it with a couple of sets of not-so-strict curls will allow you to overload the movement and really burn out your biceps!