Bicep curls have become an iconic exercise and are known by people of all backgrounds, from fitness experts to complete beginners.
The bicep curl has several variations, and they are most often performed with dumbbells, a barbell, or an EZ curl bar.
But just because everyone does something doesn’t mean it’s worth doing!
Do bicep curls actually get results? How do they change your body in one month and beyond?
Some of the results and benefits you can expect to see once you start regularly doing curls are:
- Increased bicep size
- Strengthened supporting arm muscles
- Increased bicep strength
- Improved arm aesthetics
- More confidence in the weight room
- Improved shoulder health
To help break down the benefits of bicep curls, I consulted with fitness experts Jeff Parke of TopFitnessMag.com and Colleen Freeman of FitMomsBlog.com.
Let’s dive in to the good stuff!
Increased Bicep Size
Bicep curls are the single best exercise that you can do to target your bicep muscles.
The bicep aids in elbow flexion and works closely with the tricep muscle to create extension.
The bicep curl follows this natural pattern under tension to help increase the size of the bicep muscle.
For this reason, when performing the bicep curl, it is essential to complete the full range of motion and extend your arm fully before doing another repetition.
You should perform bicep curls at least once a week as part of a balanced fitness routine.
According to Colleen Freeman, you can expect the following results by adding bicep curls into your routine:
“You can expect to see changes in muscle size after about 6-8 weeks. The body increases muscle strength first by growing more nerves to the muscle, then by getting larger.”
If your goals are to achieve larger bicep muscles, you should work with an exercise rep range best suited for muscle gain.
According to a study published by the National Institute of Health, the ideal rep range is 8-12 for novices.
It’s best to start with a weight that’s challenging but doesn’t cause your form to break down.
Many beginners use momentum to swing the weight up to their shoulders when it gets too heavy.
If you find yourself doing this, use a lighter weight that you can control more easily.
Strengthened Supporting Arm Muscles
There are several bicep curl variations that you can do to target different areas of the bicep.
From basic dumbbell curls to concentration curls, you can get a complete bicep workout.
If you are a novice, start with the basic dumbbell or barbell curl.
Once you’ve mastered the movement, you can try different variations to increase the size and strength of both the short and long head of your biceps, plus other minor supporting muscles.
If you’re not sure whether to start with dumbbells or a barbell, Jeff Parke offers some insights into which one is ideal.
A barbell is a better option for novices, as he points out:
“A barbell will be easier to control for someone working to gain their strength since it’s one object. With dumbbells, you have to be sure you’re lifting with both arms at the same rate.”
Many people have a dominant arm that is stronger than their opposite arm, making it more difficult to complete the same amount of reps on both sides when using dumbbells.
But when you use a barbell, you’re forced to do an equal amount of reps on both sides.
Jeff also noted that it is essential to include different variations of curls in your routine:
“There are a lot of variations to the bicep curl, and each one works slightly different parts of the bicep. You’ll want to find a good regimen using a few variations to hit all angles of the muscle.”
Some of the most popular variations of the curl to experiment with include:
- Dumbbell curl
- Barbell curl
- Cable curl
- Reverse curl
- Preacher curl
- Concentration curl
- Hammer curl
Increased Bicep Strength
The biceps play a vital role in a lot of upper body exercises, such as dumbbell rows and pull-ups.
Increasing your bicep strength will help improve your performance for many other exercises.
When you first attempt bicep curls, you will likely start with a lighter weight and slowly work your way up.
In most cases, you should aim to increase the weight depending on how easy it feels to you.
For individuals who are performing bicep curls for the first time, Jeff offers the following advice:
“Try curling 10-15 lbs for 15 reps, rest for 30 seconds, then repeat. Get in 3 reps and see how easy or difficult it was for you on the last set.
“If it wasn’t challenging, then up your weights the next time.”
Once you find a weight that feels comfortable for you, use that as a starting point.
As a complete beginner, your strength will improve quickly. You should aim to increase your weight every four weeks.
According to Jeff, making adjustments and staying consistent are key:
“It’s all about tracking and adjusting each step of the way. If you’re good with 15lbs and you’re consistently exercising, you should be using heavier weights a month from when you started.”
Don’t rush to add more weight.
The bicep is small in comparison to the rest of your body’s muscles. You could injure yourself if your body isn’t ready to handle heavier weights.
Improved Arm Aesthetics
Bigger biceps are a goal for many weightlifters.
And gaining strength on curls is an awesome way to get great looking arms!
However, there are two things you should consider when trying to improve your physique.
First, don’t forget to train your triceps.
Your triceps take up around 2/3rds of the size of your arm, and you shouldn’t neglect them. It’s important to train both muscle groups equally to maintain a well-balanced physique.
You shouldn’t neglect training the rest of your upper body and your lower body, either.
Being proportional is a critical aspect of building an aesthetically-pleasing body that looks balanced and healthy.
We tend to enjoy working out the arms — a.k.a the “beach muscles” — but neglect other areas of the upper body and the leg muscles because they are not as fun to train.
When you train all of your muscles equally, they will grow in unison and be proportional to each other.
Don’t just focus on your biceps. Be sure to train your triceps, the rest of your upper body, and your lower body as well.
More Confidence in the Weight Room
The bicep curl is easy to perform.
It doesn’t take a lot to perfect the movement, even if you’re a first-time lifter.
Mastering this extremely basic, fundamental, and beginner-friendly movement will help you feel a lot more comfortable and confident in your weight lifting journey.
Here’s how to start:
- Start by standing shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in the knees.
- Pick up the weight and hold it with your arms fully extended.
- Slowly lift the weight towards your shoulders while keeping your elbows close to your sides.
- After you reach the top of the movement, lower the weight slowly before doing another rep.
- If you are using dumbbells, alternate your arms, making sure to do an even number of reps on each side.
- To get the most out of the movement, squeeze your biceps at the top.
When using dumbbells, you can increase the tension in your biceps by rotating your wrists slightly at the top of the movement.
Turn your pinky finger inward and pause for a second before lowering the weight.
Doing this not only trains the biceps but helps improve your wrist mobility and engages the forearms as well.
While performing bicep curls, eliminate all other body movements. Avoid using momentum and focus on bending the elbow to keep the bicep under tension.
For an alternative to the traditional bicep curl, Colleen Freeman recommends doing curls with the palms facing down:
“The biceps will respond best to bicep curls done with the palm up. However, the muscle just underneath the biceps, the brachioradialis, responds best to bicep curls with the palm down.
“Starting a bicep curl with your palms down and then rotating your wrists to palms up as you curl will increase your bicep engagement even more!”
These reverse curls are called Zottman Curls, named after the late 19th-century strongman George Zottman.
They are harder to perform than a standard bicep curl, so you’ll need to adjust the weight accordingly.
Master a few of these variations and you’ll start to feel right at home in the gym!
Aids in Shoulder Health
When you use proper form, bicep curls play an important role in keeping your shoulders healthy.
They are often used during rehabilitation to increase strength and help improve shoulder stability.
Individuals with past rotator cuff injuries should remain cautious when performing the movement.
Bicep curls don’t specifically target the shoulders, but they do utilize the deltoid muscles.
Performing the bicep curl incorrectly can exacerbate previous shoulder injuries.
If you feel any shoulder pain during the movement, you should stop immediately. Pushing through the pain can lead to more significant injuries.
For increased shoulder stability, you should also target the back of the shoulder (the rear deltoid).
Exercises like reverse flys or face-pulls can help strengthen your shoulders and upper back while also helping to improve your posture.
The bicep curl is a classic movement that everyone should include in their workout routine.
The main results? It will increase your bicep size and strength while also improving the health of your shoulders.
When doing the bicep curl, you should focus on form above everything else. Once you’ve perfected your technique, you can increase the weight.
Whether you are looking to develop the size of your biceps or improve your athletic performance, make the bicep curl a staple of your routine.
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Hope this helps!