EXERCISE BREAKDOWN: TENSING BICEP CURL
HOW TO DO IT
STAND TALL – Set a slight posterior tilt of the pelvis and feel the dish. Do that and you’re in a strong neutral posture here. Less likely than most to do your back in on a Biceps Curl.
CURL THE WEIGHT UP – making sure your elbows stays still – or only moves one inch forward and don’t move to the side at all.
TENSE HARD AT THE TOP – At the top of the move, please tense your Biceps as hard as you can, even if it’s an easy weight for you. We are not just trying to lift the weight here; we are trying to stimulate change in the muscle.
LOWER SLOWLY – Without letting your elbows move again. Control the weights all the way down to a full stretch just behind the torso.
STRETCH THE BICEP AT THE BOTTOM – Tense your Triceps as hard as you can at the bottom and this will help you use a fuller range of motion, and the Bicep will stretch because of it.
THEN REPEAT – and bare in mind that this style is much harder than a regular Bicep Curl.
HOW IT TENDS TO GO WRONG AND HOW TO FIX IT
YOU LEAN BACK – A classic sight in gyms worldwide. Weight is too heavy for gentlemen to Bicep Curl, gentlemen leans back, changes the angle and gets it done…Unless gentlemen’s back explodes due to poor form. Said gentlemen looks a fool either way. Fix it by holding your ‘Iron Spine’ and drop in weight until you’re ready for more.
YOU MOVE THE ELBOWS – Your Biceps, unless you’ve trained yourself well – will try and get help from other muscles to lift the weight. That’s why you’ll want to lean back as discussed above, you may also find you want to splay out to the side or lift your elbows as you curl. Naughty. Fix it by grooving the proper move with light weights and remembering why you’re doing it in the first place…. You are doing Bicep Curls to strengthen and build the Biceps. So focus on feeling the Biceps do all the work!
YOU LIFT THE ELBOWS – As above. Moving them about one inch is acceptable, any more than that and you are recruiting the shoulders and changing the angle that you’re moving the weight to make it easier. Fix it by paying attention, trying to feel all the work in the muscle. Or – if you keep messing up – practice with your back to a wall and make sure your elbows don’t come off the wall throughout.
YOU LET THEM DROP – Classic if they are heavy or you are lazy. Remember to control the weights down, feeling the Biceps work on both parts of the move. Numbers on a spreadsheet mean nothing. Physiological stimulus causes adaptation.
SPINE STILL, ELBOWS STILL – Do this and you ain’t going far wrong.
PUMP THE BICEPS – Picture your Biceps getting bigger and more full of blood with every pump-like rep.
CRAMP BICEPS AT THE TOP – Struggling to feel it? Tense so hard at the top that your Bicep almost cramps! – get good at that and you’ll get stronger and stronger.
MORE COMPLEX MOVES
WHY DO IT
Firstly, it will build your biceps! Plus you may well boost your grip strength a little.
I don’t really suggest people do them that often, but there is a time and a place when they are ideal. If you want big guns…. Chin Ups and compound moves will give you more for your efforts, but there can still be a place for good old fashion curls.
Now, I’m a big fan of using them for other reasons though: If you haven’t proved consistency with your training, we need to break down the barriers and make it easy to train. In an ideal world you’d be doing all sorts of compound moves, but if you haven’t yet had time to master them, find them too difficult or don’t have access to much kit – you may be better starting with Bicep Curls, building consistency, installing the training habit and then progressing to something else too. If you’re short for time to warm up properly and shower, Curls may help you squeeze in extra workouts when you otherwise would have skipped it. This is more important than most people realise.
I first read about this particular style from Pavel Tsatsouoline; I really like as it takes a lot of focus and makes it very difficult even on a lighter weight. If you want to be strong, you need to develop the skill of contracting your muscle hard – this style will help you learn this quickly.
Psychologically too – pumping up the guns with a few sets of curls can work wonders for you.