Exercise and Movement The Proper Bicep Curls

Of all the dumbbell exercises for biceps, the biceps curl is the most important to learn as it is the foundation that most of the other dumbbell exercises are based. 


Dr. Michael Karlfeldt, ND, PhD: With me I have Mike Hildebrandt, he's the Fitness Director over at Axiom Fitness. One thing that people really like, is obviously to have good -looking arms and good-looking biceps. And so, how should they do it right, because I know there's a lot of ways that you don't really utilize the proper motion.

Mike Hildebrandt, BS, CPT: People love the arms. Everybody wants a little bit more bicep size or bicep definition. And again, with most exercises, it's done improperly a lot of times.

So one thing to remember, with any kind of bicep exercise, don't lift with your ego.  Really make sure that you leave your ego at home, and that you do the exercise properly.  There's a term we use called TUT, standing for "Time under tension". You want to make sure: more important than the weight is how long that muscle is really under tension.

So if we use a dumbbell to demonstrate the exercise: common mistakes that we see is swinging, so the shoulder ends up doing a lot of the work, which in most people, the front of that shoulder doesn't need more work, it's already tight enough. Another mistake we see is just going really fast, up and down.

The main thing to focus on with the bicep curl is to make sure the elbow stays in one place, so we don't have movement back or forth. As you curl up, that elbow stays right where it's at, and we come all the way down.

The tempo that I recommend for proper bicep stimulation, is just to be able to come up one second, two second pause, one-two, and then one-two-three-four, on the way down.

That negative portion where we're coming down, is really what causes the damage to the muscle, which in turn, builds the bicep. Give you better bicep size, better bicep definition.

Dr. K: Yeah, but you're right, this really looks good for your ego when you do it this way!

MH: Exactly! But that's about it. It's not going to do a whole lot for your biceps. Lighten up the weight, pick the proper weight. And make sure as you do it, it's up control, pause at the top, and down really slow without swinging the elbow.

Dr. K: And the amount of sets that you should do. Should you do 10? 20?

MH: For any particular bicep exercise, 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions is going to suit most people that are looking for better bicep definition.

Dr. K: Beautiful!


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