The “normal” barbell curl is obviously one of the most used exercises you’ll ever see in the gym. It’s the exercise people think of when they think of lifting weights (except possibly bench press).
And (like bench press), it’s one exercise that is totally misused and abused!
THIS little training tweak is going to automatically fix your form on EVERY single rep.
Basically, the main problem I see people have with barbell curls in the tendency to hunch forward and curl in a”vulture” position.
The shoulders come forward, the head might come down a bit, and the arms start in a pre-bent position, etc. Then when the person goes to lift, they lock the biceps and use the lower back to leverage the weight up past the sticking point.
And the reason people do it is to make the exercise EASIER and be able to use more weight.
Here’s the thing…just using more weight doesn’t mean more biceps growth.
Sure, it might make you feel big and strong but if you want big biceps, letting that happen is a HUGE mistake. The biceps are not a big muscle and simply throwing weight around doesn’t get the job done.
Now, before I tell you this tweak, I want to be very clear on one thing…isolated bicep exercises like the barbell curl alone DO NOT make for great biceps. You MUST do heavy pulling exercises as well, like barbell rows, dumbells rows, pull-ups, chin-ups, pulldowns, deadlifts, etc. to really maximize bicep growth.
If you’re ALREADY doing these exercises, THEN you’ll see more benefits from some select isolation work. In other words, if you want big arms, don’t focus on arm work…focus on big muscle work.
So let’s get to it…
Here is the normal start position of the barbell curl. The shoulders are in a neutral position. This is fine but what generally happens is on the NEXT rep, when the bar comes down, the shoulders naturally get pulled forward because of the weight.
If you don’t realize this is happening, you’ll just naturally get pulled into that position!
So here’s the tweak…
At the start of EVERY SINGLE REP, you’ll pull the bar against your thighs towards your body, like you’re trying to row the bar against your body.
This automatically pulls the shoulders back and straightens out the arms. You can see the difference in body position between the two pictures. In this one below, the shoulders are pulled back and I’m starting with the biceps at full extension (even a little stretch).
NOW curl up…
And make VERY sure you do your best to keep your shoulders back as you curl up. You’ll notice the difference instantly.
And when I say the first time you do this tweak, drop your weight by 30 lbs, I mean it. The difference is BIG. I’m using a 65 lb barbell here.
The biceps thrive on strict form and tension. If you’re going to do isolation bicep work, there’s no point in heaving the weight around and getting nothing out of it.
Use this tweak, tighten up your form, and DO IT RIGHT. You’ll thank me for it (or curse me for as you’re doing it 😉
Nick Nilsson is known in the fitness industry as the “Mad Scientist of Muscle,” and for good reason! For more than 28 years, Nick has been creating unique, new exercises and training techniques and putting together some of the most innovative muscle-building and fat-loss programs available anywhere.
Good advice. I humbled myself years ago by doing all of my curls with my back supported (against another piece of equipment etc.) and have not looked back since.
Is this a drag curl Nick?
It’s not really a drag curl – it’s more a position fix that you do at the beginning of each regular curl rep – you still bring the bar out and away from your body – you just make sure you start with your biceps in the right position first.
Thanks for the clarification Nick!