Marc Megna's Lifting Lessons: Barbell Biceps Curl

You may not know it, but you're probably not getting the most from your biceps curls—and your arms are suffering for it. Here's how to make every curl more effective!

The barbell curl is one of the most popular exercises among men, women, and even unattended children in any gym around the world. Most lifters do a barbell biceps curl at least once per week, but it may surprise you to learn that not many of those people do them correctly!

Getting great results from biceps curls doesn't take a lot of weight. The exercise is actually much more effective if you use lighter weight and proper technique.

Instead of swinging your hips to get an overloaded bar up to your chest, do curls my way. I guarantee you'll feel more pain and see more gains!

Megna's Lifting Lessons Barbell Biceps Curl
Watch the video - 7:08



Elbow Placement

Pay attention to the distance between your elbows and the weight. To get the most out of your curls, you want that distance to remain as long as possible. If, as you curl, your elbows slide behind you, you're shortening the length of the lever, which means your biceps are doing less work. So, keep your elbows pinned toward the front of your body, and don't let them move!

Keep your elbows pinned toward the front of your body, and don't let them move!

Your elbows should be the only joint doing any movement. Your hips, wrists, back, and neck should stay neutral. You can keep a slight bend in your legs to protect your lower back, but don't go thrusting the weight or swinging like a gorilla.

Range of Motion (ROM)

When you curl a barbell up, force is pushing down on the bar, against your biceps, until the bar gets too high. That means when you curl the bar up to your chest, there's no force on the bar for the last quarter or more of the rep. In other words, you get to rest at the top of your rep because there's no force pushing down once the bar passes a certain point.

Stopping your reps at peak force contraction will make every rep much, much more effective.

If you want your curls to be really hard, stop as soon as you feel that force diminishing. Bring your arms up between 90 and 45 degrees, and then stop. Stopping your reps at peak force contraction will make every rep much, much more effective.

Time Under Tension

During the eccentric (lowering) portion of the exercise, let the barbell come all the way down until your elbows are extended, but keep your biceps contracted. Maintaining tension in the biceps will make them work twice as hard.

Maintaining tension in the biceps will make them work twice as hard.

There should be no rest in your repetition—either at the bottom or top of the rep—and you should maintain perfect control at all times.

Go Forth and Grow

Keep these cues in mind the next time you perform biceps curls, and I bet you won't get through 3 sets of 10 reps without feeling some serious pain! You won't need to load up on a dangerous amount of weight, either.

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