Heavy squats and deadsyeah, they need warm-up sets, proper form, and all kinds of special considerations. But curls? Easy: Just pick up the heaviest weight you can and go to town. Right? I think we just discovered why your arms aren't where you want them to be.
Fix these four errors and prepare to grow!
1. Thinking "first set, best set"
The worst thing you can do to cold muscles—no matter the body part—is jump right into training them heavy and hard. Take a few minutes to perform lighter sets with ego-deflating weights; to send blood to the biceps, establish a mind-muscle connection, and prepare your elbows for the work they’re about to do.
2. Training Curls Like A Powerlift
Yes, there is such thing as a strict curl competition. In fact, it used to be one of the powerlifts. But guess what? That was 50-plus years ago. Today—sorry—nobody cares what your max curl is, bro. And if they do, you shouldn't be listening to them.
Sure, you can see countless photos of jacked athletes curling huge weights, but outside of a photo shoot, heavy singles and doubles won’t get the job done. Make your goal to get a good pump, opt for at least 8-10 reps, and your decision will be well rewarded.
3. Cheating too much, too soon
About three reps into your first set, you realize you already violated points one and two. You're not warm, and the weight is really heavy. Like… really.
So what's the answer? Set the weight down? Never! Instead, you use as much momentum and spinal contortion as necessary to get your 8 reps.
We've all done it. But that doesn't make it right. In fact, it usually takes the focus off the biceps and puts it elsewhere—including your vulnerable lower back. Bad news. If you're going to cheat a little, do it at the very end of your final set, when your biceps are fried and you really are trying to exhaust them.
4. Living and dying by the simple curl
Look up pretty much any “Big Arms 101”-style program, and it'll call for the basics like standing barbell curls and standing or seated dumbbell curls. Which are… fairly close to the same thing, depending on how you perform them.
This isn’t a knock on either of those movements. They're great! But your arms, like any other muscle, can benefit from hitting different arm angles and styles of resistance. Mix up all of these to target both heads and keep from getting bored.
- Arms in front of body: Spider curls, Preacher curls
- Arms behind body: Incline curls
- Neutral grip: Hammer curls, rope hammer curls
- Reverse grip: Reverse curls, Zottman curls
- Constant tension: Cable curls