Why I love Bicep Curls.
Perhaps the most loved exercise amongst ‘gym bros’ and the most hated amongst ‘serious athletes/functional coaches’ – the humble Bicep Curl.
The Bicep Curl falls into a category of exercise that a lot of coaches like to rubbish, usually under the guise that it’s ‘not functional’. I’ve heard this so many times in the gym, as well as seeing it posted on social media, I’ve even been on a training course where the coach leading the event asserted that it had no relation to any sports specific movements (we may have had a small debate about that).
Attacking certain exercises seems like a good method for some to assert that their idea of what you should be doing is superior, and the bicep curl regularly comes under attack.
So what is it?
The Bicep Curl is a single joint action exercise and utilizes flexion at the elbow to contract the bicep, shortening the muscle. Although an isolation movement, other muscles do act as synergists, such as muscles in the upper back, as well as brachialis and brachioradialis.
So is it ‘functional’ or not?
Where do I even start, well let’s ask this question ‘do you want to be able to bend your arm?’ That seems like a pretty functional movement to me. Lol. Lets take it further – almost all pulling movements utilize the back and biceps to achieve their desired outcome, so I would argue the bicep curl is pretty damn important if you want to be able to do anything from a pull up to lifting your children up.
Does it help in Sports?
Hell yeah it does, we work with a lot of combat athletes to who having a strong bicep is essential; it helps when pulling and moving opponents, resisting attacks and in applying submission holds. In gymnastics the ability to perform bar work and ring work means quality bicep training is essential – have you seen gymnast’s biceps! How about Rugby? Ever try to pull the ball out of someone’s hands without using your bicep? How about any sports with a stick, bat or racket, pretty sure the bicep does a lot of work here.
I could go on, but the answer is a huge YES – the bicep curl (as with many isolation exercises) has a very important role in sports performance.
Any other reasons to curl?
Well do you want to have well defined, sculpted arms?
Another intangible quality I believe Bicep Curls (and many other exercises) help with is confidence. Looking good and feeling good builds confidence, having well developed arms will often help an individual feel more confident. In my experience, improved confidence leads to improved performance, improved performance leads to improved results.
Now I am not saying these are magical exercises, but it’s hard to argue that improved confidence isn’t an amazing trait to really help you excel in the gym and in competition. Further than that just improving your personal body image can have a huge knock on effect to everyday life, what you wear, how you feel and even how you act. We have seen ‘improvements’ in physique have massive positive effects on countless clients personal well-being.
I’m sold how can I train Biceps?
The Bicep is a simple muscle to train and you can’t go wrong with any curl variation, examples include:
Dumbbell Curl (seated or standing)
Chin Up (Supinated hands)
The list goes on…
They respond well to a wide range of reps – for hypertrophy anything from around 5-30 reps – although I usually prefer slightly higher rep lower intensity to keep joint stress low. The Bicep normally recovers very well, and so can be trained multiple times per week efficiently – this is the path to the best results in my opinion.
Now this isn’t a green light for ‘Bicep Day’ but a decent frequency throughout a well-considered program is a great way to help assist your performance and improve your aesthetics at the same time.
Embrace the Curl.