Fitness Blog – The Curl


This is an exercise which I have never written about before as I think it only offers limited value to strength programs as compared with other exercises such as the Pull Up. Never the less, it is a favorite exercise in the gym because it is reputed to work one of the ‘show’ muscles, the Biceps and it’s underlying pairing called the Brachialis.

I do put this exercise into programs for clients, particularly young male clients, because they like it – and there has to be an element of pleasure in working out – right? But there are several reasons I wouldn’t use it as compared with other exercises –

  • it is a single-fulcrum exercise – a fancy term in that it only works one joint, the elbow. Therefore this places more strain on the joint, putting it at greater risk of injury.
  • the movement of the exercise is not natural in everyday movement and most sports.
  • there are other exercises such as the Pull Up, as I have mentioned, which make more efficient use of your time in the gym.

So these things being said, why do I take the time to describe it? I thought that it if it is going to be used, it should be done correctly…

  • stand if you are using a barbell or EZ bar (the bent bar that is especially designed for this exercise), with your knees slightly bent and one foot in front of the other. (This stance stabilizes the hips and takes the strain off the lower back). Start the movement with your arms straight and hold the bar in over grasp grip (palms facing away). Keeping your elbows anchored to your sides, curl the bar to your chest. Pause at the top of the movement, before slowly lowering the bar back to the starting straight arms position. You may need to bring your shoulders slightly into play at the top of the movement so you can touch the bar on your chest.
  • the most common error is that people tend to use a resistance that is too heavy for their ability. If you have to use momentum to get the bar to your chest, the weight is too heavy. To ensure that you don’t do this, brace your whole body – as if bracing yourself against someone is about to punch you – and curl the bar around this solid base.
  • a better way to do this exercise is using Dumbbells (as in the picture above) – particularly the Seated Dumbbell Curl. Doing to this way cuts out the tendency to use the hips to swing the bar up .  You can get a more a better movement by holding the Dumbbells facing towards your body at the bottom and turn your palms upwards as you curl the bar to the top of the movement.
  • another common error is to shorten the movement by not fully straightening your arms at the bottom of the movement – so, FULLY straighten your arms.

Lastly, if I put this exercise into a client’s program I add it as a Superset (working the opposing muscle groups without rest), for example a Close Grip Press Up or Close Grip Bench Press. This creates more efficient use of their time.

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