One of the most common goals for the average weightlifter is to get “bigger biceps.” A great way to obtain this goal is of course to perform biceps curls. The biceps curl is a great exercise to help target and grow the biceps group. It seems like a pretty self-explanatory exercise, you just pick up the dumbbell and flex your elbow. However, there is much more to the biceps curl, and with a few tips you can truly maximize the benefits of this exercise.
In order to get the most out of the biceps curl, you must have a brief understanding of the anatomy of the biceps muscle group. The official anatomical name for the biceps is the “biceps brachii” which in common terms means “two-headed arm muscle.” There is the long head of the biceps and the short head of the biceps. To maximally grow your biceps your must adequately target both of these heads.
Both the long and short heads of the biceps contribute to different cross-sectional dimensions of the biceps. The long head contributes more to the height or “peak” of the biceps and the short head contributes more to the width of the biceps. Elbow flexion is the primary function of both heads of the biceps. The long head and short head of the biceps insert into the same area of the elbow, however they both have different origin sites into the shoulder. This means that certain shoulder positions will favor one head over the other. The long head of the biceps will be stressed more with biceps curls which include starting the exercise in shoulder extension or with closed grip positioning. These type of lifts include: barbell drag curls, closed grip barbell curls, and supine inclined bench barbell curls. The short of the biceps will be more stressed with exercises in which the shoulder is placed in flexion and with wide grip positioning. These barbell curls include: preacher curls and wide grip barbell curls. To evenly build both heads of the biceps you should include a mixed variety of the aforementioned biceps curls. (Note: you can never truly isolate one head of the biceps, however certain positions of the shoulder and elbow will favor one over the other).
Lastly, one of the most common motions that is forgotten with biceps curls is including elbow supination. Yes, the biceps primary job is to flex the elbow. However, it is also a very powerful elbow supinator. Thus when performing a biceps curl it is crucial to also add some degree of elbow supination with the curl. By combining both elbow flexion and elbow supination, you will create maximum biceps contraction which therefore will stimulate more muscle growth.
In summary, when looking to get the most out of the biceps curl exercise, you should make sure to include a variety of different biceps curling positions to ensure adequate growth of both the long and short head of the biceps. Enlarging both the long and short head of the biceps will give the biceps increased height and width. Also including supination with the biceps curl is crucial to maximize overall activation of the biceps group, which then promotes greater growth.