My Take On The Curl.

23 Sep

First I would like to say the Counting Crows are a great band. If you have dismissed them short of a “Mr. Jones” sing along at the watering hole, and “Long December” concerts in your car, you should give them a deeper look.

On to the topic at hand: Isolation exercises. Or to be more specific, curls.

We all do them, men and women alike. Guys want to fill out their Tap-Out tee, and women want to wear a tee with no sleeves.

Naturally, and as is so often the case, Joe and Jane Wanna-Be-Swoll hit the list of 34 curl variations. They want bigger and/ or leaner arms, and so common logic would have them doing exercises that target that area directly. However, after months of endless elbow flexion, The Wanna-Be-Swoll’s are getting nowhere.

What gives?

Well, it isn’t that direct arm training is ineffective. In fact, it can be very effective. However, Joe and Jane need to know when the time to add this to their program is, and how much volume is acceptable, or more accurately, productive.

Let me pre-face the following few paragraphs by saying that I wrote this article with the common person in mind. Not the person who spends all their free time in the gym daily (you need to find an alternate hobby), or the people getting their bodies ready to walk on stage and be judged.

So with that in mind let me also say this. I don’t see why a single woman needs to do curls or extensions, ever. The fact of the matter is that most women, even women who appear very fit, cannot perform a single pull-up or multiple push-ups with sound form.  Maybe it could be justified to present a progression for women to doing direct arm work, but I just don’t think that shy of filling some sort of void, or preparing for an aesthetic competition, it needs to be done.

Ladies, focus on lifting heavier things, with good form, utilizing compound movements.

On to the men. Let me just go here right away:

How many of you guys out there bang out pull – ups and chin – ups with ease?

You are wasting your energy on isolation movements. They are taking up the bulk of your programming and getting you mediocre results even though you may be putting in an excellent effort.

In fact, it is very likely that the gains you have made to this point are largely the result of whatever pressing and pulling you have been doing, and not so much the curls.

Focusing on your big compound lifts will lead to better looking arms. They need to be the forefront of your program and the isolation needs to be treated as accessory work. Furthermore, I wouldn’t do any curls until you can do this:

– 15 Consecutive Pull-Ups (Chest To Bar)

– 20 Consecutive Chin Ups

– Deadlift 2.5 x Your Body Weight

–  Barbell Row as Much as You Bench

I realize that this can be argued, an rowing as much as you bench is a tall order, it’s largely my opinion. Although In my own training, and in my clients, I have seen plenty of reason to stick with my guns (Pun Intended) here.

When you hit those marks, if you really think those arms need some more size…go ahead add some direct work in there, but don’t let it become the focus of your program (12 – 20 (tops) sets a week of direct arm work is adequate).

<— A Better Way To Big Biceps…


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