Plain and simple…I’m a meathead. I love athletics and athletic training but nothing means more to my personal fitness goals than looking the best I can. In fact, you might feel the same way. If you are indeed that type of person, who just wants to look sexy for your girl…or you need to get some muscles to start getting the attention of the one you want, then I would assume also that you are lacking in the biceps department.

C’mon, really…who doesn’t want a nice set of pythons to wrap around the lady in their eye or 2 pistols to drop the dude who disrespects you and your girl…

Arms people, arms…lets stay on topic

You’ll come across a barrage of information when it comes to hypertrophy training. You’ll hear things like “cheat reps”, “failure”, “THE PUMP”, “sqqquueeezzeeeee”, “f*** it, just juice”, so on an so forth. You will also hear about certain exercises for certain muscles that’ll make you look like Kai Greene the next day.

Two of the very common exercises (I’ve seen COMPLETELY butchered) that get a bad wrap for the “damage” done to joints (specifically in the wrist and elbow) is barbell curls and z-bar curls.

These are my “it-depends” exercises. The reason they fall under this category is simply, the human body can withstand more than people think. Many fitpros will read an anatomy book or take a class and assume they know the arthokinematics of a joint and that 3 degrees of extra external rotation of the wrist will lead to torque overload in the elbow and consequentially lead to arthritis and tennis elbow and any other horrific feeling associated with wrist and elbow pain.

It’s true, not everyone can rotate their wrists as such without pain and they shouldn’t. This is why IT DEPENDS.

I would like to think that ALL fitpros and enthusiasts alike can agree that when leaving the grip in neutral position (palms facing) that there is (and may be the highest) biceps recruitment doing elbow flexion ^ and elbow extension v (curl going up then coming back down for those who don’t understand).

But going back to the topic of muscle stimulation and hypertrophy as I spoke about in my previous blog, training the same movement while switching grips even in the most minuscule manner can stimulate the muscle and produce higher hypertrophy. So if the basic hammer curl (neutral grip hold ala 90 degrees) can be performed in a pain free range of motion (ROM) externally rotating the wrist slightly to 45 degrees (z-bar) or supine (palms up ala 180 degrees) in a barbell curl, the movement pattern/muscle is still being trained but now you are promoting a higher stimulus to the same muscle group. This will then equate to higher rate of hypertrophy as you are changing the angle at which you stimulate growth.

Is this for everyone? No.

Case and point: I have a client with a metal rod in his wrist from a car accident a while back. He can hammer curl and z-bar curl in a pain free ROM but can her barbell curl? No.

At the end of the day, don’t fit your body to the exercise; fit the exercise to your body. Don’t throw the weight. Maintain tension through the ROM. There’s no such thing as a “Curl Hero” so keep your reps nice and controlled.

My cue to you whenever you do any curl variation: Lock you elbows to your hips.

Train SMART. If you do it right, the exercise may be hard enough.