For many people, the concentration curl is the be-all and end-all of bicep exercises. It's a move that isolates the bicep muscle, allowing you to focus on building size and strength. But many people need to realize there are a few different ways to do these curls.
And while the standard concentration curl is still a great exercise, mixing things up with different variations can help you achieve your goals even faster. So whether you're a novice just starting or a seasoned veteran looking for a new challenge, check out these concentration curl variations and see which one is right for you!
What are Concentration Curls?
The concentration curl is a pull-style workout that utilizes free-weight resistance equipment, such as a kettlebell or dumbbell, and offers several advantages.
Due to the very straightforward nature of the concentration curl, the equipment it requires, and the amount of intensity it may bring to the exerciser, these advantages can be highly noticeable and relatively convenient to obtain.
As long as it is performed with the proper form and intensity level, the concentration curl can have a variety of beneficial effects on an exerciser that are not just of an athletic nature. It is especially true when combined with other healthy habits like eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep.
Muscles Worked During Concentration Curls
Ever wonder what muscles are actually being worked when you're doing concentration curls at the gym? The short answer is that it depends on how you're doing the exercise. Sitting up straight with your back against a wall, you primarily work your biceps. However, if you're leaning forward slightly, then you also involve your forearms and shoulders.
And if you want to get the most out of the exercise, you need to make sure that your elbow moves in a smooth arc as you curl the weight up. It allows you to use more weight and ensures that you're working all of the muscles in your upper arm.
How to Do Concentration Curls With Proper Form
According to Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS, this is how you perform the concentration curls with proper form.
- Place a dumbbell in between your legs as you sit on a bench.
- Grab the dumbbell with one hand, then press the triceps muscle in your upper arm on your thigh. Your aim should be to maintain a straight arm during the entire action.
- To build tension and improve posture, engage your shoulder blades and tighten your core.
- Your non-working arm should be held to the side while your other hand is made into a fist. It enables you to balance using your core and eliminates any leverage that might prevent your biceps from contracting fully.
- Curl the weight up firmly while maintaining a neutral wrist. Focus on the biceps by emphasizing the squeeze at the end of the rep and avoiding any backward leaning or shoulder movement.
- Perform three sets of eight to twelve repetitions per arm or three minutes of 30-second intervals of work per arm.
Concentration Curl Variations
There are several different ways to perform this exercise to target different muscle areas. For example, you can use a regular dumbbell, a barbell, or a resistance band. You can also change your grip to target different parts of the bicep. For instance, you can use a wide grip to focus on the outer head of the muscle or a narrow grip to work the inner head.
You can mix things up by doing one arm at a time or alternating arms. Here are three variations on the concentration curl that will help you achieve new gains.
1. Standing Concentration Curl: Stand with your hips forward and lower your arm between your legs to do the standing concentration curl.
2. Hammer Concentration Curl: Unlike traditional concentration curls, which utilize a supinated grip with your palm facing out, hammer concentration curls use a neutral grip with your palm facing your body.
3. Cable Concentration Curl: The cable concentration curl uses cable pulley equipment to provide continuous stress on your biceps throughout the exercise.
Concentration Curls Benefits
There's no question that concentration curls are one of the most popular exercises around. After all, who doesn't want big, muscular biceps? But what are the real benefits of this exercise? Let's take a closer look.
The concentration curl's primary advantage is that, after performing it regularly throughout several training sessions, exercisers may observe a substantial improvement in their biceps brachii's muscular strength and control.
This also increases neuromuscular strength and muscular hypertrophy because the exerciser's mind-body connection has been strengthened due to executing the slow, focused repetitions of a concentration curl.
The concentration curl is one of the most beneficial exercises for enlarging and enhancing the appearance of the biceps brachii because of the level of muscular hypertrophy caused by training stimulation, which is thought to be the primary reason it exists.
Few exercises can activate the biceps as thoroughly as the concentration curl itself, making it an excellent workout for bodybuilders and anybody looking to tone up their arms.
Apart from engaging the biceps brachii to cause observable muscular hypertrophy, it is also capable of significantly increasing strength and direct skeletal muscle control in the same muscle group, both through the reinforcement of neural pathways and the apparent muscle fiber repair.
This has several implications, including the ability to exert more power during athletic efforts and recover from injuries more quickly due to better circulatory and nervous system performance.
Targeted Muscular Activation
The highly targeted muscle activation required in said activity is quite challenging to mimic in other biceps exercises, which is more of an advantage of the concentration curl being an isolation exercise than it is a concentration curl itself.
This is particularly helpful near the end of the exercise program when the biceps have already been primed and partially exhausted by the execution of other compound or isolation exercises, enabling the concentration curls to "finish off" the biceps and maximize the benefits that can be reaped.
Who Can Benefit From Concentration Curls?
Concentration curls are a free weight resistance exercise that may be performed and benefitted from by virtually anyone with generally good function, especially those with even a little resistance training expertise.
The direct isolating of training stimuli from concentration curls is successful at causing muscle hypertrophy and fascial expansion. It makes them particularly useful for people who want to tone their biceps while also increasing their size, like professional bodybuilders or everyday gym attendees.
The concentration curl may not be appropriate for those who are relatively young or elderly and those prone to or who have had ulnar nerve impingement, wrist, elbow, or bicep tears.
As a result, these people need to speak with a doctor or physical therapist before adding concentration curls to their training regimen.
1. How many sets of concentration curls should I do?
There is no fixed answer to this question, as the optimal number of sets for concentration curls will depend on various factors, including your fitness goals, overall fitness level, and individual body composition. Some general guidelines suggest starting with 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions per set and adjusting as needed based on your performance and results.
Also, consider incorporating different rep ranges or training styles into your routines, such as lower reps with heavier weights or high reps with lighter weights, depending on your goals and abilities. Ultimately, the best approach is to experiment with various routines and see what works best for you in building strength and endurance while achieving your desired results.
2. Should I go heavy on concentration curls?
Some people may find that heavy-concentration curls can be effective for building strength and muscle endurance in the biceps. In contrast, others might benefit more from lighter weights and higher reps to focus on sculpting the bicep muscles. Ultimately, the best approach is experimenting with different weight loads and rep ranges to find what works best for you.
Additionally, it is essential to consider other factors like your diet, sleep habits, and overall fitness level when determining whether heavy or light-concentration curls are the best choice for you.
3. Which bicep curl is most effective?
According to the American Council on Exercise, the seated concentration curl is arguably the most effective exercise for maximum bicep growth as it produced 97% bicep activity, compared to 71% for incline curls, 70% for wide-grip EZ-bar curls, and 75% for narrow-grip curls.
4. Do concentration curls work on both heads?
Your biceps brachii are primarily worked by the dumbbell concentration curl. A long and short head makes up the two "heads" of the bicep muscle. Both heads function as a single cohesive unit during raising and pulling operations.
The Bottom Line
As any fitness enthusiast knows, there are a lot of different exercises out there to choose from. However, only some exercises are created equal. Some exercises are better than others for targeting specific muscle groups. One such exercise is the concentration curl. Concentration curls are a great way to build strength in the biceps and forearm muscles.
They can be performed with dumbbells, barbells, or cables. They can also be done with one arm at a time or with both arms simultaneously. There are many variations of concentration curls, so they are sure to be perfect for you. The benefits of concentration curls include improved arm strength, definition, and size. So if you are looking for an effective exercise to add to your biceps workout routine, look no further than the concentration curl.
- Personal Trainer Research | Health & Fitness Studies | ACE. https://www.acefitness.org/resources/pros/research-studies/. Accessed 31 Oct. 2022.