Barbell Curls, Anyone?

watchnerd

Level 6 Valued Member
I know, I know....

Curls.

Why in the world would I talk curls at Strongfirst?

This is supposed to be a serious strength school, right?

But some comments / notes from my lifting coach that the unexplored territory in improving my snatch lockout may be to get stronger biceps (???) and do some curls.

What?

It turns out, coach was right.

Some notes:

1. Since beefing up my biceps, the strength of triceps lockout has improved.

I don't completely understand the biomechanics of it, but apparently your body will inhibit maximal triceps force if it thinks there is a danger of elbow hyper-extension. Beefing up bicep strength apparently counteracts this.

2. Beefing up my shoulder girdle made it easier to beef up my bicep

Pre-season hypertrophy block meant a lot of volume accessory work that normally gets back-burnered during deep competition prep -- including chest work (incline presses, decline pushups, landmine presses, chest flyes, ring work, chest dips) and rear delt work (behind the neck presses, rear delt flyes).

Somehow, my arms responded much better when throwing in curls after all this than they ever have when I threw in curls after squats and jerks.

3. The pump mattered more than the amount of weight curled

This one completely mystifies me. One would think if I'm trying to counteract the force of, say, 100 kg jerk on my triceps, my best bet to make my biceps stronger would be to do super low reps of maximal weight bicep curls, using a barbell or EZ curl bar with 50+ kg. I thought taking a performance / strength approach to curls would be the way to go.

Basically curling in my squat rack, with heavy a#@ weights.

That did NOT work *at all*.

What worked far better was just going completely bro-school with concentration curls, sitting on a bench, staring at my biceps, working on the "mind muscle connection" and doing one side at a time burn-out reps using light, 10 kg dumbbell.

And then dropping the weight down to 5 kg and going completely old school with Zottman Curls:




So maybe...just maybe...

There are legit performance reasons to go occasionally go completely gym rat and do some curls?
 
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Chrisdavisjr

Level 7 Valued Member
Curls are a perfectly valid accessory exercise. I've seen them recommended for anyone looking to strengthen a weak lockout and build stability around the elbow.

I don't do them often myself (I do a lot of pull-ups so my biceps, though not 'beefy', are strong enough next to my triceps) but when I do I typically do them fairly heavy and slow for sets of 2-5 as I'm not looking to get a pump.
 
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Kenny Croxdale

Level 6 Valued Member
Curls.

Why in the world would I talk curls at Strongfirst?

This is supposed to be a serious strength school, right?
Skepticism

Good questions that were mine, years ago.

However, as you note below...

But some comments / notes from my lifting coach that the unexplored territory in improving my snatch lockout may be to get stronger biceps (???) and do some curls.

Asian Olympic Lifters


What interesting is this Chris Thibaudeu article that touches on Asian Olmpic Lifters incorporating some Bodybuilding into there program.

Adding Bodybuilding Training to their program appears have contributed to their success with the Olympic Lifts.

1626943766062.png

"...the Asian athletes – from China and North Korea mostly – have the most muscular bodies. We’re speaking in terms of body composition and having a lean and muscular look."

"Out of the elite weightlifters, they are the ones using the most assistance exercises: lot of pulls, rows, dips, handstand push ups, lateral raises, triceps extensions, and even barbell curls."

"It is not unusual to see them doing 30 - 45 minutes of bodybuilding work at the end of their lifting session."

Asian Olympic Lifter Bodybuiding



Drs Brad Shoenfield and Michael Zourdos Research

1) Shoenfeld is a Bodybuilding/Hypertrophy Specialist

Shoenfeld's research demonstrated that Hypertrophy is optimized when three components are employed in a trainining program.

a) Mechanical Tension: Maximum Strength Training

b) Metabolic Stress: "The Pump/The Burn"

c) Muscle Damage: At some point in a training program, pushing the muscles to the limit in an exercise.

Also, Full Range Movement that provide a "Loaded Stretch"; the stress placed on the muscle in the Full Stretched Range of Motion is anabolic.

2) Zourdos' research forcused on increasing Maxium Strength in the Powerlifts.

Zourdos found that incorporating Bodybuilding/Hypertrophy, Power and Maximum Strength training into a program, optimally increases in Maxium Strength in the Powerlifts.

Take Home Message

Both Schoenfeld and Zourdos demonstrated incorporating these different types of Strength Training into a program provide a...

Synergistic Training Effect

Each type Strength Training in a well written program elicit a greater increase in the others.

Synertic means 2 + 2= 5.

Phil Grippaldi

Grippaldi was one of the best American Olympic LIfters.

Grippaldi did a lot of arm training, such as curls, in his era...

1626944809590.png

...apparently your body will inhibit maximal triceps force if it thinks there is a danger of elbow hyper-extension. Beefing up bicep strength apparently counteracts this.

Antagonist Braking System

Maximizing Stremgth and Power in Agonist Muscle (the muscle doing the work in an exercise) is evoked by training the Antagonist Muscles in a movement makes sense.

Increasing strength in the Biceps (Antagonist Muscle) appear to allow the Triceps (Agonist Mucle) to produce more Power and Force...

"The antagonist muscle has several functions. It can relax (lengthen) in order to allow the agonist muscle to function to its fullest. It can also slow down the movement of the agonist muscle to prevent tearing or overuse''. Source: Yoga Anatomy: Agonist & Antagonist Muscle Groups - Sterling Hot Yoga Mobile

Stretching The Antagonist Muscle Prior To An Agonist Movement

Reseach shows that greater Strength and Power are produced when...

1) The Angonist Muscle/Muscles are Stretched prior to an Agonist Movement.

Thus, Hanging from a Pull Up Bar prior to Bench Pressing elicits more Strength and Power. Overhead Press, as well as any Pushing Movement.

Anedotal Example

Many Bench Pressers inadvertently position themselve on the bench by performing a Row; Rowing their chest up to the Barbell, prior to Benching.

Without realizing it, this takes "The Emergency "Lat" Brakes" off, enable them drive more weight up with the Agonist Muscles in the Bench Press.

Metaphoically Speaking

Think of it this way...

The Antagonist Muscles are "The Emergency Brake".

The Agonist Muscles are the "Gas Pedal".

Strecthing the Antaginist Muscle/Muscles prior to perfoming an Agonist Movement amount to taking "The Emergency Brake" off.

2) Performing An Atagoinist Exericise Followed By A Agonist Movement

This elicits the same effect as the Antagonist Stretch; it release "The Emergency Brake".

Example

Performing a Row first, followed by a to Bench Press. allows you to push more weight.

Performing a Bench Press first, allow you to Row/Pull more weight.
 
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Kenny Croxdale

Level 6 Valued Member
I don't do them often myself (I do a lot of pull-ups

Chins for Biceps

Chin are perfomed with a Supinate Grip (palm facing you).

The greatest muscle overload/work in a Chin occur with the Biceps.

Pull Ups

Pull Ups, in a Pronated Grip (palms facing away from you) work the Biceps but not to the same degree as Chins.

Training The Muscles From Different Angles

As with all exercises, training the muscle from different angles (different exercises) is one of the keys in the development of Size and/or Strength.

Thus, perfoming Biceps/Lat Exercises with Chins (Supination), Pull Ups (Prontation) and then with a Neutral Grip (palms facing each other with a Double D-Handle is the most effective.

1626947928651.png
 
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Don Fairbanks

SFG II
Certified Instructor
I know, I know....

Curls.

Why in the world would I talk curls at Strongfirst?

This is supposed to be a serious strength school, right?

But some comments / notes from my lifting coach that the unexplored territory in improving my snatch lockout may be to get stronger biceps (???) and do some curls.

What?

It turns out, coach was right.

Some notes:

1. Since beefing up my biceps, the strength of triceps lockout has improved.

I don't completely understand the biomechanics of it, but apparently your body will inhibit maximal triceps force if it thinks there is a danger of elbow hyper-extension. Beefing up bicep strength apparently counteracts this.

2. Beefing up my shoulder girdle made it easier to beef up my bicep

Pre-season hypertrophy block meant a lot of volume accessory work that normally gets back-burnered during deep competition prep -- including chest work (incline presses, decline pushups, landmine presses, chest flyes, ring work, chest dips) and rear delt work (behind the neck presses, rear delt flyes).

Somehow, my arms responded much better when throwing in curls after all this than they ever have when I threw in curls after squats and jerks.

3. The pump mattered more than the amount of weight curled

This one completely mystifies me. One would think if I'm trying to counteract the force of, say, 100 kg jerk on my triceps, my best bet to make my biceps stronger would be to do super low reps of maximal weight bicep curls, using a barbell or EZ curl bar with 50+ kg. I thought taking a performance / strength approach to curls would be the way to go.

Basically curling in my squat rack, with heavy a#@ weights.

That did NOT work *at all*.

What worked far better was just going completely bro-school with concentration curls, sitting on a bench, staring at my biceps, working on the "mind muscle connection" and doing one side at a time burn-out reps using light, 10 kg dumbbell.

And then dropping the weight down to 5 kg and going completely old school with Zottman Curls:




So maybe...just maybe...

There are legit performance reasons to go occasionally go completely gym rat and do some curls?
Is your coach The Brofessor ?
Interesting.
 

Zack

Level 5 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Bicep curls are very often met with raised eyebrows in my programming and just as often prove to have some surprise benefit to the client.

I even have a "Curls Are Functional" t-shirt that is a bit of an inside joke, but no less has some truth to it.
 

watchnerd

Level 6 Valued Member
Curls are a perfectly valid accessory exercise. I've seen them recommended for anyone looking to strengthen a weak lockout and build stability around the elbow.

I don't do them often myself (I do a lot of pull-ups so my biceps, though not 'beefy', are strong enough next to my triceps) but when I do I typically do them fairly heavy and slow for sets of 2-5 as I'm not looking to get a pump.

I do chin ups regularly, but I always feel it far more in my back than my biceps.

As for curl weights, I think I cheat too much on heavy (barbell or EZ curl bar) curls and get too much help from my front delts.

I have a hard time getting into "bodybuilder isolation mode", as it's not my default.
 

watchnerd

Level 6 Valued Member
Skepticism

Good questions that were mine, years ago.

However, as you note below...



Asian Olympic Lifters


What interesting is this Chris Thibaudeu article that touches on Asian Olmpic Lifters incorporating some Bodybuilding into there program.

Adding Bodybuilding Training to their program appears have contributed to their success with the Olympic Lifts.

View attachment 14307

"...the Asian athletes – from China and North Korea mostly – have the most muscular bodies. We’re speaking in terms of body composition and having a lean and muscular look."

"Out of the elite weightlifters, they are the ones using the most assistance exercises: lot of pulls, rows, dips, handstand push ups, lateral raises, triceps extensions, and even barbell curls."

"It is not unusual to see them doing 30 - 45 minutes of bodybuilding work at the end of their lifting session."

Asian Olympic Lifter Bodybuiding



Drs Brad Shoenfield and Michael Zourdos Research

1) Shoenfeld is a Bodybuilding/Hypertrophy Specialist

Shoenfeld's research demonstrated that Hypertrophy is optimized when three components are employed in a trainining program.

a) Mechanical Tension: Maximum Strength Training

b) Metabolic Stress: "The Pump/The Burn"

c) Muscle Damage: At some point in a training program, pushing the muscles to the limit in an exercise.

Also, Full Range Movement that provide a "Loaded Stretch"; the stress placed on the muscle in the Full Stretched Range of Motion is anabolic.

2) Zourdos' research forcused on increasing Maxium Strength in the Powerlifts.

Zourdos found that incorporating Bodybuilding/Hypertrophy, Power and Maximum Strength training into a program, optimally increases in Maxium Strength in the Powerlifts.

Take Home Message

Both Schoenfeld and Zourdos demonstrated incorporating these different types of Strength Training into a program provide a...

Synergistic Training Effect

Each type Strength Training in a well written program elicit a greater increase in the others.

Synertic means 2 + 2= 5.

Phil Grippaldi

Grippaldi was one of the best American Olympic LIfters.

Grippaldi did a lot of arm training, such as curls, in his era...

View attachment 14308



Antagonist Braking System

Maximizing Stremgth and Power in Agonist Muscle (the muscle doing the work in an exercise) is evoked by training the Antagonist Muscles in a movement makes sense.

Increasing strength in the Biceps (Antagonist Muscle) appear to allow the Triceps (Agonist Mucle) to produce more Power and Force...

"The antagonist muscle has several functions. It can relax (lengthen) in order to allow the agonist muscle to function to its fullest. It can also slow down the movement of the agonist muscle to prevent tearing or overuse''. Source: Yoga Anatomy: Agonist & Antagonist Muscle Groups - Sterling Hot Yoga Mobile

Stretching The Antagonist Muscle Prior To An Agonist Movement

Reseach shows that greater Strength and Power are produced when...

1) The Angonist Muscle/Muscles are Stretched prior to an Agonist Movement.

Thus, Hanging from a Pull Up Bar prior to Bench Pressing elicits more Strength and Power. Overhead Press, as well as any Pushing Movement.

Anedotal Example

Many Bench Pressers inadvertently position themselve on the bench by performing a Row; Rowing their chest up to the Barbell, prior to Benching.

Without realizing it, this takes "The Emergency "Lat" Brakes" off, enable them drive more weight up with the Agonist Muscles in the Bench Press.

Metaphoically Speaking

Think of it this way...

The Antagonist Muscles are "The Emergency Brake".

The Agonist Muscles are the "Gas Pedal".

Strecthing the Antaginist Muscle/Muscles prior to perfoming an Agonist Movement amount to taking "The Emergency Brake" off.

2) Performing An Atagoinist Exericise Followed By A Agonist Movement

This elicits the same effect as the Antagonist Stretch; it release "The Emergency Brake".

Example

Performing a Row first, followed by a to Bench Press. allows you to push more weight.

Performing a Bench Press first, allow you to Row/Pull more weight.

So the Bulgarians are wrong?

;)
 

Hardartery

Level 5 Valued Member
The curls achieve a couple of things for you, and I doubt biceps strength is in any way a factor. The pump helps for two reasons. It can provide increased joint stability and limit movement in a way that works out well for lockout. It also moves a ton of blood through the arm and this facilitates recovery for everything in the area. It is providing a form of active recovery by doing some "Fluff" work. That's my thought, right or wrong.
 

watchnerd

Level 6 Valued Member
The curls achieve a couple of things for you, and I doubt biceps strength is in any way a factor. The pump helps for two reasons. It can provide increased joint stability and limit movement in a way that works out well for lockout. It also moves a ton of blood through the arm and this facilitates recovery for everything in the area. It is providing a form of active recovery by doing some "Fluff" work. That's my thought, right or wrong.

Are you talking about a persistent effect or a priming effect?

Because I wasn't doing curls before snatches or jerks, but after.
 

watchnerd

Level 6 Valued Member
Bicep curls are very often met with raised eyebrows in my programming and just as often prove to have some surprise benefit to the client.

I even have a "Curls Are Functional" t-shirt that is a bit of an inside joke, but no less has some truth to it.

But should we do them with kettlebells? ;)
 

silveraw

Level 7 Valued Member
But should we do them with kettlebells? ;)
I've done those "crush curls" with my bells before. They seem to work a lot of the muscles that get left behind in the regular S&S program. Mainly the pecs and biceps.

I can't remember the actual name but you basically just squeeze a bell between your hands and curl it, making sure to support it through the squeeze and don't cheat and slip your fingers under it.
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 6 Valued Member
Sure. As you and Kenny mention, working the antagonists is important. I don't know if 'curls' are as important as just doing adequate work for the biceps. You could probably get enough if you are diligent w. rows and chins/pull-ups.
 

watchnerd

Level 6 Valued Member
Sure. As you and Kenny mention, working the antagonists is important. I don't know if 'curls' are as important as just doing adequate work for the biceps. You could probably get enough if you are diligent w. rows and chins/pull-ups.

I've actually been alternating between BB rows (Pendlay and 'regular') and chins after every lifting practice for years.

Adding the extra curls made a difference.
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 6 Valued Member
Fwiw, I think curls are important. How much, when, and for whom will vary.

Jouko Ahola, et al - do them (heavy hammer curls) and that's enough of an argument for them as I need.
 
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