Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Curl Variation for Better Biceps and Preventing Forearm Pain


Last week’s article on Building Better Biceps drew a few questions about forearm pain when doing curls. I feel your pain- literally.

My forearm length is above average for my height and my wrists and elbows are smallish compared to hand and arm size. As a result I’m very familiar with forearm and wrist tenderness and pain.

We talked about “Lifters Elbow’ in a previous article. For causes and remedies you can re-read that article Lifters Elbow-What Causes It? How to Fix it.
Severe tendonitis can be painful (or at least extremely annoying) for weeks or even months.

One of the common causes of forearm pain is the fact that the upper arm muscles (mainly bicep and tricep) are usually considerably larger and more powerful than the muscles of the forearm. So to properly develop the muscles of the upper arm you often put a disproportionate amount of stress on the muscles of the forearm, leading to tendonitis. In most curling movements from full extension, the forearm is doing almost all the work for the bottom one-third of the lift. 

In addition to putting undue stress on the muscles of the forearm you are short -changing the biceps. Since the forearm is doing all the work in the bottom one-third of the lift you have built up considerable momentum by the time the bicep takes over. Momentum lessens the work the bicep has to do which lessens the results.

The next time you do bicep curls with a full range of motion pay close attention to which part of the arm exhausts first. It will almost always be the forearm.

Here’s one solution to reducing forearm pain and injury and still moving loads sufficient to stimulate growth in the biceps:

Seated Barbell Curl

This variation will allow you to use a heavier weight to sufficiently work the bicep and minimize the stress on the forearm muscles.

·        Set an adjustable bench with the back at 90 degrees to prevent any swinging to gain momentum
·        Start with a medium grip but vary the grip often (wide to narrow) to hit both the long head and short head of the bicep.
·        Keep your elbows pinned to your sides
·        Once you begin the set, don’t let the bar touch your knees. Keep the tension on the bicep throughout the set
·        Squeeze the bicep at the top
·        Then lower the bar slowly
·        You can use either a standard bar or EZ bar if you have wrist issues

You can also do the exercise with dumbbells for either regular dumbbell curls or Hammer curls for the Brachialis.

You still need to strengthen and build up the forearm muscles. Otherwise, you’ll continue to have issues in the future.

Try the exercises below either with dumbbell, straight bar, cable or EZ Bar variations:

See other exercises for the forearm in the Calculatores/Resource tab at the top of the page.

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