6 Best Grittiest Biceps Exercises You’re Not Doing
Whether you use barbells, dumbbells, cables, or machines, your next biceps workout is right here!
Given how much lifters love their arms, you may think that every type of biceps exercise was discovered decades ago. But luckily for you, the quest for new innovation and new ways to stretch sleeves never ends.
Using the same equipment you’re using now, you can unlock new growth with just a few simple changes. Get ready to rediscover the joy—and pain—of extended time under tension!
1. Strict Curls And Cheat-Centric Curls
Now, before I tell you the right way to cheat-curl some of the time, I have to tell you why you shouldn’t cheat most of the time.
At any given time at any gym, you’ll see at least one guy doing heavy biceps curls where he has to throw his lower back or legs into it each time he brings the weight up, while also allowing it to come crashing back down. If you don’t see that dude at your gym, it may be because he’s you!
When you go too heavy, here’s what happens:
You reduce the time under tension because you’re forced to use momentum to cheat.
You’re unable to lower the weight in a slow, controlled manner, further reducing your time under tension.
You’re unable to focus on the muscles being worked because you have to struggle just to get the weight up.
You utilize more muscles, which reduces the accumulated pump in muscles you intend to target—in this case, the biceps.
That said, there was a research study titled “Does cheating pay: the role of externally supplied momentum on muscular force in resistance exercise” that actually made a decent case for cheating! The authors found that “a moderate use of external momentum” can actually increase both the peak muscle activation and the total growth stimulus of a lift.
Now, before you accuse me of speaking out of both sides of my mouth, understand that when you use momentum to get a weight up, what you’re really doing is a partial rep. And as I discussed in “The 6 Grittiest Chest Exercises You’re Not Doing,” partials definitely have their place. You just have to make sure they’re not replacing your strict full-range-of-motion reps!
So here’s the deal: The vast majority of the time, focus on maximizing time under tension by performing full-ROM reps with a controlled, strict concentric phase with a nice, steady eccentric of 3-4 seconds. This is safer for your joints and better for your muscles.
Once you’ve done your full-ROM work, though, you can occasionally do some cheat-centric curls for dessert. What are these? As I discussed my article “Cheat the Smart Way,” this is a rep where you use just a little hip or leg drive to get the weight up—while still keeping your spine neutral. But then, rather than letting the weight come crashing down, you extend the eccentric portion even further—like 4-6 seconds.
These types of slow eccentrics have been shown to produce superior growth over quick lowering, so this is your way of getting the best of both worlds. Without a slow eccentric, you’re really only cheating yourself!