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Best Arm Flexors: How do I decide which curl exercise to do?

www.ironmanmagazine.comQ: Should I do dumbbell curls, barbell curls, EZ-curl-bar curls, spider curls, hammer curls, cable curls, incline curls, concentration curls or preacher curls?

A: All of those work the arm flexors—which include the biceps. When comparing the same degree of effort and wrist supination, arm flexion exercises are similarly effective; however, the EZ-curl bar and hammer curl don’t permit full supination of the wrists and don’t work the biceps as well as the others.

Considering how small the biceps is, it’s amazing how so much attention is given to it, and how many exercise variations there are to work it. The calf is a far larger muscle, as are the hamstrings and the spinal erectors, but each of those areas receives much less attention than the small biceps. Don’t neglect your biceps, of course, but don’t give exaggerated attention to them or neglect any of the bigger muscles. (I see so many guys give more attention to a selection of curls than to squats, deadlifts and chipups combined.)

Some curls are more risky than others. Generally, I recommend dumbbell curls rather than barbell curls—because dumbbells enable you to find the best wrist positioning for comfort—curls that permit full wrist supination and curls that don’t require a preacher bench.

If you train it properly—with correct technique, effort and a gradual increase in poundage—a single biceps exercise will do the job. Change the particular exercise when you change your program, but stick with each for long enough to make progress on it.

Always remember that if you want to build substantially bigger biceps, you need to build a substantially bigger physique overall; and that’s where hard work on squats, deadlifts, chinups and benches—or comparable exercises—is required.

—Stuart McRobert


Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new 638-page opus on bodybuilding Build Muscle, Lose Fat, Look Great, available from Home Gym Warehouse (800) 447-0008 or

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