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The Ultimate Incline Curls

As regular IRON MAN readers know, the so-called stretch position is one of the most critically important in any muscle’s range of motion. Therefore, it’s also critically important that you do everything you can in terms of position to maximize that stretch on the muscle—within a safe range, of course.

The incline dumbbell curl is a perfect example. It’s one of the most effective biceps-building exercises you can do. It puts a great stretch on the biceps at the bottom and is a key exercise for major growth in the arms.

Now, to be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the standard way of setting up and performing incline curls—lying back on an incline bench, letting your arms hang down beside you and then curling the dumbbells up to the top position.

This normal way of doing the exercise is effective and time-tested—but you’re not reading this article because you want to settle for normal results. So here’s the simple technique for maximizing the results you get with incline curls:

You don’t sit on the seat of the incline bench as you normally would. First, pick up your dumbbells, and straddle the incline bench. In that standing position, move yourself all the way back on the bench so that when you sit, you’re on the incline, about halfway up. Then bring your feet up on the seat of the bench, knees bent about 90 degrees.

The top edge of the bench should hit just below the shoulder blades. Arch your upper back over the top end of the bench as though you were trying to wrap your back over and around the bench end.

Turn your palms forward and keep them facing forward throughout the exercise for best results—that puts your biceps in maximum supination, which is important for getting peak stretch and peak contraction. In this bottom position you should feel an increased stretch on the biceps beyond what you normally get with the incline curl.

The reason this variation results in an increased stretch on the biceps lies in the positioning of the chest and shoulders. The biceps attach at the shoulder joint. When you’re in the standard position on an incline bench, your shoulders are braced on the bench and you can’t fully open up your chest.

You do get a good stretch, but it’s not a maximum stretch, which is the key to massive results with this exercise.

When your shoulders are up and off the top end of the bench, the weight of the dumbbells pulls your shoulders back and down, opening up your chest and increasing the stretch on your biceps at the bottom.

On every rep start the movement with a deliberate squeeze of the biceps, and curl all the way up to the top. Hold for a second at the top.

Now comes the payoff: On the way back down do not let your palms turn inward into a neutral grip. Keep them facing forward all the way down to the bottom. That maintains full tension on the biceps all the way to the stretch, which is the most beneficial part of this exercise.

Lower the dumbbells under complete control. For an extra shot of tension, try to “push” your elbows forward as you lower the weights—imagine that you’re trying to push a button with your biceps (it takes a bit of practice to get the feel).

As you lower the dumbbells to the very bottom, let them pull and stretch your shoulders backward and down, opening up your chest. The increased tension from the negative portion of the movement coupled with the greater stretch potential of your body position will give you an incredible muscle-building stimulus. Take advantage of it, and don’t lose the stretch-tension in your biceps. Feel that stretch, and then curl up again for another rep with a deliberate movement.

Start with weights that are lighter than what you would normally use. When you apply stretch and tension to the biceps like this, it’s going to be a humbling experience—and it’s definitely going to be a growing experience!

—Nick Nilsson


Editor’s note: To get a copy of Nick’s Muscle Explosion—28 Days to Maximum Mass, visit his Web site,


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