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  1. #1
    Registered User EliKoehn's Avatar
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    Underappreciated Curls

    Surely all of us have either heard or participated in the mockery of those who curl in the squat rack, or who claim to be strong when their curl would increase their laughable powerlifting total if they could substitute it for one of the Big Three. While a solid foundation of strength indeed lies elsewhere and there is a lot of validity to that criticism, for a while now I've nevertheless had a growing impression that curling as a measure of strength, and the biceps as an aspect of physique, get made fun of too often and don't get enough priority and attention.

    What is not valid about the strength you can claim to have by curling a certain weight? Yes, if your curl and your squat are neck and neck, you have some serious imbalances that you need to correct before trying to impress people with how much your biceps can lift, but that doesn't necessitate that this exercise should not be taken seriously, as I so often see. It is a smaller muscle, and the amount of weight that you are going to lift is going to be far less than that of a major compound exercise, but that makes it just as respectable, in relative terms: what you can do with a smaller muscle working by itself. It is also notable that, in using the bench, squat and deadlift as a measure of full body strength, the most seriously neglected muscle among them are the biceps! So it is amusing that these three lifts get complete respect nearly at all times, but talking about a curl is more often than not an invitation for insult, even if your other lifts are solid.

    In terms of physique, large and imposing biceps are among the greatest tokens of an enviable and classic build, yet somehow training for that is ridiculed as "beach work" and those who strive for it often have their masculinity and worth in the gym insulted. That strikes me as unreasonable and misguided. Many are going to disagree with me on this, that the desirable male physique is more prominent in the upper body, and that powerful arms are one of the most significant factors of this, complimented heavily by the size and definition of the biceps. With full respect for the squat and its difficulty, there does seem to be a "cult of legs" (for lack of a better term) in today's gym culture, which gives them an undue amount of focus to the chagrin of everything else, particularly the curl and the emphasis on developing the biceps.

    This general idea has been nagging me lately, and it doesn't look like there's a specifically similar thread already, so I thought it good start a thread.

    What do you all think?
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  2. #2
    eye of the tigress etet1919's Avatar
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    I can't speak for the men that post here, but in all the years (and gyms) I've been training in, all the guys do curls...and so do all the women. Developed and defined biceps have always been a masculine symbol of strength and sexiness! This hasn't changed And women want guns now too

    But I'm sure you'd agree compound lifts like BB squats, deadlifts, bench and OV delt presses are more beneficial to developing overall muscle mass and/or strength. These lifts are a major focus in every professionally designed program here!

    But that doesn't mean strengthening your arms are any less important!
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    In my experience, doing hammer curl is useful for injury prevention in the forearm and elbow. Also if you are into calisthenics and are fairly lightweight, getting a strong barbell curl can help a lot with any bar exercise such as pullups, muscleups, etc. I think people mock curls because it is a form of internet elitism over the random people going in and out of the gym and because a lot of beginners stereotypically focus purely on the curl and benchpress, neglecting rows, deadlifts, squats, and other exercises.
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    If people knew curls are worthless, that I was plateaued on curls for months until I started deadlifting and overhead pressing etc again when my curls went up, no one would be curling.

    If people knew I had chronic wrist, bicep, and forearm pain until I stopped curling, no one would be curling.

    If people knew I tried like infinite variants of curling and each one would cause tendonitis, arthritis, etc no one would be curling.

    In fact, curling is harsh on the wrists, forearms, and elbow joints and there is no way around it. And it's not necessary, if you do all the compound lifts you don't need to do any curling. And you shouldn't be.
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    Registered User armies's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by EliKoehn View Post
    Surely all of us have either heard or participated in the mockery of those who curl in the squat rack, or who claim to be strong when their curl would increase their laughable powerlifting total if they could substitute it for one of the Big Three. While a solid foundation of strength indeed lies elsewhere and there is a lot of validity to that criticism, for a while now I've nevertheless had a growing impression that curling as a measure of strength, and the biceps as an aspect of physique, get made fun of too often and don't get enough priority and attention.

    What is not valid about the strength you can claim to have by curling a certain weight? Yes, if your curl and your squat are neck and neck, you have some serious imbalances that you need to correct before trying to impress people with how much your biceps can lift, but that doesn't necessitate that this exercise should not be taken seriously, as I so often see. It is a smaller muscle, and the amount of weight that you are going to lift is going to be far less than that of a major compound exercise, but that makes it just as respectable, in relative terms: what you can do with a smaller muscle working by itself. It is also notable that, in using the bench, squat and deadlift as a measure of full body strength, the most seriously neglected muscle among them are the biceps! So it is amusing that these three lifts get complete respect nearly at all times, but talking about a curl is more often than not an invitation for insult, even if your other lifts are solid.

    In terms of physique, large and imposing biceps are among the greatest tokens of an enviable and classic build, yet somehow training for that is ridiculed as "beach work" and those who strive for it often have their masculinity and worth in the gym insulted. That strikes me as unreasonable and misguided. Many are going to disagree with me on this, that the desirable male physique is more prominent in the upper body, and that powerful arms are one of the most significant factors of this, complimented heavily by the size and definition of the biceps. With full respect for the squat and its difficulty, there does seem to be a "cult of legs" (for lack of a better term) in today's gym culture, which gives them an undue amount of focus to the chagrin of everything else, particularly the curl and the emphasis on developing the biceps.

    This general idea has been nagging me lately, and it doesn't look like there's a specifically similar thread already, so I thought it good start a thread.

    What do you all think?
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    Registered User StinkingDylan's Avatar
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    I've not done curls for a few years, but recently re-introduced them simply as injury prevention (couldn't give a damn what my biceps look like), but only two sets a week.

    Had to give up any form of barbell curls about 20 years ago due to constant tendonitis and forearm pain. Only type of curl which doesn't aggravate is supinated dumbell curl.
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    pay the iron price SuffolkPunch's Avatar
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    If you want complete bicep development, curls are necessary in addition to compounds like pullups and rows. However, they get prioritised out of novice routines for good programming reasons - not because they are ineffective, just that they don't meet the medium term goals (1-4 months) a novice is best pursuing. Same applies to leg extensions / leg curls.
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    HeMB's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    If you want complete bicep development, curls are necessary in addition to compounds like pullups and rows. However, they get prioritised out of novice routines for good programming reasons - not because they are ineffective, just that they don't meet the medium term goals (1-4 months) a novice is best pursuing. Same applies to leg extensions / leg curls.
    I've never understood such logic... for 1 month, ok I can agree it's not worth it but 3-4 months of curls can really yield noticeable results IMO.
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  9. #9
    pay the iron price SuffolkPunch's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by HeMB View Post
    I've never understood such logic... for 1 month, ok I can agree it's not worth it but 3-4 months of curls can really yield noticeable results IMO.
    If bicep development is all you care about then sure - do that. However, if you are a novice and you are juggling a bunch of stuff relating to whole body development, a general lack of conditioning and tolerance to volume etc. then sometimes it's sensible to leave isolations out.

    Ideally, novices become intermediates after about 3 months - so they can do their curls on their intermediate routine.

    Of course, in practice, ignoring good advice and screwing things up means that 3 months becomes more like 6 months or even a couple of years ... but that's another story.
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    Registered User dazitmayn's Avatar
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    i don't think curls are underappreciated

    it's more so 99% of the population who can't execute a proper curl, and novices who have no business doing biceps every other day when their other lifts are piss poor weak
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  11. #11
    Registered User EliKoehn's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    If you want complete bicep development, curls are necessary in addition to compounds like pullups and rows. However, they get prioritised out of novice routines for good programming reasons - not because they are ineffective, just that they don't meet the medium term goals (1-4 months) a novice is best pursuing. Same applies to leg extensions / leg curls.
    While that makes plenty of sense on its own, it does still seem to hold true that many advanced lifters (who, with good reason, have given priority to the major compound exercises), neglect their curl.

    As you said in your following post, novices have no business curling when their major lifts are weak if they're being serious. That is an agreeable point. However, I still have come across more than a few intermediate/advanced lifters in the gym who are well-accomplished with their major compound lifts, and nevertheless have underdeveloped biceps, in terms of both strength and size. Incidentally, these are the same people who mock the curl.

    My point is not that the biceps are more important than any other muscle, or that the curl is to be favored above any of the major compound exercises (as a single joint motion, it simply isn't), but that, among those who do take the latter seriously, it tends to be underappreciated. Maybe this is mostly the influence of powerlifting athletes on gym culture at large (since the curl isn't going to add much to their competitive standing, or numbers to their total)?

    Maybe my experience in gyms and reading online is an anomaly and this isn't what others perceive, but it is definitely a strong trend from what I can see. Either way, I'm going to stand behind the camp which aims for a physique which prizes huge and powerful biceps, and isn't ashamed to train for them.
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    HeMB's Avatar
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    In general, I think the overall problem in gyms is thinking too much in black and white.

    One hype says you dont need isolations, just compounds. Here we go.

    Another trend is just about a ton of isolations.

    The other is low rep only.

    Another is high rep based.


    But it does not work like that, you need a variety.
    Finally back to track.
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