Build Bigger Biceps With These Barbell Curl Cues

Arms 2 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

A couple years ago I wrote an article on why it seems so hard to add inches to your arms.

And it took me that long to realize that I kind of left you high and dry–I didn’t tell you what you should be doing to optimize your arm growth.

I’m making up for it with this article focused on improving your barbell cues to spur bicep growth. Really, these cues are good for any of the 6 best bicep exercises.

Let’s add some inches to your guns.

Set The Shoulders

You’re going to read this is just about every strength training article I write because it’s just that important. Setting your shoulders puts the joint into a stable position that ensures you keep them healthy.

Healthy shoulders are a necessary ingredient for big biceps because if you can’t train you can’t grow.

Point Your Elbows to the Ground

This is the most common mistake people make when doing curls. Your elbows should not move during a curl.

If your elbows come forward at the end of the motion you are doing it wrong. Why? Because when your elbow drives forward you take tension off of the bicep, and tension is necessary for growth.

Make sure you aren’t allowing your elbows to move backward either.

Glue your elbows to your sides and don’t let them move at all. The bar should pivot around the elbow joint perfectly.

When it Burns, Keep Going

A reporter once asked Muhammad Ali how many sit-ups he did every day. He responded,

“I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. That is when I start counting, because then it really counts. That’s what makes you a champion.”

Your body adapts to what it does–that is precisely the reason you build muscle from strength training. If you stop your set when it starts to get uncomfortable your body will have no reason to grow. No reason to build muscle to adapt.

You must push through the burn of a difficult set because when it burns, it counts.

Focus on the Muscle

People call this the “mind-muscle” connection. It means you aren’t just curling the bar up and expecting your biceps to grow.

Focusing on the mind-muscle connection means you are feeling your bicep work. The contraction of your bicep is what causes the bar to move.

This is important because it ensures you force the bicep to grow instead of allowing other muscle groups to do the work.

Use Full Range of Motion

In a curl, the exercise begins when the barbell touches your thighs and ends when you cannot flex your elbow anymore. Make sure to keep your elbows glued to your sides instead of letting them shift forward.

Every rep needs to move through this full range of motion. All the way down, and all the way up (to max elbow flexion).

This provides consistency among your reps, sets, and workouts. This is important because bigger muscles are stronger muscles.

If you are increasing your reps/sets/weight and keeping your form consistent between workouts then you know your muscles are growing.

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.