T Nation

curling

Which form of dumbell curls is better. Alternating curls or curling both arms at the same time. I’ve heard many different points of view on this and i just want a little clarity.

Why bother curling anyway? Do rope pulls or another compound ex. Don’t waste your time.

Billy

Ask Poliquin if curls are a waste of time, unless you know more than him.
Anywhooo… I don’t buy into no direct arm training. I spent the summer doing strictly compound power stuff and strongman type training (including pulling things with a rope). My arms are about the same size as before, but with noticeably smaller biceps. Go figure

Agree with Farns. I think the “Skip the arms/ train compound” mantra gets pushed too heavily.

However with that said, simply incorporate a couple bi excersizes and couple tri excersizes into your big compound-based workout routine. Just don’t spend all day training arms.

As far as an answer to your question…neither one of those excersizes are going to make or break your arm development…either one would be good substituted after barbell curls…in my opinion anyways.

hey farns, who the hell are you trying to come on these forums with my last name?

In my experience, some isolation/bodybuilding exercises need to be done in addition to a good base of compound, powerlifting type exercises.

I’ve never seen a powerlifter that looked like a bodybuilder, they look like powerlifters. Maybe it’s bodyfat, but I think there’s more to it then that.

Here’s what works for me on the days I hit arms directly:

Flat Bench
Bent Barbell Rowing
Military

Then I’ll do the isolation exercises for bi’s and tri’s.

Call me a looney, but I think heavy bench and rowing make my arms big, but shape comes from stuff like curls and isolation exercises where I get a really wicked pump.

Over the 15+ years I’ve been lifting, I’ve noticed I can maintain arm size without working them directly, but I can’t grow them without some direct work.

Blast your Biceps with barbell/curlbar curls. Then use alternating (supinating) curls or concentration curls to get the ‘squeeze’ and add some shape.

Then again, I’ve got small arms…so what the fuck do I know?

Seriously, if you’re looking for a ‘feel’ benefit to let you know you hit your arms good, then definitely try to do concentration/alternating curls at the end of the workout, because that is their main benefit.

I agree with Warhorse, too. These movements are ‘shape’ builders, especially the peak of the bicep! Some say that this is really genetics, and you either have that in you or you don’t. HOGWASH! I used to have shapeless biceps, and now they’ve got some peak to them…and I get great pumps in the gym.

Personally, I dig CT’s “Canadian Cannons”.

We tried it recently. While I’m no longer a fan of isolation movements; especially training biceps, this routine kicked some ass.

I’m going to agree with Patricia. I used to really overdue the isolations exercises for arms. I got great pumps and my arms blew up but as soon as I stopped all the isolation, the pumps went away and my arms returned to “normal”. Now I do mostly compound movements with a few sets of arms at the end (probably just for my ego) and my arms have blown up and are retaining their size. But everybody’s different.

One thing I notice with people who do alternate curls is they raise one as they lower the other. Those who do this end up with a really fast negative. So, if you do alternates, I suggest doing the complete rep, positive and negative, before starting the other arm.

I usually do both at once, though, because alternates take so long!

I’ll take a crack at this. The benefit of alternating would be heavier weight, because you’d be taking mini rests between each rep as you curl the other arm. Alternating would also give you more total time under tension, maybe working your grip a bit more. The benefit of doing both arms at once would be that there’s no risk of twisting your back as you squeeze out the last reps. But everyone seems to agree that you’d do these last in your workout, so you probably wouldn’t be really cheating up heavy reps anyway. So I’ll say the winner is alternating. (Majoring in the minors here, but I am procrastinating at work…)

I agree with Jeff!

How did this whole “alternating” thing get going? No one does it with any other exercise or any other bodypart. If resting during a set were good for growth/strength, we’d do it with everything.
(just a little pet peeve of mine)

DB Muscle, I appreciate your point. But there are other exercises that use pauses between reps. I’ve heard of people doing them with deadlifts. And “breathing” squats. Even box squats have a mini-pause between positives. And walking lunges alternate between legs. I think the reason only a few exercises use alternating reps is because it is impossible - for instance, alternate reps on a dumbbell bench would probably make you fall over.

If you choose to do curls (which I usually don’t) you might think about alternating them.

Basically, the amount you can lift with two arms together is less than the sum of each arm individually.

Example:
Right arm curls 30lbs
Left arm curls 30lbs
BOTH arms together curl 57lbs

This (in science) is known as the bilateral deficit. While there are many explanations why this might happen the main thing is that you can lift more while focussing on one arm at a time. More stress on the muscle MAY result in greater growth.

Keep in mind this is all in theory and does not always apply in the real world.