Wide Grip Bicep Curls

Bicep curls

Doing wide grip bicep curls on a regular basis can help bring more complete bicep development than the typical, random curls most people resort to when they don't have a plan. Why? The answer lies in the anatomy of the bicep itself. This article takes a closer look at how wide grip bicep curls can have a distinct impact on the shape of the bicep in general and the sought-after "peak" in particular.

The Bicep Anatomy

The name "bi" is the Latin name for "two", just like "tri" is three, "quad" is four and so on. The biceps is named as such because it has two distinct parts that happen to sit together and work together (hence, "triceps", "quadriceps," etc.). While both connect to the lower-arm bone, the shorter part of the bicep attaches to the scapula at the coracoid process, while the other, longer part goes all the way back to the supraglenoid tubercle at the scapula.

This may be a bit academic for your purposes, so just conclude that the bicep is more than a simple lump and requires a little more sophistication to get optimal development.

Why Wide Grip is Good

The outer, longer head is great for building overall size; it gives the arm that "beefy" look many weight trainers aspire to. However, if you decide to strike a pose flexing your biceps, that's mostly the inner, shorter head in play. And if you want that Arnold-like peak, you have to put in serious efforts hammering this particular portion of the muscle on a regular basis.

The good news is that wide grip bicep curls are dead-on for training the inner portion of the bicep. You never achieve 100% muscle isolation in any exercise, you merely shift the emphasis a bit -- but this is a case where you seize about as much focus as you'll get.

How to do Wide Grip Bicep Curls

In its most basic execution,

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder width-apart, knees slightly bent, abs tense and your shoulders in neutral.
  2. Grab the barbell with your hands a couple inches wider than your shoulders with your elbows tucked snugly against your waist.
  3. Now slowly curl up until you achieve maximum contraction, squeeze for a second, and resist the weight as you slowly let it return to the starting position.

Make sure not to sway or cheat in any way; stand with your back against a wall if you have problems with this.

You can also do this using the lower pulley of a cable machine; you just have to borrow a wider bar than is usually kept by the cable machines. Apply the same stance and execution, being extra careful not to sway or cheat.

Another option is to do the wide grip bicep curls over a Scott board, also known as a preacher curl board. Found in standing or seated versions, they both work by letting you rest your upper arms against a firm surface while curling your weight freely. Some prefer the vertical setting, where you basically let the arms hang straight down, while others go for the 45-degree angle setting. The former is a little tougher as it keeps the muscle working the whole rep, whereas the latter has a much easier top stretch. How much effort does it really take to curl those last six to eight inches before your forearms are completely vertical? Not much, and that's intensity lost compared to the more hardcore, vertical setting.

Finally, you may experience certain discomfort in your elbows, wrists and shoulders from this exercise. Be careful with this. Some discomfort is to be expected with any new exercise, but don't push it too hard. Some people have limitations in flexibility, previous injuries, or other causes that may require tweaking for these exercises to work. For example, if a straight bar hurts, try using a cambered bar (EZ bar). Another option is to explore the bicep machines; if you're a member of a good gym, chances are you have a dedicated machine that replicates the movement down to a T, except it has iso-lateral, free-moving handles that take much of the stress off your wrists. As always, check with a local personal trainer if you have difficulty with the exercise. Good luck!

Wide Grip Bicep Curls