Q: I’m following the arm-specialization programs in your X-traordinary Arms e-book (I ordered the Anabolic After-40 package to get it free!). I like starting my biceps workout with cable curls, as you suggest, because I can add X Reps at the end of the last set. Many of the pro bodybuilders say free weights are better for growth, so I’m worried I’m not getting the most size stimulation. Are free-weight barbell or dumbbell curls better?
A: Not necessarily. The only problem with cable curls is weight-stack drag, which makes the negative, or lowering, stroke slightly easier; however, you get much better continuous tension with a cable curl as opposed to barbell or dumbbell curls. That’s very important for max-growth stimulation. There’s also another BIG benefit…
According to Olympic Coach and massive-arms expert Charles Poliquin, Japanese researchers have found that the biceps muscle responds best to faster concentric contractions. You get more biceps-muscle fibers in the action if you do the positive stroke in about one second. If you curl the weight up slowly, you tend to recruit the brachialis…
With that in mind, a cable curl becomes even more effective because you can drive the bar up in about 1 second without losing tension on your biceps. Not so with a barbell or dumbbells—you lose tension all over the stroke during a fast positive due to momentum. That makes the cable curl the better choice for rapid-fire sets…
To ease your mind, you can do cable curls at one biceps workout and dumbbell curls at the other. On dumbbell day, try doing your dumbbell curls seated on a high-incline bench. That will prevent cheating and also allow you to do a fairly rapid concentric movement without losing much tension.
Here’s another tip: On cable curls use a close grip for an outer-biceps-head hit. That’s the head that produces the most peak. At the next workout, the incline curls will naturally be a “wide-grip” movement for inner-head emphasis. The inner head creates more biceps fullness and thickness (that’s the out-for-in/in-for-out rule).
To summarize, switch from close-grip cable curls to high-incline curls at every other arm session. You’ll emphasize each head at alternate workouts, just as the giant-arm specialization programs in the X Arms e-book suggest, and you’ll be on your way to sleeve-stretching success. (For more tips for bigger arms, check out the link below.)
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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