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Exercise 101: Biceps Curl Using Free Weights

Name of Exercise: Free weight biceps curl Purpose: To develop strength in the arms Muscles Used: Muscles of the lower and upper arms

Starting Position

This exercise can be performed using a barbell or dumbbells.

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  • Grasp the bar with your palms facing away from your body.
  • Your hands should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Stand up with a straight back, your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  • The barbell or dumbbells should be resting on the front of your thighs with your arms fully extended.

Upward Movement

  • Bend (flex) your arms until the weight is approximately 4-6 inches from the front of your shoulders.
  • Initiate the movement from the upper arm area; do not swing the weight.
  • Keep your elbows by your sides throughout the entire motion.

Downward Movement

  • Allow the weight to slowly return to the starting position.
  • Maintain your knee and back positioning.
  • Do not bounce the weight off your thighs.

Trainer Tip

This exercise should be done in a slow, controlled manner, keeping a somewhat relaxed grip in order to increase the focus on the upper arm muscles. Keep your shoulder blades squeezed together during the full movement.

Repetitions, Sets, and Weight

The number of repetitions (reps) and sets you should do depends on your strength goals. In general, muscle strength works to increase basic function of the muscle and is the typical workout choice. Muscle endurance is important to people who participate in endurance activities such as running or biking, and muscle power is beneficial for athletes who need to use sudden quick movements (eg, sprinting, basketball, football). Beginners should begin with a basic routine and gradually move toward a strength, endurance, or power routine. Use a weight that is heavy enough to perform the desired number of reps and sets for your skill level using good form. Once you are able to perform more reps and sets than is outlined in your category, try to increase the weight you lift by 5%-10%. Your strength goals may change as you progress.

Beginner: 1 set of 8-10 reps 

Muscle Strength: 1-3 sets of 5-8 reps

Muscle Endurance: 1-3 sets of 15-20 reps

Muscle Power: 1-3 sets of 3-5 reps

Use a weight that is heavy enough to perform the desired number of reps and sets for your skill level using good form. Once you are able to perform more reps and sets than is outlined in your category, try to increase the weight you lift by 5%-10%. Your strength goals may change as you progress.

  • Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning . 2nd ed. Human Kinetics; 2000.

  • News and publications. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Brochures2&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm . Accessed January 17, 2008.