3

votes

Bicep curls a common natural movement?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created September 17, 2012 at 3:05 PM

I was just thinking about how carrying something heavy in front of you with your arms flexed at 90 degrees probably would have been a common functional movement in the paleolithic days.

Doesn't a standing barbell curl directly mimic that best?

I'm not saying it should be included as much as it is in gyms all over but so many "natural movers" are totally against it. To me though it seems like a very natural movement.

You could argue a heavy standing barbell curl works a large percentage of the muscles in your body too, not just the biceps.

So my issue is, should it be as frowned upon as it is in the crossfit/paleo world?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 20, 2012
at 10:24 PM

What is funny is that women, often, go ga-ga over Michelle Obama's arms and as far as I understand the anthropology would probably be the ones scraping hide. Huh.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 20, 2012
at 09:45 PM

Bro!! Nice! I actually saw a guy practice making faces while doing just that.

9c4ba98a3b480408bcf207f558fe659b

(355)

on September 19, 2012
at 06:19 AM

+1 Curls MUST be done facing a mirror in a rack/cage. And remember, limited range of motion is preferred and don't forget to hit all those angles!

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on September 18, 2012
at 06:10 PM

Even though the rest of me was pretty out of shape, I developed awesome guns in the months after having a baby.

Medium avatar

(19469)

on September 17, 2012
at 11:00 PM

I'm always surprised at how quickly my arms start to burn carrying my niece and nephew, so I think this is a brilliant example!

Medium avatar

(19469)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:51 PM

@CD, She is likely stepping up and out of a river bed (where she filled the pot with water, so who knows if she remained hunched over. Regardless of posture, however, the biceps are engaged in a way very similar to a biceps curl. The point is that the spectrum of "natural movements" (a term like "paleo" which is open to much interpretation) is much broader than many suppose.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:47 PM

foreveryoung, I am not against bicep curls, nor advocating for using poor posture when lifting. My comment was to say that picture looks more like a back work out than a bicep work out. Bicep curls will not make that movement significantly easier, the back is holding the load.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:41 PM

...it's actually like the whole kipping pull up vs real pull up thing. In real life, if I'm trying to get over a bar or a branch as fast as possible, of course I am going to use some body English to get up and over it. But if I train doing it strictly, my major muscles for the exercise will be able to pull up and over with a kip even better. I know a girl who can kipping pull ups and not 1 real pull up.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:36 PM

personally though I do not give a damn about my the size of my or any one else's bicep. Curls are fun to do though, solely because getting a pump in your muscles feels good, and you can't get a really good bicep pump doing chins and rows the way you can from doing a standard curl.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:34 PM

@ CD- the idea of a doing any isolation exercise is to ISOLATE the muscle, so hunching over would defeat the purpose. WHen weight training for this purpose, you want to make the exercise as hard as possible to get the most effect, not as easy as possible. No one is arguing that we do strict bicep curls with feet shoulder width apart, core tight, an upright posture, and elbows tucked in to your sides when lifting a common object. But doing it that way in the gym will make it that much easier in real life and that much more pleasant on the eye.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:33 PM

@ CD- the idea of a doing any isolation exercise is to ISOLATE the muscle, so hunching over would defeat the purpose. WHen weight training for this purpose, you want to make the exercise as hard as possible to get the most effect, not as easy as possible. No one is arguing that we do strict bicep curls with feet shoulder width apart, core tight, an upright posture, and elbows tucked in to your sides.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:30 PM

neat pic .

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:30 PM

so if you notice, the biceps are engaged as they are holding the elbow in flex. But the carrier is hunched over significantly this puts the burden of the weight across the upper-shoulder.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:30 PM

Yes, that seems like a wise strategy...Now go answer my most recent question on what supplements you take and why :)

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:28 PM

nice .

Medium avatar

(19469)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:07 PM

Nice answer. I agree that some isolation work as a "supplement" to an overall complex-movement based (i.e. "natural" or "functional") regiment is wise. I apply this way of thinking to nutritional supplements as well.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on September 17, 2012
at 05:21 PM

Was about to say that chin-ups hit your bis and your lats, so curls provide less utility. Pull-ups not so much on biceps.

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9 Answers

4
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on September 17, 2012
at 07:08 PM

Ever pick up and carry a baby?

Medium avatar

(19469)

on September 17, 2012
at 11:00 PM

I'm always surprised at how quickly my arms start to burn carrying my niece and nephew, so I think this is a brilliant example!

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on September 18, 2012
at 06:10 PM

Even though the rest of me was pretty out of shape, I developed awesome guns in the months after having a baby.

3
1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

on September 17, 2012
at 03:59 PM

Most bodybuilding type movements are functional, because otherwise we would not have a certain muscle. Muscles are used, or else they do not exist (or, if not worked, shrink). So yes, a bicep curl is as functional a movement as lateral delt raises (this is how you push your car door open from inside, and also how you nudge away defenders in soccer or other sports, for instance). However, biceps are a small muscle group, and typically work in unison with other stabilizing and/or larger muscle groups. Because it is so small, it does not need to be worked to the same extent as a larger muscle group, like your back or legs.

Personally, I work my biceps (and triceps and shoulders) directly for only 3-4 sets, 1x/week. However, each of these groups get worked indirectly from other exercises I do, as I work my larger muscles (chest, back, legs) 2-3x per week. incline and flat bench presses through the full range of motion will work your anterior deltoid and triceps, chin ups and pull ups will work your biceps and posterior deltoids, and rows will work your biceps and posterior deltoids as well.

So, in short, most every bodybuilding exercise is "functional in the practical sense of the word" because every muscle in our body has some function (otherwise it would not exist). However, a bicep curl is not "technically functional" because it doesn't work other muscles in unison (aside from your core) as it is a single joint movement. Typically, "functional" exercises are ones that operate over more than 1 joint, such as a squat, which flexes through your hips and knees (and ankle) joints.

I personally consider calves, biceps, and triceps (and to some extent, deltoid) work "supplementary/accessory" exercises to be treated as such.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:30 PM

Yes, that seems like a wise strategy...Now go answer my most recent question on what supplements you take and why :)

Medium avatar

(19469)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:07 PM

Nice answer. I agree that some isolation work as a "supplement" to an overall complex-movement based (i.e. "natural" or "functional") regiment is wise. I apply this way of thinking to nutritional supplements as well.

2
510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20898)

on September 18, 2012
at 01:30 AM

Not that there's anything specific wrong with a biceps curl, but if you've ever carried anything significantly heavy for a reasonable amount of time you didn't use your biceps. Even carrying something in front of you it most efficiently done with straight arms and using your bigger muscles, traps, back, etc to stabilize and lift. The way that the tendons attach to the bone and the position that the arm is in during a biceps curl means a ton of energy is going into the muscle for a relatively low output force. It's good for light quicker movements, but anything heavy has to be done by loading the skeleton and not the muscles and tendons.

I like big arms as much as anyone, but learning how to use your hips, traps, delts to load your skeleton is even more important because you'll be able to do much more with less energy. (You don't carry your groceries with a bent arm do you? At least not very far that way.)

1
B9a579a02921868db5098bfa99f8221c

on September 18, 2012
at 12:25 PM

i read something pretty interesting afew weeks ago about biceps. i cant remember where, and i am not going to google it so i will do my best to remember.

Some archaeologist paleo types were hypothesising and theorising about the impressive musculae development of Neanderthals and other HG types in the fossil record. What gave them such sweet muscles and skeletal strength. they tested a variety of huntergatherer type tasks, and found the most likely candidate for bulging biceps and shoulders....scraping animal skins. two hands back and forth over hide getting all the shitty bits off leads to hypertrophy in a way that hauling freshly hunted carcases never could.

no sure how this helps though. peace.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 20, 2012
at 10:24 PM

What is funny is that women, often, go ga-ga over Michelle Obama's arms and as far as I understand the anthropology would probably be the ones scraping hide. Huh.

1
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 18, 2012
at 01:34 AM

Anything which is adaptive and aids in reproduction is pretty paleo...

Sun's out, Guns out.

Curls are awesome. Do some every workout...

Just don't -

Do them in the squat rack

Only do curls. If your guns are bigger than your legs you look like a tool.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 20, 2012
at 09:45 PM

Bro!! Nice! I actually saw a guy practice making faces while doing just that.

9c4ba98a3b480408bcf207f558fe659b

(355)

on September 19, 2012
at 06:19 AM

+1 Curls MUST be done facing a mirror in a rack/cage. And remember, limited range of motion is preferred and don't forget to hit all those angles!

1
Medium avatar

(19469)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:10 PM

Looks like a bicep curl to me...

bicep-curls-a-common-natural-movement?

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:30 PM

so if you notice, the biceps are engaged as they are holding the elbow in flex. But the carrier is hunched over significantly this puts the burden of the weight across the upper-shoulder.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:28 PM

nice .

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:36 PM

personally though I do not give a damn about my the size of my or any one else's bicep. Curls are fun to do though, solely because getting a pump in your muscles feels good, and you can't get a really good bicep pump doing chins and rows the way you can from doing a standard curl.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:34 PM

@ CD- the idea of a doing any isolation exercise is to ISOLATE the muscle, so hunching over would defeat the purpose. WHen weight training for this purpose, you want to make the exercise as hard as possible to get the most effect, not as easy as possible. No one is arguing that we do strict bicep curls with feet shoulder width apart, core tight, an upright posture, and elbows tucked in to your sides when lifting a common object. But doing it that way in the gym will make it that much easier in real life and that much more pleasant on the eye.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:33 PM

@ CD- the idea of a doing any isolation exercise is to ISOLATE the muscle, so hunching over would defeat the purpose. WHen weight training for this purpose, you want to make the exercise as hard as possible to get the most effect, not as easy as possible. No one is arguing that we do strict bicep curls with feet shoulder width apart, core tight, an upright posture, and elbows tucked in to your sides.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:47 PM

foreveryoung, I am not against bicep curls, nor advocating for using poor posture when lifting. My comment was to say that picture looks more like a back work out than a bicep work out. Bicep curls will not make that movement significantly easier, the back is holding the load.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:41 PM

...it's actually like the whole kipping pull up vs real pull up thing. In real life, if I'm trying to get over a bar or a branch as fast as possible, of course I am going to use some body English to get up and over it. But if I train doing it strictly, my major muscles for the exercise will be able to pull up and over with a kip even better. I know a girl who can kipping pull ups and not 1 real pull up.

Medium avatar

(19469)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:51 PM

@CD, She is likely stepping up and out of a river bed (where she filled the pot with water, so who knows if she remained hunched over. Regardless of posture, however, the biceps are engaged in a way very similar to a biceps curl. The point is that the spectrum of "natural movements" (a term like "paleo" which is open to much interpretation) is much broader than many suppose.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on September 17, 2012
at 06:30 PM

neat pic .

1
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on September 17, 2012
at 05:03 PM

Why would a human carry something heavy in front of them? Seems like a really inefficient means when we have these huge back muscles.

From what I remember, the basis for the bicep is to turn the hand upwards, and to flex the elbow. These are obviously significant factors is being able to throw with power and accuracy.

From a functional standpoint, the bicep curl enables you to more forcibly flex the elbow. This is why pitchers, QBs, basketball players, gymnast, swimmers, etc have huge biceps.

Although I tend to agree wit Matt, muscular arms look good.

1
06ca9c524c28bc3fba95d4d90f8f43c6

on September 17, 2012
at 04:12 PM

At the root of most weight training is something really simple, we ALL want to look good! So here is my take on bicep curls: Is it a main functional movement? Not really. Can you build huge arms by doing compound back movements? Yes. But arm workouts are FUN!

"Suns out, Guns out!"

-Matt
PhysiqueRescue.com

1
C326acd0ae246a39c5685f2ba72e3136

on September 17, 2012
at 03:18 PM

I've wondered this and I definitely agree. I think bicep curls should be more of a " supplementary " exercise rather than a " staple ". Weighted chin-ups/pull-ups work your biceps just as well, if not better, give you more of a peak and give you cobra lats!!

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on September 17, 2012
at 05:21 PM

Was about to say that chin-ups hit your bis and your lats, so curls provide less utility. Pull-ups not so much on biceps.

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