Build Biceps Like the Austrian’s Alps
by Jonathan Lawson
While cheat curls have probably been around since the first time someone picked up a barbell, there’s one person who made them famous. Arnold. He used to start his biceps routine by heaving up massive weights, and obviously using much more than just his biceps to get the weight up. People have always said you aren’t training biceps during cheat curls and that it’s more of a low back exercise, but Arnold’s biceps were some of the best in the biz.
Sure, it could be argued that Arnold did a lot of different exercises for his biceps, so cheat curls might have actually been training more of his lower back than his arms, but I don’t think that’s the case. It’s quite possible that those cheat curls were the reason his biceps were so unbelievably full and peaked.
I’ve mentioned the point of maximum force generation in previous blogs, but as a quick reminder, it’s the spot in any given exercise where the target muscle is able to generate the most force. That’s the turn-around point at which the most muscle fibers are being recruited and thus it’s where the most growth stimulation can occur.
On a barbell curl, that spot is right below the point at which your elbows are bent at 90 degrees, or a little bit below the midpoint. The muscle has to have at least some stretch taking place in order to attain that maximum force generation.
Picture Arnold doing a cheat curl… He’d lean forward slightly, bend his arms a bit and then heave the barbell up. Almost all of the muscle stress would happen right at that key point. The reality, in fact, is that there would hardly be any resistance on his biceps during any other part of the stroke.
But before you go running off to the gym to load up a heavy barbell and start swinging like your life depended on it, remember this fact… Cheat curls are dangerous. More people have probably caused injury than growth when doing them.
So how can you do them safely? Well, instead of doing actual cheat curls with a standard barbell, try cable curls, but don’t heave the weight! Start with as many strict reps as you can get and when you reach positive failure, bring the bar attachment to that key spot, just below the midpoint, and do short partial reps till you can’t handle the burn. Those X Reps should be about 6-8″ reps and will burn like crazy without killing your lower back.
I generally prefer free weights, but this is one of those times when a cable attachment is more beneficial. It gives a more continuous tension, without the leverage issues that occur at the bottom of a barbell. If you decide to try the partials at the end of a set of barbell curls, you’ll quickly see what I mean. It’s almost impossible because of the poor leverage at the bottom.
Add these to your arm arsenal for a few weeks and see what sort of results you get. Just don’t come complaining when you need to buy new T-shirts because your arms have suddenly gotten too big.
About the Author
Jonathan Lawson has been working in the health and fitness industry for over 20 years; weight training for 21 years, competed in numerous bodybuilding competitions, worked for IRON MAN Magazine for 17 years, co-owns X-Rep.com where he has co-published over 15 e-books and writes a daily training blog. He has appeared on the covers of, and been featured in, dozens of international magazines, books and e-books.
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