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January 12, 2021 10 min read
Bigger biceps are one of the single most obvious signs of a gym life gone right. When you’re ripped and you want to show off your stuff, the biceps are the easiest thing to show off. That means that you’re probably looking for the best way to grow your stuff so you can show your stuff.
Cheat curls are an excellent way to put your biceps to the test. Despite their name, you’re not really cutting any corners here. You’re going to need the same dedication you bring to the gym every single day to get the results you’re looking for out of cheat curls. If you’re ready to see what the hype is all about, then get your barbell and read on.
The proper name for your biceps is “musculus biceps brachii.” That translates into English as "two-headed muscle of the arm.” That high fantasy sounding name comes from the shape of your biceps. If you start by feeling on your arm where the characteristic biceps bulge is, you’re touching the “belly” of your biceps. Tracing up from there they taper off into the two characteristic heads of your biceps. They branch off into their origin points.
The longer head of your biceps starts on the supraglenoid tubercle, a point on the inside of the scapula, and the shorter head is connected to the coracoid process. The coracoid process is a point a bit further up on the scapula. Both of these connections to the scapula keep your back attached to your body along with some other more obvious functions of your arms.
The two-headed nature of your biceps allows them to do a number of things in your arms. Most obviously, they allow you to flex your arm. Bringing your forearm towards your body, or reducing the angle at the joint between your upper arm and forearm, if you want to get a little more specific, is the thing your biceps are primarily known for.
Their secondary function is to pronate and supinate your forearm. This function is why turning your hand in towards your body helps you show off your biceps even more. The flexing and supination together comprise the full function of your biceps, contracting them as completely as possible, and pushing all of the muscle mass possible towards the belly of your biceps.
Taking full advantage of this aspect of your anatomy is what cheat curls aim for.
Cheat curls ask you to put most of the tension on your biceps while your muscles are extending. This is called an eccentric contraction. There are three types of muscle contractions, from least to most stressful, we have isometric contractions, concentric contractions, and eccentric contractions.
Isometric contractions are when you’re putting stress on a muscle while keeping the muscle length the same. This is anytime you’re holding a pose or doing a static action for an extended period of time. Planking, most yoga poses, and wall sits are all isometric exercises. These are where you’re selecting a muscle group, finding a pose that engages those muscles, and asks you to hold that pose for an amount of time.
They’re a great way to start working out a muscle group without overexerting yourself. They’re where you’d want to start as a beginner or if you’re trying to slowly recover from an injury.
Concentric contractions are exercises where the muscle shortens while you contract it. This is probably what most of the exercises in your routine are. Normal bicep curls are a concentric contraction. You’re using your biceps to pull the weight up towards your body, but the weights are typically lowered a little quicker than you’re going to be lowering the weight in cheat curls.
Concentric contractions are where you’re spending most of your exercise in the gym. They’re the most natural way for your body to move. You’re not typically holding a pose or fighting against a weight that’s trying to escape your grasp.
Eccentric contractions are the focus of cheat curls. An eccentric contraction is when you contract your muscles while the muscle lengthens. It’s the most stressful of the three primary muscle contractions. If you’ve ever engaged in the age-old art of arm wresting, you’re well-acquainted with eccentric contractions.
Eccentric contractions are a fascinating aspect of your body. Your muscles are more than just a complicated series of pulleys. They also act like shock absorbers. When you’re going through your life, your muscles are constantly absorbing energy from the regular actions you make, keeping your bones from banging up against each other and allowing you to make your way through rugged terrain or granting you the ability to lower weights slowly without yanking your arms off.
Eccentric contractions take advantage of your muscle’s ability to absorb mechanical energy and convert it into elasticity or heat and supercharges them through physics. This means you’re able to handle more weight, and more importantly, you’re able to apply more tension to your muscles than boring old concentric contractions.
This is why cheat curls are so effective at jacking you up. You’re able to handle more weight than you initially thought you were capable of, and if you’re careful you’ll be able to pump yourself up much faster than using the first exercise that comes to mind.
You’re not really cheating yourself out of anything here. You’re not juicing yourself up or cutting corners, you’re still going to be putting in the work, it’s just a little roundabout. Cheat curls are about recruiting other parts of your body to help you get your arms up into a fully contracted position, and focusing on the eccentric contraction, or “controlling the negative.” Everything from your grip to your starting position is about contracting your biceps.
Remember that your biceps are responsible for supination as well as flexion. The overhand grip here is going to supinate your forearms, and the lifting of the weights is going to fully flex your arms. Once everything is nice and tight, you’re controlling the negative, absorbing the shock, and slowly lengthening your biceps.
Cheat curls are asking you to take advantage of your biology and some of its most underappreciated functions. Applying tension to your biceps like this is an excellent way to get the kind of low-rep heavy-weight exercise your body craves to build muscle. You’re really only “cheating” by engaging your legs and glutes to give yourself a little boost, your biceps still do all of the work they need to in order to trigger muscular hypertrophy.
Cheat curls are a lot like a weird deadlift. They’re a unique exercise in the world of upper body exercises. How often are you encouraged to thrust your hips and rely on the momentum of tossing your barbell around while working on your arms? Even if you weren’t in this for the bigger biceps, you should still give this one a shot for the sheer novelty of it all. Make sure you go at them with proper form, and you’ll see what all the fuss is about pretty quickly.
If you’re looking for how to get the most out of your cheat curls, all you have to do is follow in
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s footsteps. Pretty easy right?
Building muscle is basically the same for all bodybuilders. Anybody showing off their body on social media has probably walked themselves through these same processes.
Building muscle is all about breaking your muscles down, stocking up on materials to repair them with, and giving your body the time it needs to fix them. This is the cycle of muscular hypertrophy.
Putting tension on your muscles with heavier weight week after week will force your body to overcome its limits momentarily. You’re pushing yourself further and further than you ever have before. That effort causes your muscle cells to tear just a bit. Your body wants to eliminate its shortcomings. So if you stick to a regular routine and you’re constantly enduring this microtrauma, then your body will improve the muscles you’re subjecting to this iron torture. You’ll get stronger and stronger by pushing yourself every single time you’re in the gym.
Cheat curls are great for this because you’re already working with a much greater weight than you’d be working with during your standard curls. Then you’re compounding that effort by focusing your workout on eccentric contractions, some of the most demanding movements your body can make. If that’s not the type of exercise that kicks your body into high gear, then it’s possible that nothing at all will.
That’s only part of the equation though. True muscle growth can only be facilitated by your body when it’s given all of the tools it needed for success. You’ve got to go into every session awake and ready to kick some ass. You’ve got to keep yourself well-fed. That means protein for your muscles when you go hard on the weights. They need the protein to rebuild themselves. That protein becomes a part of yourself allowing you to dig deeper and deeper every week because you’re literally making your muscles bigger and more resilient.
That also means stocking up on energy. Your body uses glycogen to power itself. Basically, everything you intake gets converted into this sugar and stored somewhere in your body. If you’re taking the right amount of energy, then it’s just going into your muscles for quick access and contributing to your jacked frame. If you’re overdoing it on the non-essentials and underdoing it in the gym, then your body’s just going to hold onto it as the harder to access fat.
Pumping all of the iron in the world won’t get you jacked unless you listen to your body and fuel it up when your tank is empty and rest your body when you’re tired. Make sure that your journey to thick pipes takes a detour into the land of rest days every now and then. It’s exciting to see results, and it’s tempting to just go all in every single day until your biceps are bursting at the seams, but you need to balance your body out. Make sure you’re balancing your cheat reps with work on your opposing muscles, that’s basic bodybuilding.
Alternative Weights: You can tackle cheat curls with any sort of weights you can think of if you don’t like using the barbell. To be fair, using barbells for an extended period of time can be killer on your wrists and elbows. The barbell isn’t very forgiving, and it doesn’t allow you to position your wrists and elbows in a natural and comfortable fashion. You will, however, be packing on a lot of weight easily with a barbell. It’s a straightforward way to get the most weight possible on a bar and dive headfirst into getting shredded.
If you want to stick as close as possible to a barbell while allowing your arms a little more leeway, then consider an EZ curl bar. You won’t really be sacrificing any weight, and your wrists will thank you if you feel like you’re straining against the barbell.
A cable machine will also work wonders for you here. If you think you’re starting to top out on the amount of weight you’re lifting, then consider adding a cable machine into your routine instead. The cables will provide constant tension throughout the entire range of motion.
It will be a little more awkward to get the cheat action in with the cable machine, but the increased demand for your forearms and biceps is worth the trade-off. Remember you’re not trying to throw the weight with your back once the bar is no longer in front of you, and you should be adjusting just fine.
Dumbbells are a great third option here. Of course, you’re going to be losing out on weight if you trade out the barbell for the dumbbells, but the focus on stability will force you to engage your core and call in the triceps for backup, giving you a better compound experience. You’ll be losing out on a little muscle growth with the dumbbell curl, but tightening your core and learning how to maximize your stability will allow you to switch back to the barbell later and pull out all of the stops.
Using Your Back:It’s tempting to use your back to toss the weights up towards your chest. The name of the exercise implies you’re trying to use as little concentric contraction as possible. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Keep your back safe and you’ll keep yourself in the gym longer. The thrust motion should be performed with your upper legs and your glutes. Think more along the lines of a deadlift when it comes to your lower body, and certainly don’t use your upper back to propel your weights.
You’re still engaging your biceps during the lift motion. In fact, it’s more work for you to concentrically contract your muscles, and more work means better gains in the long run. Don’t cheat yourself out of the cheat curls.
Don’t Overdo It:Eccentric contractions are the source of a lot of muscle injuries. Be careful when you’re taking on cheat curls. Start with what you know will be a manageable amount of weight and work yourself up from there. If you start with too much weight thinking you’re hacking your body by using eccentric contractions, you’re probably just going to leave with wounded pride (and arms). This is a great way to build muscle quickly, but only if you’re not spending time laid up in bed recovering from taking on too much weight right out the gate.
Cheat curls sound subversive. The results they promise combined with a tantalizing name set them up as a shadow workout, looming in the back alleys of your local gym, waiting for some poor sap to add them to their routine only to be devastated by the loss of their clean record.
That turns out, they’re quite the opposite. Cheat curls are the kind of exercise you start adding to your routine when you’re outpacing the challenges you set in front of yourself. They’re excellent for surpassing a sticking point.
They’re an exercise for experience lifters trying to carve out that last little edge, lifters that are trying to squeeze every inch of progress out of their bodies. They require carefully considered execution and a lot of weight, but if you’re serious and you’re ready to take on the challenge, you can make cheat barbell curls work for you like nothing else will.