The science is in!
If you want bigger biceps, this is maybe the most important article you’re ever likely to read.
Just recently the American Council on Exercise commissioned exercise scientists at the University of Wisconsin to find out what the most effective biceps exercise was.
8 male and 8 female experienced lifters were used in the study  to test the following 8 exercises:
- Cable curl
- Barbell curl
- Concentration curl
- EZ Curl (both wide and narrow grip)
- Incline curl
- Preacher curl
Total muscle activity was measured via wireless electromyography (EMG) machine. Electrodes were placed on the biceps brachii, anterior deltoid, and the brachioradialis.
And here are the results…
As you can see, it seems that Arnold Schwarzenegger was right back in the day. The concentration curl came top.
I personally believe that if they had have combined the cable curl and the preacher curl into a cable preacher curl, it would have proven to be most effective.
The researchers noted,
“…the activation of the anterior deltoid was significantly less in the concentration curl than most of the other exercises. This may be because during a concentration curl, the humerus is pressed against the leg and does not allow the upper arm to sway, which isolates the biceps.”
This also occurs in a cable preacher curl, resulting in better isolation of the biceps. It will also maximize muscle fiber recruitment and allow for more intense contractions. Here’s a video of me performing cable preacher curls from a few years ago…
The conclusion of the study was as follows…
“When you look at it, the concentration curl was significantly better than anything else. And I think the reason is that you’re really isolating the biceps muscle more so than in any of the other exercises.”
Just out of interest, I’d LOVE these electromyography tests done on compound exercises to show all those “compound only” heads out there how ineffective their workouts really are for certain body parts. When they tell you that bench presses and overhead presses are all you need to work your arms, the results would clearly show the pitiful stimulation the biceps and triceps are really getting. Sorry 5×5 guys, it’s just not happening.
While we’re on the subject, I’d also like you to check out a video I made recently called 3 New Tips For Bigger Biceps…
If you want the FULL package of training designed specifically to make you bigger (including your arms), download my THT training program free below
I recently saw this comment on my YouTube channel…
Of course, don’t forget the Arms Blast Experiment workout that can produce rapid increases in arm size due to the “hyperintense” protocol I developed. Hyperintense basically means training at MORE THAN 100% intensity, MORE THAN your 1 rep max – yes it’s possible. Click here for more details.
Enjoy your next arms workout!
And if you’re just starting to incorporate concentration curls into your routine, do feel free to share your experience with me on my facebook or twitter.
If you have any questions or I can help you in any way, comment below.
Train With Intensity!
 ACE Study Reveals Best Biceps Exercises. Young S, Porcari JP, Camic C, Kovacs A, Foster C et al. Acefitness.org. July 2014.
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Great! Thanks for the tip. Will def work this into my THT training 🙂
Great read Mark, just wondering though, where a cable preacher curl is not possible, would you suggest a concentration curl instead?
my gym does not have any preacher benches or attachments for the cable machines to do this, there is a preacher type machine specifically for seated curls using both hands, think it’s hammer strength and uses the number pins for load/resistance
the problem I have with this is even on maximum, 10 reps feels fairly easy, and I am by no means strong in my arms, so I don’t really know what is going on there, as an example I find regular curling 8kg dumbbells a reasonable weight.
Wow, glad I have been doing them, always liked concentration curl and now I know why. I usually end my arms workout with them but maybe I should start with them. Also I wonder if reverse grip lat pull downs would be similar to chin up and prove to be almost completely ineffective for lats. I never liked it as a back exercise. Yet I see people doing it. Great article
@Luke I’ve faced that problem before, so what I did was to fold one arm across my body, get it tight and stable, then curl the other arm while pressing that elbow against the first arm’s wrist area. Eg I fold my left arm across, then press my right elbow against it and curl the right arm. Then switch arms. It’s not perfect and can tire out the supporting arm, but we make do with what we got. Hope this helps!
@Luke. Yeah if the preacher machine isn’t heavy enough, leave it. Pity though. So do Conc curls and/or standing cable curls.
@Muhammad. Thanks for your input.
@Dan. Yes, I call that movement a close-grip palms-up pulldown. It’s quite good for the biceps, but as a lat exercise, no way. The bi’s will fail first. For lats, have an overhand, not underhand grip for pulldowns.
Nailed it with the compound head remark there Mark. So sick of hearing that parroted all over the boards. Important yes, but only part of the equation. Isolation finishers are a must IMO!
Thanks for a great article Mark
@Jay. Exactly right. I’m always shocked at how many people have fallen for the compound-only nonsense when the evidence to refute it is all over the place. Not least on my blog.
@Muhammad, thanks for the advice might try that out sometime,
and thanks Mark as always appreciate the advice!
But regular preacher curls are the in the study as the worst…maybe I am missing something but how and why are they less effective than say a cable preacher?
@Tim. With regular preachers the resistance falls off the biceps after about half way up on the positive part of the rep. With cable preachers, the resistance is constant throughout, especially at the top where there is maximal fiber recruitment. It’s about the angle of the load. I cover all this in the cable preachers article here https://musclehack.com/build-huge-biceps-with-this-unique-exercise/
I read this a few days ago on below link
Also shows best chest & triceps.
Mark what if you did
2x Cable Preacher Curls
2x Incline Dumbbell Curls
2x Barbell Curls
2x Dumbbell Concentration Curls
@KRS. Yes, for the 5-day THT plan, those 8 sets will work well.