Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Knit-Picking the Bicep Curl

A few years ago, someone posted a photo of himself performing bicep curls at a gym. He asked for feedback and I couldn't resist knit-picking at this image. Originally, I wrote this blog post a few years ago but I wanted to re-hatch it to help other readers.

I took the liberty of addressing the flaws during my observation and made notes on the actual photo (the lines and comments are all me).

Overall, I think this lifter can handle the weight albeit with risks. However, it does exploit his weak core and lack of bracing. Core bracing can be sustained throughout the entire set; or in some cases, "reset" after each repetition--depending on the type of movement and weight involved. The core is unable to brace because of poor breath timing--whereas, each eccentric movement doesn't involve a sequenced inspiration of breath in order to "lock down" the core musculature. And also,  there is a lack of rigidity from the opposing muscle frame--the posterior chain.

In the photo,  the lifter is leaning backwards excessively to compensate for the shift in his center of mass. The shift is caused by the barbell--which may be a little more than what he can handle comfortably. Therefore, the posterior muscles do not contract hard enough to produce a "hard frame" for the abdominals and core muscles to brace. This is very typical in lifters that are solely interested in training "show muscles" the biceps.

To really get the muscles of the back stimulated to contract during core bracing is focusing on the lower trapezius.The lower traps make up a very large surface area of the thorasic spine. From   vertebrae T5 to T12, they are rarely trained by the typical lifter interested in only the "show muscles".

Typically, the upper traps are trained with mountainous shrugging movements and overly active by constant sitting. Because the upper portion becomes over-active,  the middle and lower portion tend to not "fire" as much as we'd like them too. This is evidenced by the biceps curl above. This is why the Lower Trap Raise Drill is excellent for isolating this area and really putting the emphasis on the lower traps.

Although this drill will not solve everything--especially a lifter using too much weight on a barbell curl. But it is a step towards balancing out the "show muscles" with the "go muscles".


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