Last updated on October 28th, 2022 at 02:53 pm
It’s something that most of us want to know, “Should You Fully Extend on Bicep Curls?”
I would hazard a guess that the biceps are probably one of the most trained muscles in the gym environment.
I mean, who doesn’t want an awesome pair of bulging biceps?
However, not adhering to strict form could be the difference between great guns and puny spaghetti noodle arms.
So, this begs the question whether you should fully extend on bicep curls and take your biceps through their full range of motion.
Allow me to explain the ins-and-outs of bicep curls.
Should You Fully Extend on Bicep Curls?
You should fully extend on bicep curls. This allows you to take your bicep through the full range of motion. Additionally, stretching the bicep at the bottom of the movement will help with hypertrophy. With that being said, ensure you don’t overcurl at the top of the movement, as this takes the stress of the biceps and places it onto the front delts. The only time you wouldn’t fully extend on bicep curls is if you’re using specific exercises that require constant tension on the muscles.e.g. Constant tension alternating bicep curls.
1. Bicep Curls With Full Range of Motion
Whenever you perform bicep curls you should always aim for full extension.
This will ensure that you take your bicep through the full range of motion.
In fact, I would say that fully extending on curls is extremely important in terms of bicep hypertrophy.
I know that many trainees specifically concentrate on other form cues, such as supinating the hands, fully contracting the biceps, squeeze and hold at the top, etc.
However, this is typically done without much thought given to the negative part of the movement.
With that being said, it is generally the negative portion of bicep curls (and most other exercises) when the good stuff happens.
Basically, the lowering phase is extremely important in terms of your overall bicep development.
The main reason for this is that it allows you to fully stretch the biceps at the bottom of the movement.
This in itself creates tension and is still part of the overall hypertrophy process.
I would go as far to say that curling with a lighter weight while fully extending will do more for your biceps development than partial reps with a much heavier weight.
And I think this is where many problems with biceps curls first start.
There is typically an attempt to go heavier (progressive overload) with curls each and every week.
But unfortunately, as the biceps are such a small muscle, you may not be able to add weight every week, while adhering to strict form.
So personally, I would always want to fully extend on bicep curls, keep constant tension of the muscles, and perform the exercise for higher reps.
In fact, curling too heavy a weight is usually why you’ll stop short of full arm extension.
But, in effect, all you’re doing here is cheating yourself of more potential growth.
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2. Don’t Overcurl at the Top of Bicep Curls
Okay, so we’ve determined that you should fully extend on bicep curls.
However, something that you should be wary of is taking curls too high, or overcurling the weights.
This is something I typically see all the time, whether bicep curls are performed with a barbell, EZ bar, or dumbbells.
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Realistically, if you’re performing curls with your elbows pinned to your sides (as you should be doing), you should only be able to get the weight to around shoulder height.
By curling to shoulder height and no further you’ll ensure that your elbows stay glued to your sides.
However, once you curl past this point your elbows will generally start to move forwards.
Unfortunately, this usually means that you will greatly reduce tension on the biceps.
Plus, more often than not, your front delts take over.
This simply means that in an attempt to raise the weight as high as possible you will have stopped working your biceps altogether.
In effect, you have released tension on the biceps, so it is a complete waste of time.
Furthermore, by bringing the front delts into the equation, you are literally allowing your biceps to “rest” during a curl.
As I’ve mentioned above, your aim is to keep constant tension of the muscles during bicep curls, while also taking them through their full range of motion.
In my mind, not fully extending at the bottom and overcurling at the top is nothing more than cheating on bicep curls.
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3. Sometimes You Don’t Need to Full Extend
Now, with everything I’ve said so far, you would believe that NOT fully extending is the worst thing you can do during curls.
However, this definitely isn’t always the case.
In fact, there are various biceps exercises, or situations, when you shouldn’t be fully extending your arms.
And many of these variations will actually work the biceps to a greater extent by not fully extending your arms.
One such example would be constant tension alternating bicep curls.
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This will involve keeping your non-working arm flexed at ninety degrees, while your other arm performs a curl.
You then swap arms, so once more one arm is flexed at ninety degrees as the other arm curls.
With that being said, you can still fully extend the working arm at the bottom of the movement.
But, I know many people prefer to perform this exercise without fully extending, so that the biceps are constantly contracted (video included below).
Another exercise which I don’t believe requires full extension is kettlebell bicep curls.
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You’ll always need to keep a slight angle in the elbow simply due to the design of the kettlebells.
If you were to fully extend you’ll usually find that the kettlebells slip down your hands to your fingers, which isn’t the optimum position to curl them back up again.
I would also say that there is a case for not fully extending if you’re performing extremely heavy bicep curls.
The main reason for this is that the additional weight can place undue stress on the ligaments and tendons while held in the fully extended position.
Plus, there is more of a tendency to drop a heavy weight, as opposed to gradually lowering it.
And once more, this will place a lot of stress on the ligaments and tendons.
In effect, there is the potential for injury while holding a very heavy barbell or dumbbells with your arms fully straightened.
Obviously, the aim would be to lower the weight under complete control, but the heavier you curl, the harder this becomes.
The Constant Tension Alternating Curl
So, I hope you understand that you should fully extend on bicep curls.
Basically, the bicep reacts just as well to being stretched out in the bottom position as it does to being fully contracted in the top position.
Plus, this ensures that you take your biceps through their full range of motion, which of course can lead to greater growth.
With that being said, make sure you don’t curl to high at the top, as this releases tension from the biceps and places it onto the front delts.
Finally, although standard biceps curls should always be performed with fully extended arms, there are certain biceps exercises that work better when you maintain a slight bend in the elbow.
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Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.