Of all the biceps curl variations out there, there is one in particular that has seemed to have drawn the ire of some without actually knowing why they feel the way they do. In this video, I’m going to break down the Waiter’s Curl. We’ll take a look at the exercise in regards to its effectiveness as a biceps exercise and specifically, its ability to more efficiently target the long head of the biceps.
Let’s talk about the objections.
First, some believe that the waiter’s curl doesn’t have enough supination in order to build bigger biceps. This one is actually just blatantly incorrect. Not only is this biceps exercise being performed from a position of supination but it also allows for active supination during the movement.
It starts with taking the right grip on the dumbbell. Instead of gripping the sides of the dumbbell you have to be sure that you place your hands and fingers flat against the undersurface of the dumbbell. Push through the pinky side heel of your palm and allow the wrists to bend back as you lift to maximize the supination.
Next, the idea that this is an unnatural or weird exercise is not understood. In fact, biomechanically it is quite similar to the rope curl. It’s also occurring predominantly in a hinge joint that is known for its ability to restrict unnatural motion.
When compared to the narrow grip knurling on an EZ Bar, you’ll see that the width is almost the same. Not only is this not dangerous but it also is allowing for an opportunity to increase the engagement of the long head of the biceps, the head of the biceps most known for adding the biceps peak and height.
Jeb points out that the range of motion on this biceps curl variation is limited at the bottom of the rep because you can’t comfortably extend the elbows all the way down. This is in fact true. The problem comes from the fact that some will often confuse an exercises range of motion with the range of motion possible at the joint performing the exercise.
The bottom 20 degrees of a stranding curl are not all that effective for producing overload on the biceps. This is the reason that some will perform a seated barbell curl, which limits the more dominant contribution of the brachialis and brachioradialis in this early range and lets the biceps do more of the work in the range that they naturally want to work in.
If the contention is made that the line of pull on the biceps is unfavorable, it almost always signals a red flag that not enough knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics led to this assumption. This is because the biceps is actually a two headed muscle with separate attachments (proximally – and technically even in the forearm as well). When a more narrow grip is assumed, the shoulder becomes internally rotated. This positions the tendon of the long head in an actual better line of pull, allowing the performer of the exercise to get better engagement of this often times weaker biceps head.
Jeb said he heard that the waiter’s curl creates negative feedback of instability at the shoulder and elbow joint which is easily mistaken for increased biceps tension. My answer? Jesse, I thought you said that Jeb graduated elementary school?
Jeb also felt that the exercise could be stressful on the wrists. Indeed it can, if it is does incorrectly. It starts again with grabbing the dumbbell properly and placing the hands right on the undersurface of the dumbbell. From here, you need to allow natural wrist extension as you raise the dumbbell up on every rep. Not only does this improve the effect of the movement but it also provides more wrist stability. Wrist extension is the strongest position for the wrist, not the opposite.
The assertion that an alternating dumbbell biceps curl is better is like saying that the bench press is better than a crossover. They accomplish different things and hit the muscle differently. I actually ranked the alternating curls as my favorite biceps exercise in the bicep exercises ranked video. Here however, when the goal is to better hit the long head of the biceps – this is a superior choice.
Finally, just because you can load other exercises for biceps more doesn’t mean that you don’t want to perform this one. Remember, tension is the language of muscles. Finding out more ways than just loading weight on the bar is crucial for maximizing overload and growth in the long run.
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