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Concentration Curl vs. Close-Grip Barbell Curl

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Both moves work the biceps, but which is better at targeting the short, inner head?

By: Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS; Model: Lou Joseph; Photographer: Jason Breeze

Concentration Curl

If there’s ever been an exercise worthy of the name “isolation,” it’s the concentration curl. Even the body position has a feeling of deep thought and perspective. With your eyes fixed firmly on the target musculature, your arm is outstretched and flush against the inner part of your quad for maximum focus; a great exercise for any arm routine. One thing to remember, however, is to make sure your arm is completely supported by your leg. In other words, don’t simply rest your elbow atop your thigh. Many bodybuilders make the mistake of sitting almost upright and trying to raise the dumbbell to their same-side shoulder. This defeats the purpose. Instead you want to bury your arm deep, with your hand and dumbbell nearing the floor at the start of each repetition. Bend only at the elbow, keeping your torso bent forward. By all means, keep your abs tight and chest up, but don’t raise and lower your torso in order to lift the dumbbell higher.

Close-Grip Barbell Curl

We all have our favorite biceps exercises, and the standard barbell curl is probably the king among them. There’s probably no better exercise that targets the overall appearance of the biceps. However, there are some variations that you should try, including the close-grip and wide-grip barbell curl. Now, because it’s a straight bar, the most comfortable grip for your wrists and elbows is arguably the grip you likely choose each time — the shoulder-width grip. For that reason, when you choose to alter your grip and go to a closer grip (hands roughly 8 inches apart), it’s a good idea to reduce the weight until you’re comfortable with the change and until your elbows, wrists and biceps are good and warm. The close-grip barbell curl will not only hit your biceps in a different way, but you’ll also see noticeable changes in your grip and forearm strength. Lastly, the change in grip width will slightly alter the range of motion, but you should try to keep your elbows close to your body throughout.

Advantage: Concentration Curl

If the peak of the biceps is your focus, the muscle seen most from behind during a back-double biceps pose, the close-grip barbell curl would be your best choice. The close-grip barbell curl is a phenomenal move to hit the long, outer head. Therefore, this month’s winner is hands down, the concentration curl. Much like the preacher curl, in which your arms are raised in front of your body, the tension on the long head during the concentration curl is drastically reduced, placing most of the emphasis upon the shorter head. But for those who don’t see the importance of hitting the short head, think of this: The short head is the muscle you see most from a front double biceps pose (the mirror pose) and the muscle very much responsible for pushing up that peak. So you could say the concentration curl is, in fact, responsible for much of the biceps peak.

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