The general problem with the classic dumbbell biceps curl is this: People cheat on it way too often. They rock at the waist, or they don’t really rotate the dumbbells upwards with intent, and in making those errors, they shortchange their arm day gains.
The fix is this countdown iso-to-reps curl finisher, the iso-to-reps biceps smash, from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., which reinforces perfect curling form using focused time-under-tension principles. It’s a versatile move too, says Samuel, because you can use it either as a finisher at the end of a biceps workout, or as a standalone curling move in a full-body workout (or even for a quick Friday pre-night-out pump session).
“I love this as a finisher,” says Samuel, “but even three standalone sets will fire up your biceps and have benefit.”
You’ll need a pair of dumbbells to rip through this sequence. If you don’t have one, check out this set from Bowflex.
- Start either standing or kneeling, glutes and abs tight, shoulder blades squeezed, dumbbells held at your sides.
- Curl both dumbbells up until your forearms are parallel with the ground; pause here for 5 seconds. Then lower all the way and follow with 5 full curl reps.
- Repeat the sequence, this time pausing for 4 seconds, then doing 4 full reps. You get the idea from there; count it down to a 1-second pause and a single curl rep.
- Rest for about a minute; do 3 sets.
The entire sequence works, says Samuel, for a few reasons. “The biggest is how it forces curling accountability,” he says. “Each hold is a reminder to operate with perfect technique — and you get to carry that good technique into the series of reps. Then it’s right back to reinforcing good technique.” Samuel says that means making sure you attack each hold with the dumbbell fully parallel to the ground, a position that forces your biceps to activate that much more.
Use this move either at the end of a full biceps workout as a devastating finisher (and in this case, maybe you’re only doing two sets per arm), or on a back day. Or use it when you just want a quick pump.
For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb’s New Rules of Muscle program.
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