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Build Perfect Biceps With the Mixed-Style Curl

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
Photo credit: Eric Rosati

From Men's Health

You know all about the classic dumbbell biceps curl; it's a gold-standard, tried-and-true movement for growing big guns. But to get the most out of the classic biceps curl, you have to keep strict form, keeping all the pressure on the muscle you're training and not letting your shoulders take over.

At the same time, you want to challenge yourself with weight while never sacrificing curling form.

How do you do it? You try a dumbbell curl variation that's the best of both worlds, the mixed-style curl from Men's Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. With the mixed-style curl, you alternate a standard, full-range-of-motion rep with a halfway-paused rep; the second move can't help but force form accountability on all the curls in your set.

"We're creating a situation that constantly reminds you not to cheat on your reps," says Samuel. "That halfway-pause rep forces you to think about how you're rotating your forearm as you curl, and it reminds you not to arch your back. Then you carry that mentality into the full-ROM rep that follows."

It's a simple biceps curl tweak that manages to be devastating in all the best ways, says Samuel, especially since you can challenge yourself with the resistance. "You can train try to train this curl heavy," he says, "pushing yourself to use more resistance and stimulate more growth. That alternating halfway-pause curl rep will wind up being challenging as you battle to own the position — and it'll make the less 'strict' rep that much more effective."

You can do the mixed-style dumbbell curl anywhere as long as you have a pair of dumbbells. Need one for your home gym? This adjustable pair from Bowflex is a good starting point.

  • Start standing (or kneeling) holding two medium-weight dumbbells at your sides, core and glutes tight.
  • Squeeze your biceps to curl both dumbbells upwards, rotating your palms toward your chest as you do. Curl as high as you can, then lower.
  • As you lower, pause when your forearms are parallel to the ground. Hold for one second. "Make sure the dumbbell heads are fully parallel to the ground in this position," says Samuel.
  • Lower all the way, then squeeze your biceps and curl both dumbbells upwards again, rotating your palms toward your chest as you do. Lower all the way. Do 6-8 pairs of reps per set and do 3 sets.

The key to this series, says Samuel, is focus and intent. "Your goal is to feel the tension you're creating on those halfway-pause reps," he says, "and carry that into every full-range rep. The halfway-pause reps and the perfection you strive for in them should make your full-range reps better."

You can use Samuel's mixed-style biceps curl in a variety of ways. It works great as a lead exercise in a biceps workout, but it can also be a single accessory movement in a back or pulling workout. "Either way," says Samuel, "it'll help you grow those guns."

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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