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Eccentric bicep curl tutorial and exercise variations

Learn why eccentric curls are a hidden hypertrophy gem.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 14th June 2021
A man performing eccentric standing curls for his biceps

If you're used to curling weights without much thought for the working muscle, then the eccentric bicep curl will help to improve your mind-muscle connection by making your biceps work overtime to lower the weight.

Related Exercise: Curl holds

Eccentric bicep curl exercise details

  • Main Muscles: Biceps brachii
  • Secondary Muscles: Brachialis, brachioradialis, forearm flexors
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Barbell, weight plates

How to do eccentric curls

  1. Place a weight onto a barbell that you can curl for 6-8 reps.
  2. Hold the bar in front of you with a shoulder-width underhand grip.
  3. Curl the bar toward your chest by flexing your biceps.
  4. Keep lifting until the undersides of your forearms press right up against your biceps.
  5. Squeeze your biceps forcefully at the top of the rep.
  6. Lower the bar slowly over a 3-5 second duration until your elbows reach full extension.
  7. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps.

Eccentric bicep exercises

These eccentric bicep exercises will help you build new muscle mass and smash through strength plateaus by improving your biceps' ability to handle heavy tension.

Eccentric barbell curl

A man performing an eccentric bicep curl

The eccentric standing curl is like a standard heavy barbell curl but, as the same suggests, with an exaggerated eccentric phase to increase the intensity of the exercise.

From a muscle growth perspective, the eccentric curl is especially beneficial because it gives your biceps more time under tension. Muscles, after all, mainly respond to the tension and torque that you put through them, not just the amount of weight that you move from point A to point B.

Therefore, eccentric curls naturally break down and recruit more muscle fibers than the half bicep curl, and other such exercises, because you're more than doubling the time under tension—without doing any more sets.

So not only are eccentric biceps curl a potent mass-building weapon, they're also highly efficient because you're making your biceps work much harder without increasing the weight on the bar or performing any extra, time-intensive sets.

Eccentric cable curl

A man performing an eccentric standing curl for his biceps

Eccentric cable machine bicep curls are one of the best ways to burn out your biceps after a hard and heavy workout. This is because cables blast your biceps with constant tension, tension that's generally more joint-friendly than that of free weights. As a result, your biceps don't get a break until the set is over, which means that you get an enormous pump in your arms.

The technique is virtually the same as it is for regular eccentric curls.

You lift the bar explosively, contract your biceps, and then lower the weight really slowly by letting your biceps stretch out over a 3-5 second negative curl.

If you have muscular imbalances, then you can switch the bar attachment for a d-handle instead. This approach will ensure that both of your biceps receive roughly equal work, which in turn will help you to build more symmetrical upper arms.

Assisted eccentric bicep curl

A man doing eccentric bicep curls

The assisted eccentric curl is the most advanced variation of the traditional eccentric bicep curl because it enables you to overload your biceps with the heaviest amount of resistance.

Essentially, you want to add 20-40% extra weight onto the bar. Then, with the help of a training partner, curl the weight up as you usually would. Then, during the eccentric phase of the rep, you're going to lower the weight over a 3-5 second period.

Aim to perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps.

The reason why these eccentric bicep curls work so well is that you're naturally much stronger during the eccentric portion of the rep. Therefore, by utilizing your training partner's assistance, you can take full advantage of this extra eccentric strength and overload your biceps with maximum tension to make them grow.

How to use eccentric bicep curls in your training

There are two main ways to use eccentric curls. On the one hand, you can use the standing eccentric curl as a mass-builder by performing it at the start of your workout. This is the optimal approach if you want to bulk up your arms as much as possible.

Alternatively, you can wait until the end of your training session and then perform the eccentric bicep curl to really finish off your biceps and make sure that all of the muscle fibers have been recruited.

James Jackson
James Jackson is a personal trainer who uses his expertise in strength and conditioning to create helpful workout tutorials that show fitness enthusiasts how to build muscle while staying safe in the gym. He draws on the latest sports science data as well as tried and tested training techniques to get the best results for his clients without them having to live in the gym.
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