Your biceps are actually just one of several muscles that standard biceps curls hit. So if you really want to hone in on and pump up that single muscle, what should you do? Try this biceps curl variation.
Called the waiter’s curl, this method emphasizes your biceps to a greater degree by using some smart grip manipulation.
By resting the flat side of a dumbbell on top of your hands, not gripping the end, and keeping your wrists bent toward the backs of your forearms, you’ll de-emphasize the forearm flexors and put the onus on the biceps. Raising the dumbbell by pressing through the inner palm will force you to generate consistent supination as you curl.
Remember, the biceps aren’t just responsible for flexing the elbow—they also supinate the forearm, rotating the forearm so that the palms face up.
Like with all biceps curl variations, the importance of good positioning cannot be overstated here. Think about pinning your shoulder blades together the entire time. Otherwise, your shoulders are apt to roll forward, placing you in a hunch that could lead to injuries over time. Standing tall, shoulders back, will keep maximum tension from the biceps—and that’s the whole purpose of the exercise, right?
Pro Tip: Note that the range of motion is shorter than that of a traditional curl – no need to go all the way down at the bottom. This keeps a high level of mechanical tension on the long head of the biceps. Keeping the range of motion shorter also prevents the bottom of the dumbbell from clubbing you in the fun bits. You’re welcome.
You can perform the waiter's curl with various rep and set schemes. Just make sure to take them to fatigue or borderline failure for the greatest muscle stimulus. Also keep in mind that you’ll use far less total weight that you do with standard curls, as waiter's curls isolate the biceps more and place them under greater tension. Start with a 30-pound dumbbell to get the hang of it, and rep it out until failure.
As you become more comfortable with the new mechanics of the waiter's curl, try to work your way up to using a 40 or 50-pound dumbbell for sets of 8-10 reps.
The narrow grip used on this exercise prioritizes the long head of the biceps. That makes the waiter's curl great for adding size to your arms (the long head of the biceps is the bigger of the two), and the flat grip allows us to do this without involving the forearms.
SETUP: Grab a dumbbell by one side so your hands are underneath the plates. Stand up straight, with your elbows pinned tight to your sides.
REP: Curl the weight up, making sure your hands stay flat against the surface of the dumbbell. Lower it under control, about two-thirds as far down as you would a traditional curl (review the video clip above to see it in action).
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