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Men Over 40 Can Build Big Arms With the Dumbbell Incline Curl

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Trainer, author, and fitness model Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that shouldn’t prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help to answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.

One of the first exercises most guys do when they hit the gym is the biceps curl. We all want to appear strong and powerful, and you’ve probably established a set routine in the gym over the years if you’ve been at it for a while—but there can be more effective methods of building up your biceps than just grabbing a dumbbell and cranking away at sloppy reps. One variation of the curl that requires little more discipline for maximal results is the dumbbell incline curl. The exercise puts you into a position that will set you up for success—if you do it properly, of course.

To start, adjust a weight bench to back to about a 60-degree angle, relative to the floor. Grab a pair of dumbbells, preferably slightly lighter than you might use for a standard biceps curl. Have a seat on the bench with your feet firmly on the floor. While holding the dumbbells your arms should hang straight down so your elbows are behind your torso. This will put your shoulders in an extended position that stretches your biceps, which is the ultimate goal of the exercise.

You may lie your head flat on the bench, however I find it more comfortable to hold my head slightly up off the pad. That takes pressure off your neck and thoracic spine. Lastly, keep your shoulder blades squeezed tightly, which helps to protect your rotator cuffs and keep your elbows in the right position, directly under your shoulders. You should form a perpendicular line from shoulder to elbow; don’t allow your elbows to shift forward, or you’ll cheat the rep.

From this starting position, simply curl the dumbbell up. Don’t let your elbows jut forward or swing your arms to use momentum to propel the dumbbells upward. Keep your upper arms perpendicular to the floor. Squeeze at the top of the curl for a beat, then release the dumbbells slowly down toward the floor. That’s one rep.

You shouldn’t feel pressure on your shoulders as you work through a set. This is especially critical to pay attention to if you have shoulder issues, or if you’re concerned about joint safety. One fix—make sure the bench angle isn’t too low.

You should also focus on controlling the weight as you curl up on each rep, which is key to protecting your shoulders, elbows, and rotator cuffs. When curling up, try a two count, which might help you to be mindful of your elbow positioning. When you lower the weights for the eccentric portion of the lift, be mindful to avoid swinging the weight, which could stretch your shoulders too far behind your torso. That would not only make the movement less effective, it could also put you at risk of injury.

When done properly the dumbbell incline curl is a great addition to your arsenal of exercises. It’s not the curl to do with maximum weight, but it gives you the variation you need to fully develop your biceps muscles. Start with a light weight, doing 4 sets of 10 reps.

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