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Why Aren't My Bicep Curls Getting Any Stronger?

It's one of the most frustrating things in the world of fitness and strength training.

Working out hard everyday in the gym and giving it your all, but not getting stronger and seeing very little to no progress on exercises such as your bicep curl.

This is an issue that many people seem to face, and a question that we see lots of beginner and intermediate lifters asking.

Why aren’t I getting any stronger on my bicep curls?

The good news is, there likely isn’t anything that you’re doing wrong and that you need to improve on.

In this post we’ll be going over why your bicep curling isn’t getting any stronger, and what you can do about it to resolve the issue.

Personal fitness trainer teaching man how to get stronger at bicep curls

Why Your Curls Aren't Getting Stronger and What to Do

Bicep Curls Aren't Easy to Get Stronger At

The most probable reason that your bicep curls aren’t getting stronger likely has to do with the nature of the exercise, and the small loading potential that it has.

You see, the bicep curl is a very weak exercise.

The only muscles that are really doing any work to bring the weight up are your biceps and your brachialis (a small muscle hidden under the bicep).

And on top of that, your biceps are a very small muscle group to begin with.

They’re naturally one of the smaller muscle groups in your body, compared to muscle groups like the lats and the quads.

Due to these two reasons, the bicep curl itself is a relatively weak exercise that you won’t be able to lift very much weight on.

And since you’re using only one and such a small muscle group, it’s going to be tough for you to continually add weight and get stronger on this exercise.

Let’s put this into perspective.

Compare the bicep curl to the barbell deadlift, which works pretty much the entire body in a very strong position.

If your legs got a little bit stronger over time, your deadlifting strength would go up slightly.

Or if your back got a little stronger, your deadlifting strength would go up slightly.

The same would apply if your glutes got stronger, or any other muscle engaged in the deadlift.

All of this adds up and is the reason why you’ll find it pretty easy to get stronger and increase your numbers on the deadlift.

At least compared to other exercises.

Now compare this to a bicep curl, which only engages your biceps and brachialis.

In order to get any stronger and increase your bicep curl AT ALL, your biceps are the only muscle that can grow to achieve this.

They don’t have the support of other muscles in this exercise, and are forced to be fully responsible for all of the progression you make with your curling.

How to get stronger at bicep curls compared to getting stronger at the barbell deadlift muscles worked

That’s the most likely reason why you’re unable to see the progression you’re hoping to see with your bicep curls.

It’s just not an exercise that’s inherently easy to get stronger at.

And actually, the same would apply for any sort of isolation exercise.

Whether you’re doing calf raises, weighted crunches or lateral raises, you’ll still find it much tougher to increase your strength and lift more weight over time.

It’s likely not just the bicep curl that you’re going to struggle to improve at and see progress with.

Or, You Might Not Be Training Hard Enough

There is another reason why you might be struggling to see the strength gains with your curling and other isolation movements.

The answer to your problems could simply be to train harder in the gym and take your working sets closer to failure.

However, if this was the case you’d likely be struggling to see strength gain on all of your exercises, and not just the bicep curl.

If you’re not training hard enough (taking most of not all of your working sets within 3 reps of failure), you’re not going to progress at the quickest rate.

This is bad enough to slow progress down on exercises such as the deadlift, let alone less easily progressed exercises such as the bicep curl.

If you’re not training hard enough on your curls, you’re not going to see progress at the rate that you’re hoping to.

So those are the possible reasons why your bicep curls (and other isolation exercises) aren’t getting any stronger.

So What Can We Do About It?

There are actually ways that you can overload the biceps and build strength in them more efficiently.

This would be through the use of heavy compound pulling movements (that heavily involve the biceps) such as the chin up and reverse grip bent over barbell row.

By bringing in the back to help lift some of the weight, you're able to overload the biceps very heavily and place much more stress on them, with weights you could only dream of handling during a bicep curl.

The biceps will still get a great workout in, and you'll find that it's much easier to progress and add weight over time onto these exercises than it is with a bicep curl.

And eventually, your biceps will have developed enough pulling strength to curl more weight!

Again, the same is going to go for many of your isolation movements.

If you want to get stronger with your quad extensions, you'll want to be squatting heavy and deadlifting heavy to overload your muscles more and build strength more efficiently.

Or if you want to increase your tricep pushdown, you'll want to be doing close grip bench presses and dips to build up your overall pressing strength, which will then incorporate into your triceps and your pushdown strength.

Oh, and just in case you really do need to be training harder, you need to ensure that you're taking all of your sets close to failure.

Lift in both heavy and moderate rep ranges, and try to make sure that your heavy compound movements (squat, bench press, deadlift, pull up, bent over row, overhead press, etc.) are getting stronger.

If they are, then you should have nothing to worry about.

You just have to be patient with it and eventually, your biceps would've grown enough to add more weight to your curls!

Remember, they (isolation exercises) naturally aren't as easy to progress on.

As long as you're getting stronger on your compound lifts, you just have to trust the process and give yourself some time!

To Wrap It Up

Most of the time, you have nothing to fret about if you notice that your bicep curls aren't getting that much stronger.

This is completely normal, and is even expected among natural lifters.

There are solutions to this that could speed up your bicep curling progress, but really all you have to do is trust the process if you're training hard and seeing growth in other lifts.

All you have to do is be patient.

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