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Men Over 40 Can Build Big Arms Through Concentration

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.

If you’re looking to build bigger arms and make your workouts more effective, trying out some wild-looking new exercise at maximum effort might sound like a good idea. But as exciting as it can be to grab big, heavy weights to stoke our egos, we must always remember that keeping your routine fresh must always go hand-in-hand with perfect form. I’m always on my clients about good form—especially the older guys—because it’s easy to cheat while making the excuse, “I’m not young anymore.” But, as we age, it’s even more important to have good form for maximum results and injury prevention.

One exercise for which I insist on focused form is the biceps curl. I’ve seen all types of wild swinging and gyrations to get the weight up with this one. Ideally, you don’t want any shoulder shifting, pushing the elbow forward at the top of the curl, or arm swinging to finish the rep (there are some exceptions to the rule, but they are only for very particular circumstances). Those compensations hinder you from really working your biceps and getting the best from the exercise. That said, one variation that is worth including in your workout is the concentration curl. You’ll minimize or eliminate any compensation or cheating. The move will also show you just how powerful and developed your biceps are.

To set up, start with a light dumbbell and have a seat on a bench. Sit with your legs open at about a 90-degree angle while holding the dumbbell in your right hand. Lean forward with your right arm between your legs so the triceps of your right arm are resting on your right inner thigh. At this point your elbow should be fully extended and your biceps totally relaxed. Tighten your core and shoulder blades. Instead of resting your off-hand on your thigh, make a fist and extend your arm out to eliminate any other leverage point you might lean on.

From this starting position, simply curl the weight up by flexing your elbow. Squeeze your biceps, especially at the top of the curl. Make sure to keep your upper arm perpendicular to the ground—no dropping your shoulders or leaning to compensate. Then bring the weight back down to the starting position by extending your elbow. That’s one rep.

The beauty of the concentration curl is that it’s hard to cheat. You can’t swing your arm and use momentum to do the curl and shifting your shoulder doesn’t really help at all. Because your arm is resting on your inner thigh while doing the exercise, you’re locked in position so your biceps must do all the work to move the weight. The beauty of the concentration curl is that you’ll find out exactly how much weight your biceps can move.

Concentration curls always help me when I go back to regular standing or seated curls. The strict positioning helps to reinforce the proper movement pattern. Also, if I’m throwing around a significantly heavier weight with a standard curl, I know I might be cheating to get that result.

You definitely want to add the concentration curl to your regimen to see where your biceps workout stands. Start with a lighter weight than what you do with a regular curl, and don’t be surprised if you can’t move the weight without any compensations at first. If that’s the case, drop the weight even more to perfect the form. Start with 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

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