Curling Heavy Weights
by Mac Batchelor (1950)
Curling in its many forms is without a doubt the super bicep developer. The champions in this great exercise, which has been converted into a lift at times to demonstrate arm power, are possessed of exceptional upper arms and muscular forearms of great strength.
On his first trip to the West Coast Alan Stephan, the famous body culturist, before a packed house at the Embassy Auditorium in
“Buck” Reed, of the famous Reed Brothers, who trained with me in the era before the last war (he is now located with the
I noticed in current magazines on bodily development that Bert Assirati, a phenomenal strongman and world famous wrestler, advocates this principle of “cheat curling,” and his gigantic arm size at below average stature speaks well for this practice. His legitimate curl record should be up with the best. It is noticeable that those using a swing style in practice do well in the authentic lift. Whether this is due to the biceps and forearms becoming inured to the extra heavy stress, or a mental outlook is acquired where any weight, lighter than the practice bell is held in contempt and so more easily managed, is a point of conjecture. Probably a combination of the two foregoing conclusions makes for best results.
Wm. S. Perry, a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club in the late twenties, when its weight lifting members were recognized as a group the nation’s best, was possessed of biceps “plus.” At a bodyweight of 200 he two-arm curled within 20 pounds of his own weight and was also capable of a one arm chin. At Martin, a middleweight also affiliated with the club at that time was capable of two arm curling over 160 pounds.
Lee Grable, former lifter and veteran wrestler, possessed of great energy and robust physique, officially performed a two arm curl of 175 pounds at the Los Angeles YMCA about ten pounds less than his bodyweight at that time. He is also adept at alternate repetition curls with 75 pound dumbbells. Peterson, as a middleweight, curled approximately his bodyweight in another YMCA contest.
Lifting phenomenon C.V. Wheeler of
Another outstanding curling expert was George “Rasso” Stangelmeier, one of a trio of German strongmen known as the Rasso trio. His two arm curl of slightly over 200 lbs. is the equal of the best. His biceps and forearms were colossal for a man of average height. And the old-timer, Michael Maier, an Austrian, would one-arm curl a 100 lb. dumbbell while lashed to a post, and whether this is a handicap or an asset I don’t know as I’ve never experimented with it. Seems it might help a man of lighter bodyweight and great arm strength as the stress would be wholly on the arm. Harold Ansorge, of the East and a top performer, does 200 lbs. or better in the two arm curl and advertised the fact that he will one arm curl 100 lbs. as a feat in his performance. He is a professional strongman and entertainer exhibiting strength feats of great merit.
An Al Berger, the champion reverse curl exponent and an all-round grip artist, has accomplished 175 lbs. in a palms down curl and is capable of 200 lbs. in the standard curl. There is no doubt in my mind that Apollon (Louis Uni), the immortal French Hercules of unlimited arm strength, would have set a fancy limit at curling. And Goerner of deadlift fame is another. It is noticeable that the best men at heavy deadlifts as a class are also exceptional at curling and favorable muscle attachments and great tendon strength may account for this. Should the anterior muscular mass of the upper arm, consisting mainly of the biceps, have its adherence well forward from the elbow at the forearm insertion, the leverage thus obtained would facilitate great curling power in itself. As far as a legitimate curl, the most unobvious means of cheating to be guarded against is that of raising the elbows forward and up when the curl is midway (the forearms slightly past right angles to the body), as this is usually the sticking point. It’s possible on reaching this point to sustain the arms locked in the semi-flexed position and touch the bar to the chest by bringing the elbows up. Done by an expert it looks good . . .
Any man who can curl 175 lbs. in an upright position with elbows touching the wall throughout is phenomenal and should do ever 200 lbs. in the style ruling this lift. The handling and use of block weights and kettlebells as barbell accessories will improve your forearm and grip strength to match that of tremendous upper arm flexion and increase your ultimate in curling. I have on occasion curled a 75 lb. kettlebell using only the middle finger of either hand, and I can also arm-curl a 90 lb. dumbbell in the thumb-up position. With practice it is possible to stop the weight at a given point and rotate the wrist if the arm has been trained properly as a unit. I have two arm curled 200 lbs. many times in the past few years and have no doubt there must be individuals, endowed with favorable leverage who, thru proper application to consistent curling, will set a record well over the 200 lb. mark. Steve Stanko and John Grimek are both great curlers and I understand have done on occasion two or three reps with a 100 lb. dumbbell while sojourning at Sig Klein’s grand gym. John McWilliams, of big arm fame, I have been led to understand, does repetition curls with several pounds over 100 on his dumbbells, and if so, he leads the nation in upper arm contraction and his standard two arm curl should go over 200 lbs.
Here is an exercise favorite of mine. Sit on a chair, place a 100 lb. dumbbell on the floor between feet, collars almost touching opposite ankles, palm of hand gripping bar facing body start, disengaged hand resting on corresponding knee, body bent over. Then spin the dumbbell on floor by supinating hand until palm is forward (curl position). At this instant, curl to shoulder as you sit up and press strongly with disengaged hand on corresponding knee. The original momentum from the spin on the floor brings the bell easily to the shoulder at the completion as you sit upright.