Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Curling for Arm Size - Mark Berry (1942)

 THANK YOU to Michael Murphy! 

Ken Pendleton.
5' 1.5". 132 pounds. Small bone structure. 15.5" arms.

Paul Plourde. 
125 lb. bodyweight. 185 Two Hands Press
160 Two Hands Snatch, 215 C & J, 200 One Hand Bent Press. 

Pat Sorto. 132 pounds.  

Curling has long been recognized as the standard exercise for the development of a hefty upper arm. More appropriately stated, it is an ideal means of acquiring a large biceps, and while this form of exercise will lead to added circumference of the flexed upper arm, it is to be understood that we should not lose sight of the importance of the greater bulk of the triceps on the opposite side of the arm. 

For the benefit of the uninitiated, we must explain that the term "curling" applies to bending he arm whole holding a dumbbell (or similar appliance, such as a bar bell of kettle bell) in the hand; the single are curl applying to the use of one hand at a time, and when the bar bell is held with both hands, we refer to the two-arm curl. The starting position being with the arm, or arms, hanging straight down from the shoulder, or shoulder4s, with the elbows remaining in a fixed position while the hands move in an arc to bring the bell to the chest. 

We doubt very much is within the entire nomenclature of physical culture there is another exercise to compare with curling for the development and strengthening of the flexors of the upper arm. And, when combined with suitable exercises involving the extensors, the upper arm should acquire the muscular bulk intended in your particular type of physique. 

For one thing, the curl affords a degree of specialization for the arm flexors that is equaled in few, if any, instances elsewhere in the entire human musculature. To be more explicit, if you endeavor to isolate the action of the arm extensors, it becomes practically impossible without involving other large muscles; one may isolate the action of the deltoids, but only with relatively light resistance, which in no sense compares with what may be done in the case of the arm flexors. Maximum flexion of the biceps is possible when practicing the curl, and these muscles can stand a tremendous amount of work.

One should be sensible in respect to what is expected in circumference of the flexed upper arm. If the wrist girth is under seven inches, a sixteen inch measurement of the upper arm would be large, if indeed not extreme; and on requires a wrist girth of seven and a-half inches, or greater, in order to approach the seventeen inch mark, and even here we are referring to extreme development. Moreover, it is to be understood that we refer to the so-called muscular type of arm, and not to one possessing too great an amount of adipose, or fatty tissue. Persons who are preponderantly fat, especially women of this type, may exceed all accepted standards in relation to the proportionate girth of points and fleshy parts of the body. 

A so-called purely muscular arm of fourteen inches on a man with a six and a-half wrist really gives a fine appearance, particularly when the definition is well marked. In the same say, a fifteen inch upper arm with a seven inch wrist is very good. However, in rare cases it is possible to exceed some of the standards of proportion which are generally accepted as being about the limit. This is true in the case of the man who possesses unusually small bones, and especially when his muscular development is accompanied by a generous mixture of fat. 

It may not be generally understood the the same model of muscular perfection may have two types of photographs taken, one showing clear cut definition, in which all of the muscles appear ready to pop out of the skin, and another depicting an extreme of well rounded bulk. A heavily muscled man may thus vary nearly an inch in measurement of his upper arm between these two extremes of physical condition, and perhaps twenty pounds in bodyweight. To be sure, in the one instance, he is trained down to a fine condition, and having required a slight excess when revealing the maximum figure recorded by the tape. 

In spite of the numerous outstanding exceptions to the general rule, one might state with a fair degree of accuracy that examples of truly exceptional arms have resulted from concentrated effort toward this objective; moreover, curling will be found to be one exercise included in the routine regardless as to what measures may have been adopted for improvement of the other side of the arm. 

Many culturists have become "biceps conscious" to the point of being fanatical over curling exercises, and yet even these extremists invariably perform a certain amount of triceps work, such as pressing, floor dips, or parallel bar push-ups.

Considerable difficulty would attend any attempt to determine the limit of biceps specialization that could be undertaken by one who was imbued solely with the desire to acquire a bulge in this part of his physique. I dare say that some zealots have practiced curling, in one form or another, several times a day, and day in and day out, over a lengthy period of time. When one's energies re otherwise conserved, and very little else besides arm exercise is performed, some men may be capable of realizing progress under such conditions. By no means do I either suggest or recommend such extreme of specialization, but have mentioned the probability of this manner of training having been followed by those who were perhaps over-enthusiastic on the matter of acquiring maximum arm development. 

Not only do I state that no such specialization is necessary, but can assure my readers that anyone who undertakes arm development at the expense of the rest of the body is laboring under an erroneous principle. 

On the other hand, there could be a time when the physique culturist, having acquired a symmetrical general development, may choose to specialize on the arms alone for a short time, principally as an EXPERIMENT to determine what might be accomplished in his case under such conditions. This plan must have been tried successfully, and there is no reason why it should fail to produce some results. 

Still, there is such a thing as becoming too extreme, and we see no reason for practicing the curl more than twice each day, even if one has the time and is otherwise unemployed. One good workout per day should suffice, and you are cautioned to observe closely the effects of any such specialization and discontinue the same should it be apparent that the arms are becoming too fatigued from day to day.

In a standard barbell routine for the average culturist, two forms of the curl might be included to start with -- 

the regular two arm curl, and 
the two arm reverse curl.   

A little later on, the single arm dumb-bell or kettle bell curl may be added. Beyond this point, an effort at specialization, in conjunction with a full program for the entire body, may be made through doubling up on some of the curling exercises; or, in other words, through repeating the same exercises at another place in the routine. A further suggestion along this line, presuming that one recuperates sufficiently and continues to register progress, is that some curling be done on the alternate day; that is, on the day when you are resting from all the other exercises. 

Once one has advanced to a high degree of proficiency, the manner of curling may be varied, by means of doing BOTH repetition single attempt curling; the first with a relatively light weight, and the other with limit poundage. An extreme of repetitions would be twenty, but I advise this only after one has been training for a long time; otherwise, ten or twelve counts should suffice. 

A further tip which comes to mind is that after specializing for some length of time, it may prove of advantage to leave curling alone for a while. Then, later, to resume the exercise in a modified form.

To mention some variations of the curl, some specialists have preferred to do the exercise while seated in a chair, figuring that the effort is then isolated to a greater extent upon the muscles they wish to improve. A variation of the two arm curl, which is a favorite with John Grimek, is to first bring the bar-bell to the chest in the regular manner, and then to hold the bell at that point and raise the elbows as high as possible. It is his contention that the flexors are thus contracted to the limit, and to an extent that is impossible while doing the regular curl. 

In another recent article we outlined a thorough method of doing the single arm curl, and reiterate here in order to satisfy those who wish to be exact to the last detail. Using either a dumb-bell or kettle-bell, the starting position is with the palm turned in towards the thigh while the arm hangs at the side; then as the hand is raised, the palm turns until at the finishing position it is turned upwards. Any advantage derived from this method of curling lies in the turning of the palm bringing into action the supinating action of the biceps muscles. As a matter of fact, there are those who assume that the biceps, rather than being a flexor of the upper arm, is instead almost solely a supinator of the forearm. Any such technicality has no place in our discourse, and we feel that when a substantial resistance is employed in the regular way of curling that the supinating pull of the biceps is well taken care of, in spite of the fact that the hands remains quite stationary. 

Regarding the ideal amount of weight to be used in curling, much depends on the individual -- his strength, experience and so on. A caution has sometimes been brought forward to the effect that one should not exceed half of bodyweight in repetition curling, but I see no reason for proffering any such advice. Through proper specialized methods some men become capable of handling a goodly percentage of their own bodyweight, and I have known a few strong fellows who could do a number of repetitions with around two-thirds of their own weight, it being understood that we have in mind correct curling. Do not forget that what is easy for one man may be out of the question for another, and yet each may realize maximum value from the exercise. 

When we refer to correct curling, it is understood that we mean while standing erect, with no bending or swaying of the body and with no forward whip of the elbows; that is, the bell should not be swung to the chest, but instead the effort must be made with the flexing muscles of the upper arm.

Before closing this discourse, we call attention to the fact that it is assumed that other muscles in addition to the biceps benefit from curling, for instance the supinator located in the bend of the elbow, certain muscles of the forearm, and of course the back, lets, and buttocks have to contract in order to maintain the erect position of the body. 

Note: There's a few examples of "nothing new under our 'modern' sun" in this one from 1942. Several modern, renamed "principles" shown to be standard fare for lifters in this era already, and likely before.        

Enjoy Your Lifting!   



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