Arm Exercise: The C-Curl

What is it for?

The C-curl like any biceps exercise is to improve the strength and tone of your biceps muscle (high lighted in red in the diagram – .). There are not too many ways to train the biceps and so this makes the C-curl a good exercise to add to your arm repertoire. The C-curl brings together the two most popular biceps exercises: the hammer curl and the standard biceps curl. From the diagram you can see that it is the muscle positioned on the front of our upper arm highlighted in red in Fig.1. The biceps’ main job is to bend your lower arm up at your elbow. It is also used to aid the movement of bringing your arm straight up at the shoulder joint and last but not least to supinate your lower arm, which means with your elbow at 90 degrees and your palm facing down it helps turn your palm to face upwards. If you try this you should be able to see the biceps shorten.

And why do it?

By combining the hammer curl and the standard biceps curl we get the arm to function in a slightly different way. Unlike the hammer curl and the standard biceps curl the C-curl allows you to complete a fuller range of movement from the biceps. This means you get more work from the biceps than you would from the other two exercises. However this does not mean that this exercise is actually better than the other two, merely that it is different and should become part of your workout routine. Remember, to get the best results from our body we have to keep varying the exercises as it is this that will maximise the benefits from the exercise.


For this exercise you can use the old tin can or bag of unopened sugar. If that does not push you enough then you need some good old dumbbells. Make sure you choose a weight that you can complete a perfect technique with and not one that is too heavy for you and will result in you cheating. The best way to avoid this is to use a mirror and stand sideways to it so that you can notice any problems.


The C-curl is very similar to the biceps curl and the hammer curl in basic movement. The main difference comes from the movement at the wrist.

Start in the same position as you would with the hammer curl, with your palms facing in towards your body and with the dumbbells held firmly in your hands. Before you begin the movement you should be aware that the body loves to cheat and it does so in nearly all biceps exercises in one of two ways. The first is the shoulder shrug and the second is the back swing. These both tend to manifest themselves if you have selected a weight that is too heavy, so careful weight selection is paramount.

Avoid these movements:

Shoulder Shrug: The shoulder rises up to aid the movement

The Body Swing: The whole upper body swings backwards to try and will the weights up.

If you don’t do this exercise with perfect technique you will not train the muscles fully and therefore will not get the most from your biceps as other muscles will be being trained at the same time. More importantly the muscles that are trying to help are too small and weak for this exercise and so serious injury is a real concern. Be careful!

And Now for the Perfect Technique…

Now you know what not to do we shall get into what you should be doing. Before commencing the exercise you should draw your stomach in by sucking your tummy button in (like you’re at the beach – .). This helps activate your core which will help you keep good technique throughout and protect any possible injuries (to learn more about your core and its importance please click here). Now you are ready to get those weights moving.

Standing side-on to the mirror start raising the weights upwards by bending your arm at the elbow, making sure that your shoulders do not shrug and you are not arching your back. As your hand passes half way (so that your elbow is at 90 degrees – .) start to rotate your wrist so that your palm is facing upwards and into your shoulder by the end of the movement. Don’t get to halfway and just turn your wrist and then carry on the rest of the movement; it should be a fluid movement that is carried out from the half way point and is completed at the top of the movement.

Slow and controlled

Once you have reached the top it is time to come down again. The temptation is to just relax and let the arm come plummeting down back by your side. Don’t do this as you will lose the maximum benefits of this exercise. Reverse the movement for the downward position by rotating your wrist sideways to face inwards and keep the movement slow and controlled taking at least 2 seconds to return back to the starting position.

The diagram

Personal Trainer Malta the C-curl biceps exercise

In the diagram I have tried to show the movement as clearly as possible. You should also note that the body does not change position and no swinging or shrugging of the shoulder has taken place. This may mean you have to pick a lighter weight than you wanted to, but the benefits from doing the exercise correctly will far outweigh this (excuse the pun – .).

The Do’s

Complete the movement slowly
Start with your palms facing inwards
Finish with your palms facing your body
Breathe in a slow controlled manner
Keep your body upright
Pick a weight that pushes you but still allows you to keep a good technique
Keep your stomach muscles drawn in and firm
Always return to the exact start position
The Don’ts

Don’t swing the shoulders
Don’t shrug your shoulders
Don’t swing your body
Don’t lean backwards
Don’t hold your breath
Don’t pick a weight that is too heavy
Don’t curl your wrists
Don’t stop half way through the movement to twist the wrists, keep it fluid!
In your Program

The C-curl Curl is a good exercise to add to your workout. There are many ways that it can be added and many different combinations of sets and repetitions to achieve different goals. Make sure that the C-Curl comes towards the end of your workout if you are doing a full body workout. As a rule the larger muscles should come before the smaller muscles (there are exceptions but I will cover that another time). For example, legs come before chest and back, and these should come before shoulders. Shoulders come before arms, which in turn come before abs. If you follow this rule you should always have enough energy for the bigger muscles.

And a Warning…

Biceps exercises are one of the safest exercises that are out there as long as you don’t pick a weight that is too heavy. By picking that heavy weight you are exercising other muscles as well as the biceps, which means the emphasis is taken off the biceps and the results will be less effective than if you chose a weight where you can keep a perfect technique.

Good luck with this exercise and your fitness journey. Remember, above all, be safe!