If you lift weights and you're focused on building your arm size and strength, you probably have a whole arsenal of curling exercises you use to chase a pump. From standard dumbbell biceps curls to hammer curls with EZ bar 21s, there's a long list to choose from to round out your upper body training and push your shirt sleeves to their limits.
But if you're only reaching for free weights like dumbbells and barbells, you're limiting the full potential of your biceps development. Step up to a cable machine (or even tie off a resistance band to a sturdy anchor) and mix it up with an exercise that will challenge your biceps in a different way: the crucifix curl.
"Every so often, you want to make sure to mix up your biceps training and get some isolation training in there, so you can get a very deep contraction, you can do it from a different angle, and with a lighter weight," says Men's Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. "It's really going to isolate you and challenge a lot more shoulder and core stability than you might think."
In order to make the most of the movement, though, you can't just walk up to the cable machine and let it rip. Your positioning is key to success here—so take note of the demonstration from Samuel and Men's Health fitness editor Brett Williams, N.A.S.M. "The key to the crucifix curl is understanding all that stability and putting your body and your biceps in a position to be successful," Samuel says.
How to Do the Crucifix Curl
Take a Knee and Set Up Right
Samuel loves the crucifix curl because you'll be able to get your core involved in the movement, while allowing yourself to challenge your shoulder stability by getting your arm position out away from your torso. Rather than standing up, take on the crucifix curl in a tall kneeling position.
As you assume your position on the ground, make sure to set up your cable machine at the right position. That means that your cable is set at a level where you're holding it with your elbow slightly lower than your shoulder. "You're going to see a lot of people wind up in this position where the elbow is higher than the shoulder—that is a very challenging stretch for your biceps and it's also really starting to challenge that shoulder joint in a way that we don't have to to get the most out of this curl.
Keep a Strong Wrist
Make sure that you use good form for the actual curl. That means maintaining a strong wrist position, which allows you to completely isolate your biceps without bringing your shoulder joint into the equation. Make sure to keep your elbow in line with your shoulder throughout the rep.
You also want to keep your biceps as the prime mover here, without allowing your elbow to drift inward and bringing your chest into the equation.
Build a Wall
Samuel has a solid mind hack to use in order to keep your form strong. Imagine that there's a wall directly in front of you, and don't allow any part of your body to shift out of position to touch the wall as you're working.
From there, square up your torso, then only move at the elbow to curl straight in. Emphasise your biceps squeeze for up to two seconds, then return to the starting position. Keep your torso, glutes, and shoulder blades tight as you work.
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