Barbell bicep curls are a favorite choice for male beach goers - "Sun's out guns out". Bicep curls aren't seen in the strength and conditioning community as a "necessary" lift. They might sneak their way into the end of a training session to help athletes increase hypertrophy and make them look a little more intimidating on the field. There isn't; however, a strength and conditioning coach in the world that would replace Power Cleans with Barbell Curls (and rightfully so,) but what if we change the dynamics of the Barbell Curl to elicit physiologic changes that align more with athletic performance? What if we could increase the amount of power athletes are able to generate during the bicep curl? We think we can!
Traditionally the outcome of barbell curls is myopically focused on hypertrophy. When I think of hypertrophy, I think of reinforcing the muscle and nervous system to perform movements slowly. Sure, there's a time and a place for slower velocities and heavier loads in every training program, but traditionally barbell curls are not seen as being synomous with explosive performance.
Power, on the other hand, is the primary characteristic that sets explosive and dominant athletes apart. When most people think of developing power, they think of plyometric training. Plyometric training is usually reserved for lower body or full body movements. Box jumps, jump squats, power cleans etc., are what you think of when you think about developing power. Upper body plyometrics usually consist of a plyometric push up or some variation thereof, but not much else.
Introducing Rebound Curls:
Rebound what?? Exactly, this movement is relatively unknown. Rebound curls are radical, but not reckless, if performed properly with the right load. They essentially apply a plyometric-like movement to the traditional barbell curl motion.
How To Perform Rebound Curls:
Rebound curls consist of the athlete starting with the bar at the top of the curl movement, releasing his hands from the bar, shooting his hands down to the bottom position of the curl as quickly as possible and catching the load. The athlete then accelerates the bar back the top of the movement as quickly as possible.
Here's what Rebound Curls looks like:
Velocity & Power Production:
Here's a quick look at velocity, power and their relationship.
Velocity: Is the rate at which a object changes position i.e. it moves from one point to another. With Rebound Curls, it's how quickly the bar moves from the bottom of the curl position to the top.
Power: Power = (Force × Distance)/Time
Power, is the ability to apply force very quickly. Speed and force have an inverse relationship; as the speed of a movement increases, the amount of force produced decreases. In order to find the optimal load to maximize power production, an athlete should use a weight that allows for a quick movement but also requires him or her to generate a large amount of force.
Power Production | Standard Barbell Curl vs. Rebound Barbell Curl:
We compared Rebound Curls to Standard Barbell Curls using a 45 lb olympic barbell. We did 3 sets and 6 reps of each variation over 3 separate training sessions, with 5 minutes rest in between each set. We started with a different curl variation each training session and focused on performing each rep as explosively as possible with good form. Here's what we found:
Average vs. Peak Power Outputs:
|EXERCISE:||Avg. Velocity||Avg. Power||Peak Velocity||Peak Power|
|Rebound Barbel Curl||1.13 m/s||361.2 w||1.23 m/s||403 w|
|Standard Barbel Curl||1.00 m/s||243.5 w||1.03 m/s||256 w|
Increasing The Barbell Curl Load:
We were curious to see what would happen to power and velocity if we increased the load of the barbell curl from 45 to 65 lbs. We did 9 sets (same structure as above) with 5 minutes rest in between. Here's what we found:
|EXERCISE||Avg. Velocity||Avg. Power||Peak Velocity||Peak Power|
|Barbell Curl||.77 m/s||229.5 w||.81 m/s||237 m/s|
Interestingly our peak power and velocity dropped across the board. We were thinking that maybe our peak power numbers might be comparable with a heavier load. We increased the amount of force required to move a heavier load, but were not able to move the bar at a fast enough rate to produce competitive average or peak power numbers. Similar to our results with the 45 lb load, we found that peak power was highest on our 4th rep of each set. Hmmm...
Energy System and REST:
Explosive movement are facilitated by the phosphocreatine (ATP-PC) system which provides explosive energy for a few short seconds. To account for this we kept the repetitions to 6 per set and allowed 5 minutes rest in between each set to allow for the phosphocreatine system to properly recover. In hindsight, maybe we should have dropped total reps per set to four.
This was obviously a relatively quick and unoffial study, but nonetheless it produced some pretty interesting findings. From the table above, you can see Rebound Curls produced higher average and peak numbers across the board. Interestingly, we found that power numbers peaked on the fourth repition of each set for both exercises.
Safety & Load With Rebound Curls:
Rebound curls are not designed for athletes who are just begining weight training. Additionally, rebound exercises are not intended to be done with heavy loads. The goal with Rebound exercises is to move quickly and improve power output.
We hope you found this information helpful! As always we're here to help. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out us at [email protected].
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