The Cheat Curl
“Break the rules, not the law, but break the rules. It is impossible to be a maverick or a true original if you’re too well behaved and don’t want to break the rules.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
What Is A Cheat Curl?
The cheat curl is a variation of the biceps curl with slightly more relaxed form, used in order to muscle more weight and overload the biceps.
Cheat curls were made extremely popular by Arnold Schwarzenegger, as these were a staple exercise in his arm training regime during the golden era of bodybuilding.
To the untrained eye it may not look like it, but there’s a big difference between wildly swinging a barbell in an attempt to curl a weight which you would otherwise not be able to move (lifting with your ego) and a proper Arnold style barbell cheat curl.
As per the video embedded above, the cheat curl should NOT be performed on every repetition of your set, if you can’t curl the barbell with strict form for at least the few few repetitions of your set it’s time to lower the weight as the excessive use of momentum and the increased risk of injury you’re subjecting to yourself isn’t worth it.
The cheat curl, the slight use of sway and momentum should be reserved for the last 3 or 4 reps once you’re unable to continue to curl the weight with text book form.
Key Points When Performing The Arnold Cheat Curl
Don’t compromise your lower back, your elbows or your wrists while doing your curls, make sure you:
Maintain A Tight Core
The swinging movement on the cheat curls can place your back in a compromised position when lifting heavy weight, keep your lower back and abdominals tensed while utilizing your shoulders and back to perform the small swing required to get that barbell moving on the last few reps. A relaxed, loose back and core will leave you more susceptible to injury.
Don’t Slam The Weight At The Bottom Of The Rep
As your elbow reaches the locked position at the bottom of your curl don’t allow the force of the barbell to slam against you, this is a sure-fire way to injure yourself while performing the cheat curl, instead slow the momentum of the barbell or stop the movement perform your arms reached that locked out position to mitigate this.
Maintain A Neutral (Straight) Wrist Position Throughout
Twisting your wrist will not only remove the tension from the targeted muscle (biceps) but also place your wrists at greater risk of injury. Keep your wrists in a straight (neutral) position for the duration of your set.
Keep Your Elbows Tucked Into Your Sides
Bringing your elbows forwards and upward during a curl places a great deal of excess stress on your deltoids, although some gym-goers do perform cheat curls using this technique as they claim to get a better contraction I do not recommend this unnecessary movement.
Form Over Weight… Right?
The general rule in the world of bodybuilding is form comes first, once you’ve mastered strict form on an exercise with a moderate weight you can continually increase this weight (so long as form remains strict)for the desired number of repetitions.
That’s all well and good provided you’re progressing…
But what about when your progress comes to a halt?
What about when you’re curling the same weight, week in week out?
This is when the cheat curl comes into play, if you – like me have encountered issues trying to get your biceps to grow in terms of size and strength when they’ve plateaued the cheat curl may just be what you need to kick start that progression once again…
The bottom portion of the biceps curl is without a doubt the hardest, utilization of a miniscule amount of momentum allows us to get the barbell moving past this sticking point, at which time our biceps do the remainder of the working, allowing you to lift heavier weight for an increased number of repetitions by assisting with the point at which your biceps begin the curl.
Progressive Overload Is King (The Big Benefit Of Cheat Curls)
Your biceps (or any muscle group for that matter) grow by the way of progressive overload, progressive overload is the increase in tension on the targeted muscle over time. This is the #1 benefit of the barbell cheat curl – it allows us to increase tension on the muscle by performing additional reps, an additional set or an increase in weight for the same number of reps we’d normally perform at a lighter weight if we were using strict form.
I don’t recommend performing cheat curls every single workout, especially when your biceps are progressing with strict form curls – however understanding what the Arnold cheat curl is and how it works is important as later down the road when you encounter a plateau or struggle to up the weight or repetitions on your curl this may be the tool you need to forge your way forward.