When it comes to targeting smaller muscles such as the biceps, the tempo at which we do bicep curls, whether it's fast or slow, can have a huge impact on the quality of the progress that we make.
So, is it better to do bicep curls fast or slow? Compared to faster repetitions, there is always a place in programming for slow bicep curls, as they can put the biceps under stress for a longer duration, which can ultimately lead to more effective bicep gains.
In the following article I will:
- Help you decide whether you should be training bicep curls fast or slow
- Discuss the pros and cons of training bicep curls fast or slow
- Cover whether training bicep curls fast or slow is more difficult; and
- Tell you who should do bicep curls fast or slow.
Bicep Curls Fast Or Slow: An Overview
Specifically, when we look at the bicep, we need to know the function it plays in our training and why we would want to train it fast or slow:
The actions of the bicep are elbow flexion (bend) and supination (external rotation) of the forearm.
Biceps are most helpful as assistance muscles during vertical and horizontal pulling motions. However, bicep involvement can be somewhat limited, as the lats or back muscles tend to take the entirety of the loading.
For this reason, bicep function is less important than when it comes to looks, which growth and aesthetics would then benefit more from slower tempos.
Fast Bicep Curls
Fast bicep curls can place very limited stress on the bicep muscles, because we are achieving high velocity contractions, which are very limiting when it comes to time under tension. This can be beneficial however if we are trying to get either a lot of volume in or trying to improve bicep power output.
By decreasing the loading, and increasing the velocity at which we do bicep curls, we can therefore increase total volume and explosiveness in our bicep muscles.
Reasons To Do Bicep Curls Fast
Build Bicep Explosiveness
This can be beneficial for when we initiate a pulling movement, such as a chin up or an underhanded row. Being explosive in pulling movements can have direct carry over to exercises such as the bench press and the deadlift.
Limited On Time
If you are limited on time, doing bicep curls at a fast rate can be an effective option for implementing a greater amount of repetitions with less time into your training. Volume can be a main driver for bicep size and strength gains.
Drawbacks of Doing Bicep Curls Fast
Less Time Under Tension
Time under tension seems to be the most effective way of targeting the biceps. If we are doing faster reps, we would need to do a greater amount of repetitions to achieve similar time under tension. It can be more difficult to do more repetitions with less time, meaning that more work might be necessary in achieving similar progress as slow reps.
Can Be Rushed
Especially with novices, faster reps can potentially lead to repetitions that are less in quality. Quality reps can lead to more effective learning of the movement, and targeting of the biceps with growth as a result. Slower repetitions are a better tool for learning and achieving more effective repetitions.
Related Article: Why Can’t I Straighten My Arm After Workouts (Cause & Fixes)
Slow Bicep Curls
Slower tempos are greater for building control and time under tension with any movement, even bicep curls. Novices especially, can incorporate slow bicep curls to learn movement patterns.
Whether it be the lowering or the upward phase, the bicep curl can be slowed in tempo to increase the difficulty and time under tension.
Reasons To Do Bicep Curls Slow
Greater Time Under Tension
Time under tension is a driver for bicep development and growth. By adding a three second lowering to slow the bicep down, we can increase fatigue which ultimately leads to more growth in the long run.
Novices and intermediate gym goers can struggle with achieving technical proficiency with bicep curls. Slowing bicep curls down can be an effective teaching method which can result in long term results.
Can Be Done With Any Bicep Curl
Slower repetitions are a fairly versatile modification that can be used on any variation of bicep curl. In fact, you can increase the difficulty of any bicep curl by implementing a controlled lowering.
Drawbacks of Doing Bicep Curls Slow
Takes More Time
In contrast with faster repetitions, slower bicep curls take much longer to achieve equal amounts of volume. While volume is a main driver for progress, it will take more time to equalize tempo reps with the amount of typical reps one would do.
Greater Perceived Pain
Perceived pain is typically what keeps novices – intermediate lifters away from the gym. Although slower reps might be more beneficial for progress, they can be a huge deterrent for those that are less tolerant towards experiencing pain.
Check out our bicep training guides:
- How Do Powerlifters Train Arms? 3 Powerlifting Arm Workouts
- Blood Flow Restriction Training For Arms (Complete Guide)
- 7 Best Arm Blasters For Bigger Biceps
Is It Harder To Do Bicep Curls Fast or Slow?
Slower bicep curls are much harder to do than fast bicep curls. This is due to greater time under tension which will in turn lead to greater perceived pain upon completion of a set. Greater perceived pain from slow bicep curls can lead to greater difficulty throughout the entirety of a set.
Fast Bicep Curls Examples
Banded Bicep Curls
The elastic nature of the bands adds to the necessity to do these curls fast. Additionally, to get a stimulus a higher repetition count must be reached. These are a great option if your goal is to do fast bicep curls.
Banded Barbell Bicep Curls
The incorporation of a barbell adds to total bicep strength and explosiveness. With the straight bar, you can move both biceps through an equal range of motion and speed to build even more bicep curl speed.
EZ Bar 21’s
For twenty one total repetitions, you must move at a faster pace to achieve all the repetitions. This exercise is a great way to build volume, which in turn can lead to greater growth in the biceps.
Slow Bicep Curl Examples
Eccentric Supinated Curls
Supinated curls target the muscles of the forearm, while targeting both heads of the biceps. By slowing down the movement we can achieve greater time under tension, while targeting the musculature of the biceps.
Slow Barbell Curls
Barbell curls can be loaded to a greater degree, and controlled more effectively by both arms. Incorporate slow barbell curls as a form of basework for strengthening and creating more defined biceps.
Slow Preacher Curls
By taking out the torso, the preacher curls isolate the biceps to a greater degree. For this reason, slowing this movement down can be an effective slow bicep curl option for improving your bicep routine.
Who Should Do Bicep Curls Fast or Slow?
Do Fast Bicep Curls If
- If you are short on time at the gym
- If your goal is to hit a higher repetition count
- You want to increase explosiveness in the biceps
Do Slow Bicep Curls If
- Your goal is to build muscle
- You’re a novice – intermediate lifter looking to improve curl ability
- You have less available weights
- You want something to supplement your current bicep program
The tempo at which you do bicep curls will depend on your goals. In my opinion, slower bicep curls are more effective in a greater variety of settings. However, by pushing volume and explosiveness, faster bicep curls can be a great option as well. As always, incorporate a variety of banded, barbell, machine, and dumbbell variations to get proper development of the biceps.
Got other questions related to your bicep training? Check out:
- Does Bench Press Work Biceps?
- How To Fix Bicep Pain During Bench Press (5 Tips)
- Is It Okay To Bicep Curls Every Day?
- Is It Better To Do Bicep Curls Standing or Sitting?
- How To Even Out Biceps If One Is Bigger Than The Other
- Is It Better To Do Bicep Curls One At A Time?
- Blood Flow Restriction Training For Arms (Complete Guide)
- How Do Powerlifters Train Arms? (3 Powerlifting Arm Workouts)
- Is it Better To Do Bicep Curls Standing or Sitting?
- What Else Should I Do On Biceps Day? (4 Examples)
- 9 Best Preacher Curl Alternatives (With Pictures)
About The Author
Javad Bakhshinejad was born and raised in the Washington Area. Currently, he is a student at Seattle University where he’s been pursuing an MS in Kinesiology, and has been a Strength Coach in the athletic department. He was a competitive bodybuilder for 8 years where he later transitioned to competitive powerlifting for 4 years. Currently, He has his own personal coaching business, where he works with powerlifters and bodybuilders.