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Ever since I finished the Train Like Arnold Challenge earlier this year, I’ve been finding new ways to challenge myself and improve. One of those ways is through powerlifting. I’m preparing for my first meet in a few weeks. Besides the basic squat, bench, and deadlift, I’m also training in the strict curl which has its own events as well, made popular by weightlifting legend C.T. Fletcher.
For those that don’t know, the strict curl calls for the lifter to have their head, back, and butt against a wall. The lifter then takes the barbell or EZ-curl bar and waits for the judge to give the start command. The lifter then curls the bar for a single rep while the head, back, and butt all maintain contact with the wall. If any of those three points come away from the wall, the lift is no good. Once the weight is curled, the judge then calls for the lifter to lower the weight, then return it to the rack or floor. The three judges then determine whether the attempt was successful or not. Like in the traditional lifts, the weight must be going in the right direction, and it can’t come down unless the judge gives the down command.
The best way to train for the strict curl is to do it, a lot. While putting in reps one day, I inadvertently came up with a method that helped me get stronger on the strict curl. My final set on curls would traditionally be a max set of five reps. One day, I went to perform this set, but I only had three reps in me. Even though it was frustrating, I wanted to make the most out of the set, so I stepped away from the post that I use for my wall and performed a couple more sets of basic curls. I failed again before I wanted to, so that made me even more frustrated, and I did a few cheat curls by using momentum to get the weight up, then lowering it slowly. I then moved on with my session.
After the workout was over, I thought more about that set and realized that I may have found a way to break a plateau. I had been stuck at 115 pounds for my max single for several weeks. I decided I would try to do a set like the one I did that day for my next few strict curl sessions. I choose a weight that feels like a five-rep max, and I do the following.
I put 12.5 pounds on my curl in a month. I went from 115 pounds to 127.5. At a bodyweight of 255 pounds, I was strict curling half of my bodyweight. You can see the lift for yourself in the video below.
That is not a major accomplishment for many elite lifters, but I will take it with gratitude. I was prepared to share my curling hack with the world, but I realized that it would be wise to get the validation of someone who knows a thing or two about the strict curl, C.T. Fletcher.
I’ve been blessed to work with C.T. on different articles in the past, so I reached out to ask him about this method of training, and I was quite proud of myself when he said that he liked what I was doing.
“I think it’s an excellent approach. I like how you’re working the strict curl in and doing more because that’s the only way you’ll get better at it.” he said. “But there are a couple of more things you can do on top of that.”
By this point, I’m all ears. The man who commands his muscles to grow was about to offer advice on how he became one of the greatest curlers of all time. The first tip he offered was to add more of another exercise he became famous for, the preacher curl.
“The key to the strict curl is that you have to increase the strength of the biceps, and preacher curls are strictly arms. You’re not using anything else.” Fletcher likes using the straight bar for preacher curls, but of course he doesn’t mind dumbbells, either. He curled 100-pound weights for reps in one of his most famous videos.
“Preacher curls will help you get stronger and bigger biceps.”
The other wasn’t a physical hack. It was a mental one.
“I don’t think anyone talks about this or even considers it. One of the best things I ever did was eliminate the wall in my head,” he explained. In other words, he would imagine himself simply curling while standing, even though he was against the wall. He did this so much that being against the wall was second nature to him. He never had to think about maintaining the three points of contact because it was automatic.
“It becomes second nature, and you’ll get stronger from it.”
If you want to try a sample workout with these tips to get bigger and stronger biceps, try this routine below.
C.T. also credited using old-school weights, better known as “pig iron” for helping him lay the foundation for his incredible career. He’s been working to create his own line of pig iron so he can pass that foundation down to the next generation, like his son Samson, who’s been carrying on his legacy on the platform.
“He’s got another meet in the next couple of months, I think.”
Fletcher also has a supplement line in development that he hopes to share more about in the near future. For more information, go to www.ctfletcher.com.