Ahh, the biceps. Have there been a more written, spoken, and trained muscle group than the biceps? The biceps curl is a right-of-passage exercise for all gym rookies. You wander over to the dumbbell rack, grab a pair, and bust out rep after rep till your biceps bust apart you shirt sleeves.

There are countless bicep curl variations out there using various tools, angles, and body positions, but dollars to donuts, many of you haven’t seen this one. Strength coach Lee Boyce, a 16-year certified strength and conditioning specialist and world-class author, has something special for you, the banded curls.

Boyce is a former university-level sprinter and long jumper who has worked with various clients, from actors to professional athletes. But now he prefers to spend most of his time training general population clients.

With Boyce’s banded curls variation, you’ll add a mini-band to a dumbbell biceps curl to stretch your biceps to new lengths.

Lee Boyce’s Banded Curls

“Bicep curls are beneficial because they help increase the strength of the upper arm, lower arm, and grip. These will have a valuable translation to day-to-day tasks; not only are curls for more aesthetically pleasing arms,” explains Boyce.

Biceps curls are for much more than vanity. Because the biceps muscle has two heads, one originating on the shoulder blade and the other just above the shoulder joint, they assist the rotator cuff with shoulder stability. As they attach to the shoulder, the biceps help with shoulder flexion to strengthen the anterior delts.

But wait, there is more. The scapula stabilizing muscles (upper back and lats) are engaged isometrically to prevent the shoulders from rolling forward when performing curls. The version here will soup that up even more.

Lastly, having a stronger grip and biceps will assist you with all your chin.-ups, pull-ups, and row variations. Because you are only as strong as your weakest link, and you don’t want that to be your biceps, correct?

Banded Curl Benefits

“The banded curl forces the upper arm’s external rotators (Rotator Cuff & Teres Minor) to work simultaneously with the biceps due to the outward tension on the band around the wrists. The addition of the band will double down on posture and keep the lift more honest to a lifter’s ability when the strict form is put into practice. The rear and mid deltoids will get additionally taxed along with the biceps.” says Boyce.

You are working more muscle than just the biceps. Where do you sign?

Banded Curl Form Tips

Note: Although Lee is performing with his back to the mirror, it is best to face the mirror to admire your handiwork.

  • Stand tall, place a light mini-band around your wrists, and hold a pair of lighter-than-normal dumbbells, five to ten pounds less than usual.
  • Good upright posture (shoulders down, chest up) is vital to keep the tension in the mini-band and perform these curls while constantly stretching the band.
  • A good landmark to keep the constant tension is to keep the dumbbells wider than the hips and thighs during all parts of the rep. That will indicate that the band is being stretched and maintaining tension.
  • Keep that tension through the bottom or top-end ranges.

Programming Suggestion

Boyce suggests doing three to four sets of 10-15 reps, ideally as a later movement in your workout.