Biceps curls are not intended to work your chest muscles. If your pectoral muscles are sore after doing curls, it is because you are performing curls with improper form. Start by reducing the amount of weight you are using for curls. Then, perform standing curls with your back against a wall or other solid object. Without bending your body forward or backward, perform curls by bending at the elbows only. If you allow your upper arm to come forward, you will recruit muscles in your chest and shoulders which should not be engaged during curls.
What Muscles Do Curls Work?
Bicep curls, as the name implies, mainly work the two biceps muscles in your upper arm. The muscles in your forearm are worked as secondary muscles during curls because they are responsible for gripping the weight.
- The two heads of your biceps are the primary muscles used during curls.
- Several muscles in your forearms are recruited as secondary muscles when you do curls.
- Your chest and shoulders are not worked by doing curls.
Bicep curls are not intended to work the chest, shoulders, triceps, or other upper body exercises. They are an arm isolation exercise. So, curls do not count as a chest exercise.
What Does it Mean if Your Chest is Sore After Curls?
If your chest is sore after doing curls, you’re not doing curls correctly. Typically, a sore chest after curls is caused by improper form when you attempt to curl a very heavy weight. When you attempt to lift this heavier weight, your body will compensate by rounding your shoulders, bringing your upper arms across your body, and engaging muscles in your shoulders and chest.
- Your chest muscles will only be engaged if you are performing curls with improper form.
- Attempting curls with a weight that is too heavy causes you to use your chest and shoulders to perform curls, not your arms.
- Improper curls that target the chest can put you at risk of a lifting injury.
- Your arm muscles are not being properly targeted if bicep curls are engaging your chest muscles.
Performing curls that engage your chest muscles—and make your chest muscles sore—can lead to injury. Improper curling form puts stress on your back, which puts you at a high risk of hurting yourself. Additionally, if curls are working your chest muscles, then they’re not targeting your biceps. Curls that work your chest mean you’re not building strength, tone, and muscle in your arms.
How to Do Proper Curls to Build Arms
The purpose of bicep curls is to build your arm muscles. Other exercises are designed to target and build your chest. In order to take the stress of curls off your chest and build your biceps muscles, follow these steps:
Start with a Low Weight
If your curls have recently been leaving you with sore chest muscles, it’s typically because the weight is too heavy for you to move with your arms alone. In order to target your arm muscles, you need lighter weights. Begin by reducing the weight by 25–50% for your barbell or dumbbell curl.
Perform Standing Curls
In order to make sure you maintain proper form during curls, it’s best to do standing curls. For many, it’s more tempting to bend forward during seated curls, especially during concentration curls and other curl variations. So, whether you are using dumbbells, an EZ curl bar, or a super curl bar, do your curl workout while standing.
Support Your Back
To maintain proper form during curls, stand with your back to a wall or other sturdy, vertical surface. Stand with your arms extended downward, holding the weight. Keep your shoulder blades retracted.
Your shoulder blades and your rear should be touching the wall at all times. This serves as a guide. If your rear or shoulder blades pull away from the wall at any time during curls, you’ll know you’re losing form and not targeting your biceps efficiently.
Bend at the Elbows Only
Begin your curls at a starting position with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms extended down. When you curl the weight up, bend only your elbows to bring the weight up. Your upper arms should remain pinned to your side.
If your upper arms shift forward during the curling movement, you are cheating yourself of a bicep workout. Bringing your upper arms forward takes the strain of curls off your biceps, instead of shifting the workload to your shoulders and chest. This should be avoided.
Control the Downward Movement
Once you curl the weight until your elbows are fully bent, slowly lower your arms again. Do not allow the weight to “drop” downward. The downward movement of the curl should take 3 seconds. By controlling the weight during this eccentric movement, you keep your biceps under tension, leading to a better arm workout with less risk of injury.
How to Work Your Chest Muscles Properly
Because curls are not meant to build your chest muscles, it’s essential to add chest workouts to your routine. If you’re not sure what lifting routine to follow, we recommend the 5×5 program for beginners. Although the bench press is a great chest workout, there are several others. Chest flyes, dips, and push-ups are all fantastic chest workouts.
- Follow a weightlifting program that includes both arm and chest workouts.
- Incorporate bench press, dips, flyes, and push-ups to increase chest muscle.
- Do not rely on curls to build your chest.
By performing proper curls, you’ll build your arm muscles to their fullest potential. Plus, you’ll save the energy in your chest muscles for chest-specific exercises. This will keep you free from injury and help you build your best physique.
Do Bicep Curls Build Chest Muscles?
If your chest is sore after performing bicep curls, keep these facts in mind:
- Curls are meant to target your biceps muscle, not your chest.
- If your chest is sore after doing curls, your curl form is incorrect.
- Curling with improper form robs you of a good arm workout that builds bicep muscles.
- Curls that recruit your chest muscles can lead to injury.
- Focus on performing proper curls to build arm muscles.
- Use chest-specific exercises such as bench press and push-ups to work out your chest.
Curls are a great arm-building exercise, but if you don’t pay attention to your form, you can accidentally target chest or shoulder muscles instead of the arm muscles you want to build. By practicing good curl form, you’ll get the most from your time in the gym.