Biceps curls do not work your triceps significantly. During curls, your biceps are responsible for bringing the weight upward as you bend your elbow. Your biceps are also responsible for controlling the weight as you slowly straighten your arms. In order to work your triceps, you must perform pushing exercises. Bodyweight exercises like push-ups and dips work your triceps. Overhead triceps extensions, rope push-downs, and skullcrushers are incredible triceps isolation exercises that can be performed with weights.
Why Don’t Curls Work Your Triceps?
Your triceps are not significantly activated by “pulling” exercises such as curls. This is because biceps are the muscles responsible for bending your arm at the elbow. So, adding resistance to this bending motion (called elbow flexion) works the biceps. Curls add resistance to elbow flexion, so they are primarily a biceps exercise. Pull-ups and rows also activate the biceps and do not work the triceps much.
- Your biceps are the muscles responsible for bending the elbow.
- Curls add resistance to the elbow bending (flexion) movement.
- The primary muscles used during curls are the biceps.
- Your triceps are not fully engaged during curls.
- To work the triceps, add resistance to elbow extension movements.
Your triceps are responsible for elbow extension (straightening your arm when it is bent). So, any exercise that adds resistance to this arm-straightening motion will work your triceps. In addition to tricep-specific exercises, movements such as push-ups, bench press, and overhead press work your triceps.
What are the Benefits of Curls?
Curls are extremely beneficial for building bigger, stronger biceps. Depending on what type of curls you do, you can also use the exercise to build some muscle in your forearms. So, curls are a biceps isolation exercise when they are performed with proper form. They are not intended to work your triceps or leave you with a sore chest after curls.
- Bigger, stronger biceps.
- Stronger forearms, if you perform curls with a reverse grip.
- Increase your ability to do pull-ups, rows, and similar pulling-motion exercises.
When you do curls regularly—by following a workout program with adequate sets and reps—you will build strength and muscle mass in your biceps. Strong biceps will also help increase your performance at rows, pull-ups, chin-ups, and other “pulling” exercises.
Why Do Your Triceps Hurt When You Do Biceps Curls?
Your triceps may hurt during biceps curls due to tendinitis in your elbow. Repetitive motions during pushing exercises, such as bench press, can cause elbow and triceps pain from tendonitis. Then, the minimal activation of the triceps during curls can aggravate these symptoms, causing pain.
- Tendinitis from repeated bending and elbow straightening can lead to elbow and triceps pain.
- Curls can aggravate triceps tendinitis.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome can be aggravated by gripping weight for curls, which leads to pain in the elbow.
Another explanation for triceps pain during curls is carpal tunnel syndrome. Gripping heavy weights for curls can aggravate the nerves in your arm if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. This can then create pain in your elbow and triceps.
Can You Work Your Triceps With a Curl Bar?
Whether you’re using a Super Curl Bar or an EZ Curl Bar, you can achieve a great triceps workout with a curl bar. One of the best exercises, in this case, is skullcrushers. For this exercise, lay on your back on a bench. Then, hold the curl bar so it is just above your head with your arms bent. Straighten your arm to move the weight. You’ll feel the burn in your triceps.
- Curl bars are excellent for several triceps exercises.
- Use a curl bar to perform skullcrushers as demonstrated in this tutorial video.
- A curl bar is the best choice for performing close-grip bench press—a great triceps exercise.
Close-grip bench press is another incredible triceps workout that is best performed with a curl bar. To do this lift, simply grip the curl bar with arms shoulder-weight apart. Then, follow the tips in our close-grip bench press guide. The curl bar is a great choice for close-grip bench because it is much easier to balance a shorter bar during this exercise, instead of a full-length barbell.
What is the Best Triceps Workout?
There are several triceps exercises that are far more beneficial than curls, but there is not one single “best” triceps workout. In addition to skullcrushers and close-grip bench press, use dips, rope pulldowns, and overhead triceps extensions to isolate your triceps muscles for an intense arm workout.
- There are several exercises that could be considered top-tier triceps exercises.
- Skullcrushers and close-grip bench press are excellent triceps exercises that can be performed with a curl bar or dumbbells.
- Use rope pulldowns and dips for triceps isolation.
- Incorporate bench press, push-ups, and overhead press to work your triceps as you build your chest and shoulders.
You don’t need to perform solely isolation exercises to build stronger triceps. Exercises that add resistance to elbow extension (straightening your arm) will activate your triceps muscles. Bench press, overhead press, and push-ups all work the triceps as a secondary muscle group. If the exercise requires a “pushing” motion, then it will most likely work your triceps.
Do Bicep Curls Also Work Your Triceps?
There are many misconceptions about bicep curls and the muscles they work. Here are the facts:
- The triceps are not meaningfully worked by bicep curls.
- Curls are a “pulling” motion that works the biceps.
- “Pushing” motions activate the triceps muscles.
- Close-grip bench, rope pulldowns, skullcrushers, and dips are triceps-focused exercises.
- Bench press, overhead press, and push-ups work the triceps as secondary muscles.
- If you are experiencing pain in your triceps during curls, it may be due to tendinitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.
There is nothing wrong with doing curls, but do not expect this exercise to build muscle in your triceps. In order to target your triceps for increases in size and strength, incorporate non-curl exercises into your workout program.