Curling in the Squat Rack – Ultimate Arm Day

June 24, 2015


Arm day like squat day is a holy one. Under thee squat rack to punish thy fibra musculus… The difference between the two is “Squat Day” is for powerlifters and “Arm Day” is for bodybuilders #amirite. Or is it? Can you be big without brute force or strong without muscular size? There isn’t such thing as hypertrophic isolation to target specifically sarcoplasmic or myofibrillar growth. Skills can be trained and motor unit recruitment developed but in the end bodybuilders, and powerlifters can learn much from each other. So can we all just get along and curl in the same squat rack? Renegade Training Founder John Davies explains how the squat rack became a curl station, and how to see greater results when training arms; no matter your goals.


“The great irony of the entire ‘curling in the squat racks’ issue is that stems not from new entrants into modern physical culture but the experienced big guns from the iron games rich past. The habit was only natural within the iron game dungeons long ago where the top lifters in any gym knew that champions were built in the squat racks and tended to gravitate to their domain when it was time to train arms. This, however, was not for the beginners or intermediate level but where 225 rang out loud and clear. They knew what they were doing and would back it up with cold metal.




So how did the habit of ‘curling in squat racks’ occur? Simply, great lifters training with very heavy loads at remarkably high-intensity levels and not being able to remotely lower the bar to the floor safely after a blood pumping set. I can remember in my own youth, an iron legend, asking to work in with me as I performed hang cleans with 225 from blocks and watching with respect as he hammered through a long set of barbell curls. Respect owed and respect given.


If you wish to build bigger, more powerful arms that will undeniably assist with compound movements there is a simple approach that works, and has since the early days of the iron game but be forewarned, this is only for the most dedicated:


  • Curl with the biceps, not the back. Pin the shoulders back and down, and curl the weight such as the fist draws straight back in line with the deltoids.


  • Grip Big results often come via the smallest changes and that certainly is the case with biceps training as by lifting the small finger off the bar the response is astounding. Pinkie off the bar and ignites bicep growth.


  • Vary angles of movement, whether by using an adjustable bench for triceps extensions or biceps curls this will have a pronounced effect on muscular stimulation.


  • Balance all arm training, ensuring significant effort towards forearms and of course the triceps which constitutes a broad majority of the upper arm.


  • Tension– time under tension is one of the most important approaches within resistance training yet typically avoided given its brutality. It’s the difference between a few fair reps and enduring say a jaw grinding set of 12 with perfect technical form.


  • Peak contraction alternatively termed as ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment. It is a satirical joke now I am sad to say, but there was a time when you really did ‘feel the burn’ and push through every mind numbing rep. When you always want the ‘one more rep’ you’re on your way to goal.


  • Focus upon the eccentric action with perfect form will radically improve muscular response. This understanding gave rise to a number of theories, such as ‘forced reps’ and ‘negatives’.


Ultimate-T Arm Training


Standing Barbell Bicep Curl 3 x 12
Drag Curl 3 x 12
Scott Curl 3 x 12
Alternating Dumbbell Curl 3 x 12
Alternating Incline Dumbbell Curl 3 x 12


Dumbbell Triceps Extension 3 sets x 12, 10, 8
Standing Dumbbell French Presses 3 x 8
Dumbbell Triceps Extension (decline bench 45° angle) 3 sets x 12, 10, 8
Bench Dips (weighted as needed) 3 sets x 8
Zottman Curls 4 sets x 12
Forearm Curls (preferably thick straight bar) 4 sets x 12


Explanation of Exercises


  • Standing Barbell Bicep Curl– The classic barbell curl with hands shoulder-width apart, keep elbows tucked in and just as fists come to shoulder, rotate elbows up slightly as you begin the contraction.
  • Drag Curl– With a straight bar, pull the bar upwards along the abdomen, as high as possible on the chest by pulling elbows back with a modest lean forward. At the top of the lift, squeeze (flex) the biceps for a ‘two to three count’ and lower with control at tempo three times the speed of raising the load.
  • Scott Curl– With a 45° angle bench, perform single arm dumbbell curls. When performing the curl, ensure hand comes directly over the shoulder and do not twist upper body or allow your hand to drift off course. At the top of the lift, squeeze (flex) the biceps for a ‘two to three count’ and then lower with control at tempo three times the speed of concentric action.
  • Alternating Dumbbell Curl– Hold a dumbbell with the forefinger on the lower part the handle. With palms facing thighs, curl right dumbbell up, looking towards fist while slowly turning palm up and bending to the right with hand to the right (outside) of deltoids at the peak position. Squeeze the biceps for a two to three count, turn head to the opposite (left) side and start curling action with the other arm while simultaneously lowering the dumbbell in right hand.
  • Alternating Incline Dumbbell Curl– Lying with your back on a 45° angle bench, perform the dumbbell curl as above.


These subtle additions to your training will not only assist in your arm development goals but further efforts in compound movements. Finally, no athlete will reach their potential if they fail to main a nutritious diet and supplement accordingly.


ModernBCAA+, AminoLIFT and ModernPROTEIN should be included on each athletes training table.


The future is what you make, #BeUltimate and #LiveModern.”


TEAM USPlabs Anthony Thomas


Prepared by John Davies


Follow John on Twitter


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of USPlabs or any employee thereof. Examples used within this article are only examples. USPlabs is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the authors of this article. Content contributors are not employees of USPlabs. Authors may have been remunerated by USPlabs.


The information provided in this article, as well as this web-site blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice for any condition. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. By reading this disclaimer, you hereby agree and understand that the information provided in this column is not medical advice and relying upon it shall be done at your sole risk.

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