Q: What makes French curls so "indispensable" to triceps workouts?
French curls, technically known as triceps extensions, are the best movement ever devised for maximizing the combined effects of mass building and isolation in the triceps complex. Other classic exercises for tris carry an either/or limitation: They're either great mass builders or superb isolators, but not both.
< WHY FRENCH CURLS? >
Close-grip benches are the best exercise for building overall mass in the complete triceps muscle group, but when it comes to separating and defining the triceps heads, a close grip is of little value because bench presses are a compound movement that involves your shoulders and pecs as well.
Conversely, strict isolation exercises--such as one-arm extensions, kickbacks and cable pushdowns--enable you to develop specific muscle heads, but do not build overall triceps mass.
French curls combine the best of both worlds. As a two-arm movement, utilizing a cambered bar or a barbell, they employ the overall mass-building principle of basic free weights and, since you are pressing the bar overhead by bending only at your elbows, your triceps alone are involved--which means all of your power is focused into the three heads of each triceps.
< HOW TO FRENCH CURL >
I prefer to do my French curls while seated, with my back braced. This gives me enough stability to handle enormous weight, yet allows me to focus all of that weight into my triceps muscles themselves.
The seatback can be inclined slightly. I make sure my entire back is flush against the pad. You may use a straight or a cambered bar. In either case, keep your elbows pointed upward, alongside your head; do not allow them to tilt forward or backward during the exercise. The only movement should be in your elbows, never in your shoulders. Your grip can be either thumbs over or thumbs under, whichever is more comfortable.
Start the movement at full extension overhead, but make sure you tighten as you lower the bar to the back of your head, feeling your triceps compress as you go. At the bottom, they should feel drum tight. Important: Do not relax at this point.
Now, reverse the movement by focusing only on contracting your triceps muscles to press the bar back to arms' length overhead. Get a peak contraction in your triceps at the top by crimping out an extra squeeze when they're under full stress.
Remember: Tighten as you lower the bar, and gradually feed in the power as you press it back to the top.
< WHEN TO FRENCH CURL >
I use alternating workouts for each bodypart, so that consecutive workouts for that bodypart are composed of different exercises, for different effects on the muscle group. For triceps, however, French curls are so important that I include them in every triceps workout for weeks at a time. They're equally effective in straight sets, supersets or giant sets.
REUBEN BAJADA'S FRENCH TWIST TRICEP WORKOUT
|DAY ||EXERCISE || REPS || SETS |
| Monday|| Seated Cambered Bar French Curls || 12 || 4 |
| Monday || Seated Dumbbell Extensions || 12 || 4 |
| Monday || Close Grip Bench Press || 12 || 4 |
| || || || |
| Wednesday || Lying Cambered Bar Extensions || 12 || 4 |
| Wednesday || Tricep Dips || 12 || 4 |
| Wednesday || Straight Bar French Curls || 12|| 4 |
| || || || |
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