Pause on Your Bicep Curl 21s Workouts to Build Bigger Arm Muscles

No matter what classic bodybuilding exercise you can think of, there’s a likely chance it can be traced back in some way to the sport’s GOAT, Arnold Schwarzenegger. In this instance we’re talking about that very popular arm-pump finisher called “21s,” a protocol Schwarzenegger often incorporated in his biceps routine.

For those not completely familiar with this dumbbell curl variation—which utilizes both full and partial reps to maximize blood flow to your biceps to give you an Olympia-size pump—it goes like this: Starting with hands fully extended at your sides, perform seven partial reps from the bottom to the midpoint of the lift, when your forearms become parallel with the floor. From there, do seven more reps from the midpoint to the top, before finishing with seven full reps.

If done properly, your arms should be torched by the time you reach rep 21, with your biceps especially screaming. But oftentimes, because it is such a taxingly tedious move, guys get sloppy in the final sprint of full reps and fail to reach the 21’s total potential.

How to Get More From Your 21s

“There’s just no discipline in the way they’re done, people rush through them,” says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.. “And as a result, they don’t get the biceps pump they should, and they don’t develop the mind muscle connection that they really can.”

It may seem like biceps blasphemy to tweak a move Schwarzenegger worked to perfection, but this quick curl correction—what Samuel calls a Pause Biceps Curl 21—will extend the work time for this set to allow you to maximize your biceps pump. That should be your main focus when you’re including something like 21s in your training, after all.

How to Do Pause Biceps Curl 21s

To improve your biceps-ballooning mechanics, Samuel suggests these fixes:

  • To start, curl from the position to midpoint, then pause for a split second after each rep.
  • From midpoint to the top position, once again pause for a brief moment, Bottom to midpoint, squeeze and pause for a split second before returning to parallel.
  • When your forearms reach parallel, focus on turning your palms to the ceiling.
  • Finally, curl all the way up, and lower and pause when your arms reach parallel before lowering completely. This sequence ensures you hit both functions of your biceps, flexing your forearms and rotating your pinkies toward the ceiling to complete the full range of motion.

    “By working this way and adding these pauses,” he says. “Your set is going to take longer and you’re going to have to go lighter, but you’re going to get a much more vicious pump out of this.”

    For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts.

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