It’s all about perception. Negatives are not always bad. Sometimes, they can be better than the positives — the negative bicep curls are an excellent example.
The negative bicep curls are biceps curls in reverse, which can help you build chiseled guns. Most lifters assume that curling is the only way to build bigger arms. The negative bicep curl, however, flips this assumption on its head. While performing a negative bicep curl, a lifter focuses on uncurling the weight to build bigger arms.
Many lifters use momentum by swinging their torsos back and forth during the concentric (upward) motion of the negative bicep curl, which removes tension from the target muscle group and puts it on their shoulders and back. In the negative bicep curl, you focus on the eccentric (lowering) motion and use a slow and controlled motion, eliminating the use of momentum, leading to optimal muscle fiber stimulation and hypertrophy.
The negative bicep curls, also known as eccentric bicep curls, focus on recruiting your slow-twitch muscle fibers by increasing your time under tension during the lowering motion of the lift.
Our muscles consist of two types of muscles — fast and slow-twitch. The slow-twitch muscle fibers are endurance-based and engage in exercises with longer time under load. A negative dumbbell bicep curl set generally takes at least twice as long to complete as the conventional exercise.
In this article, we unlock the secrets of negative bicep curls, helping you build bigger, stronger, and more conditioned arms. We also dive into how to perform the negative bicep curls with the perfect form and tips to maximize results, their benefits, safety, and a sample biceps workout.
What are Negative Bicep Curls?
Negative biceps curls are an advanced strength training technique. To an untrained eye, it can be difficult to distinguish between negative bicep curls and conventional bicep curls since they look very similar.
The negative bicep curls differ from the standard curls mainly because of their rep tempo. While the conventional biceps curl follows a 1-1-1-0 rep tempo (one second on the concentric motion, a second’s pause at the top, one second on the eccentric motion, and no rest at the bottom), the negative bicep curls use a 1-1-3-0 rep tempo, where a lifter spend at least three seconds on the lowering motion.
There are two ways to perform the negative biceps curl. The first involves using a spotter who will help you during the concentric part of the lift. The spotter will take most of the weight during the curling motion to ensure your muscle are not fatigued and are fresh for the lowering motion. It’s almost as if your spotter will curl the weight, and you’ll only lower it.
The second method is more prominent as it doesn’t require a spotter. In this technique, you curl the weight as quickly as possible without using momentum and focusing on contracting your muscles. However, you’ll go as slow as possible during the eccentric motion to maximize muscle fiber engagement.
You could use the negative bicep curl training technique on almost every exercise that involves dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, or machines. It is also suitable with different grips, such as supinated, pronated, or neutral.
How To Perform Negative Bicep Curls
This is how to perform the barbell negative biceps curl using the correct form:
- Stand upright with a hip-width stance.
- Grab a barbell with a supinated (underhand) shoulder-wide grip and hold it against your thighs.
- Curl the barbell to your shoulders while keeping your elbows pinned to your sides.
- Slowly lower the barbell to the starting position while only moving at your elbow joint.
- The eccentric motion should take at least three seconds. However, you should aim for five seconds as you get better at this training technique.
- Pause at the bottom for a second and spend one second on the concentric (upward) motion.
- Repeat for recommended reps.
Benefits of Negative Bicep Curls
Here are the advantages of adding negative bicep curls to your exercise regimen:
Helps Build Muscle Mass and Strength
You can lift up to 40% heavier on the negative bicep curls while training with a spotter. Using such big weights will shock your muscles, which can help induce hypertrophy. Perform 8-12 reps if your goal is to build muscle mass. On the other hand, do 1-5 reps while focusing on your form to build strength. 
Break Through Strength and Muscle Plateaus
The negative curls are an incredibly effective advanced training technique for folks who have hit a strength or muscle plateau. The added training intensity will help spark new muscle tissue growth. You must also program the negative biceps curl into your training regimen to avoid hitting a plateau and keep making consistent gains.
The negative bicep curl requires you to lower the weights as slowly as possible, eliminating the possibility of using momentum. Following a strict form ensures optimal muscle fiber recruitment.
On the flip side, you’ll use a spotter during the concentric motion. Since you only have to do half of the usual work in this variation, it helps restrict the use of momentum. However, some people tend to curve their backs during the concentric motion for leverage, which can put undue stress on their backs, increasing the risk of injury.
If you’re not training with a spotter, you must curl the weight while maintaining an upright back and keeping your elbows pinned to your sides. Swinging your torso back and forth will result in secondary muscle recruitment.
The negatives are a versatile training technique. You could use them in any dynamic exercise that uses eccentric and concentric motion, such as bicep curls, squats, bench presses, deadlifts, lunges, etc.
You could do it with any training equipment, including dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and machines using your preferred grip (overhand, underhand, or neutral). To sum it up, the possibilities of what you can achieve with negative bicep curls are limited only by your imagination.
Although negatives are technically an advanced training principle, they can also be used by beginners. Negatives involve focusing on the eccentric motion of a lift, meaning a lifter has to concentrate on only half of the range of motion. The limited ROM can help a beginner drill the movement. Furthermore, the longer time under tension will put your muscles under optimal hypertrophy conditions.
You can lift up to 40% heavier on the negative bicep curls than the conventional curling exercises; however, you must have a spotter to help you through the concentric motion. Ensure you do not bite off more than you can chew, as it can increase your odds of injury. The biceps curl is an isolation (single-joint) lift. Lifting more weights than you can handle can put your biceps tendons under significant stress, making them susceptible to tears.
Greater Time Under Tension
Negative bicep curls increase your time under tension by at least 30%. The longer time under load will lead to insane muscle pumps, as the target muscles are filled with blood and lactic acid. Blood also carries nutrients to the muscle tissues that can help build bigger and stronger muscles.
A 2015 study found that eccentric muscle actions cause less fatigue than concentric movements, especially at higher intensities. Additionally, eccentric movements are also more effective at building power. 
According to the findings of this study, performing negative biceps curls at the end of a workout when your muscles have started fatiguing can help step up your training intensity without exhausting your muscles.
Sample Negative Bicep Curl Workout (How To Program)
Although negatives are not as fatiguing as concentric-only movements, you shouldn’t overdo them. Limit your negative curl use to one exercise per workout to avoid overtraining your muscles. Given below is a sample biceps workout that includes an eccentric-only exercise:
|Cable Reverse Curl
|Dumbbell Hammer Curl
|Machine Preacher Curl (Negatives)
In this workout, you’ll use the ‘negative’ advanced training principle on the machine preacher curl. Since this is a machine exercise, we recommend using a spotter to help you through the concentric motion.
Folks that generally lift 90 pounds on the machine preacher curl for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps can go up to 125 pounds on the eccentric biceps curl sets. You must ensure that you have a spotter for the concentric movement.
Even though you’ll only be doing negatives on this exercise, you shouldn’t expect to complete eight reps for 3-5 sets while lifting 40% heavier. Aim to complete 3-5 negative-only reps on the machine preacher curl and spend 3-8 seconds on the lowering portion of the lift.
Tips For Negative Bicep Curls
Use these training tips to make the most of this advanced training technique:
Follow a Picture-Perfect Form
Irrespective of your training goal, whether you are lifting to build muscle mass, strength, or endurance, you must use a textbook form to get the best bang for your buck and reduce your risk of injury.
The negative bicep curls are an isolation exercise and limit movement to the elbow joint. Keep your elbows pinned to your sides while restricting the use of momentum. Maintaining a slight bend in your knees will also limit your lower body engagement.
The rep tempo is the main difference between the conventional bicep curls and the negatives. The standard bicep curl variations have a one-second eccentric motion, whereas negative-only exercises involve a three-second or longer eccentric time.
Experiment With Your Grip
Although most people use a supinated (palms facings the ceiling) grip while doing negative biceps curls, incorporating different grips, such as neutral and pronated (palms facing your body), can help improve your biceps stimulation.
How Often To Perform Negative Bicep Curls?
The negative bicep curls are an advanced training technique that can significantly strain your muscles, as they substantially bump up your training intensity. Performing negative curls in each workout for every exercise can lead to overtraining, which can stall your progress.
Your biceps are a small muscle group. We recommend limiting training your biceps to twice a week. Furthermore, you should restrict negative bicep curls to one exercise per training session.
As a rule, you must give your muscle at least 48 hours to recover between workouts. Additionally, since your guns are a supporting muscle group in your back workouts, you should have a 48-hour gap between your back and biceps workout.
Negative Biceps Curls Safety
Most exercisers lift significantly heavy on the negative biceps curl than their conventional bicep curl weight, considerably increasing their odds of injury.
You must adjust your training intensity while doing the negative biceps curl according to your experience level. Beginners should lift at most 20% of their normal curl weight and should only do so under expert supervision to ensure proper training form.
Individuals who exercise without a partner should also refrain from lifting more than 20% of their regular curl weight. Finally, experienced lifters must ensure they only use the eccentric-only advanced training technique once weekly in their biceps training regimen to avoid the risk of overtraining.
Contrary to what many people think, biceps training does much more than improve your physique aesthetics. Strong pythons can enhance your performance in compound movements like rows, deadlifts, and clean and jerk and improve your overall functionality.
Incorporating negative curls into your training regime can boost your upper arm strength and hypertrophy. Negative bicep curls are a versatile training technique that can be used in a variety of exercises.
You must, however, start light and work your way up gradually. There is nothing worse than pulling a muscle while trying to impress your gym crush. Now that you know everything there is to learn about the negative bicep curls, put together a training program, and begin curling. Best of luck!
- Krzysztofik M, Wilk M, Wojdała G, Gołaś A. Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Dec 4;16(24):4897. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16244897. PMID: 31817252; PMCID: PMC6950543.
- Kelly SB, Brown LE, Hooker SP, Swan PD, Buman MP, Alvar BA, Black LE. Comparison of concentric and eccentric bench press repetitions to failure. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Apr;29(4):1027-32. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000713. PMID: 25268291.