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Research Commissioned by American Council on Exercise Finds Concentration Curl Tops Among 8 Most Popular Biceps Moves 

SAN DIEGO, July 30, 2014 – For anyone who has ever stepped into a gym, it should come as no surprise that well-developed biceps are one of the most coveted training outcomes among workout enthusiasts.  For years, biceps exercises have ranked in the Top 10 most popular searches on Google for workouts and exercises and they have consistently graced the pages of men’s and women’s fitness publications each month. 

But building strength and muscle mass in the arms isn’t just for show. The biceps serve a very important function for activities of everyday life (e.g., carrying groceries, lifting children, pulling doors open, etc.).Unfortunately, there has been little research to determine what exercises work best for targeting the biceps.

Keeping with its role as America’s Workout Watchdog®, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) commissioned an independent study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse, to evaluate which of the most popular moves most effectively strengthen the biceps brachii.

“Part of our mission is to ensure people have the science-based information they need to safely and effectively achieve their health and fitness goals. For many people, that means selecting the most effective exercises for targeting the biceps,” said ACE Chief Science Officer Cedric Bryant, Ph.D. “This study helped us identify which exercise produced the highest degree of biceps engagement.”

Led by John Porcari, PhD, researchers recruited 16 healthy female and male volunteers to evaluate the cable curl, barbell curl, concentration curl, chin-up, EZ curl (both wide and narrow grip), incline curl and preacher curl.

Using data from electrodes attached to the biceps brachii, anterior deltoid and brachioradialis of each subject, muscle activity was measured during each exercise.

After analyzing data, the researchers observed that the concentration curl elicited significantly higher muscle activity in the biceps than any of the others. Concentration curls are performed with the upper arm pressed against the leg, resulting in better isolation of the biceps muscle. During the other exercises movements, the upper arm is able to sway and contribute the movement as indicated by a higher level of anterior deltoid muscle activity. According to Bryant,  “It’s important to note, however, that several of the other exercises elicited more than adequate biceps muscle activation and can serve as viable options for improving biceps muscle strength and function.”


To view the full study, visit



About ACE
The nonprofit American Council on Exercise (ACE) educates, certifies, and speaks for a growing network of 53,000-plus fitness professionals, health coaches and other wellness experts, a community ACE is leading more directly into the fight against physical inactivity and obesity. ACE advocates for recognition of its profession as a provider of primary prevention and obesity-management services, and it makes available to the public science-based information and resources on safe and effective physical activity and general healthy living. Headquartered in San Diego, ACE is the largest provider of health and fitness certifications accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the gold standard in the United States for assessing professional competence, ensuring people have access to fitness, health and wellness professionals that are properly trained, qualified and capable. For more information, call (800) 825-3636 or visit AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EXERCISE, ACE and ACE logos are Registered Trademarks of the American Council on Exercise.


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Founded in 1985, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization committed to America's health and wellbeing. Over the past 30 years, we have become an established resource for health and fitness professionals, and the public, providing comprehensive, unbiased research and validating ourselves as the country's trusted authority on health and fitness.

Today, ACE is the largest nonprofit health and fitness certification, education and training organization in the world with more than 58,000 certified professionals who hold more than 64,000 ACE Certifications. With a long heritage in certification, education, training and public outreach, we are among the most respected organizations in the industry and a resource the public has come to trust for health and fitness education.