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In Weight Training, what is a French Curl?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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In weight training, French curls are exercises used to work the weight lifter’s triceps. The triceps are a group of muscles located in the back of a person’s arms. French curls can be used to help tone the triceps as well as to build muscle mass. Some people prefer to perform French curl exercises while they are standing or seated on a weight bench while others like to do them lying down.

A French curl is performed using two arms at the same time. To perform a French curl, an individual may sit on a weight bench with the back of the weight bench inclined just a little. Then, making sure his back is firmly against the weight bench, he grips a barbell and lifts it straight overhead into the starting position for the French curl. He should then bend his elbows, lowering the barbell toward the back of his head until. Finally, he moves the barbell in reverse, pushing it back overhead until it is at arms’ length from his body once more.

It’s important to keep good form in mind while performing French curls, which includes keeping the elbows pointed upward and the hands close together. The weight lifter should work to keep his elbows stable during this exercise, limit movement to the elbows, contract his abdominal muscles, and use controlled movements for the duration of the exercise. While the weight lifter should straighten his elbows when pushing the barbell away from him and extending his arms, he should not allow his elbows to lock during the French curl. Swinging the barbell or locking the elbows could make the French curl exercise less effective and could even cause a painful injury. The exerciser can, however, choose whichever type of barbell grip feels best for him: thumbs held over the bar or thumbs held under the bar.

Often, individuals who are performing French curls have another person present to help them. For example, a weight training partner may hand the lifter the barbell from behind the bench. This helps the weight lifter to get into the proper position for performing French curls without unnecessary straining. The partner may remain on hand to help in case the exercise becomes too difficult, particularly when an individual performs this exercise using heavy weights. Beginners may do well to perform this exercise using lighter weights, gradually working up to additional weight when he feels ready.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By backdraft — On Jan 02, 2012

There was a long time when I did tons of different arm exercises all of which focused on a very deficit muscle group. I saw gains but I got really bulky and my arms never really took on that long lean strong look that I was going for.

I did some exercise and realized that I was woking out wrong. Trying to lift all these massive weights with isolated muscles just gave me bulky and unlean muscles. I had to do full body exercise that engaged my core and boosted my heart rate.

Now I do a circuit of bodyweight exercise that includes burpees, mountain climbers and lots of different kinds of pushups. I have busted through the plateau I had reached and I have never looked or felt better. I'm finally getting the body I want and I did it by ditching the gym.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Jan 02, 2012

The french curl is a great exercise and when performed properly it can do a lot to build mass in your triceps. Unfortunately, a lot of people I see don't do this exercise properly and they risk injury, or at the very least wasted effort in the gym.

The most important thing with a french curl is keeping your arm and elbow locked and using just your triceps to perform the lift. Don't use too heavy a weight, just as much as your triceps can support. I see too many people who develop a swinging motion and end up using their entire arms and backs to raise the weight. This is incorrect. Perform the lift slowly and carefully and you will see gains in your triceps immediately.

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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