Muscles of Iron

Steve Reeves' Favorite Biceps Builder

For building bigger biceps, a favorite exercise of Steve Reeves was the two-arm curl performed using dumbbells on an incline bench. More so than any other movement, Reeves credited this exercise for pushing his arms past the 17-inch mark. During one workout that was documented in 1950, the “Hercules of Muscledom” began his first set of incline dumbbell curls with a pair of 75-pounders and performed five rather quick reps. With no rest, he then grabbed a pair of 70-pound bells and belted out another set of five reps. This sequence was continued—working down in five-pound jumps with each succeeding set—until the handsome bodybuilder completed eight total sets.

Steve Reeves performing the incline dumbbell curl on a homemade incline bench
The incline dumbbell curl was the top weapon in Steve Reeves' arm-building arsenal.

While performing the two-dumbbell incline curl, Reeves preferred to keep both of his arms close to his body. His curling was done smoothly, with no cheating or jerking of the body to aid the movement. There was an exception to this rule, however. On occasion, after Reeves could not perform another strict curl, he would “kick up” the dumbbells with his knees and then continue his arm exercise by lowering the weight as slowly as he could.

Reeves almost always trained with total focus and white-hot concentration. While performing the incline curl, he focused on the feel of his biceps, all else blocked from his mind. This focus was an important part of the exercise and resulted in more intense muscular contractions and greater arm growth.

In his prime, Reeves was observed performing the incline curl for reps with an 85-pound dumbbell in each of his hands. His immense curling strength was the result of his devotion to progressive training. During his competitive days, the former Mr. Universe always strove to lift more weight or perform more reps in each exercise, but never at the expense of good exercise form. This approach helped to prevent injury and premature burnout, and it built Reeves up to magnificent proportions.

Given that the incline dumbbell curl was a favorite exercise of the magnificent Steve Reeves, you may want to incorporate this exercise into your own workout. Just be prepared to fill your shirt sleeves a bit more.

Yours in strength and health,
Rob Drucker

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