Barbell Curls Or Dumbbell Curls?
Q. I have just started going to the gym and my goals are to increase my muscle size, especially in my arms! I have looked through websites to see all the exercises which can be used to exercise different muscle parts and I am finding some of it confusing. For my arms for example, is there a benefit of doing barbell curls over dumbbell curls, or vice versa? Is one considered better than the other? Also, how would I best train each body part?
A. Beginning a weight training program can be rather confusing initially. Not only are there countless exercises but many online forums and resources have abbreviations which are difficult to understand to begin with. We all start here however, so the best thing to do is keep reading from a verity of reputable online resources. Recommended are www.steroidslive.com (of course!).
The barbell or dumbbell curl
To answer the first and second questions specifically, there are benefits and drawbacks for either exercise. The bottom line is nearly always to vary your workout by incorporating various exercises and their variations, so this therefore would mean including both. The barbell and dumbbell curls can be executed in the same workout, or one can be used for a period of time and then swapped for the other (or another biceps exercise).
The only time an exercise may be out of favour over another is when the exercise causes discomfort or feels unnatural to the trainee. The barbell curl may not be a great choice for anyone who has an issue with their wrists for example, and the dumbbell variation may be preferred. There are also subtle differences to the movements, resulting in a slight variation in stress to the target muscle group. This is why it is recommended to incorporate variations of exercises into an overall regime for enhanced results. By switching exercise choice every few months we can also avoid stagnation in our training progression by providing the muscle with new stimulus.
A further point regarding the dumbbell curl is this exercise, or any other dumbbell exercise is unilateral in nature, or in other words it stresses each side of the body independently. This may be welcomed by trainees who struggle with muscle imbalances, either in strength or muscular size.
Training body parts with a split
The last question (although likely intended to be a small follow up question!) is a question which many advanced bodybuilders still continually ask themselves even after training for ten or more years. There are countless routines out there, and many of them work well. It is not really in the scope of this answer to go through a full training regime, but answers can be drawn from the websites outlined above. Generally a beginner would be best focusing on the major compound lifts, possibly following a full body routine three times per week. After this a training split can be followed where the trainee trains for three or four times per week and focuses on specific muscle groups.