Curls isolate the biceps muscles of the upper arms.
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You might be curious to know how your biceps curls stack up to other peoples' -- but that would be a pretty loaded question if you asked. The amount you're able to lift depends on a number of factors, including your age, gender, genetic makeup and how much lifting you've been doing on a regular basis. There are some general guidelines that you can look at but, generally, not until you've been training for a while.
General Weight Range, Not A Percentage
If you're a beginner, don't come right out of the gate looking at standards and trying to compare yourself to others. Instead, focus on form and safe lifting so you'll be able to progress to heavier and heavier weights without getting hurt. Once you've been strength training two to three days a week for several months, you might take a peek at the "standards" for weight training. Some lifts, such as the bench press and squat, are based on a percentage of body weight, while others, including the curl, offer a target number for a certain body-weight range.
It's for One Repetition
Here's another important thing to note before you look at the numbers: the standards are based on a one-rep maximum, or the maximum amount of weight a person can lift in a single repetition. Perform a one-rep max test with the help of at least one spotter and perform several warm-up repetitions or sets before attempting to lift your one-rep max. The risk of overexertion is one big reason why only athletes and well-trained people should attempt one-rep max tests.
Dennis B. Weis, an Alaska-based strength coach and the author of the book "Mass," offers a general range of strength standards for conditioned athletes or bodybuilders, including one for the barbell curl, which involves using both hands and arms at the same time. According to Weis, men up to 120 pounds should be able to curl 70 pounds; men 121 to 135 pounds should be able to lift 85 pounds; men 136 to 155 pounds should ideally lift 105; men 156 to 170 pounds should lift 120 pounds; men 171 to 185 pounds should lift 135 pounds; men 186 to 205 pounds should lift 155; men 206 to 225 pounds should lift 175 pounds; men weighing 226 to 245 pounds should lift 195 pounds; and men over 246 pounds should be able to lift 205 pounds in a one-rep max.
Women and Beginners
Since women's upper-body strength is estimated to be about 0.56 the strength of mens', Weis recommends women multiply the ideal lifting weight for their weight category by 0.56 to arrive at their ideal amount of weight. For example, if you're a woman weighing 120 pounds, multiply 0.56 by 70 to arrive at 39.2 pounds. Beginners, according to Weis, should be able to lift about 60 percent of the standards listed here, while an intermediate athlete's goal should be between 80 and 85 percent of the standards.