Monday, February 25, 2013


Researched and composed by Vic Goyaram
IFBB Pro Mark Dugdale demonstrating the drag curl
Drag curl: an "Iron Guru" exercise
This is an exercise I thought I serendipitously “invented” 14 years ago. I was at the gym and trying to attempt a “personal best” in the barbell curl. Personal best at that time was only 40lbs for 10 difficult reps with my pencil-sized biceps. I grabbed a 60lb barbell, knowing that I had to open the “body English” dictionary and unknowingly I ended up pulling my elbows up as if I was doing an upright barbell row. I liked the feeling in my biceps and ended up liking and adopting it. It always left my biceps sore as hell. For the next couple of months I performed this “curl” religiously until I opened up a muscle magazine and learned that this exercise, named Drag curl, was one of  the Iron Guru Vince Gironda's favourite.  

• Stand upright and keep the chest up and full
• Grab a barbell with an underhand grip and keep elbows back
• Drag the bar up to the abdomen as you push your elbows behind your torso, as if you are doing a barbell row while standing upright. There are variations to this exercise that will be discussed below.

Here is a video of Dennis James performing it:
I find that a shoulder-width grip is the best and most comfortable on my wrists. The movement can be performed in a Smith Machine although I recommend using a barbell.  It helps to maintain the contraction for a second at the top of the movement.  Feel free to experiment and don’t go strictly by the books: I am personally comfortable with a slight forward bend which for me completely eliminates any trap or delt involvement. A straight bar is fine while I notice that an EZ bar reduces the stress on the wrists. 

  • As a "stand-alone" exercise in your biceps routine, in which you perform several sets of drag curls, followed by other exercises like a preacher curl and hammer curls. When performing drag curls by themselves you will definitely be able to take heavier than what you usually do with conventional barbell curls.
  • In a “rep alternate” manner: meaning that every single rep you alternate between a conventional barbell curl and a drag curl. This "rep alternate" technique breaks momentum. As a side note, this is one of my favourite techniques, that I use on chest (press and flyes) or shoulders (side and front laterals) for instance
  • At the end of a set of conventional barbell curls when you attain failure, do not let go of the bar. You may not be able to perform another full rep of curl but there is still “juice” left in your biceps. Instead of calling it a set, perform a few drag curls until you cannot move the bar a millimetre. If your grip failed at the end of your normal barbell curl set, release the bar for a few seconds and immediately grab it and rep out drag curls.
While researching this exercise I noted that there are two versions of drag curls. The one by Vince Gironda required that the forearms be a few degrees above parallel at the contracted part of the movement (pictured below). In the conventional one the forearms are parallel to the floor at the top part of the movement. I believe the Gironda version gives a bit more contraction to the biceps.
The "regular" drag curl version. Note the forearms
are parallel to the floor at the finish of the movement
The "Gironda Version" of the drag curl, taking the contraction
further. Note the position of the forearm at the end of the movement
Go ahead and give the Drag Curls a try!


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  1. i did the gironda curl a few tmes at y old gym, and they said it was not an exercise

    1. It is in fact a very good exercise. It is quite easy on the elbow joints too.