When you think about powerlifting, there are three things that should go through your mind immediately – squat, bench, deadlift.
The “big three” are what the sport is all about.
Did you know there used to be a fourth lift that was gaining popularity but never quite reached the level of the others?
The strict curl was the ultimate test of bicep strength but didn’t garner enough attention to qualify as a lift to add as a part of the lifter’s total weight lifted.
So eventually it faded into obscurity and this is something that CT Fletcher feels is an injustice.
It has now become the Original Iron Addict’s mission to bring it back to relevance and introduce the strict curl to a brand new generation of lifters.
The Origins of Strict Curling
“When you see a big guy that obviously looks like he is strong, the first question he gets asked is ‘how much do you bench?’ The second question is ‘how big are your arms?’ There were guys that weren’t great at benching but they were great at curling. So competitions were started to see who the best was.
After that, both the competitions and lifters gained notoriety rapidly. Most guys associate big arms with curling which is why I liked it so much. I was always fascinated with arm size more than anything else. Guys like Larry Scott and Dave Draper had big arms and were featured in these old magazine ads and that inspired me.
I also had family members in prison including Junior Miles who had the biggest arms I ever saw when I was a kid and that made me want to have big arms. So I was curling long before I knew anything about strict curls or competitions.”
CT would know something about curling and it isn’t just because he has big arms. He is a 3 time world champion in the strict curl and at one time had the world record in the lift by curling 225 pounds. Most guys want to bench that. CT curled it!
Before you go loading up a bar and think you’re going to be the ultimate bicep blaster, you need to know a little more about how he did it.
What is the Strict Curl?
“To perform a strict curl, you must lift the weight while your head, back, and butt are against a wall. All three points of contact must remain on the wall throughout the performance of the strict curl. If at any time any of those points separate from the wall, it doesn’t count.
Once you take the bar, you would receive the signal to curl and you must curl the weight up without it pausing or going back down at any time. Once you curl the weight, you would get the signal to lower the weight and then to rack it. The judges would then determine if you completed the lift properly and decide if it counts as a good lift or not.”
What is NOT a strict curl?
CT wants to make sure you understand the main point of the move clearly. “If there is no wall involved, it is NOT a d*** strict curl.” I don’t care if you’re standing perfectly still and your a** don’t move. It ain’t no curl unless there is a wall involved.
I could do 225 pound straight bar curls for 10 sets of 10 reps. I did it a lot but that wall is there for a reason. It humbles your a**. There is no cheating and there is no way of creating momentum because of the three points of contact. Therefore, the strict curl is a helluva lot tougher than a normal barbell curl or any other curl you do. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.”
Other Key Points of the Strict Curl
Back in the day, the strict curl was performed with an EZ curl bar and not with a barbell. The EZ Curl bar was believed to be less stressful on the wrists and elbows than a straight bar. Like other moves in powerlifting, there were rules about accessories.
You were allowed to use wrist wraps for support but lifting straps and lifting gloves to assist in grip were banned.
If you want to improve your bench, you would use assistant exercises like dumbbell presses or dips. So to improve your strict curl, you should incorporate a couple of other lifts into your routine. Who else to learn from than the 3 time world champion?
“To help me with the strict curl, I used heavy standing straight bar curls and heavy straight bar preacher curls. Standing straight bar curls helped me work with the heavy weight and the preacher curls are supposed to help prevent you from cheating since your arm is against the bench.
By doing those two movements along with the strict curl itself, I won my first world title and I curled 195. When I set the world record, that was when I curled 225.”
Sample Beginner Strict Curl Workout Program
|1. Strict Curl (warm up)||2||10|
|2. Strict Curl (Working Sets)||3-4||3-5|
|3. Strict Curl (Heavy Sets)*||2*||1*|
|4. Standing Straight Bar Curl||3||8|
|5. Straight Bar Preacher Curl||3||8|
*Have a partner check to make sure all three points of contact are against the wall.
“The MASSter” is so passionate about bringing the strict curl back to relevance that he’s created his own organization for it, the International Strict Curl Association, or ISCA. “I’m an old f***** and I come from the old days and I would like to see some really good competitions like the old days at Venice Beach and I want to see the strict curl take its place back.
Back then we would have a full meet and after the meet guys would get a chance to show their prowess in the curl. There are some guys that might not be the greatest benchers, squatters, or deadlifters, but they were great at curling. There is no gym in the world you can walk in and not find someone curling.
I think curling should be added and make it ‘the big four’ instead of just the big three. The curl total was never added to the lifters’ totals which I didn’t agree with. Everyone knows that to have a big bench you need strong triceps. Why not test the front of the arm which is the biceps?
I think that by creating the ISCA, it will give the strict curl more exposure and people would like it. With more exposure would come more popularity and participation.”
One point to note with the ISCA is if you prefer to use the straight bar, CT allows it. “I think personally that the straight bar is more difficult but if the lifter prefers the straight bar, we will allow that.”
There have already been ISCA contests in Australia and at CT’s Iron Addicts Gym with more coming in the future. To learn more about the ISCA, go to ctfletcher.com and search for ISCA.