The Magic Of 21's

barbell curl method

Today, I’d like to show you the power of 21's.

I first started using 21's back when I was 18. A friend of mine let me in on a little secret of doing 21's on the pec deck.

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I had no clue that you could do the pec deck in this manner and I was pleasantly shocked at the feel of this exercise.

I would use a weight that was moderate to light heavy for the pec deck and I would first perform 7 half reps going from the start position to the mid way position.

After I would do another 7 half repetitions using only the top part of the movement. That is, I would bring the weight all the way up to the finish position and slowly let the weight back down. However, instead of letting the weight go all the way down, I’d stop at the half way point. From there, I would bring the weight up again. I’d do another 7 repetitions in this manner.

The remaining 7 repetitions were done in the normal manner. The last 7 repetitions were quite difficult to do because my chest was already exhausted from the prior repetitions. I tell, the burn from this exercise was excruciating!

In all, I did 21 repetitions of the pec deck. Soon afterwards, I started to apply this technique to other exercises such as the bench press, squat, barbell curls, and other exercises. Now, the thing you have to remember about 21's is that they can’t be applied to all exercises. For some exercises, such as the squat, 21's are not practical at all. However, for some exercises such as barbell curls, they are perfect for.

Now, 21's are not a new technique by any means but it is very effective if you do them right. What I’d like to do today is show you how to perform 21's using the barbell curl. I think using 21's for the barbell curl will help add a new element into your training. Now, mind you, I wouldn’t recommend you do 21's all the time because they can go stale like any other technique. However, if done for a couple of weeks, they can help get you over any plateaus that you may be experiencing. 21's can also add an intensity element to your training when you want to stop training heavy for a bit.

Let’s take a look at the barbell curl and 21's. First, take a look at the barbell curl below. The usual way to do the barbell curl is to basically start at the bottom and curl the weight up, and than lower it.

Now, for 21's, you would start at the bottom like you normally would curl the weight. However, instead of curling the weight up to the upper chest area, you will stop at the mid way point, around the mid stomach area. From there, you would lower the weight back down. This is one repetition for the first set of 7 repetitions. See the image below.

Now, for the second part of the movement, you will actually curl the weight up to the chest area and let the weight come down to the mid chest area. It’s important that you don’t lower the weight all the way back down to your thigh areas. You want to lower it to the half way point of the movement. You will actually be starting from the mid chest area and curl the weight all the way up to your upper chest area. See the image below.

You will do 7 repetitions.

Now, for the last part of the movement you will do 7 full repetitions in the normal manner. That is, you will curl the weight up to the upper chest area as you would with a normal barbell curl. You will lower the weight all the way back down to the thigh area for one full repetition.

That is the completion of a set of 21's for the barbell curl. I usually do 3 sets of 21's for this barbell curl. However, you may want to start with 1 or 2 sets to get used to the movement. Remember, you will want to use a weight that you can handle comfortably. If you can handle the weight with no or little burn, try adding a few pounds. If you find yourself cheating to get the weight up, lighten the load a bit. Now, it may take a few sessions but you’ll find the right weight that will give you good burn.

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All the best,


As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.

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