If you want to TRULY maximize your bicep mass, you're going to LOVE this exercise. It's one of my very favorite for building bi's.
The reason I named it after myself is that it basically summarizes what I'm all about - doing everything completely "backwards" and getting MUCH better results!
That, plus I thought it would cool to have at least ONE exercise name after myself when this one really catches on :)
The Nilsson Curl looks almost exactly like a chin-up.
In fact, another name I've called this exercise is the "Forearm-Braced Chin-Up". Because what you'll be doing IS a chin-up...but you'll be doing that chin-up with your forearms braced against another bar so that the VAST majority of the tension goes to your biceps instead of your back.
Just so you know up front, you'll need to be able to do probably 6 to 10 or so regular chins before you can really use this exercise. If you can't yet do that many chins, don't worry! I'm also including a "standing" version below that allows you to set your feet on the ground and spot yourself throughout the movement.
I mean think about it - imagine the kind of growth response you'll get from an exercise that puts the full tension of almost your entire bodyweight directly onto your biceps...
That's the beauty of this exercise - it's a bodyweight exercise, which means increased muscle fiber activation AND you use your entire bodyweight to do it.
How To Do It:
To do this exercise, you'll need a rack or a chin-up bar that allows you to set another close underneath it. Alternatively, you can also use the metal ladder of playground apparatus (that works quite well, too).
Set the racking pins (where you would normally rack the bar on a squat, for instance) to the highest point you can on the rack.
Now move the safety rails to a point that is about 8 to 12 inches below that (you can play with this height when you try the exercise to get the best dimensions for you).
Set a bar on the top racking pins and set another bar on the safety rails, pushed up against the uprights. It's going to look like two rungs of a ladder.
In my own setup, I load the top bar with weight plates to keep it from moving. You may find you need to do this with yours, too.
Quick note on setup...if you have a power rack that has pins that you can slide in and out of the frame (I don't - mine are integrated right into the rack) you can also more easily get this set up by setting one safety rail in the top set of holes then the other safety rail in a set of holes below (making your own ladder, essentially). That's the easiest way to set this up and how I used to do it when I had access to a rack that I could do it with.
Now get in the rack and take a close, underhand grip on the top bar. Your forearms should be braced up against the bottom bar, just above your elbows. Your arms should be straight when you're at the bottom.
Now start doing a chin-up. As you pull yourself up, your forearms will press against the bottom bar. THIS is what changes it into a biceps-oriented movement.
Pull yourself all the way up until your nose is at the top bar then lower slowly.
That's the exercise! And it's a TOUGH one...I don't care how strong your biceps are. It's going to challenge and you will LOVE the way it feels.
When I used to train at a commercial gym, I showed this one to a guy who was built like a gymnast...HUGE biceps, not very big legs. He did 5 reps, his arms swelled up like balloons and he couldn't wipe the grin off his face.
So as you get stronger with it, you can also add weight by holding a dumbell between your feet or wearing a dip belt. But that's VERY advanced. This exercise is just BRUTAL even with just your bodyweight.
Do it FIRST in your bicep routine (trust me). You won't need to do a whole lot of anything else for bi's when you do 3 or 4 sets of this one...
Here's a video example:
Standing Nilsson Curls - A Useful Adaptation
This version is excellent for when you're either not strong enough to do the "free hanging" version above where you're using your entire bodyweight for resistance or if you're just too fatigued from previous training to do enough reps to really get much out of it.
It's basically the exact same exercise only instead of setting the two bars up high, you set them a bit lower so you can keep your feet on the ground and spot yourself by standing up when you need help!
When it comes to hitting the biceps (even with your feet down), the difference between this exercise and a regular chin-up is just AMAZING. You'll feel almost ALL the tension go right into the biceps.
So here's what the standing version looks like. You can do this in rack, using the set up I have here or you can use the safety rails in the rack, same as I mentioned above - just set the two rails into one side so they look like ladder rungs - it'll give you the same effect.
With this version, I have a bar setting in the racking pins and a bar sitting on top of the rails. I have the weight on the top bar to help keep it from moving. You want about a foot spacing in between the two bars.
You'll be gripping the top bar and bracing your forearms on the bottom bar.
So stand in front of the bar and get a grip - a little inside shoulder width - underhand grip.
Set your feet a little forward then squat down.
Now pull yourself up, as though you were doing a chin-up. Use your legs only as much as you need to for help. The majority should be bicep pull.
Pull all the way to the top and squeeze your biceps HARD.
Lower and repeat. Remember, use help from your legs only as much as you need to.
You can also use this setup to do negative reps, standing up on the positive and taking your feet off the ground to use your full bodyweight on the negative.
Your biceps will be on fire after a few sets of this one - a bodyweight bicep exercise!