By Strength Oldschool
* The Strength Stat Leaderboards within this article will be updated over the course of time.
* Within this article there are "Affiliated" links which means if you click on any of the links and buy something, Strength Oldschool will receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated!
From an article entitled: "The Two Hands Curl" (1950s), Strongman Doug Hepburn (1926 - 2000) wrote the following...
"In my opinion the greatest single exercise to promote maximum muscular bulk and strength of the biceps region is the curl with barbell." ~ Doug Hepburn
Within that article Hepburn recommended training the biceps (barbell curl) three days a week but actually suggested that the biceps could be trained every second day as it was a small muscle group. His recommended training involved using low reps from 3 to 5 down to single rep sets using heavy weights but staying clear of a true 1 rep max.
Hard to dispute the statement and training program suggestion of Hepburn (1953 World Weightlifting Super Heavyweight Champion) as he had arms the size of tree trunks and officially curled 255 lbs (116 kg) way back in 1959...
"On May 20, 1959, I curled 255 in good form and also swing-curled 300; this was done at a show here in Vancouver in the presence of AAU officials. Bodyweight 285 pounds." ~ Doug Hepburn
Source: Ironman article: "Developing Curling Power" - March, 1961 (see below). Hepburn also further states various other strength feats of his.
More information on the life and training of Strength Legend, Doug Hepburn can be found within his book entitled: "Strongman - The Doug Hepburn Story" (Amazon Affiliate link) by Tom Thurston.
The Barbell Curl is a basic "Old School" exercise used by many Iron Game Legends, such as Reg Park and as noted above, Strongman Doug Hepburn. Even during present times, 'The Barbell Curl' is still relevant among strength fans.
The major difference between how the curl was contested in the past to now is probably different. For one thing, no longer is a straight barbell used (for reasons unknown). In official contests today, an Ez-Bar is now used, which makes the lift slightly easier in my opinion as it helps take the strain away from the wrists.
If you are planning on entering a 'Strict Barbell Curl' competition today, I believe the rules are as follows (but I may be wrong):
** Strict Curl "online" Rules Today **
- Upper back and butt must stay in contact with wall during full curl motion.
- During lift, lifter can take a close or wide foot stance.
- Heels must be 12" / 30 cm from wall during lift.
- Head, upper arms, wrists and elbows can move as much as you want as long as back and butt remain against wall.
* Always check the rules of the competition you plan to enter. This will enable you to train better for that particular chosen competition. For current events, check out Strict Curl Nation.
Strongest Bicep Curlers In History
Below I have compiled a top-10 fun list of the "Strongest Bicep Curlers In History" (Regardless of lifters weight classes or type of barbell used the heaviest weight lifted WINS!).
I've included "Strict" curl and "Cheat" curl (official & unofficial) records. Some records stated may not have been officially done in competition, but instead witnessed on record through written recordings such as magazine articles, books etc, or performed in the gym and uploaded on to Youtube.
Both lists may not be 100% accurate, so if you feel I have missed out a lifter or stated the wrong weight, then please respond in the comments. Otherwise, enjoy this article and hopefully you become inspired to lift more weight than the current strength athletes below.
* STRICT BARBELL CURL LEADERBOARD *
1. * Doug Hepburn - 116 kg (255 lbs) - Straight Barbell - (1959)
2. Nizami Tagiev - 114 kg (250.8 lbs) - 'S' shaped Bar - (2022)
3. Leroy Walker - 114 kg (250.8 lbs) - 'S' shaped Bar (close-grip) - (2021)
4. Denis Cyplenkov - 113 kg (249 lbs) - Ez Bar - (2015)
5. Luther Rogers - 107 kg (235 lbs) - Straight Barbell - (1960)
6. Larry Wheels - 105 kg (231 lbs) - Ez Bar - (2020)
7. Bruce Randall - 103.6 kg (228 lbs) - Straight Barbell - (1954)
8. CT Fletcher - 102 kg (225 lbs) - Ez-Bar - (Year: 1992)
9. Hermann Goerner - 100.2 kg (220.5 lbs) - Straight Barbell (1932)
10. Hafthor Bjornsson - 83 kg (183 lbs) - Ez Bar - (2020)
* A couple of lifters just outside the top-10 are:
- The Gorilla Corey West - 82 kg (180 lbs) - Ez-Bar - (2019)
- Maurice Jones - 80 kg (176 lbs) - Straight Barbell (1941)
A few videos of some of the lifts above...
Nizami Tagiev lifting 114 kg.
Leroy Walker's record lift in comparison with Denis Cyplenkov...Notice the grip-width!
Denis Cyplenkov's record from a different view...
Larry Wheels curling 105 kg (231 lbs)...
Hafthor Bjornsson curling 83 kg (183 lbs)...
CT Fletcher curling 102 kg (225 lbs)...
Here's a photo of Luther Rogers from 1960 performing a strict 107 kg (235 lbs) straight barbell curl. Not sure exactly whom the Photographer was.
Bodybuilder Bruce Randall (1931 - 2010) claimed a strict barbell curl of 103.6 kg (228 lbs). This lift was performed at a bodyweight of 172.7 kg (380 lbs) way back around 1954.
Is Doug Hepburn still the King of the Heaviest Ever Strict Barbell Curl?
The lift that Doug Hepburn performed back in 1959 hasn't actually been improved upon. Instead, the current World Record is lower! As to the reason why...Maybe Hepburn's lift wasn't recognised as an official record even though it was performed in front of AAU officials?
Here is a great video of Hepburn at a much older age, around 71 years old back in 1997 I believe, performing strength records for his age group. I recommend you watch the full video but I've setup the video to start at his Strict "World Record" Barbell Curl attempt. Enjoy!
If you break down his technique, in my opinion, it doesn't quite come across as a "Strict" attempt. There's a little bit of body swing at the start of the lift. So if that's the exact same technique that Hepburn has always used during his curls, then the 116 kg Barbell Curl lift of his I wouldn't call a 'World Record'. Hepburn did only refer to his 116 kg curl (back in 1961) as lifted using "good form", which could mean, not entirely "strict"?
So the official record today is owned by Nizami Tagiev with 114 kg (250.8 lbs). I do want to note that it's likely that the top records achieved today are with the help of drugs whereas Doug Hepburn has always claimed to be natural - again, this is debatable.
Keeping track of records throughout history is very challenging as rules and equipment used keep changing. If officials are going to setup these 'Strict Curl' competitions, why not create records around the equipment used? For example, have a strict curl record using a straight barbell, have one with an Ez-Barbell etc. This would make more sense.
Let's move on to heavy Cheat Barbell Curl lifts...
* CHEAT BARBELL CURL LEADERBOARD *
1. Denis Cyplenkov - 170 kg (375 lbs) - Ez Bar - (Year: ?) - Done for 2 reps!
2. Bill Kazmaier - 143 kg (315 lbs) - Straight Barbell: ? - (1985) - Done for 12 or 15 reps!
3. Levan Saginashvili - 142 kg (312 lbs) - Ez Bar - (Year: ?) - Done for 3 reps!
4. Magnus Samuelsson - 140 kg (308 lbs) - Straight Barbell - (Year: ?) - Done for 4 reps!
5. Chuck Loesch - 140 kg (310 lbs) - Straight Barbell - (Year: ?)
6. Doug Hepburn - 136 kg (300 lbs) - Straight Barbell - (1959)
7. Kirill Sarychev - 132.5 kg (292 lbs) - Ez Bar - (2015) - Done for 6 reps!
8. Kyriakos Grizzly - 120 kg (264 lbs) - Ez Bar - (2021) - Done for 14 reps!
9. Leonidas Arkona - 120 kg (264 lbs) - Ez Bar - (2019)
Here's some information and video footage on some of the lifts above...
Denis Cyplenkov - Cheat Curls with 140 kg (308 lbs) for 5 reps...
Denis Cyplenkov - Cheat Curling 170 kg (375 lbs)...
It is an Internet rumour that three time World's Strongest Man winner, champion powerlifter and general all round strength legend, Bill Kazmaier, has cheat curled 200 kg (440 lbs) back in 1985.
He has also reportedly cheat curled 143 kg (315 lbs) for 12 or 15 reps. However, with no photos or video footage or witnesses, those so called records will need to remain a rumour. Look how challenging Denis Cyplenkov found cheat curling 140 kg for 5 reps yet Kaz has claimed 12 or 15 reps??
Kaz was known to be very strong in the arm department but without evidence, who really knows what he would have been capable of. As far as I'm aware, Kaz has never confirmed the 200 kg curl strength feat?
Manfred built the World's Biggest Arms back in the 90's with a pumped measurement of 26" measured by Iron Historian Joe Roark.
In 1994, Manfred wrote a book entitled "10 Minutes to Massive Arms" (affiliate link) detailing at the time, how he trained his arms to get them so big.
Within his book, he must have claimed that he could curl 200 kg (440 lbs) because a bodybuilding writer by the name of Steve Neece (RIP) challenged Manfred's claim and offered to pay Manfred $5,000 to prove it. Some sources claim it was really $10,000!!
In an Interview back in 2012 (Jan 18) with Viking Strength, Manfred was asked how strong his arms were back in the 1990's when he possessed 25 Inch arms! Manfred's reply was...
"I curled close to 200 kg (440 lbs) and was busy training for a bet I had with a Bodybuilding Magazine to curl 200 kg on a barbell for $5000." ~ Manfred Hoeberl
I'm not sure what year Neece challenged Manfred to prove he was capable of curling 200 kg but If Manfred did accept Neece's challenge, he may not have followed through with it due to tearing his bicep in 1997.
1998 World's Strongest Man winner, Magnus Samuelsson, is known to have one of the strongest arms in the world including GRIP having officially closed a number 4 Captains of Crush Gripper.
From his training DVD entitled "The World's Strongest Arms", Magnus cheat curled 140 kg (308 lbs) for 4 fairly strict reps. In an Interview with Ironmind back in 2010, the following information was stated about Magnus Samuelsson's biceps training...
"That his basic biceps routine has been the same for 20 years, built around barbell curls: 60 kg (132 lbs) x 15 reps, 80 kg (176 lbs) x 15 reps, 100 kg (220 lbs) x 15 reps, and if he feels good, back to 60 kg (132 lbs) x 15 reps." ~ Ironmind
To make the reps more challenging and work his grip more during barbell curls he would let the bar roll as far down toward his fingertips as possible during reps, before bringing it back into his hand, curling his wrists, and then continuing the movement.
In case anyone ever wonders if Magnus ever tore his biceps...The answer is yes and both of them!
Here's some more strong lifting...
Professional Arm Wrestling Legend Levan Saginashvili doing 142 kg (312 lbs) Cheat Ez-Bar Curls for 3 reps.
Greek strongman Kyriakos Kapakoulakis known as "Kyriakos Grizzly" online, performs 14 reps with 120 kg (264 lbs) on the Ez-Bar Cheat curl.
Kirill Sarychev Cheat Curled 132.5 kg (292 lbs) for 6 reps using an Ez Bar back in 2015. Impressive. I should say his reps are one of the "strictest" cheat style employed but are still counted as cheat reps in my opinion as his body swings a little.
Bodybuilder Chuck Loesch from the 1970's / '80's curling 140 kg (310 lbs) with a Straight Barbell. Year unknown. Photographer unknown.
Chuck Loesch had incredible arms. He's not someone whom I'm familiar with, so if anyone has information on Loesch or just wishes to post general comments regarding this article, please use the link below.
If you long for the good ol' days of "Old School Bodybuilders and Strongmen" check out my Vintage Muscle Magazine videos on Youtube!
I hope this article will inspire people to pick up a barbell and lift some heavy weight. Whether you use strict or cheat form, compare yourself to the strength legends above!
One final note...Check out the following articles...
- Ronnie Coleman 315 lbs Strict Barbell Curl - Is This Legit?
- Strict Barbell Curl vs The Cheat Barbell Curl - Which one is more effective for Bicep Size Gains?
Keep training hard folks!
All the best,