How to Do Biceps Arm Curls

The arm curl or biceps curl is a highly recognizable weight training exercise that utilizes dumbbells or barbells, or even kettlebells, to work the muscles of the upper arm, the biceps, and to a lesser extent, the lower brachialis and brachioradialis.

Variations include standing position, seated, incline seated and "concentration" position with elbow resting on the (seated) inner thigh. The barbell is also used in a similar set of curl exercises.

This description is for the alternating dumbbell arm curl.

As with all exercises, don’t lift too heavy a weight to begin with, and stop if you feel any pain. Building big biceps is popular among men, but don't rush to get to heavier weights before you're ready. Injury to the elbow or wrist can occur, and that'll put a damper on your entire workout routine.

Remember to exhale on effort and don’t hold the breath.

Muscles worked: biceps muscles at the front of the upper arm, and also the muscles of the lower arm, the brachialis, and brachioradialis.


Body Position

Bicep curls
Ben Goldstein
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand at the sides with palms facing in toward the side of the thigh and arms straight down.
  • Position the feet comfortably about shoulder-width apart.
  • Brace the core muscles ready to lift the weight.

Body Movement

  • Lift one dumbbell toward the shoulder, rotating the arm as it moves up so that the palm with the dumbbell is now facing upward (supine) and the elbow is pointing to the ground with the forearm almost vertical. Keep the elbow in close to the body. One arm at a time is called a unilateral exercise.
  • Lower to the side position and perform the same movement with the other arm. Continue to alternate until the set is complete.
  • Try ten exercises with each arm for three sets. If this is too much to start with, don't reduce the weight but do five exercises with each arm.

For a variation, perform the exercise bilaterally, that is lifting both arms at the same time. Refine the unilateral lift first before moving on to this exercise.


Check Points

  • Don’t pull the dumbbell so far back that the forearm moves beyond a vertical position. That is, don’t have the dumbbell headed over your shoulder.
  • Concentrate on good form rather than rapid execution, at least when starting out. Feel the burn when doing these exercises.
  • Don’t recruit the shoulders and torso when doing the dumbbell curl, which can end up as a twisting and heaving movement. Concentrate on the arms and maintain the correct form. Choose lighter weights or reduce the repetitions if this occurs.

That's it. Most people, men, and women, detect a noticeable increase in strength, and bulk for some, with this exercise.

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