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How to Bicep Curl

What is a bicep curl?

What is a bicep curl

See all bicep curl variations

If you're reading this on a tablet or mobile your biceps are one of the muscles helping you hold your device. Located at the front of your upper arms, the bi-articular muscle helps control the motion of both the shoulder and elbow.  

Making up about one-third of your arms, the bicep is a highly visible muscle which means regularly performing bicep curls is a fantastically effective way to add definition and a toned look to your arms.

The biceps are one of your most-used muscles, essential to the forearm lifting motion. On a daily basis, hundreds of tasks involve bending your arm at the elbow and bicep curls will help make these actions easier to perform. An added bonus is a stronger grip, as holding the dumbbells used to perform the curls also trains your wrist and finger flexors. 

The following isolation exercises will target your biceps and put you on the road to having stronger, healthier, more defined upper arms.


  • It is possible to train biceps everyday provided you give yourself enough rest and recovery between your sessions. If you're training biceps everyday make sure to adjust the volume and training intensity to avoid overtraining this muscle and injury. Keep in mind that more does not necessarily mean better. Your muscles grow while resting, not while training by a process called "super-compensation".

  • If you're working out your biceps but are struggling to see them grow this could be due to a number of reasons. Here are the main reasons why you might find that you're biceps aren't growing. 1) You are not performing the exercise correctly or optimally. Many lifters make the mistake of using momentum or swinging the weight up. This can inhibit muscle contraction to elicit muscle growth. Performing bicep curls with good technique using a lighter weight is more optimal than using a heavier weight with sub-optimal technique. Take the time to learn good technique. 2) Not enough time under tension. If you're performing reps too fast, consider controlling the tempo at which you curl. 3) You may not be performing the exercise to full range of motion to reap the full benefits.

  • How fast you build muscle is dependent on a variety of factors. Whilst building muscle takes time, there are some things you can do to make your workouts as optimal as possible to help elicit muscle growth in your biceps such as: 1) Performing bicep exercises with correct form and to full range of motion 2) Focus on progress overload-based training 3) Consuming enough food  4) Consuming sufficient amount of protein 5) Managing recovery, sleep and stress 6) being consistent with your training.

  • The following muscles are used in bicep curls: biceps brachii and brachialis.

Bicep curl tips

  • Choose a weight that challenges you but that allows you to perform the exercise correctly. If it's too heavy you may be putting strain on other muscles.
  • To get the most from your bicep curls, perform repetitions to exhaustion - where you physically can't complete another curl.
  • As you perform each curl, try and keep your shoulders and elbows as still as possible, to ensure it's your biceps doing the hard work.

Bicep curl variations

How to do Single arm curls with dumbbells

Level: Beginners

Equipment: Pair of dumbbells

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell in hand, palm facing forward and elbow close to your side.  
  2. Slowly curl the dumbbell upwards, bending from your elbow, until the dumbbell reaches your shoulder.  
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the start position. 
  4. Complete your set, then switch hands.

how to do Double arm curls with dumbbells

Level: Beginners

Equipment: Dumbbells, exercise bench

  1. With feet flat on the floor and back against the bench, hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms pointing towards the floor and palms facing your body.  
  2. Slowly curl the dumbbells upwards towards your shoulders, rotating your wrists so your palms face upward. 
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the start position and repeat. 

How to do Cable curls

Level: Beginner to advanced

Equipment: Cable machine

  1. Set the cable machine with an appropriate weight and attach the cable handle with the v-shaped attachment.
  2. Hold the v-shaped attachment with an underhand grip so that palms are facing towards you.
  3. Stand facing the cable with feet firmly planted on the ground  about shoulder-width apart.
  4. Curl the handle up towards your forehead by squeezing the biceps, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  5. Slowly uncurl your arms by extending your arm, again, keeping elbows close to your body.

How to do hammer curls

Level: Beginners to Advanced

Equipment: Pair of dumbbells

  1. Stand upright with feet shoulder width apart and a dumbbell in each, palms facing the body.
  2. Keeping your biceps stationery, lift both dumbbells up until they reach shoulder height, keeping elbows close to your body.
  3. Slowly return dumbbells back to starting position by extending the arms.

How to do concentration curls

Level: beginners to Advanced

Equipment: a bench and a dumbbell

  1. Set up the bench so that when you're sitting your knees are bent at 90 degree with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Pick a dumbbell in your right hand and place the right elbow in your inner right thigh. Extend your left arm and rest it on your left thigh to help keep your balance.
  3. Curl the weight up, keeping your right elbow in contact with your inner right thigh.
  4. Once you've curled the weight towards your chest, pause and then slowly return back to starting position.
  5. Complete however many reps needed and repeat with the other hand.

How to do preacher curls

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Equipment: EZ bar, weighted plates. barbell clamps. preacher curl bench.

  1. Place the EZ bar curl on the preacher curl bench and then position yourself behind the bench so both arms are resting on the bench, with arms out and palms are facing towards you.
  2. Lift the EZ bar off the rack, and curl the bar up towards your forehead whilst keeping your elbows in contact with the bench.
  3. Slowly lower your arms back down to starting position.

How to do spider curls

Level: Intermediate to Advanced.

Equipment: Bench and a pair of dumbbells.

  1. Set the bench at a 45 degree angle.
  2. Life face down with your stomach pressed against the back. 
  3. Hold a pair of dumbbells with palms facing up, at shoulder width apart.
  4. Slowly curl both dumbbells up and pause at the top.
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to starting position.

How to do Zottman curls

Level: Intermediate to Advanced.

Equipment: Pair of dumbbells

  1. Stand upright with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forwards.
  2. Keeping your elbows close to your body, curl the weight towards your shoulders. 
  3. Once you reach the top, reverse your grip 180 degrees so palms are facing the floor, and slowly lower the weights back down to the side.
  4. Flip your grip again to return to starting position.


If you’re not sure if any of the above exercises are suitable for you, please consult your doctor before you start it. Need guidance on how to perform the exercise? Ask a personal trainer at your gym.