User Reviewed

How to Do Bicep Curls

Two Parts:Setting Up Your CurlsExecuting Your Curls

When you think of biceps curls, you might picture some muscle-bound guy at the gym grunting while he jacks up a giant dumbbell. When done properly, however, biceps curls are one of the simplest weightlifting moves to employ, and valuable to anyone seeking to build or maintain arm strength and muscle tone. The key point is to focus on proper technique, instead of trying to max out on the weights and allowing your form to break down in the process.

Part 1
Setting Up Your Curls

  1. 1
    Choose your starting weight wisely. If you’re trying to show off by lifting giant dumbbells, you’re likely only doing your body a disservice. Taking on too much weight causes a breakdown in technique and can easily lead to injuries of the elbow, wrist, or muscle tissue.[1]
    • Start small, and work your way up the dumbbell scale as your progress. If you are new to doing curls, or simply looking to maintain existing muscle tone, even one to three pound weights may be sufficient. Remember, do curls for health, not for show.[2]
    • If you are going to do two-handed curls with a bar, the same principle holds. Start at a lower weight and work your way up slowly.
    • Everyone is different, so start with lighter weights and find the maximum amount that permits you to do your desired number of repetitions (reps) while retaining the proper form as described below.
  2. 2
    Know your goal. Generally speaking, if you are seeking to maintain existing muscle tone and arm strength, it is better to do more reps per set with a lower dumbbell weight. If you are looking to build muscle, do fewer reps at a higher weight (but again, don’t sacrifice technique).[3]
    • For muscle maintenance, a general guide is doing one to three sets of ten to twelve (or even twelve to fifteen) reps each, for each arm. For strength building, sets of six to eight reps may be preferable.[4]
    • Let your body be your guide. If you can’t do the number of reps you seek, reduce the dumbbell weight. If necessary, start with one set per arm and build up to three.
  3. 3
    Position yourself properly. Traditional biceps curls are done while standing, but can also be done easily and properly while seated. The overall goal is to isolate your body movement so that only the arm doing the curl is moving. Creating a solid base with your body positioning is critical to achieving this goal.[5][6]
    • In the standing position, keep your feet at hip width, with your knees slightly bent. Stand tall, with your back straight and your abdomen pulled in (but not uncomfortably so). Keep your arms resting at your sides and your head looking forward — look into a mirror if possible to monitor your technique.
    • There are many variations for seated biceps curls, but for the basic maneuver, sit with your feet firmly on the ground, your back straight and abdomen in, your arms to the side, and your head looking forward. Make sure the chair or bench will not impede your arm motion (or the dumbbell’s) during the curls.

Part 2
Executing Your Curls

  1. 1
    Keep it smooth and simple. In spite of the form displayed by the aspiring Mr. Universe you might run into at the gym, a biceps curl shouldn’t be a quick, jerking motion that involves the entire body. It is meant to be a slow, steady, consistent motion that isolates a single muscle group.[7][8]
    • You can do dumbbell curls with both arms at the same time (or alternating arms), but for simplicity’s sake (especially as a beginner), you should probably start with one arm at a time. Or, you can do curls with both arms at the same time by using a bar. If so, you will use the same arm motions as described below for a dumbbell.
    • With the dumbbell securely in your hand, palm facing forward and arm loose to your side, exhale and slowly bend your elbow and contract your biceps to draw the weight upward.
    • While lifting, try to keep every other part of your body still.
    • Keep raising the weight until it is at shoulder height, or even touching your shoulder.
    • Pause for a beat without stopping to let the weight rest on your shoulder.
    • Inhale and slowly lower the weight back to the starting position. Don’t let it just drop back down — control the movement in each direction.
  2. 2
    Don’t cheat yourself. Sacrificing form to lift bigger dumbbells not only risks injury, it also minimizes the benefits of the curls. “Maxing out” on a curl should mean getting the most out of each one, not hurting yourself by flailing around with a giant dumbbell.
    • Keep your wrists straight and rigid throughout the entire curl. It is easy to cause injury by using your wrist as a lever or letting it swing loosely. Use wrist wraps if they help.[9]
    • Don’t lean forward to start the curl, and / or rock backward during the lift. Your body should not be acting as a pendulum during the curl — this takes the focus away from your biceps, and can cause a loss of balance and possible injury.[10]
    • As mentioned earlier, don’t let the weight rest on your shoulder at the top of the motion. If you need a break during a set, you are using too much weight or doing too many reps. Likewise, don’t rest your elbows on your hips or the sides of your abdomen during the motion. You want the full weight of the dumbbells to be isolated on your biceps.
  3. 3
    Return and repeat. When you finish a curl, make sure you extend your arm fully — leaving your elbow slightly bent is another cheat that will reduce the impact of each curl. Once you’ve returned the dumbbell to the proper starting position, pause just long enough to refocus and exhale as you begin the next lift.[11]
    • Rest for approximately thirty to ninety seconds between sets, if you are doing more than one. If you are curling one arm at a time, simply keep alternating arms while allowing one to rest between its sets.[12]
    • Again, it is better to reduce the weight, or your reps or sets, than to let your form break down.
  4. 4
    Look into variations. While the basic standing or sitting curl is a simple, efficient, and effective biceps workout, there are numerous variations that you may find suited to your particular conditions or goals. So long as they limit unnecessary movements and keep the focus on the biceps, they should produce results. Mixing up your curls may also help keep you motivated and interested. Some of the many examples include:[13][14]
    • Incline Dumbbell Curls. Use the same arm motions as described above, but do so while lying back on a bench set at a 45-degree angle. Keeping your back against the bench will inhibit your ability to gain power or momentum from anything other than your arm.
      • As with a normal curl, keep your arm close to your body. Flaring your arm outward while lifting up can strain or damage your shoulder.
    • Hammer Curls. Instead of starting with your palm facing forward while holding the dumbbell, have it facing inward (toward your upper leg). As you lift, rotate your lower arm and the weight so that you reach the top of the motion in the same position as with a regular curl. Reverse the process on the downward motion.
      • For another variation of the hammer curl, start in the standard curl position (palms facing forward), but curl the dumbbell across your chest to the opposite shoulder. Cross it back over while lowering to the starting position.
    • Concentration Curls. Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Lean forward so that you can place your upper arm against your same-side inner thigh (thus the dumbbell in your hand is between your ankles. Place your other hand on the same-side knee for stability. Do the curl as normal, keeping your arm pinned against your inner thigh.
      • This variation helps further focus the movement to the arm doing the curl.
    • Zottman Curls. Start in the standard position, with your palm facing forward. As you lift, rotate your forearm and the weight so that when it reaches your shoulder, your palm is again facing forward (instead of toward your shoulder). Reverse the motion to the standard starting position. Keep your arm close to your side throughout the process.
      • This variation is basically a reverse of the Hammer Curl.


  • Remember to breathe.
  • Remember to concentrate on your biceps.
  • Do not overwork your muscles,take time to rest.
  • Take time and care in picking up and releasing the dumbbell.
  • It may help to sit down, especially if you have any balance issues.


  • Don't use too heavy of a weight.
  • Remember to do the steps slowly.
  • Stretch before and after.
  • Be careful not to drop the weights, especially on your foot!

Article Info

Categories: Building Muscle & Strength