Muscle group: The arm muscles
Trained muscle: Biceps, forearm
Fitness level: Beginner, advanced, experienced
Type of training: Own body weight exercises, free weight exercises, machine exercises
Bicep curls represent the one and only exercise for the biceps muscle. There are other exercises that also work out the biceps, like pull-ups, but with less intensity and effectiveness than curls do.
Bicep curls exist in many different variations and train the biceps muscle as well as the brachioradialis of the forearm. The most relevant and effective versions are regular curls, concentration curls, and the scott curl. Regular bicep curls can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, or on the cable machine. In accordance with the equipment we can choose between different workout positions. For beginners it is recommended to start with scott curls on the machine before moving on to the cables or free weights.
Regular bicep curls – standing
For standing bicep curls, we can either go in a short lunge position or stand with our feet shoulder wide. The knees bend slightly. The abdominals tense and the pelvis erects actively (easier in lunge position). From here we could either work with a barbell, a curl bar, a pair of dumbbells, or at the cable machine with a straight or curl bar. Please grab the respective bar tightly and actively stabilize your wrist. Your grip can be shoulder wide or slightly wider. Without momentum you bend and stretch your elbow joint. The upper arms remain steady on the sides of your trunk.
With dumbbells you would work out both arms either alternately (one flexes and one stretches and vice versa) or to the same time (both bend and stretch simultaneously). Both upper arms are rather loose in this version so it is recommendable to stabilize them actively.
Towards the end of a set when your muscles get tired please don’t work with momentum. Here, we would have the high risk of developing a hollow back what could cause back problems. To prevent this problem you could stand straightly against a wall with your back.
Bicep curls standing
Regular bicep curls – sitting
Seated bicep curls are performed with dumbbells. Sit up straight on a bench leaning with your back against the rest. The shoulders pull backward. Again, you could either work out both arms simultaneously or alternately. Actively stabilize your upper arms. Don’t bend or stretch the elbow joints maximally. Holding your arms slightly to the front while working out intensifies the exercise (also in standing position). Rotating your arms within the movement doesn’t increase the intensity.
Bicep curls sitting
Regular bicep curls – lying
On the cable machine we could also perform bicep curls in lying position. We get in supine position with our feet pointing toward the cable machine. The knees are bent at approximately 90° and the heels press into the floor. The abdominals tense erecting the pelvis and pulling the lower back down onto the floor. Our head lays down as well. Both upper arms are kept tightly on the sides of our trunk and we bend and stretch the elbow joints with the bar grabbed firmly. Actively stabilize your wrist. To increase the intensity slightly lift your upper arms.
Bicep curls lying
Concentration curls for the biceps are performed in sitting position either with a dumbbell or against the bare resistance of your leg. With dumbbells we start sitting on a bench with opened legs (approximately 90°). The back side of the working arm fixates above the knee on the inner thigh of the same site of the body. The inner forearm points toward the other leg (inward rotation in the shoulder joint). The other hand can hold on to the bench to stabilize your body. The upper body tilts slightly toward the front. The back is straight and the abdominals tensed. From that position we bend and stretch (not maximally) the elbow joint with the dumbbell grabbed tightly and actively stabilized wrist. Rotating your arms within the movement doesn’t increase the intensity.
Concentration curls with dumbbell
Concentration curls against the resistance of the leg represent an extremely effective workout for the biceps. The exercise can either be performed on a bench or on the floor. We take the same position as for concentration curls with dumbbell. Now, the hand of the working arm grabs the opposite thigh from below slightly above the knee joint. From this position we lift up the leg with the strength of the biceps. In the negative motion we can increase the intensity by actively pressing down the leg. This version allows us to put an optimal resistance against the biceps at any time of the set.
Concentration curls against leg resistance
The scott curl can be practised on the scott curl machine, the cable machine, with a curl bar, or a dumbbell. For scott curls with dumbbell or on the cable we use an incline bench in a quite steep adjustment. We get in lunge position behind the bench keeping the back straight. We work with one arm. Place the backside of your arm onto the cushion of the bench. Actively stabilize your wrist with tight grip on the handle bar or dumbbell. Keep your abdominals tensed and bend and stretch your elbow joint alternately.
Scott curl one-armed
For scott curls with curl bar or on the scott curl machine we have a wider cushion that fits both arms. We choose the same position as we did for one-armed scott curls. Alternatively you could sit down on the seat cushion. Here, your knees should be below your hips. Your chest as well as the entire backsides of your upper arms are resting on the respective cushions. On the scott curl machine the rotating axis should be in line with the elbow joints. Keep your abdominals tensed and your back straight during the entire set. Firmly grab the curl bar or handle levers actively stabilizing your wrist. Bend and stretch your elbow joint alternately.
Scott curl both arms
Bicep curls – intensity
Bicep curls are most intense when we concentrate the movement with the forearm close around the horizontal line (longest lever). The further we move the weight upward from this point the more the tension in our muscle decreases. Exceptions are the workout against the leg resistance and on the cable or scott curl machine. Here, the intensity doesn’t depend on the lever what allows us to train effectively throughout the entire amplitude, even when we bend the elbow joint maximally. Never stretch your elbow joint maximally when you work out bicep curls.
Stretching: Bicep stretch