How to do the dumbbell biceps curl to build big, strong and defined arms
It’s the one exercise everyone thinks they know how to do – even people who’ve never set foot in a gym. But the classic dumbbell biceps curl is more often than not executed appallingly with momentum, not the muscle, doing most of the heavy lifting. Here’s New Body Plan creator and Men’s Fitness cover model Jon Lipsey on how you can perform bicep curls perfectly to get the bigger and stronger arms you want!
The dumbbell biceps curl shares a very common trait with the dumbbell lateral raise. What is it? They’re both two exercises where most people focus on how much weight they’re lifting at the expense of lifting with proper form.
That’s a mistake. Why? Because ignoring exercise execution to swing a far-too-heavy dumbbell up and down (and often from side to side) means that momentum is responsible for most of the movement, not your biceps. And without properly stimulating these muscles through good form, controlled contractions and maximal time under tension, you’re never going to add size or strength to your arms.
That’s why it’s completely worth your while to reduce the weight of the dumbbells and fully master the movement pattern. That includes squeezing your biceps hard at the top of the move (when your hands are by your shoulders). And then fully straightening your arms at the end of each rep and the start of the next one.
Doing so will work a far greater number of muscle fibres than wildly swinging too-heavy weights around, and the more muscle tissue you can recruit and fatigue during training, the bigger and stronger your muscles will grow back!
Here’s how to do the dumbbell biceps curl better to add serious size and strength to your arms, and don’t forget to try our free Big Arms workout!
The Dumbbell Biceps Curl
Targets: Biceps, forearms
How to do it
• Stand tall or sit on an upright bench holding a dumbbell in each hand by your side with palms facing forwards. Raise your chin, keep your chest up, have your back straight and tighten your abs.
• Keeping your elbows tight to your sides, curl the weights up under complete control to shoulder height then squeeze your biceps hard for a count of one second. If you can’t keep your elbows against your torso when curling the dumbbells up then they are too heavy; reduce the weight then start again.
• Slowly lower the weights back down under complete control to return to the start position. Flex your triceps to fully straighten your arm. That’s one rep.
• Remember: the only part of your body that should move during each rep is your lower arm! If you can’t perform the rep with the rest of your body locked into position it means the weight is too heavy!
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