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How to do a bicep curl correctly


A bicep curl with the palm rotated toward the body while the elbow is fully flexed.  Personal Photo/Jennifer Cunningham.

The curl is one of the most popular weight lifting exercises for working the biceps.  Depending on how the weight is held and the method it is lifted with can change which muscles in the shoulder and forearm are also targeted.

Here is the procedure for doing a standard bicep curl which targets the biceps, anterior deltoid, brachialis, and brachioradialis.

  1. Sit or stand with a dumbbell in each hand.  The arms should be down at the side of the body with palms facing the body.
  2. Starting on the right side, bend the elbow to raise the hand up in the direction of the shoulder.  Twist the wrist so that the palm is facing your shoulder when the elbow is fully flexed (pictured above).
  3. Lower the right hand back down to the side of the body, rotating the wrist to make the palm face the body when the elbow if fully extended.
  4. Repeat the motion on the left side before returning to the right side.  Doing one side at a time isn't necessary, but the focus helps maintain form.

Tips to make the bicep curl better:

  • Use dumbbells instead of barbells for your curl.  This will make you stronger and more evenly matched on both sides of the body.  When using a barbell, the stronger side of the body can sometimes compensate for the weaker side by pulling more of the load, but if you use dumbbells, each side must lift the same amount of weight.
  • Remember to breathe.  Take a breath before starting the exercise, exhale during the up phase of the lift and inhale on the down phase of the lift.
  • Always keep a straight back and tight core.
  • If you have to swing your body in any way to get the weight up, you are lifting too much weight.  Using momentum is cheating!
  • Always go through a full range of motion.  The weight must come all the way up as far the the elbow will bend (without moving the shoulder) and all the way back down until the elbow is straight (but not locked).

Other types of curl:

For more info: Strength Training Anatomy 2nd Edition by Frederic Delavier