Concentration Curls: The Secret to Stronger, Bigger Biceps

One way is to do concentration curls. There are many ways you can improve your arm strength and size. This exercise will help you increase the strength and size of your biceps.

Your biceps are one of the largest muscles in your body. They help lift and hold objects. Unfortunately, many people don’t exercise enough and as a result, they get smaller and weaker.

What are Concentration Curls?

A concentration curl is a particular exercise that focuses on maximum muscle contraction with the purpose of generating muscle hypertrophy. We’ll go through step-by-step directions later, but for now, know that the concentration curl permits your body to leverage position, so you can’t cheat on the rep.

It is usually done in a seated position (there are several variations), so you can lock in the rest of your body. You will rest your elbow against the inside of your leg and focus on curling the weight up toward your shoulder using just your biceps. 

What is the significance of this? Because the body prefers to use other muscles to aid in this motion, it frequently occurs when you use sloppy technique, too much weight, or have difficulty connecting with the muscle while it is operating. This is a unilateral exercise, which means that only one muscle group will be worked. If you notice that secondary muscle groups are also engaged, you are most likely not employing the proper technique.

Benefits OF Dumbbell Concentration Curls

In comparison to the standard bicep curl, the concentration curl exercise genuinely targets the biceps in a way that no other exercise can since it removes body momentum from the equation. This is one of the most significant concentration curl benefits, and that is why many people who follow a hypertrophy or strength-oriented weight training regimen prefer it to ordinary bicep curls. (1)

Because the lifting phase of the workout is faster than the lowering phase, it is considered a forceful movement and may do wonders for improving upper body strength and power. (2)

They are easy to complete and only require basic gym equipment. You can even complete them at home with adjustable dumbbells to train with progressive overload, which is the best way to go if you’re looking to boost strength or muscle mass.

Muscles worked by Concentration Curls

Muscles worked by Concentration Curls

Concentration curls, as an isolated exercise, primarily activate both heads of the biceps brachii muscle group (both the long and short heads) found on the front of the upper arm with attachment sites at the scapula and the radius of the forearm. (3)

This makes the biceps brachii primarily responsible for the internal rotation of the forearms. (4)

Despite the fact that the biceps are the primary mover muscles of the concentration curls, other muscle groups such as the brachialis, which is located beneath the two heads of the aforementioned muscle, as well as the various smaller muscles located within the forearms, which act as stabilizer muscles during the repetition, are also involved.

How to do

Concentration Curl


  • Sit on a flat bench with your dumbbell in hand. Make sure to get one that is light enough for you to control. If you begin with too heavy a weight, your body will attempt to cheat in order to curl it. Use an underhand grip to support your weight.
  • Your legs will be a little wider than your hips and provide your base for this exercise. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Hinge forward, creating a 45-degree angle with your upper body. This allows you to stabilize your elbow in the correct position.
  • Place your right elbow on the inner of your right thigh. Throughout the exercise, keep your elbow in touch with your thigh. Use your other hand to provide extra stability to the same leg so it doesn’t shift about.
  • Your arm should start straight with the dumbbell close to your lower leg, and your palm should be facing away from you. Your shoulder, elbow, and hand should be stacked in one straight line. Maintain this starting position for each and every repeat of this exercise. Keep your upper arm straight.
  • Make sure your hold on the dumbbell is even and squeeze as hard as you can. If your hand is tight, nothing else up your arm’s chain will work properly.
  • Squeeze your biceps while flexing your elbow and gently raising the dumbbell to your shoulder. Lower the weight slowly and with the same control until your arm is completely straight and your upper arm is perpendicular. Perform the required number of reps before switching arms, with the dumbbell in your left arm and your left elbow resting on your inner thigh.

Concentration Curls Tips

  1. Maintain a slight bend in the elbow at the bottom of the movement in order to keep tension through the biceps.
  2. Performing the exercise with a slow eccentric (lowering portion) can help to improve tension and mind-muscle connection.

Common mistakes Concentration Curls

Using momentum

You will only impede your progress if you use momentum to get through the activity. If you find yourself doing this, which is one of the most common seated dumbbell concentration curl blunders, you should reduce the weight you’re using so that you may maximize your results with this exercise. You should also make sure to gradually lower the weight with your elbows.

Rushing through the exercise

Rushing will also hinder your progress, as lowering the dumbbell too quickly during the second phase of the movement will mean that you sacrifice many of the seated concentration curl benefits, such as improved strength. If you curl the dumbbell faster and focus on lowering it slowly, you’ll feel the difference! 

Moving your elbows

If you are new to weight lifting, you might be tempted to let your elbows flare out during this action. To avoid this, keep your elbows pressed to your inner thighs and your back straight. If the problem persists, you may need to reduce the weight.

Concentration Curls Regression & Progression 

Aside from the aforementioned benefits of the concentration curl, another advantage of including it in your arm day workout is that it can easily be made easier or more challenging for people who do not wish to perform it in its standard form.


  • If you want to make this workout easier, use a lighter dumbbell at first. This may appear to be an easy solution, but it is well worth the effort. If you’re having trouble doing this workout, swallow your pride and use a lighter weight. It’s far perfect for sitting out, and you’ll gain more muscle mass in the long term!
  • Alternatively, you could use a resistance band to execute this exercise by anchoring one end of the band under your foot as you curl it. Check out the 13 best resistance bands available online here so that you’re prepared for your next workout. 


  • To make the exercise more difficult and to really boost your strength (and muscle gains), you should use a heavier dumbbell. Bear in mind, that you should be training with progressive overload to make gains in the first place! 
  • If you’re not yet ready to increase your load, slow down the tempo at which you lift the dumbbell. Your muscles will be put under more strain since they will have to work harder during each individual rep, which will accelerate your improvement (and prepare your muscles for larger weights).

Concentration Curls Sets and Reps

You’re not going to max out on this lift, but you can still use it to dramatically improve your biceps. You’ll use smaller or heavier weights depending on your specific goals. Whatever your goal, be sure you’re using enough weight to make it difficult but not so much that you lose your shape.

  • For Strength: Perform three to four sets of six to eight repetitions per side.
  • For Muscle: Perform three to four sets of eight to 12 reps per side, approaching failure with each set.
  • For Endurance: Do three to four sets of 15 to 20 reps with a reasonably light — but still tough — weight.

This exercise’s placement is ideal for allowing oneself to fail with relative safety. However, keep your form in check as the maneuver becomes more difficult with each repetition.

Concentration Curls Variations

Standing Concentration Curl

You’ll be in a supported hip hinge when performing the normal seated variety of this exercise. Your hinge will be much less supported in the standing concentration curl.

You’ll still be isolating your biceps in terms of your upper-body engagement. However, you’ll be adding tension and perhaps even a good strong stretch to your hamstrings and glutes, too. If you need more practice holding an isometric hinge, this is an excellent place to get it.

Cable Concentration Curl

Dumbbell concentration curls offer a whole lot of muscle-building potential. Performing this same move with cables can increase your potential for muscle growth even further.

This is because the cable tension will provide consistent resistance throughout your range of motion. This will result in a longer time under tension, which is a terrific way to create thicker muscles.

Hammer Concentration Curl


If you’re looking to get the most out of the long head of your biceps, the hammer curl has got your back — erm, arms. And if you want to isolate your biceps long head as much as possible, do this move concentration-style.

Throughout your reps, retain a neutral grip with your hands facing your body’s midline as if you were wielding a hammer. When you do this during a concentration curl, you mix the isolation of this technique with a lengthy head emphasis.

Concentration Curls Alternatives

Incline Bench Hammer Curl

 Incline Hammer Curl

Once again, meet the hammer curl. This time, you’ll be performing hammer curls while sitting on an incline bench. This gives similar benefits as the concentration curl because your upper body will be anchored.

The additional stability provided by supporting your upper body on an incline bench isolates your biceps even more than the standing version. Just make sure your shoulders are relaxed and low.

Preacher Curl

The preacher curl is known for taking your arms to church. This move has you brace your upper arms over an incline bench, stabilizing your triceps while curling with your biceps.

You take your shoulders out of the curl by placing your upper arms on a bench. This leaves only your biceps (and forearms) to move the weight up and down.

Spider Curl

Don’t worry, no real arachnids are needed for this one. The spider curl is similar to the preacher curl in that you support your complete upper body rather than just your upper arm(s).

Dumbbell Concentration vs. barbell Concentration vs. cable Concentration

Dumbbell concentration curl

Sit on a bench with your elbow resting on your inner thigh to perform the dumbbell concentration curl. The dumbbell is then curled up towards your shoulder while your upper arm remains steady. This exercise lets you concentrate on your biceps without having to worry about keeping the weight stable. (5)

Barbell concentration curl

The barbell concentration curl is performed in a similar way to the dumbbell concentration curl, but you use a barbell instead of a dumbbell. This exercise can be more challenging, as the bar is heavier than a dumbbell. However, it can also be more stable, as the weight is distributed evenly across both hands. (6)

Cable concentration curl

A cable machine is used to accomplish the cable concentration curl. You sit on a bench with your elbow resting on your inner thigh and attach a single handle to the cable machine. The handle is then curled up towards your shoulder while your upper arm remains motionless. This workout allows you to change the strength of the cable machine, making it more or less difficult.

Dumbbell concentration curlDumbbellIsolates the biceps; can be performed anywhereCan be challenging to balance the weight; can put a strain on the wrists
Barbell concentration curlBarbellIsolates the biceps; can be more challenging than the dumbbell concentration curlCan be challenging to balance the weight; can put a strain on the wrists
Cable concentration curl
Cable machine
Isolates the biceps; can be adjusted to different levels of resistance
Can be more difficult to set up; can be more challenging to control the weight


Many lifters are focused on increasing their biceps. If you want to increase your biceps but they’ve plateaued, use the concentration curl to isolate your biceps and prime you for growth.

You won’t have to worry about your shoulders overcompensating or your back strength taking over during this biceps move. Simply preserving proper type and focusing on forceful contractions can set you up for significant gains.


What was Arnold’s favorite bicep exercise?

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Best Biceps Exercise

Barbell Zottman Curls – It is performed using a dumbbell and an underhand grip. This exercise is seen in many bodybuilding exercises, but Schwarzenegger’s variation is especially helpful for creating bigger biceps.

are concentration curls more effective?

Because you can completely isolate your bicep muscle group in this exercise, seated concentration curls are the most effective. And this is the secret to inflicting the most micro-trauma on your biceps while not overworking your secondary muscle groups.

are concentration curls better than bicep curls?

The Concentration Curl outperforms the standing Biceps Curl based on muscle loading data from most EMG research comparing the two workouts.

do concentration curls work the entire bicep?

The exercise engages the biceps branchii’s long and short heads. This results in significant hypertrophy and strength increases. If you want bigger arms, this is the shirt for you.


1. Krings, B. M., Shepherd, B. D., Swain, J. C., Turner, A. J., Chander, H., Waldman, H. S., … & Smith, J. W. (2021). Impact of fat grip attachments on muscular strength and neuromuscular activation during resistance exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research35, S152-S157.

2. Krentz, J. R., Chilibeck, P. D., & Farthing, J. P. (2017). The effects of supramaximal versus submaximal intensity eccentric training when performed until volitional fatigue. European journal of applied physiology117, 2099-2108.

3. Krings, B. M., Shepherd, B. D., Swain, J. C., Turner, A. J., Chander, H., Waldman, H. S., … & Smith, J. W. (2021). Impact of fat grip attachments on muscular strength and neuromuscular activation during resistance exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research35, S152-S157.

4. Elshafei, M., Costa, D. E., & Shihab, E. (2021). On the impact of biceps muscle fatigue in human activity recognition. Sensors21(4), 1070.

5. Perine, S. (2010). Legendary guns: We take you through the arm routines of six Mr. Olympias to fill you in on how you can fill out your sleeves. Flex28(7), 136-151.

6. Mills, S., Candow, D. G., Forbes, S. C., Neary, J. P., Ormsbee, M. J., & Antonio, J. (2020). Effects of creatine supplementation during resistance training sessions in physically active young adults. Nutrients12(6), 1880.

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