Your biceps are likely the most recognizable muscles in your arms. You use them when lifting, whether it's weights or wine bottles. One simple and effective exercise to keep your biceps strong is the biceps curl. And while you may be familiar with them or have done your fair share of them in the past, it's important to have correct form in doing biceps curls in order to see results and try to prevent injury. Ahead, learn about the multitude of benefits of biceps curls, how to make sure you're doing them properly, and how to modify them if you want to mix up your workout routine.
What Is a Biceps Curl?
Biceps curls are strength-training exercises that engage the front of the arm. They work both the muscles of the upper arm, called the biceps brachii, and also muscles of the lower arm including the brachialis and brachioradalis, according to Christine Bullock, fitness expert and founder of Kayo Body Care and a Byrdie Review Board member.
What Are the Benefits of Biceps Curls?
Strengthening your biceps muscles may help lead to more sculpted arms, but there are also many other benefits. "The biceps main function is to flex the elbow, thus keeping the joint safe and assisting in other exercises like rows or pull-ups. Biceps also help the rotator cuff with shoulder stability, creating healthy shoulders and even a healthy back. Lastly, when you perform a biceps curl correctly, it teaches you to engage your core for bonus sculpting," says Bullock.
How Do You Do a Proper Biceps Curl?
You can do biceps curls standing or sitting, depending on your personal preference. But standing while doing biceps curls will challenge your core more, says Bullock. Here's how to do a proper biceps curl:
- Standing or sitting, hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand. Keep your arms long by your side and palms facing forward.
- Brace your core then bend your elbow, lifting the dumbbells toward your shoulder slowly and with control. Your upper arm should stay still by your side and your wrist should stay parallel to your forearm.
- Pause when your hand/weight gets close to the shoulder.
- Slowly lower the weight all the way to the starting position.
Tip: Avoid bending backwards as you pull the weight up or leaning forward as you lower it to try to avoid any injury.
How Much Weight and How Many Reps Should You Start With?
The amount of weight will vary from individual to individual, but Bullock recommends starting with 8–12 reps with a weight that is challenging (especially toward the end of rep) but doesn’t make you compromise form.
Biceps curls are likely safe for everyone to do unless you have a specific arm or shoulder injury or your physician believes you should avoid the exercise. If you have any concerns before trying a new workout, always consult a doctor first.
What Are Some Biceps Modifications You Can Try?
As with most strength-training exercises, there are ways to modify them depending on your individual goals, preferences, and fitness levels. You can change up your weights (both up or down) as well as sit or stand.
Another way to mix up curls is to do single or double arms. "If your goal is strength and size, alternate arms so you’ll be able to lift more weight. If your goal is definition, work with a lighter weight and increase reps to 25–30," recommends Bullock.
Marcolin G, Panizzolo FA, Petrone N, et al. Differences in electromyographic activity of biceps brachii and brachioradialis while performing three variants of curl. PeerJ. 2018;6:e5165. doi:10.7717/peerj.5165