How to Build Your Biceps With Concentration Curls

How to Build Your Biceps With Concentration Curls

Unlike standard curls, concentration curls allow you to focus on contracting your biceps muscle without using body momentum, helping to maximize tension placed on the muscle. Although this exercise makes only a slight tweak to the classic biceps curl, it’s enough to make the dumbbell concentration curl a must-have in your arm workout arsenal.

“The stationary position of the elbow allows you to have greater control over the movement,” explains Cody Braun, Openfit fitness specialist. Because your arm is braced against your thigh, you’re able to target the biceps muscle even more than you would in other types of curls. This results in greater activation of the biceps, which is what helps build more strength.

Here’s how to do concentration curls properly, and why you should add them — and their many variations — to your workout routine.

Dumbbell Concentration Curl: Step-by-Step Instructions

How to Do Concentration Curls

  • Sit in a chair with your feet flat, your knees spread wide, and a dumbbell in your right hand.
  • Bend forward and brace the back of your right elbow against the inside of your right knee. Your right arm should hanging straight down, with your right palm facing your left leg.
  • Keeping your upper body still and your elbow against your knee, curl the weight toward your shoulder with your palm facing upward.
  • Pause and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
  • Do all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat, performing an equal number of reps with each arm.

Concentration Curl Variations

Below are additional ways you can perform the concentration curl.

Standing concentration curl

This variation is great if you don’t have access to a bench or stability ball.

  • Assume a wide, staggered stance with your left leg forward and your left arm supported on your left thigh (as if you were about to attempt to start a lawnmower).
  • Holding a dumbbell at arm’s length with your right hand (palm facing forward), make a fist with your left hand and brace the back of your right elbow against the back of your left wrist.
  • Keeping your back flat and core braced, curl the weight toward your shoulder.
  • Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
  • Do all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat, performing an equal number of reps with each arm.

One-arm preacher curl

concentration curls demonstration | arm workouts

Performing a curl with your arm on an incline bench or preacher station further limits your ability to use momentum to help you curl the weight.

  • Holding a dumbbell in one hand, position yourself on a preacher curl bench or behind an incline bench with your elbow bent and your arm positioned vertically on the pad.
  • Lower the weight, stopping just before your elbows lock out.
  • Curl the dumbbell back up to the starting position, and repeat.

Hammer concentration curl

Assuming a hammer curl grip places more emphasis on your brachialis (see biceps anatomy below), as compared to a regular concentration curl.

  • Sit in a chair with your feet flat, your knees spread wide, and a dumbbell in your right hand.
  • Bend forward and brace the back of your right elbow against the inside of your right knee. Your right arm should be vertical, with your right palm facing toward you.
  • Keeping your upper body still, your elbow against your knee, and your palm facing inward, curl the weight toward your shoulder.
  • Pause and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
  • Do all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat, performing an equal number of reps with each arm.

How to Make Concentration Curls Easier or Harder

By making a few adjustments, this move can be accessible to someone who’s a beginner at lifting weights, or extra challenging to someone who’s looking to take their training to the next level.

Make it easier

  • Use a lighter weight.

Make it harder

  • Use a heavier weight.
  • Slow your lifting tempo: This will increase time under tension, making your muscles work even longer and harder during each rep.

Are Concentration Curls Good for Mass?

Doing concentration curls alone isn’t a guaranteed way to gain mass, but it can definitely help you build bigger biceps when included in a workout plan. Focus on load (how much weight you lift) and volume (how many reps and sets you do) if you want to build mass.

Braun recommends selecting a moderate-to-heavy weight and doing about 10 reps per set. Prioritize bilateral moves (ones that work both sides of your body at the same time) like barbell biceps curls, and then finish off with concentration curls to top off your growth.

What Muscles Do Concentration Curls Work?

biceps anatomy

This move really concentrates on the biceps muscles (hence the name, concentration curl). The technical name for this muscle is the biceps brachii, and it’s the muscle that pops out when you do the strong man pose. It’s comprised of two heads – the short head and the long head – that work to flex the arm at the elbow (the motion of a curl). The biceps is also responsible for the supination (i.e. outward rotation) of the forearm.

Lauren Bedosky

About

Lauren Bedosky is an experienced health and fitness writer who specializes in running, strength training, sports nutrition, and injury prevention. She writes for a variety of companies and publications, including Men’s Health, MyFitnessPal, Everyday Health, and BlueCross BlueShield. She lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, with her husband and their three dogs. You can find here on Twitter here.

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