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January 07, 2022 9 min read

When it comes to building upper body strength,  bicep curls are a foundational exercise that many gym enthusiasts love to do. It is a staple that never goes out of fashion which is why nearly every gym enthusiast’s bro-split boasts of at least one bicep curl variation.

That's because bicep curls are a widely accepted, tested-and-trusted exercise for bigger arms.

Why Bicep Curls Remain A Great Option

The bigger your guns, the better your physique. Many people associate being fit with having guns even The Rock would envy. This has led to somewhat of a crazed interest in any exercise that emphasizes the muscles of the arms.  Many workout routines require immense upper body strength. To train the rest of your body muscle groups, you need muscle strength in your arms, shoulders, back, and core muscles.

Bicep curls isolate and engage the biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis. These muscles contribute to not only having bigger arms but also greater arm strength. Bicep curls also activate the stabilizer muscles, helping in core strength. Add in the improvement of the elbow joint and you get a one-size-fits-all exercise.

The arm is an intricate system of muscle groups and there are many effective variations that engage these muscles.

10 Best Bicep Curl Variations

What makes bicep curls an unchallenged champion for arm muscle hypertrophy and strength is their ability to be tailored to suit your needs. Although bicep curls are primarily for the isolation and activation of the bicep heads and their surrounding muscles, they also challenge the triceps, delts, wrist extension, and wrist flexors.

There is more than one way to go around a bicep curl.

With a little tweak in equipment, grip form, hand placement, elbow flexion, and range of motion, a simple bicep curl can become even more interesting.

Listed below are 10 proven bicep curl variations to stimulate arm growth.

1. Dumbbell Bicep Curls

Many gym enthusiasts were first introduced to this variation before any other and so this bicep curl is widely believed to be the standard bicep curl. The dumbbell curl is a simple lift and is thus a beginner-friendly exercise that belongs on any gym noob’s list.  Begin with lightweight dumbbells to ensure that you engage the right muscle groups to perform the exercise properly. 

To do dumbbell bicep curls:

  • Stand tall with your back straight, chest forward, chin up, and feet planted hip-width apart. Grip a dumbbell in each hand with your arms straight by your side and palms facing your body.
  • Keep your wrist unlocked and your arms relaxed. Pull your shoulder blades back to help you hold proper form throughout the exercise.
  • Engage your core and rotate your wrist so your palm is facing forward. Exhale as you flex your elbow and bring the dumbbells upwards towards your shoulders.
  • Tighten your biceps and hold this form for a second. Exhale as you hinge, lowering the dumbbells back to your sides and twisting your wrist back to starting position. This completes one rep.

Although it's a straightforward exercise, a lot can go wrong while doing the dumbbell bicep curls. Many amateurs make the mistake of going too fast and swinging the dumbbell with momentum. This would lead to heaving the dumbbell as opposed to the proposed lifting motion necessary for triggering muscle growth. When doing dumbbell curls, concentrate more on keeping proper form than on the weight you are lifting.

    2. Hammer Curls

      Hammer curls are also popularly known as the neutral grip dumbbell curl. They are a relatively easy strength training exercise that targets the long head of the biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis for bigger biceps. Also performed using a dumbbell, the major difference between a conventional dumbbell bicep curl and the hammer curl lies in the grip.

      To do hammer curls:

      • Stand tall with your spine straight, shoulders back, and chest proud. 
      • Keep your feet hip-width apart, toes forward and knees slightly bent. Your chin should remain tucked throughout your sets.
      • Hold one dumbbell in each hand with your arms by your side and palm facing forward. 
      • Tension your shoulders, engage your core and distribute your weight equally on your feet.
      • Keep your elbow bent softly and your wrist unlocked.
      • Keeping your shoulders and upper arms still, bend your elbows and raise the dumbbells towards your shoulders. Your lower arms should touch your upper arms and you should feel your bicep tighten.
      • Hold the tension in your bicep for a second. Hinge your elbow and lower the dumbbell back to starting position.

      Unlike the dumbbell bicep curl, the hammer curl puts less stress on your wrist. It is also a valid exercise for increasing grip strength. To make this variation more challenging, bring each dumbbell to the opposite shoulder in a cross-body hammer curl.

        3. Barbell Bicep Curl

          The barbell curl is a more difficult bicep curl variation that puts strain on the wrist and elbow joints. Unlike its predecessors, the barbell bicep curl employs a shorter range of motion to activate the arm and chest muscles.  A barbell bicep curl is a great option for muscle hypertrophy as it allows you to lift heavier weights in the long run. This would lead to increased muscle mass for an overall jacked look. 

          To do the barbell bicep curl:

          • Load a barbell with weights that you can lift comfortably for the completion of your set.
          • Stand erect with your feet hip-width wide and shoulder blades pulled back.
          • Hold the barbell with a supinated shoulder-wide grip, the palms facing away from the body.
          • Squeeze the bar to create tension in your muscles. 
          • Keeping your elbows slightly to the front, contract your biceps and curl the bar up to your shoulders. 
          • Pause at the peak of the movement before slowly lowering the bar to starting position.

          Barbell curls can also be performed with EZ bars. Research shows that the EZ bicep curl is  a more effective variation in the stimulation of biceps brachii and brachioradialis.

            4. Cable Curls

              Cable curls activate the same muscle groups as the conventional bicep grip but place less strain on the wrist. It is one of the most effective exercises for isolating and activating the bicep muscles.  Since cable machines provide a constant arm tension regardless of your arm position during the range of motion, it provides an increased chance of muscle hypertrophy. Because the machine is easy to use, this bicep variation is gym-noob friendly.

              To do cable curls:

              • Attach a straight or EZ bar to the pulley. Place it on the lowest platform on the machine.
              • Hold the bar using an underhand grip, keeping it down at your thighs. Hold your arms in front of you and adjust your stance. Keep your spine straight, feet shoulder-width apart, and gaze forward. 
              • Exhale, engage your core, and curl the bar towards your shoulders using your bicep muscle. Keep your movement controlled.
              • Inhale as you lower the bar back to the starting position. Keep the cable under tension throughout the length of your sets.

                5. Concentration Curls

                  The concentration curl has a range of motion so short that it isolates and concentrates on activating the bicep muscles. This helps you to focus on the concentric contraction of the bicep heads and brachialis. This leads to bigger muscles in little to no time.

                  To do the concentration curls:

                  • Sit on a bench that allows you to bend your knee at a 90-degree angle. Lean forward slightly with your legs spread out and keep your feet flat on the floor.
                  • Hold a dumbbell with a supinated grip in your right hand and position the back of your right upper arm on the inside of your thigh. Keep your arm straight with the dumbbell towards the floor.
                  • Keeping your shoulder still and elbow in your thigh, slowly curl up the dumbbell towards your chest. Hold the tension in your bicep for a second before slowly lowering the dumbbell to the starting position.

                  To get the best results, leave a slight bend in your elbow as you approach the starting position. This would keep tension in your arms.

                    6. TRX Bicep Curl

                      The TRX bicep curl remains one of the best bicep exercises to build muscle. Unlike other bicep curl variations, the TRX bicep curl uses bands and your body weight against gravity to simulate pull-ups to stimulate the biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis, forearm flexors, and abs.  Because of the suspension of your body against gravity, your core remains involuntarily engaged through your reps.

                      Overall, the TRX bicep curl is a  bodyweight bicep exercise that not only helps in upper body strength but also stability. You can make this exercise easier or harder simply by adjusting your feet closer to the attachment point or further away from it.

                      To do the TRX bicep curl:

                      • Attach your cables to an overhead sturdy point. Adjust the straps to reach mid-length or low enough for you to grab.
                      • Stand facing the anchor and grasp the handles. Stand closer to the anchor point and slightly lean back, stretching the cables. Keep your back straight and core engaged. 
                      • Bend your elbows to lift your body towards the handles of the cables. 
                      • Hold and return to the starting position. This counts as one rep.

                        7. Reverse Curls

                          To do reverse curls, simply reverse the basic bicep curl grip. Instead of using a supinated grip on your barbell, you hold the bar with a pronated grip.  The reverse curls are a more advanced variation that works the biceps and brachioradialis or the forearms. This variation isolates and stimulates the bicep heads better, resulting in an overall more bulked-up upper body. You can use an EZ bar or a barbell to perform reverse curls. The most important thing is, to begin with, a comfortable weight.

                          To do the reverse curl:

                          • Assume the stance of a conventional bicep curl; spine erect, chest forward, shoulders back. Keep your knees slightly bent and feet planted firmly on the floor.
                          • Grab the bar with a shoulder wide grip. Your hands should go over the top of the bar in a reverse grip with your knuckles on top of the bar.
                          • Keep your elbows close to your sides as you engage your core and curl the bar up with your biceps.
                          • Hold the tension in your arms before lowering the bar back to starting position.

                            8. Incline Dumbbell Curls

                              This bicep curl variation is a splendid choice for maximizing the bicep peak. Incline dumbbell curls isolate the long head of the bicep brachii, stretching and contracting it to induce muscle gain. It adds bulk, definition, and a better muscle tone.

                              To do this variation:

                              • Adjust the bench to a 45 to 60-degree angle. Holding one dumbbell in each hand, sit back on the bench.
                              • Keep your head forward and core engaged. Holding your form, curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders. 
                              • At the top of the movement, squeeze your biceps and hold this position for a second.
                              • With a controlled moment, slowly bring the dumbbell to its starting position.

                              Although this variation might be more challenging, it is a great option for  activating the biceps brachii.

                                9. Preacher Curls


                                  The preacher curl remains a popular arm workout amongst bodybuilders. It is also a brilliant choice for gym enthusiasts who struggle with holding proper form during bicep curls.  You can do the preacher curl while standing or sitting at the preacher bench. This unique setup leaves you with a choice to dabble in using different weighted types of equipment for your bicep curls. Like other bicep curl variations, the preacher curls can be unilateral or bilateral.

                                  To do preacher curls:

                                  • Adjust your preacher bench height until your armpits are touching the top of the sloppy part. Choose a weighted piece of equipment and hold it using an underhand grip.
                                  • Keep your arms extended and straight on the bench. With your upper arms resting on the bench, raise the weight until your forearm is straight. 
                                  • Keep your elbows pointing forward and aligned with your body. Pause at the top of your curl and slowly lower the weight to the starting position.

                                  Many bodybuilders consider the preacher curls to be an advanced bodybuilding exercise for bigger arms.

                                    10. Zottman Curls


                                      Zottman curls are one of those bicep variations that you don't see in the gym every day. It targets the bicep long and short head along with the entire muscle groups on the arm and forearm.

                                      To do Zottman curls:

                                      1. Stand erect with one dumbbell in each hand. Assume the usual bicep curl stance.
                                      2. Keeping your upper arms and shoulders still, curl the weight up to your shoulders. Without pausing, rotate your grip so your palms face outward. 
                                      3. Hold for a second before slowly lowering the weight, remembering to rotate the wrists so the palms face forward again.
                                      4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

                                      Your Arms Will Thank You For This

                                      Building large biceps that girls will scream for when they see you on the beach requires hard work and some degree of variation. Paired with the  RIPPED STACK, your chances of getting shredded arms only increases.

                                      While, of course, all these  bicep curl variations are promising for bigger guns, the optimal variation for you depends on what part of the arm you wish to stimulate. The right bicep-blasting moves, coupled with time, progressive overload, and consistency, you are well on your way to securing attention-grabbing guns.