Concentration Curls

When it comes to gaining a hypertrophied pair of biceps, most people can think of two things: heavyweights and compound biceps curls.

While those two exercises do work for bodybuilding and overall health, there are other moves that you can do to target specific muscle fibers and concentration curls are some of the best.

The slow pace of the exercise gives you time to really put the squeeze on your bicep muscle.

Because it’s a compound exercise, you might find that you need to use lighter dumbbells—or even no weights at all—so don't worry if you can't complete the same number of reps as usual.

Instead, focus on getting into position and squeezing your biceps as hard as you can.

How To Perform Concentration Curls

Working one arm at a time is the best way to make sure you're using both arms equally. Simply put, if you're curling with a barbell with two arms, your stronger side can do more than its fair share of the work. This isn't as much of a problem when you're using an EZ bar, but it's still sub-optimal.

The concentration curls may look similar to the standard curl, but it requires total commitment and is actually much more difficult.

Unlike the standard curl, which some people can mindlessly shift and swing their bodies through to help lift the dumbbells, you'll need to use perfect form and concentration the entire time if you want the concentration curls to produce real results.

The Setup

Troy in the starting position for concentration curls

Here's how to do the seated dumbbell concentration curl.

Sit on a flat bench with your legs spread, knees bent and your feet flat on the floor with a fitness dumbbell between your feet. Point your feet out, not forward.

Pick up the dumbbell using either arm, hold it in an underhand grip with the back of your upper arm on top of your thigh.

Keep your arm extended straight down at your side, resting the weight at floor level. This is the start position. 

Doing The Concentration Curls

Concentration Curls

Curl the dumbbell forward and up, contracting your biceps and exhaling.

Continue curling until your arm comes up to shoulder level as you squeeze your biceps. Hold for a count of one while squeezing.

Repeat the move with the other arm, and make sure to perform the same number of reps.

To get the best biceps workout, do concentration curls after exercising your biceps in multiple directions with other exercises. Do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps. If you want an extra burn, set a timer for 30 seconds and see how many perfect curls you can do back and forth between arms. Alternate between a set of three and four reps.

Tips For Doing Perfect Dumbbell Concentration Curls

If you’ve ever seen someone perform concentration curls, you might have noticed that they perform the movement at a slow and controlled pace.

This is because they’re relying on the mind-muscle connection to perform the movement, so momentum can't take away from the effectiveness of the exercise on the muscle.

Perform the lowering portion of the curl until the upper arm is fully extended.

The best way to do this movement is to sit on a bench with a fitness dumbbell placed in front of you. You should be sitting up tall with a straight upper body, flat back, and a lifted chest. You should then grab the dumbbell with an underhand grip and begin to curl it.

For the concentric portion of the lift, perform the lifting portion of the exercise until the arm is fully extended. This keeps the weight from pulling the biceps tendon off the shoulder during the lowering portion of the lift, which can cause injury.

To get the most out of this training, be sure to only go down as far as you can without compromising your form.

Variations On Dumbbell Concentration Curls

Like most exercises, there are a few different variations on dumbbell concentration curls you can use to hit additional muscle groups or make the training more accessible.

Standing Concentration Curls

young man performing standing dumbbell concentration curls

Plant your right elbow against the inside of your right knee, bending slightly to create tension in your biceps. Hold a weight in one hand and rest your arm on your thigh.

The hand holding the weight should be extended above your head, perpendicular to the floor.

Curl the weight up really slowly, only moving your forearms. The position of your upper arm will help keep it steady during the movement.

Pause for a moment to feel the burn, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Alternate arms and repeat, performing an equal number of reps with each arm.

Hammer Concentration Curls

Troy performing hammer concentration curls with dumbbells

To perform the hammer curl, sit on a bench with your feet flat on the floor and your knees spread wide.

Holding a fitness dumbbell in your right hand, bend forward and rest the back of your right elbow on your lower right thigh.

Your right arm should be vertical and your right palm facing towards you. Ensure that your upper body is upright throughout the exercise.

Pause at the top of the movement to check your form. If you're in a good position, lower yourself back down. Be sure to keep your core tight and squeeze your glutes (butt muscles) throughout the movement.

Should You Add Concentration Curls To Your Fitness Routine?

Even the most veteran gym-goer can appreciate a refresher on bicep strength-building. When looking to build strength, mass, and health, focus on three things: load (how much weight you lift), volume (how many reps and sets you do), and frequency (how often you work out).

The concentration curl is an isolation workout used to target the biceps muscles. It’s an easier version of the barbell curl because you’re not supporting your own weight.

Bodyweight Bicep Exercises

The biceps is a two-headed muscle that flexes the elbow and crosses both the shoulder and the elbow joints. The biceps brachii muscle is made up of two heads: the short head and the long head. The short head originates on the coracoid process of the scapula and inserts on the radial tuberosity.

The concentration curl is a great exercise for targeting the biceps muscles. When you perform this move, you’ll really feel the burn in the backs of your arms and if you do it correctly, you can build up some serious size to your biceps.

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