Dumbbell Concentration Curl Exercise Guide
As its name suggests, dumbbell concentration curl almost completely isolates the biceps (because you rest the upper arm against the thigh to prevent the movement at the shoulder) so you’ll need to use a lower weight or fewer reps than for standard bicep curls. Be sure to move through the full range and maintain good form. Because this biceps exercise involves little extraneous body movement, it’s very effective at isolating the biceps.
Dumbbell Concentration Curl Exercise Instructions – Proper Form
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Sit on the chair or the end of a flat exercise bench with your thighs parallel to the floor and your body braced. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, your palm facing up and your arm fully extended. Rest your right elbow on your inner right tight and let your arm hang down. With your left hand on your left thigh, bend forward slightly, keeping your back straight.
MOVEMENT (ACTION): Slowly curl the weight upwards toward your shoulder, keeping your upper arm perpendicular to the floor. Make sure that your elbow does not move forwards and that the back of your upper arm stays in contact with your inner thigh. Pause once you have fully contracted your biceps to take your forearm to a 45-degree angle. Return under control and finish the set before repeating with your other arm.
Dumbbell Concentration Curl Useful Tips & Tricks (Key Points)
- Sit on a bench and grab a dumbbell in one hand using a supinated grip (thumb toward the outside).
- Press your elbow against the inside of your thigh and keep it still during the entire movement.
- Bend your arm using your biceps, and bring the dumbbell up as high as possible without lifting your elbow. Make sure you curl the dumbbell to your shoulder (anterior deltoid, or frontal shoulder muscle) and do not move your shoulder to the dumbbell.
- When the dumbbell reaches shoulder level, pause for one second, then slowly lower the weight. Stop a few degrees short of full extension to keep tension on your biceps.
- The torso should remain motionless, supported by your free hand on the opposite thigh.
- Common mistakes: moving your leg or torso to gain momentum to lift the dumbbell, resting your elbow on the top (rather than the inside) of the thigh to gain leverage, and bending the wrist as you raise the weight.
- The position of the upper arm (relative to the floor) changes the focus of effort. When the arms is vertical (shoulder directly above the elbow), resistance increases as the dumbbell is raised, and effort is focused on the upper biceps (peak). With the arm at an inclined angle (elbow in front of the shoulder), resistance is maximal at the starting position, so effort is targeted on the lower section of the biceps at the elbow.
This exercise works great for self-spotting. Just help out with your other hand. Remember to supinate as much as possible at the top. Also, don’t curl the weight to the chest, it should be curled to the shoulder.
Muscles Engaged in Seated Dumbbell Concentration Curls
In the concentration curl the biceps brachii, brachialis and brachioradialis are the key muscles. There is only elbow joint flexion in which the forearm moves toward the upper arm.
- Primary muscles: biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis
- Secondary muscles: pronator teres, extensor carpi radialis longus, flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor carpi radialis
- Antagonists: triceps, anconeus
Dumbbell Concentration Curl Variations
Most bodybuilders perform concentration curls in the seated position. A few (including Arnold Schwarzenegger) like to do the movement in the standing, bent-over position.
- Tubing concentration curl. Sit comfortably on a bench with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Keeping your back straight, lean forward so that your right elbow can be placed on the inside of your right thigh, just behind the knee. Secure the exercise tubing with your right foot and hold the handle with your palms facing up, wrists straight. Follow the same exercise instructions given above.
- Cable concentration curl. Sit on a flat bench placed a couple feet in front of the stack and attach a handle to a low pulley cable. Follow the same exercise instructions already given in this post.
- Standing concentration curls. Stand with your waist bent to 90-degrees and one hand resting on
something in front of you (or your own leg) to support the weight of the torso. Allow the other hand, which holds the dumbbell, to hang down in the neutral position. Raise it toward the opposite shoulder in a strict movement.
- To involve the biceps long head (which creates the biceps peak) even more as well as the brachioradialis (forearm) muscle, don’t turn your palm up as you curl the weight – keep it facing in (as you would when doing hammer curls).
Substitutes (Alternative Exercises)
To add variety to your biceps workout routine, replace the dumbbell concentration curls with a different exercise that works the same muscles – biceps brachii. Each exercise works the bicep and supporting muscles slightly differently.
- EZ bar preacher curl
- Straight bar standing biceps curl
- Dumbbell supinating biceps curls
- Incline bench dumbbell biceps curl
- Standing cable biceps curl
- Machine biceps curl
Seated dumbbell concentration curl is a great isolation exercise that targets the brachialis a little better and the biceps brachii a little less that classic curls do. In other words, concentration curls help balance the development of the brachialis compared to the biceps. It is only done unilaterally.
This biceps exercise is supposed to work the peak (summit) of the biceps, giving it more rounded form by recruiting the short head of the biceps and the brachialis. We do not agree with this statement because the “peak” is primarily the result of three factors: genetics, definition, and a well-developed long head of the biceps. The exercise cannot change your genetics, but it can maximize whatever potential you might have. No serious studies contradict this explanation.
Finally, keep in mind that this exercise is not the best one for building muscle mass. It is popular because it is easy to do. The best biceps movements, collectively known as the “mass-builders,” are those that provide the greatest stimulus across both the long and the short heads. Heavy barbell and dumbbell curls are best for adding strength and size.