The Critical Body logo

Is a 45 lb bicep curl impressive if you use dumbbells?

Are you strong if you can perform 45 lb dumbbell curls for reps?
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 16th December 2021
A bodybuilder performing 45 lb dumbbell curls for his biceps

Is 45 pounds a good bicep curl weight? Or are 45 lb dumbbell curls just an average workout for most people?

As you're about to find out, whether or not a 45 lb bicep curl is good depends on the quality of your technique and the number of repetitions that you perform.

See How Your Biceps Stack Up:

Is curling 45 pound dumbbells impressive?

A bodybuilder in the gym working his biceps with a 45 lb dumbbell curl

If you can curl 45 lbs with dumbbells for reps, then that's quite an impressive achievement. Of course, the better that your form is and the more reps and sets that you do, the more impressive 45 pound bicep curls are.

For a one-rep max, a 45 lb dumbbell curl is pretty good for a novice lifter. However, if you consider yourself an intermediate weight lifting enthusiast, then you should be able to do 45 lb dumbbell curls for at least 5-6 reps per arm.

How about 45 lb hammer curls?

If you can hammer curl 45 lbs for multiple sets of 10+ reps, then that's pretty good, and, providing that your form is strict, you’ll likely have some well-developed biceps to show for your efforts.

Hammer curls, of course, are easier to perform than supinated biceps curls because your brachialis and brachioradialis muscles are in stronger force-producing positions whenever you curl with a neutral grip (like you do in a hammer curl).

Is curling 45 lbs with a barbell good?

A man a doing 45 lb bicep curl

A 45 pound barbell curl isn't a particularly awe-inspiring feat of biceps strength unless you're a weight lifting beginner.

The reason being is that a 45 lb bar is an empty Olympic barbell. So unless you're doing loads of reps at a close enough proximity to muscular failure, you're unlikely to get any gains from just curling a 45 lb bar.

Now, if you've never lifted weights in your life and you're doing 45 lb biceps curls with an empty bar, then that's actually pretty good.

Your biceps, after all, only respond to tension [1] (they can't tell how much "weight" you're lifting because they don't know what weight is). As such, you can get some good initial gains from nothing other than 45 lb barbell curls.

45 lb dumbbell curl case studies

If you want to know what 45 pound dumbbell curls look like in real life, make sure to check out these bicep-building case studies.

Case study 1: John Kraus

John Kraus, who may well be even bigger nowadays, posted a video of himself back in 2012 doing 45 pound bicep curls for 10 total reps (that's 5 reps per arm).

John is one of the best examples on the internet of an intermediate lifter with an excellent physique and impressive strength. If you can also perform 45 pound curls for 10 total reps and have similar muscularity to him, then you can classify yourself as an intermediate weight lifter.

Whats's impressive about John's form is that he controlled the weights at every part of the range of motion. Unlike other lifters, he didn't just let the weights drop after he curled them up; he took the strain on the way down with his biceps. This is likely one reason why he has excellent bicep development even though he's not setting any records; he's putting so much tension through his biceps.

Case study 2: Trainer Jo

Trainer Jo posted a video of himself in 2013 doing 45 pound dumbbells curls for 8 reps per arm. He ended the set after 8 reps so that he could set the best possible example by not using any momentum.

I've seen his other videos, and I know that he can lift even heavier dumbbells than 45 lbs—and for more reps.

While 45 pound curls are obviously impressive, it's not a jaw-dropping weight. And yet, Trainer Jo has massive arms!

It just goes to show that when it comes to a relatively small muscle group like the biceps, you don't need to lift the heaviest weights in the gym to have the biggest and best biceps in your gym.

Case study 3: Brandon Johnson

Brandon Johnson also posted a video himself doing 45 lb dumbbell curls for about 8 reps per arm. Although his form broke down a bit toward the end of his set, you can clearly see that his biceps were still performing the vast majority of the lifting.

The great thing about strength training is that improving your technique is a form of progressive overload.

So rather than increase the physical resistance that you're holding in each hand, you could simply improve your form to increase the amount of tension going through your biceps (muscles only respond to tension, remember?).

Additionally, Brandon's case study just goes to show that a 45 lb dumbbell curl is already an impressive feat of strength that can lead to a muscular physique. In other words, you can build fantastic biceps like Brandon's without ever curling more than 45 lbs in each hand.

How to exceed a 45 lb bicep curl

A muscular man doing 45 pound dumbbell curls for his biceps

Curling 45 lbs with dumbbells—for reps—is already an impressive feat of strength. However, if you want to make your biceps even stronger, then give these training tips some consideration.

To get your biceps accustomed to curling heavier weights, it's a good idea to perform slow-negatives. Not only is slowing down the eccentric phase of the rep beneficial for hypertrophy, but it also enables your nervous system [2] to adapt to the heavier loads without doing loads of reps per set.

Additionally, if you've already maxed out the possible biceps gains from your current level of training volume, then consider adding more weekly sets of curls to your routine. Presenting your biceps with a novel stimulus, which can be as simple as performing 3 extra sets per week, can get your arms growing and your curl strength increasing.

On the diet side of things, eating in a calorie surplus can help you to curl more than 45 lbs by increasing your gym strength. Most lifters report that they have more energy when they consume enough protein and plenty of quality calories. So don't expect to exceed your 45 lb bicep curl if you're in a calorie deficit.

Conclusion: Who should be doing 45 lb dumbbell curls?

If you have less than 2 years of training experience under your belt and can already curl 45 pounds for 5-8 reps per arm, then that's impressive.

If you can do multiple sets of 10 reps per arm—with good form—then that's very impressive indeed.

It's highly likely that if you can do a 45 lb dumbbell curl for any number of reps, that you'll also have well-developed biceps. As such, you may wish to focus on performing more reps set and improving your technique rather than on increasing the resistance.

References

  1. Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D. I., & Krieger, J. W. (2015). Effect of Repetition Duration During Resistance Training on Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 45(4), 577–585. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-015-0304-0
  2. Sale, D. G. (1988). Neural adaptation to resistance training. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 20(Sup 1), S135–S145. https://doi.org/10.1249/00005768-198810001-00009
James Jackson
James Jackson is a personal trainer who uses his expertise in strength and conditioning to create helpful workout tutorials that show fitness enthusiasts how to build muscle while staying safe in the gym. He draws on the latest sports science data as well as tried and tested training techniques to get the best results for his clients without them having to live in the gym.
chevron-upmenu-circlecross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram