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How to do concentration curls with dumbbells (seated and standing)

Discover the 3 bicep-building benefits of dumbbell concentration curls.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 13th June 2021
A man performing seated concentration curls with dumbbells

Dumbbell concentration curls are an excellent exercise for building the biceps because they produce intense muscle contractions and offer virtually unrivaled isolation. Like the standard dumbbell bicep curl, seated concentration curls also help you to sculpt more symmetrical biceps because by training one arm at a time, you'll naturally develop fewer—if any—muscular imbalances.

Dumbbell concentration curl exercise details

  • Also Known As: Concentrated curl, isolated curls
  • Main Muscles: Biceps brachii
  • Secondary Muscles: Forearm flexors, brachioradialis, brachialis
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells, weight bench

How to do concentration curls correctly

  1. Grab a dumbbell with a supinated (underhand grip).
  2. Sit on a bench with your knees apart.
  3. Bend over at the waist and brace the arm that's holding the weight against the inside of your thigh.
  4. Hold onto your opposite leg with your spare arm for support.
  5. Curl the weight toward your front delt by moving the underside of your forearm toward your bicep and turning your pinky finger as hard as you can.
  6. Hold the contraction for a moment, and then lower the dumbbell under control until your elbow reaches full extension.
  7. Repeat the motion with your other bicep and perform 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps per arm.

Concentration curl benefits

The seated concentration curl is an old-school bodybuilding exercise that's been sculpting better biceps for decades. But muscle size isn't the only benefit. Here's what else you can expect to achieve when you integrate DB concentration curls into your workout routine.

Intense bicep pump

Man doing a dumbbell concentration curl

Concentration dumbbell curls produce an intense arm pump because they train your biceps in a shortened muscle position. [1] This then leads to more vascular and leaner-looking biceps because your muscles have to repeatedly contract in order to lift the weight, which naturally fills them with lactic acid and thus enhances their appearance during training.

The catch, however, is that you have to use the proper concentration curl form in order to get this benefit.

In practice, this means lifting the dumbbell until the underside of your forearm touches your bicep. But it also involves turning your pinky finger as far as you can so that you can maximally supinate your biceps and achieve a complete contraction.

Fewer muscle imbalances

A muscular man doing DB concentration curls for his biceps

One arm concentration curls help you to develop a more aesthetic physique because by training each arm individually, you can ensure that both of your biceps are receiving equal work and are thus growing in proportion.

This benefit is particularly useful if you have bicep muscular imbalances that you need to correct or if you want to prevent them from cropping up in the future. [2]

It's also why bodybuilders make the concentration dumbbell curl a staple exercise in their routines.

They can achieve much more pleasing muscle symmetry by honing in on each individual bicep and giving it the attention that it needs to grow to its full potential. This is especially easy to do with concentrated curls because by bracing your arm against your leg, it's much easier to keep the tension on your biceps because you can't cheat the weight up with your other muscles.

Improved mind-muscle connection

Shirtless man performing a seated concentration curl

The concentration bicep curl helps you to develop a stronger mind-muscle connection. This is because it's easier for your brain to focus on stretching and squeezing your biceps when it only has to think about moving one limb at a time.

So not only will this enhanced mind-muscle connection help you to maximize your bicep development from DB concentration curls, but it'll also carry over to your other exercises, too, and make them more effective.

Concentration curl variations

There are more than 7 types of bicep concentration curls that you can do to build muscle. This article covers 3 variations in total, but you can also check out the tutorials below to learn how to do the other versions of the concentration curl.

Standing concentration dumbbell curl

A man doing a standing concentration dumbbell curl for his biceps

Performing concentration curls standing is ideal if you don't have much gym equipment or if you train at home because all you need is a dumbbell and a small workout area.

Some lifters call these Arnold concentration curls because of the famous scene in Pumping Iron where Arnold Schwarzenegger is talking about the pump while doing the concentration curls exercise. [3]

To perform the standing concentration curl, you first need to hold a dumbbell and take a wide stance with your feet planted firmly on the floor and flared out slightly. Then, bend over at the waist and let your dumbbell arm hang so that your elbow is fully extended. Internally rotate your shoulder so that your elbow is flared out to the side, and then hold onto your knee with your spare arm to stabilize yourself.

While keeping your elbow still, curl the dumbbell toward your shoulder and flex your biceps as hard as you can. Hold the contraction for a second and then lower the dumbbell under control until your elbow is fully locked out. Repeat the movement with your other bicep and do 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps for each arm.

Concentration curl with a twist

A man doing a concentration curl with a twist for his biceps

Since the short head of the bicep becomes more involved when you actively supinate your wrists (i.e., turning your hands from a neutral position to a supinated position), doing concentration curls with a twist makes a lot of sense.

The form is almost the same as it is for the regular dumbbell concentration curl. The only difference is that you're starting with a neutral hand position and then rotating your wrists into a supinated position.

But you can take this a step further to activate your biceps even more by shifting your grip to the outside of the dumbbell. This grip forces your biceps to supinate harder in order to turn your palms up, which naturally results in a much stronger contraction.

Concentration curls vs bicep curls

concentration curls vs bicep curls
  • Concentration curls offer better bicep isolation because you can sit down with your arm braced against your leg to take your other muscles out of the equation.
  • Concentration curls put more strain on your lower back because you have to bend over to perform them.
  • Concentration curls produce a stronger peak contraction.
  • Concentration curls emphasize the short head of the biceps, whereas bicep curls focus on both heads more equally.
  • You can lift slightly heavier on regular bicep curls.
  • Regular curls are more convenient because you're training both arms together.

You can also read our preacher curl vs concentration curl comparison to learn more about how the DB concentration curl compares to other popular arm exercises.

Concentration curls FAQ

What are concentration curls?

Dumbbell concentration curls are a bicep exercise that weight lifters perform in order to better isolate their bicep muscles. They're typically done sitting down, but many gym-goers also do them standing as it places less stress on the lower back.

What muscles do concentration curls work?

Seated concentration curls primarily work the biceps brachii. The exercise also trains the forearm flexors, the brachialis, and the brachioradialis.

What's a good concentration curls workout routine?

You should perform the concentration bicep curl 1-2 times per week. Aim to do between 3 and 5 sets during each session and perform 6-12 reps on each set.

Do concentration curls build the bicep peak?

The concentration curl exercise builds overall bicep mass, which can certainly make your arms appear more peaked. However, the long head of the biceps is the head that's primarily responsible for the peak, and since the concentration curl emphasizes the short head, it's actually a poor choice for building the peak.

Conclusion: Should you do dumbbell concentration curls for your biceps?

Dumbbell concentration curls are an immensely popular exercise for gaining bicep size, shape, and strength. And for good reason. By bracing your arm against the inside of your leg, you can keep the vast majority of the tension on the target muscles because you can't cheat the weight up with the likes of your hips, legs, and back when your biceps are in such an isolated position.

The concentration bicep curl is also highly convenient and is therefore ideal if you work out at home. Since all you need is one dumbbell and a seat, you can perform this muscle-building movement virtually anywhere.

References

  1. Extended Learning Institute (ELI) at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). (2021). Types of Muscle Contractions: Isotonic and Isometric | Lifetime Fitness and Wellness. Lumen Learning. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/fitness/chapter/types-of-muscle-contractions-isotonic-and-isometric/
  2. McCall, P. (2016, May 6). Muscle Imbalance | 6 Things to Know About Muscle Imbalances. Ace Fitness. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/5930/muscle-imbalance-6-things-to-know-about-muscle-imbalances/
  3. Robson, D. (2020b, April 16). Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Secrets For Building Mind-Blowing Arms. Bodybuilding.Com. https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/arnold_arm_secrets.html
Liam Brown
Liam Brown has been coaching clients as a personal trainer for more than 12 years. Raised by his athlete mother and physiotherapist father, he understands the critical importance of learning the proper technique for both avoiding injury and building muscle.
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