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Do the dumbbell curl to press to blast your biceps and shoulders

Build a powerful upper body with the bicep curl to overhead press.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 10th August 2021
A man doing a dumbbell curl to press for his shoulders

Understanding how the biceps work is the first step to making them bigger and stronger. For example, knowing that the biceps perform forearm supination and elbow flexion, we can deduce that palms-up exercises, such as standing dumbbell curls, are optimal for getting those gains because they train both of these functions simultaneously.

This tutorial shows you how to perform one such exercise—the dumbbell curl to press—that will also develop your deltoids and burn plenty of calories in the process.

Dumbbell curl to press exercise details

  • Also Known As: Curl to shoulder press
  • Main Muscles: Biceps brachii, deltoids, triceps
  • Secondary Muscles: Brachialis, brachioradialis, forearm flexors
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Compound
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells

How to do a bicep curl to overhead press

  1. Stand up straight and hold two dumbbells by your sides with a supinated grip.
  2. Curl the weights toward your shoulders.
  3. Rotate your palms into a pronated position as your forearms and biceps make contact.
  4. Press the dumbbells over your head until your elbows are extended.
  5. Lower the weights down to your chest and then rotate your palms back into the original supinated position.
  6. Then lower the weights back down to the starting position with your biceps.
  7. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps

Dumbbell curl and press pros and cons

The DB curl and press will blast your biceps and sculpt your shoulders while getting your heart pumping in the process; it's a time-efficient way to achieve a toned upper body. If you're a hardcore bodybuilder, however, then the curl and press exercise might not be for you because it doesn't provide complete muscle isolation.

Pro: It's time-efficient

A man doing a dumbbell curl and press for his shoulders

Why do in two exercises what you can accomplish with one?

The curl press is an effective exercise for building your biceps and developing your deltoids simultaneously because it combines two movements—shoulder presses and bicep curls—into one drill.

So in this regard, the bicep curl and press is ideal if you prefer short and intense workouts over long and drawn-out training sessions.

Yet, the DB curl press is also convenient because you can do it virtually anywhere. The only requirements are a pair of weights and a small amount of workout space. As such, you can easily perform the bicep curl to press from the comfort of your own home, which means that you don't need to waste valuable time and workout energy by commuting to the gym.

Pro: It burns more calories

A tired runner sweating after his workout

The dumbbell curl to overhead press expends more calories than regular curls because extra muscles are involved in the exercise. This increases the intensity of your workout because your body now has to supply these muscles with energy so that they can contract.

As a result of this extra energy expenditure, you'll need to spend less time doing cardio because you'll naturally be burning more calories now that you're doing compound exercises like the press curl. [1]

This, in turn, means that you'll need to spend less time in the gym because, as alluded to, the dumbbell curl and press burns considerably more calories on a per-set basis than either a shoulder press or a bicep curl.

Of course, doing a DB curl to press doesn't guarantee that you'll lose body fat. You still need to take in fewer total calories than you expend if you want to shed the pounds. Still, a heart-pumping exercise like this helps tremendously.

Con: It's not optimal for muscle isolation

A girl doing bicep curls

While the bicep curl overhead press can certainly build muscle (and plenty of it at that), it's not optimal for maximizing hypertrophy, especially not for your deltoids.

This is because your shoulders can handle far more resistance than your biceps. And so the problem is that you're never going to be able to curl enough weight to maximally stimulate your shoulders, which means that they'll be lacking in development if the dumbbell curl-to-press is your only deltoid exercise.

The solution, of course, is to just do a regular overhead press as well. This way, you'll still get the muscle-pumping and calorie-burning benefits of the DB curl and press, but you'll also get that heavy overload to make your shoulders grow.

On the other hand, if you're aiming for a more toned and slender physique, then none of this really matters. While you might not become a mass monster from the dumbbell curl and press alone, it provides more than enough muscle stimulation for the average person to get in great shape.

Other curl to press variations

A man doing a bicep curl to overhead press

There are more than 5 variations of curl to press that you can do to build muscle and tone up. We've created complete tutorials for each version of the exercise that you can access via the links just below.

Conclusion: Is the DB curl to press worth your while?

The bicep curl to overhead press is a fun, fast-paced exercise that makes a great addition to any upper body workout, especially one that involves your shoulders and biceps. While it might not provide quite enough resistance for bodybuilders to overload their shoulders, the dumbbell curl to press is still a highly effective muscle-building movement for sculpting a toned physique. [2]

The dumbbell curl and press is also very versatile. You can perform low reps to focus on strength and mass gain, or you can switch gears into high rep training if you want to feel the burn and get the blood pumping.

References

  1. D’Souza, G. (2021, May 13). Should you do cardio or lift weights? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323922
  2. Thaxton, J. (n.d.). Toning vs. Bulking Up: What’s The Difference? NASM. https://blog.nasm.org/toning-vs-bulking-up

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.
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