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Dumbbell drag curls tutorial

Discover the 4 dumbbell drag curl pros and cons that you need to consider.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 10th August 2021
A man performing a dumbbell drag curl for his biceps

Dumbbell drag curls are a great drill for building up the biceps brachii. Unlike regular drag curls, the DB drag curl ensures that both of your arms receive equal work because you have to move each limb independently. This helps you to develop a more symmetrical upper body and a more aesthetic physique.

Related: Outer bicep workout

Dumbbell drag curl exercise details

  • Main Muscles: Biceps brachii
  • Secondary Muscles: Brachioradialis, brachialis, forearm flexors
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells

How to perform dumbbell drag curls

  1. Hold two dumbbells by your sides with an underhand grip.
  2. Drag the weights up your body by moving them toward your shoulders while concurrently dragging your elbows behind your body.
  3. Squeeze your biceps forcefully as they press up against the undersides of your forearms.
  4. Lower the weights under control until your arms are fully locked out.
  5. Repeat for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.

Dumbbell drag curl pros and cons

Performing the drag curl dumbbell style definitely has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, dumbbells create fewer muscle imbalances than barbells, but they don't allow you to lift as much weight.

Pro: Symmetrical biceps

A pair of symmetrical biceps

When you perform drag curls with an EZ bar, there's always the chance that your stronger bicep will dominate the movement. This, in turn, leads to the development of muscular imbalances or worsens the discrepancies in size and strength that your arms might already have. [1]

Performing a drag curl with dumbbells is the solution because both of your arms have to lift the exact same amount of resistance. After all, it's not like your stronger bicep can help your weaker bicep lift the weight—it's already preoccupied with hoisting its own dumbbell!

You can take this a step further by purposefully thinking about squeezing your biceps (especially on your weaker side) on every rep. This mind-muscle connection will help you to ensure that your biceps are getting the most stimulation from every rep, which results in greater hypertrophy over the long run.

Con: Need to use less weight

A man doing a drag curl with dumbbells

Unlike the Smith machine drag curl, which naturally lends itself to lifting heavy weights because you don't need to stabilize the bar, you have to go pretty light on drag DB curls to get the most from the movement.

This is mainly because you can't use as much resistance when your brain has to focus on lifting two separate weights. The trade-off, of course, is that dumbbells provide better muscle isolation because you can more easily focus on stretching and squeezing each individual bicep.

So even though your biceps won't be receiving as much resistance when you perform the drag curl dumbbell style, you can compensate for this by putting effort into your mind-muscle connection, which will help to increase your bicep activation.

You can also read our spider curls vs drag curls comparison to see which exercises are most effective for building your biceps.

Pro: More convenient

A man doing dumbbell drag curls

If you do reverse grip drag curls or any exercise that uses a barbell, then there are no two ways about it: You're going to be spending more time in the gym.

With barbells, you have to locate the correct weight discs, then you need to make sure that you load each side equally. And, most frustratingly of all, you need to hunt down a pair of collars. Not exactly what I'd call convenient.

But with the drag dumbbell curl, you just grab a pair of weights and lift. It's that simple.

While all of this might not seem like a big deal if you're a bodybuilder, not everyone enjoys living in the gym. [2] So if you can save five minutes on multiple exercises, then your training sessions are suddenly going to seem a lot less intimidating time-wise.

Con: Harder to gain strength

dumbbells in the rack at the gym

The main downside of the dumbbell drag curl is that you can't increase the weight all that frequently because the resistance typically increases in 5lb increments. This is a surprisingly large weight jump for a relatively weak muscle like the biceps, so it can be frustrating to lift the same old dumbbells for weeks on end.

If you train at home and only have basic equipment, then you also give the banded drag curl a try.

Should you do drag curls with dumbbells?

If you want to sculpt proportional biceps and work on your peaks, then dumbbell drag curls are one of the best exercises for the job. Not only does the dumbbell drag curl work your biceps evenly, but it's also a much more convenient movement to execute than something like drag cable curls, which is especially true if you train at home.

Make sure to get a full range of motion if you want to take full advantage of this exercise, and try not to shrug the weight up with your traps if you can help it. Mentally thinking about decreasing the distance between your lower arms and your biceps will help to keep the tension on the target area.

References

  1. Matthews, M. (2020, August 20). The Easy Way to Find and Fix Muscle Imbalances. Legion Athletics. https://legionathletics.com/muscle-imbalances/
  2. Rice, J. (2020, January 24). We Asked the Pros Which Is Better: Short Workouts Vs. Long Workouts. Well+Good. https://www.wellandgood.com/short-workouts-vs-long-workouts-more-effective/
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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