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Kettlebell concentration curl advantages and disadvantages

Get a trainer's take on kettlebell concentration curls.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 14th June 2021
A man performing the kettlebell concentration curl for his biceps

Kettlebell concentration curls aren't the most popular exercise for developing the biceps muscle.

However, they most certainly are underrated.

Compared to dumbbell concentration curls, the kettlebell version provides an even stronger muscle contraction. This is because your forearms are less active during the movement, which in turn means that your biceps receive more of the tension.

So if you want to take the kettlebell curl to the next level and isolate your biceps to the max, definitely consider performing it concentration style to give your biceps the attention they deserve.

Kettlebell concentration curl exercise details

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

How to do kettlebell concentration curls

  1. Grab a kettlebell with an underhand grip.
  2. Sit on a flat bench with your legs apart.
  3. Rest the arm that's holding the weight against the inside of your leg.
  4. Hold onto your opposite leg with your spare arm to stabilize yourself.
  5. Curl the kettlebell toward your shoulder.
  6. Keep lifting until your forearm and bicep make contact, then squeeze your biceps as hard as you can.
  7. Hold the contraction for a moment and then lower the weight until your elbow reaches full extension.
  8. Perform 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps in total.

Kettlebell concentration curl advantages and disadvantages

Like many kettlebell bicep exercises, the concentration kettlebell curl has its fair share of pros and cons. Although it provides an intense muscle contraction, it can often be hard to get a full range of motion, which can ultimately compromise your results.

Advantage: Strong bicep contractions

A man performing concentration kettlebell curls

When you perform concentration curls with resistance bands or kettlebells, you naturally get a great bicep contraction because this exercise really forces you to flex your muscles in order to complete each rep.

These contractions result in a powerful muscle pump and an improved mind-muscle connection, which will enhance your ability to feel your biceps working while also making your arms look more aesthetic.

Just make sure to lift the kettlebell all the way up (until the underside of your forearm presses up against your biceps) in order to get a proper contraction. While it's important to get a good stretch as well, the contraction is what really sets kettlebell concentration curls apart from the competition.

You can also perform Zottman curls with kettlebells if you want to train your brachioradialis and brachialis muscles in addition to your biceps, i.e., if you want to build overall arm mass.

Disadvantage: Hard to get a full range of motion

Man performing kettlebell concentration curls

If you have particularly long arms or are performing the kettlebell concentration curl on a bench that's too low to the ground, then you might not be able to get a full range of motion.

By full range of motion, I mean the ability to completely extend your elbow so that it's locked out. This ensures that you achieve the best results by recruiting the most amount of muscle fibers possible.

But since kettlebells are larger than dumbbells, it isn't always possible to lock your elbow out without the weight hitting the floor.

The solution is to either use a taller bench or perform the movement in a bent over position.

While the latter choice is more convenient since you don't need a bench, the former option will allow you to better isolate your biceps because by bracing your arm against your leg, you won't be able to swing the weight up with your surrounding muscles and you'll thus be able to keep more of the tension on your biceps.

Advantage: Less forearm involvement

A man performing a concentration kettlebell curl

Due to the shape of kettlebells, they require less forearm strength to hold onto than dumbbells. This is because, like in the kettlebell incline curl, the weighted part of the kettlebell is behind your hand when you lift it during a concentration curl.

As such, you can easily take your forearms more or less out of the movement and focus completely on your biceps. So not only will your lower arms not tire out prematurely, but you'll also be able to achieve a stronger mind-muscle connection by giving 100% of your attention to your biceps.

Similarly, this exercise is useful for building proportional biceps. This is because you can ensure that both arms are getting an equal amount of work when you train each limb separately.

You can also do the reverse grip concentration curl in the same position if you want to improve the muscularity of your brachialis and brachioradialis.

Disadvantage: Difficult to gain strength

A set of kettlebells on the gym floor

Since not all gyms offer complete kettlebell sets, it can be challenging to gain strength because the weight jumps are often extremely large. Big increments like these are impractical for a muscle group as small as the biceps.

Therefore, you might be better off sticking with more conventional curls if your gym doesn't provide a good selection of kettlebells (or if you train at home).

Conclusion

The kettlebell concentration curl is far from a mainstream bicep movement. However, it does hold a distinct advantage over the regular version, and that's the fact that it doesn't activate your forearms as much. This is particularly beneficial if you're a bodybuilder because it means that you can focus purely on working your biceps and maximally isolating the muscle.

The downside, of course, is that the kettlebell can often hit the floor before you get a full range of motion, which, besides impairing your results, can also hurt your joints if the kettlebell thuds into the ground.

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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