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Single arm bicep curl tutorial and variations

Sculpt symmetrical biceps in record time with the one arm dumbbell curl.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 12th June 2021
A man doing a single arm curl for his biceps

The one arm dumbbell curl is a valuable exercise for making your bicep muscle look similarly developed on both arms. By doing a single arm curl, you can ensure that each of your biceps receives roughly equal muscle stimulation and thus grow in proportion.

The only downside is that you can feel a bit off balance because the lone weight will be trying to tilt your torso to one side. If you have a decently strong cure, however, then this shouldn't be a problem, especially not if you're lifting a relatively light dumbbell, which is probable on this bicep curls exercise.

One arm dumbbell curl exercise details

  • Also Known As: Single arm curls
  • Main Muscles: Biceps brachii
  • Secondary Muscles: Brachioradialis, brachialis, forearm flexors
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells

How to do a single arm bicep curl

  1. Stand up straight and hold a dumbbell by your side.
  2. While keeping your elbow still, curl the weight toward your shoulder.
  3. Keep curling until your forearm and bicep make firm contact.
  4. Hold the contraction for a moment.
  5. Lower the dumbbell under control until your elbow is fully locked out.
  6. Repeat the movement with your other arm and do 3-5 sets of 6-15 reps per side.

Single arm curl variations

If you want to work your arms from a different angle to trigger more muscle growth, then you can check out these one arm bicep curl variations.

If you don't have dumbbells, however, or just fancy trying a new exercise, then you can also do one hand barbell curls and get much the same effects.

On the other hand, if you train in a well-equipped gym, then you can also give the 1 arm cable curl a go to take advantage of the constant tension and joint-friendly resistance that's intrinsic to cables.

Seated one arm dumbbell curl

A man doing a seated one arm dumbbell curl for his biceps

The main advantage that the seated one arm dumbbell curl holds over the standing one arm curl is that the former movement makes it easier to isolate your biceps. This is true for a few reasons.

First off, when you're sitting down, you can't swing the dumbbell up—and cheat yourself out of muscle growth—by generating momentum with your hips and legs because these body parts are stabilized by the bench.

Similarly, if you sit against the backrest of the bench, then you also reduce the core stability requirement of the exercise significantly. As such, you can focus purely on the working muscle without worrying about maintaining a rock-solid core.

The technique is exactly the same as it is for the standard single bicep curl. All you do is hold the weight by your side, curl it to your shoulder, pause for a second, and then lower it back down. Then you simply repeat the motion with your other arm.

Switching one arm curl

A man performing a single arm bicep curl with dumbbells

If you want to save time by training both arms in the same set but still want to lift each weight separately, then you should definitely do switching one arm curls.

Again, the technique is roughly the same. The difference is that after performing a rep with one arm, you let that arm rest for a moment while you complete a rep with your other arm. Then you just keep switching sides in this alternating fashion until you've done your desired number of repetitions.

The great thing about this one arm curl is that you can perform more total reps. This is because each of your biceps gets a short rest after completing a rep; hence, they're fresher and stronger than usual by the time their next rep rolls around.

You can also do seated one arm curls like this if you want to speed up your workouts. But sometimes, it's better to stick to the original version where you're doing a proper single arm curl by completing all the reps for one arm before moving onto the other side.

This approach is ideal if you have muscle imbalances because you can forge a powerful mind-muscle connection by training each arm in a completely separate fashion.

The verdict: Is the single arm dumbbell curl effective?

If you want to build well-balanced biceps and improve the symmetry of your physique, then the one arm dumbbell curl is an excellent exercise for the job. Since you're training each arm separately, your stronger bicep can't dominate the movement, which helps to ensure that both of your arms get roughly equal stimulation.

The downside is that training this way makes your sets take twice as long because you have to do a separate set for each arm. Still, if you have muscular imbalances, then the additional time commitment, especially if it's just for this exercise, will likely be worth the results of more proportional upper arms.

References

  1. Staley, C. (2019, August 18). Good Form vs. Bad Form: What You Don’t Know. T NATION. https://www.t-nation.com/training/good-form-vs-bad-form-what-you-dont-know/
  2. McGrath, B. (2018, July 24). 4 Tips To Help Train Your Brain For Massive Gains: Mind Muscle Connection! Bodybuilding.Com. https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/4-tips-to-help-train-your-brain-massive-gains-mind-muscle-connection.html

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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