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Plate curls tutorial and variations for your biceps

Hit your biceps from every angle with these 5 plate curl variations.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 13th June 2021
A man performing the plate bicep curl exercise

The human biceps brachii muscle is a sight to behold when it's well-developed. It's one of the most highly visible muscle groups in a t-shirt, and it instantly screams I lift weights when it's flexed.

Yet, hardly anyone does plate curls anymore. Unless, of course, it's for a few "pump sets" at the end of a workout. But that doesn't really count.

The plate curl is a highly underrated mass-building movement for the biceps. And in just a moment, you're going to learn about the 7 different types of plate curls that you can do to add inches to your arms.

Plate curl exercise details

  • Main Muscles: Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis
  • Secondary Muscles: Forearm flexors, forearm extensors
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: Weight plate

How to perform plate curls

  1. Grab a heavy weight plate at the sides and hold it in front of your thighs.
  2. Curl the plate toward your chest.
  3. Keep curling until your forearms forcefully press up against your biceps.
  4. Hold the contraction for a second and then lower the weight disc under control until your elbows are close to full extension.
  5. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps.

Types of plate curls

In addition to performing weight plate reverse curls and doing a hammer curl with a weight plate (which is the exercise that you just saw), there are more than 5 other types of plate curls that you can do to blast your biceps.

Plate bicep curl

A man doing plate curls for his biceps

The plate bicep curl is a great exercise to perform if you don't have access to dumbbells. This is because by curling two separate weight plates (one in each hand), you can ensure that both of your biceps receive a roughly equal amount of work, which can help to fix and prevent muscular imbalances.

To do this exercise properly, you'll need tri-grip weight discs that you can hold in the palms of your hand the same way that you'd hold a dumbbell or a barbell.

Begin by holding two plates by your sides (or just in front of your body if it's easier) with an underhand grip. While keeping your elbows still, curl the weight discs toward your shoulders and flex your biceps forcefully. Hold the contraction for a moment and then lower the weights under control until your elbows reach full extension.

Perform 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps in total.

Double plate curl

A man doing a double plate curl

If the regular bicep plate curl has become too easy and your gym doesn't have heavier plates, then you can do the same exercise but with two weight discs in your hands.

This version is more of a size-builder than a pump-up exercise, so you should definitely do it close to the start of your workout if your goal is to gain mass.

It's also tough on your gripping muscles, so be prepared to feel the burn in your forearms as well as your biceps.

To perform the double plate curl, put two weight discs together and then hold the plates at either side. Curl the plates toward your chest until your forearms and biceps make contact. Pause at the top of the rep for a second, and then lower the weights under control until your arms are almost fully locked out. Aim to perform 3-5 sets of 6-15 reps in total.

Single arm plate curls

A man performing a one arm plate curl for his biceps

If you want to build your biceps and thicken your forearm flexors simultaneously, then this is the plate curl variation for you. This exercise is also compatible with any kind of weight plate because you're going to be holding it with somewhat of a pinch grip.

I recommend performing the one arm plate curl sat down with your arm braced against the inside of your leg like you're doing a concentration curl. This is because the exercise is especially tough on your forearms and so you really want to be able to concentrate in order to enjoy its best effects.

Sit on a weight bench (or on the sofa if you're training at home) and hold a weight plate with a pinch grip. This is essentially where you grasp the disc between your fingers and thumb rather than in the palms of your hand.

Brace your arm against the inside of your leg and let your elbow extend. While keeping your wrist completely straight, curl the weight plate toward your shoulder and squeeze your biceps forcefully as it makes contact with your forearm. Hold the contraction for a moment and then slowly lower the weight disc back down until your elbow is once again fully extended.

Repeat the exercise with your other arm and do 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps per side.

Plate preacher curls

A man performing plate preacher curls

If you want to ensure that you're training your biceps with the strictest possible form, then doing the plate preacher curl is a wise idea. This is because you can't effectively cheat the weight up with momentum when your arm is braced against the pad.

For a recap on the general form, see our guide on how to do a preacher curl with the correct technique.

For the weight plate version, you can hold the disc in the palm of your hand to keep the focus of the exercise on your biceps, or you can hold it between your thumb and fingers like on the previous drill to increase your forearm activation.

From there, you simply rest one arm against the sloped side of the pad and hold onto the top of the pad with your other arm for support. Then, begin the rep by curling the weight plate toward your front delt. Squeeze your biceps for a moment and then lower the weight disc under control until your elbow reaches lockout. Switch arms and repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps per side.

Plate drag curls

A man performing plate drag curls

Performing a body drag curl with weight plates will help you to develop a better biceps long head. This is because curling with your elbows behind your torso biomechanically shifts the tension onto the outer muscle fibers of your biceps, otherwise known as the long head.

Start off by holding two relatively light weight plates by your sides with an underhand grip. Drag the plates upward in a straight line while simultaneously dragging your elbows behind your body. Keep lifting the weights until your biceps are maximally contracted. Finish the rep by slowly lowering the discs back to the starting position. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps.

Conclusion: How effective are plate curls for building the biceps?

The plate bicep curl and its many variations are highly effective for building the biceps. Because the movement is a single-joint exercise, you can keep the vast majority of the tension on the working muscle and make your biceps burn.

Plate curls are also very convenient because all you need is a weight disc and a small amount of training space. From there, you can do heavy plate curls to build mass or perform them toward the end of your workout for higher repetitions to really finish off your biceps.

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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