The single leg bicep curl works the muscle on the front of your arm (biceps brachii) while simultaneously challenging your balance and coordination. As such, it's a great exercise for building muscle and developing functional strength.
This guide shows you how to do a standard one leg bicep curl as well as how to perform the single leg bicep curl to overhead press.
You can also see our guide on how to do bicep curls correctly if you'd like more information on the optimal curling technique.
Single leg bicep curl exercise details
- Also Known As: One legged dumbbell curls
- Main Muscles: Biceps brachii
- Secondary Muscles: Brachialis, brachioradialis, forearm flexors, abs, obliques
- Exercise Type: Strength
- Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
- Difficulty Level: Intermediate
- Equipment Needed: Dumbbells
How to do a single leg bicep curl
- Hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides with an underhand grip.
- Stand up straight and then raise one leg off the ground.
- Curl the weight toward your shoulders while keeping your elbows still.
- Keep lifting until the undersides of your forearms make contact with your biceps.
- Hold the contraction for a second and then lower the weights under control until your elbows reach full extension.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps and make sure to switch legs after each set.
Variation: Single leg bicep curl to overhead press
The single leg bicep curl to overhead press is an intense variation of the basic one leg dumbbell curl that burns more calories and trains extra muscle groups. It also requires more balance and core strength than the standard version because you have to press the weights over your head.
To perform the one leg bicep curl to overhead press, begin by holding a relatively light pair of weights by your sides with a supinated (underhand) grip. Then, raise one leg off the floor and curl the weights toward your front delts. As soon as you contract your biceps at the top of the curl, rotate your hands into a pronated (overhand) position and press the weights over your head.
Reverse the motion by first lowering the dumbbells to your shoulders and then finally returning them to the starting position with your biceps. Keep your foot elevated for the entire set (switch legs after each set) and perform 3-4 total sets of 8-15 reps.
You can also do a DB curl to press with both legs if you want to focus more on developing muscle strength rather than on improving your balance.
One leg bicep curl pros and cons
These pros and cons are for the single leg bicep curl to overhead press exercise; however, some also apply to the standard one leg bicep curl as well.
Pro: Improves your balance and coordination
The one leg bicep curl to overhead press relies on you having good core stability so that you can train your upper body while balancing on one leg. This helps to improve the isometric strength of your abs as well as your coordination, which is ideal if you're a sports player or perform other functional training drills.
Con: Suboptimal for muscle growth
You can't bicep curl as much as you can shoulder press. So, as a result, your deltoids will be left somewhat understimulated by this exercise because your biceps, being the weaker muscle, will always fatigue first. However, if you're not trying to gain a large amount of muscle mass, then this movement is still valuable for developing a lean, toned physique.
Pro: Burns extra calories
Performing a bicep curl and overhead press together burns more calories than doing either of these exercises individually. So if you're training for fat loss, then it's a good idea to base your workouts around compound exercises like this in order to increase your energy expenditure.
Pro: It's convenient
All you need to do the single leg bicep curl to overhead press is a pair of dumbbells and a tiny amount of training space. Therefore, it's particularly handy if you train at home and don't have space for bulky, expensive gym equipment. You can also do hammer curls on one leg to add variety to your workouts and train your brachioradialis.
The one leg bicep curl will improve your balance and coordination if you perform it on a regular basis. Just make sure to switch legs after each set so that you don't develop (or worsen any existing) muscle imbalances.
You can also modify the movement to make it more or less challenging. For example, you can start by raising your foot slightly off the ground in the first few sessions. Then, as you become proficient, you can raise your thigh up as well so that your foot is now level with the knee of your opposite leg.
Alternatively, you can do the single leg bicep curl to overhead press to increase your calorie burn by training more muscle groups in one exercise. This version also tests your balance to a higher degree because now you have to perform two completely different motions (curling and pressing) while balancing yourself on one leg.
- Yeager, S. (2017, February 27). Balance Better With These Single-Leg Exercises. Bicycling. https://www.bicycling.com/training/a20025547/balance-better-with-these-single-leg-exercises/
- Beavers, K. M., Ambrosius, W. T., Rejeski, W. J., Burdette, J. H., Walkup, M. P., Sheedy, J. L., Nesbit, B. A., Gaukstern, J. E., Nicklas, B. J., & Marsh, A. P. (2017). Effect of Exercise Type During Intentional Weight Loss on Body Composition in Older Adults with Obesity. Obesity, 25(11), 1823–1829. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.21977