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Bigger and stronger biceps are a top aim for many people who want to get fitter. Whether you want to be ripped or you’re just hoping to improve your stamina, dumbbells are an excellent weight to have on hand to bulk up your biceps. They’re always available at the gym, but they’re also super easy to store and use at home.
Dumbbells are versatile, too, giving you a wide range of exercises that you can use. If you’re looking for the best bicep workout with dumbbells, you can explore several different exercises that can be mixed and matched to get your desired results. Take a look at this list to discover the most effective exercises.
#1 Standing Dumbbell Curl
Some bicep exercises are classics, and this dumbbell exercise can’t be left off any list of the best bicep workouts with dumbbells. It might be a simple exercise, but it’s a classic for a reason. It’s easy to do, it requires no other equipment than a dumbbell, and it’s great for targeting your biceps. The most important thing that you need to do is choose dumbbells that are right for you. If you’re struggling or swaying when trying to lift them, you probably need to switch them out for some lighter weights. There’s no shame in knowing your limits, and you can always improve.
For a standing dumbbell curl, stand up straight and hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides. With your palms facing forwards, and without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl your dumbbells so that they get as close to your shoulders as possible. Pause for a second, then slowly lower your arms back down again until your arms are completely straight. Ideally, it would be best if you mastered this before moving onto other bicep curls.
An alternative basic bicep curl is the seated bicep curl. It’s the same basic movement, but you’ll be sitting down instead of standing up. Make sure that you’re sitting up straight and that you keep your upper body and upper arms as still as possible while you perform your curls.
#2 Dumbbell Preacher Curl
The dumbbell preacher curl helps you to train your biceps using a variety of different positions. The way you position your shoulder affects the range of motion for your biceps and the preacher curl provides greater activation in the first third of the ROM and targets the shorter head. It’s one exercise that you should use to stimulate your biceps fully.
To perform a dumbbell preacher curl, hold a dumbbell and put your arm on top of a preacher bench. Turn your body slightly and lower the dumbbell to stretch your arm fully before squeezing your biceps hard to move back into the position that you started in. There should be no space between your underarm and the top of the bench when you do this. Your upper arm should be in contact with the bench at all times. You can also squat down low and engage your core and glutes to prevent movement elsewhere. Make sure you’re concentrating on the curl and nothing else.
You can do this exercise with one arm at a time, or you can try both arms. You can also hold the dumbbell horizontally, with your palm facing up (supination grip), or you can hold it vertically, with your palm facing inward (neutral grip). This gives you some variation to try and different ways to target your biceps to give them a full workout. Remember not to jerk your upper body while performing this exercise. Your arm should be doing all of the work.
#3 Incline Dumbbell Curl
This dumbbell exercise might involve leaning back, but it’s not a chance to have a rest. To do this exercise, you’ll need your dumbbells and a bench that you can set to an incline of around 45 to 60 degrees. This exercise is excellent for stretching the long head of the biceps, which crosses the shoulder joint. Doing this can enable higher levels of muscle activation so that you can get more from your workout. Being on your back, with your arms hanging down, means that you have less leverage, and you’ll have to work harder to perform the curl.
Get started by leaning back on the bench with your arms down by your sides. Grab your dumbbells and curl them as close as you can to your shoulders while keeping your upper arms still. Pause at the top to get the full effect before you slowly lower the dumbbells back down to your starting position. Each time you do this, make sure to straighten your arms in their starting position fully.
As with other exercises, keep your upper body as still as you can while your arms are working. If you’re finding it hard to lift the dumbbells, you might want to switch to a lower weight.
You can also try the opposite of the incline curl, the decline curl. This involves lying chest-down on a bench and performing curls while holding your dumbbells vertically. It helps to isolate the biceps and reduce the amount that you’re relying on other muscles.
#4 Dumbbell Hammer Curl
The dumbbell hammer curl might not look a whole lot different from a standard bicep curl, but it can have a big impact. All it involves is flipping your dumbbell on its side so that your dumbbells are vertical and your palms are facing in toward each other. This small movement makes a significant difference in the way that you are flexing your muscles. If you’re working on looking bulkier, it’s a great move to have in your repertoire. It moves some of the work from your biceps brachii to your brachialis. This muscle can help your arm to look bigger.
Standing up, holding your dumbbells, and with your arms at your sides, your palms should face in toward your thighs. Keep your upper arms still and curl your dumbbells up one at a time to get them as close to your shoulders as possible. Each time you do the curl, pause at the top and then slowly lower the weight back down again, making sure you straighten your arm completely.
This exercise is pretty much the same as a standard standing bicep curl, but the hammer grip (also called neutral grip) is a great way to get more from some of the most basic exercises. The brachialis muscle, which is an elbow flexor, is located underneath the biceps. As it gets bigger, it pushes up your biceps, which helps them to look bigger too. That’s why this exercise is good not just for strength but aesthetics too.
#5 Kneeling Single-arm Curl
Dumbbell exercises with both arms can make it easy to work on both arms simultaneously and stay balanced. But single-arm curls are also useful, giving you the chance to identify any weak spots. This exercise is also done in a kneeling position, which increases your arms’ focus and reduces your reliance on other muscles to get the weights to where you want them to be.
Firstly, get into a kneeling position and make sure your back is straight. With a pair of dumbbells by your side, hold one of them with your palm facing your thigh and the other with your palm facing outward. With the arm with the facing-out palm, bend your elbow and curl in the dumbbell to get it as close to your shoulder as you can, pause, and then lower back to your straight-arm position. You can do all of your reps on one side before you switch to the other, or you can alternate between arms if you want to. You can also pause at the halfway point on the way down.
To do this exercise safely, be sure to draw your shoulders down and back and make sure you have a straight back too. Tuck in your pelvis and engage your core and glutes to build a strong foundation and keep your upper body still when you’re performing your curls. If kneeling is hard on your knees, remember that you can always kneel on an exercise mat or something else soft so that it feels a bit more comfortable.
#6 Zottman Curl
When you want to target all three major muscles of the biceps, this is one of the best bicep workouts with dumbbells. The brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis all get a workout because you change your grip halfway through the curl. You start with an underhand grip, then rotate to an overhand grip as you move, giving you the best of both worlds.
To do a Zottman curl, stand with your dumbbells at your sides, hanging at arm’s length. With your palms facing forward and your upper arms still, bend your elbows and curl into your shoulders. When you reach the top, rotate your dumbbells so that your palms are again facing forward. Now, slowly lower your dumbbells in this position until your arms are straight. Reposition your dumbbells into the starting position before repeating. Another way to get more from this movement is to flex at the top for a second or two before rotating your dumbbells and lowering them again.
You can perform these curls one arm at a time, or you can do both arms at the same time if you want to. Using this move, you can use heavier weights than you might be able to do when doing a reverse curl on its own. They can be a good choice at the beginning of your workout to help get the blood flowing and warm up your elbow flexors. Alternatively, they can be good to use at the end of your workout to finish off with increased blood flow to your arms.
#7 Concentration Curl
The concentration curl is a fantastic choice for isolating and strengthening your biceps. One study suggests that they are the most effective exercise for doing so. You’re probably pretty familiar with what it looks like, even if you’ve never tried it out yourself. They can be great for doing lots of reps, or you can also choose to slow down the pace and concentrate on what you’re doing.
While sitting on a bench, you should have your legs apart. Holding a dumbbell in one hand, rest your arm on the leg on the same side (i.e., right arm on the right leg or left arm on the left leg). Your arm should be just below your knee so that the dumbbell hangs down between your legs. Use your opposite hand to stabilize yourself on your opposite leg, which will keep your torso upright. Then, with your palm facing up, curl your dumbbell into your shoulder as you would with other curls. Pause at the top and then slowly lower your weight back down to your starting position. Focus on squeezing your bicep when you perform this move to get the most out of the exercise. Remember to return to a straight arm at the end of each curl, like you would with any other curl.
While this exercise might look easy, be careful to avoid some common mistakes. Wedge your upper arm against your thigh, rather than having your elbow digging in. Make sure you don’t lock your elbows when you straighten them, too, to avoid hyperextending your elbow.
Did you enjoy this list of best dumbbell workouts? Hopefully, you learned something new and are excited to try out some of these top exercises to try out on arm day. Having a variety of dumbbell exercises is a must so you don’t get bored and can work on different areas of your biceps. It’s important to know how to do these exercises safely too. If you’re unsure about any of them, get instruction from someone who knows what they’re doing, whether it’s a personal trainer or a friend who has more experience in the gym.