Dumbbell Curls

Technique Summary

Place your feet at shoulder width and hold dumbbells at your sides. Lift one dumbbell at a time by flexing your biceps - bending your arm at the elbow and turning palms in to face you on contraction. Breathe out on the way up and breathe in on the way down.

Exercise Type: Isolation
Primary Muscle:Biceps Brachii

Technique Details

Dumbbell curl is a very effective and well known isolation exercise for your biceps. To perform the exercise you first need to establish a good base with your body. A good base helps maintain balance, maximize the contraction, and minimize injury. Position your feet at shoulder width. Adjust the width of your stance to comfort. I find it helpful to maintain a slight bend in my knees. When I go heavy this helps me adjust my body to keep balance without rocking back and forth. Do not move back and forth or help yourself lift by pushing out from your feet. You should also keep your back straight and shoulders back. Pressing the upper arm into your body helps stabilize your hands as you lift. Experiment with different positions and choose one that feels most natural and allows your body to remain stable with only your arms bending at the elbow.


Dumbbell curls don’t require a ton of weight to be effective. Do not grab heavy weights then twist, turn, and rock your body to help you lift.  This looks silly, does little for defining and building your biceps, and could lead to injury. Bringing your elbows up, is less obvious, but is also a cheat. Gravity pulls the dumbbell directly down. A straight line above the dumbbell is a path of most resistance. By bringing your elbow forward before contracting the biceps you are lifting at an angle to the floor (using your elbow as leverage and shifting much of the burden onto your shoulders). You can lift the dumbbell with your biceps, and then at the peak slightly move your elbow forward to get a fuller contraction (notice the subtle but important difference – first lift then slightly move your elbow forward as opposed to moving your elbow forward before or during the lift). Rule of thumb, if your bicep is not always tense during the lift, you are doing the exercise incorrectly.

You can introduce several variations to keep dumbbell curls exciting and challenging. You could keep your palms facing forward through the entire rep or facing your body in the beginning and rotating them up on contraction. You could do the dumbbell curl with both arms simultaneously or by alternating them.