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Dumbbell Curl: How-to, Explanation, Instructions & Common mistakes

The dumbbell curl is one of the most well-known exercises to train the biceps. Take a look around the gym and chances are you'll see someone doing dumbbell curls, and for good reason.

The exercise is not only effective for training your biceps and building muscle mass, but it is also easy to perform. But how do you do the perfect dumbbell curl? We explain this step by step below.

Which muscles are used during a dumbbell curl?

The dumbbell curl is an isolation exercise because it only uses one joint, your elbow joint. Because of this, this exercise mainly targets one muscle group; the biceps, and specifically the long head. To understand this we need to look at the anatomy of the biceps.

The biceps muscle consists of two heads, hence the name bi CEPS. The long head is the muscle head that mainly provides the height and the so-called 'peak' in your biceps. The short head is again more responsible for the thickness and width of the biceps. You mainly train the long head by keeping your arm next to or behind your body, while you train the short head by keeping your arm in front of your body.

biceps exercise with dumbbell curl

Of course, other muscles are also used to a certain extent in a dumbbell curl. For example, you use the muscles in your hands to hold the dumbbells and the muscles in your forearms to keep your wrist straight, but in the end, it's your biceps that lift the weight from the bottom up.

This sounds very simple, and in fact, it is. However, to get the most results you need to take into account a number of simple but crucial guidelines and tips. Below you can read step-by-step how to perform the dumbbell curl perfectly and how to avoid common mistakes for maximum stimulation of your biceps.

Performance of the dumbbell curl

Below is a step-by-step plan to perform the standing dumbbell curl. Use this as a guideline for proper implementation. If necessary, use a mirror to check that you have a correct posture during the entire exercise.

  1. Stand in the starting position. Choose your desired weight, grab a dumbbell in each hand and stand up straight with your feet together. Make sure your palm is facing in and your thumbs are facing forward.
  2. Lift the weight. Squeeze your biceps and begin to lift the dumbbells in a controlled manner while keeping your upper arm level with your torso. As you lift the dumbbells up, slowly rotate your wrists outward so that your palm is facing up at the end of the movement.
  3. Lower the weight in a controlled manner. Once at the highest point, slowly lower the dumbbells back down while rotating your wrists back in to return to the starting position. Make sure to keep contracting your biceps even when your arms are back in the starting position.
  4. Repeat. Repeat the above steps for the desired number of reps.

Most common mistakes

Although the dumbbell curl is a simple exercise, mistakes are often made. Below is a summary of the most common mistakes. Please read these carefully and avoid making them yourself.

  1. Lifting your upper arms forward

    One of the most common mistakes made is using momentum. When the weight is too heavy, people rotate their upper arm forward, lifting some of the weight through the shoulder. Therefore always make sure that you keep your upper arm straight next to your upper body.

  2. Rocking your body

    Another way to use momentum is to rock your body to lift the weight. This is bad for your back, so make sure to keep your upper body as still as possible at all times. Lifting a lot of weight may look tough, but if you want to get maximum results, you need to make sure you have full control over the weight throughout the exercise.

  3. Tilting wrists up or down

    Many people tilt their wrists up or down. This puts more emphasis on the muscles in the forearm and less on the biceps. If you want to train your biceps to the maximum, you will have to keep your wrists in a straight line with respect to your forearms.

  4. Not turning wrists

    A lesser-known mistake is not turning the wrist during the dumbbell curl. Your biceps have two functionalities; the main function is bending your arm, twisting your forearm is the secondary function. Hold your arm next to your body with your thumb forward, then rotate your wrist outward so that your palm is facing forward. You should now feel your biceps tighten. To use this bicep stimulation for maximum results, rotate your wrists while performing the dumbbell curl.

Are you excited about biceps exercises with dumbbells? Then the concentration curl is definitely worth a try! Would you also like to train your biceps with a barbell? Then the barbell curl should not be missing from your schedule.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dumbbell Curls

Do you still have questions about dumbbell curls after our explanation? Below you will find a selection of some frequently asked questions about this exercise. Is your question not listed, but would you like an answer? Let us know to get an answer and maybe we'll add your question to the overview!

Dumbbell curls with one or two arms?

Many people wonder whether they should do dumbbell curls with two arms at the same time or alternate arms. The answer to this question comes down to personal preference. By curling back and forth it is often easier to keep your balance. This also means that there is a little more time between each repetition so that your biceps will be less fatigued. However, it is more difficult to keep contracting your biceps continuously than if you do it with both arms at the same time.

Dumbbell curls or barbell curls?

Little research has been done on the difference between dumbbell curls and barbell curls. Usually, people can lift more weight with a barbell, but the biceps are better contracted with a dumbbell. It is recommended to alternate between the two. However, curling with a barbell is not for everyone. Due to the limited range of motion, this can cause wrist or elbow pain for some people. In that case, it is better to do the exercise with dumbbells or an EZ-bar.

What are dumbbell curl variants?

There are many variations of the standing dumbbell curl. For example, you have the concentration curl, preacher curl, and hammer curl. The variation is often in the angle of your upper arm in relation to your upper body. As explained above, this determines which muscle head you emphasize during training. You can also perform most curls with a barbell. For information, view our overview for an explanation of all biceps exercises.

How do I improve the shape of my dumbbell curl?

If after the above tips you are still looking for ways to improve your dumbbell curl, you can use some handy tools. For example, a so-called arm blaster can help you maintain a correct posture, maximizing the load on your biceps. If you find that you have trouble keeping your wrists straight, you can use sports grips to train your forearms more while doing your biceps curls. This also helps you hold heavy weights for exercises such as deadlifts and rows.

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