13 Intense Bicep Curl Variations | Dumbbell, Barbell, and Many More!

By
Mike Kenler
October 13, 2020

Anatomy of the Biceps

For many people, building bigger biceps is the ultimate fitness goal. While anyone can pick up a pair of dumbbells and curl, understanding the anatomy of the biceps is crucial before training.

The biceps brachii is the scientific name for the most prominent muscles in the front of your upper arm. The bicep muscle is comprised of two “heads:” a long head and a short head. Both heads work together as a cohesive unit during lifting and pulling motions.


The brachialis is another muscle in the upper arm that lies beneath the biceps brachii. While the biceps commands all the attention, the brachialis actually generates more power than the biceps brachii when flexing the elbow.  

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Benefits of Bicep Curl Variations

While many people tend to over-train the biceps, there are valid benefits behind building stronger biceps. Training with an array of bicep curl variations is important for the following reasons:

1. Enhanced Strength Performance

Growing your biceps muscles isn’t just for show — it will improve your performance in other exercises at the gym such as the barbell row and the lat pulldown

These exercises rely upon the biceps as secondary movers. When it comes down to that last extra rep, the biceps can help you set new personal records. 

2. Improved Athletic Performance

Bicep training can also provide a huge boost to your athletic performance. Any sport that involves throwing, swinging, rowing, and other similar motions depends upon strong biceps. For that reason, doing bicep curls can help you throw farther and row longer. 

Simply put, training your biceps can give you a major edge over your competition.

3. Improved Aesthetics

Let’s face it—nearly everyone wants to have better looking arms. Depending on your goals, you can use the following bicep curl variations to develop bigger, more toned, or more defined biceps.

These exercises are simple to learn and they can help you improve the appearance of your arms in no time!

13 Intense Bicep Curl Variations

1. Dumbbell Zottman Curl 

The Zottman curl provides the benefits of two exercises in one, as it works your forearms and biceps at the same time.

Setup:

a) Grab a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing forward.

b) Assume a standing position with your feet roughly hip width apart.

Action:

a) Keeping your back straight, contract your biceps to curl the dumbbells upwards.

b) Squeeze your biceps hard at the top and twist your hands so that your palms face downwards.

c) Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position and twist your hands so that your palms are facing forward again.

d) Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps.

2. Supinated Barbell Curl

The barbell offers a great way to add on extra weight that you may be unable to lift with bicep curl variations that utilize dumbbells or kettlebells.

Setup:

a) To begin, stand in a comfortable position in front of your weighted barbell.

b) Grab the barbell with a double underhand (supinated) grip with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

Action:

a) Contract your biceps to curl the barbell upwards.

b) Squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the rep and slowly return to the starting position.

c) Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps.

3. Standing Concentrated Bicep Curl

Also known as a concentration curl, the concentrated bicep curl completely isolates the bicep muscle, which maximizes biceps hypertrophy.

You can perform this exercise with a kettlebell (see below) or a dumbbell.

Setup:

a) Assume a standing position with your feet wider than shoulder width apart.

b) Grab the kettlebell with your right hand and your palm facing away from you.

c) Shift your weight to your right side and place your elbow on the inside of your thigh just above your knee for support.

Action:

a) Contract your bicep to curl the kettlebell upwards.

b) Squeeze your bicep hard at the top of the rep and return to the starting position.

c) Repeat for the desired number of reps and be sure to switch arms!

4. Reverse Resistance Band Curl

The reverse curl is one of the best bicep curl variations that also engages your forearms during the curling motion.

Setup:

a) Assume a standing position on a resistance band with your feet close together.

b) Grab the handles with an overhand grip and tuck your elbows into your sides.

Action:

a) Contract your biceps to curl upwards.

b) Squeeze your biceps hard at the top and then slowly release back to starting position.

c) Repeat for your desired number of reps.

5. Seated Wide Curl

The dumbbell seated wide curl targets the inner part of your biceps muscle and it secondarily engages your deltoids as well.

Setup:

a) Assume an upright seated position on an incline bench.

b) Grab a pair of dumbbells with an underhand grip and bring your arms out wide.

Action:

a) Keeping your elbows in a stationary position, contract your biceps to curl the dumbbells upwards.

b) Squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the rep and return to the starting position.

c) Repeat for your desired number of reps.


6. Banded Inward Curl

The resistance band inward curl is a simple and convenient bicep curl variation that heavily isolates the biceps.

Setup:

a) Assume a standing position on a resistance band with your feet roughly shoulder width apart.

b) Grasp the handles with your palms facing each other.

c) Elevate your arms out to the side and secure positioning of your elbows angled sideways.

Action:

a) While keeping your elbows stationary, curl the resistance band handles inward.

b) Squeeze your biceps hard at the top.

c) Repeat for your desired number of reps.


7. 1-Arm Push Curl

No equipment? No problem! This bicep curl variation relies only on your bodyweight to create resistance and it can be just as effective as weighted exercises.

Setup:

a) Assume a standing position with your feet roughly shoulder width apart.

b) Keep your right arm by your side and your palm facing forward.

Action:

a) With your left hand, press down hard on your right forearm to create resistance.

b) Contract your right bicep to curl your hand upwards.

c) Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps and be sure to switch arms.


8. Cross Arm Landmine Curl 

Cross arm bicep curl variations engage your brachialis muscle more than traditional bicep curls.

Setup:

a) Secure the barbell in a landmine attachment, a corner, or however you can stabilize the end of one side of the bar on the ground in front of you.

b) Assume a standing position perpendicular to the barbell with your feet in a comfortable stance.

c) Grasp the barbell with your left hand and your palm facing upwards.

Action:

a) Contract your left bicep to curl the barbell upwards and across your body.

b) Squeeze your bicep hard at the top of the rep and slowly return to the starting position.

c) Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps and be sure to switch arms.

9. Barbell Drag Curl 

This bicep curl variation removes tension from your deltoids, which maximizes the force placed on your biceps.

Setup:

a) To begin, stand in a comfortable position in front of your weighted barbell.

b) Grab the barbell with a double underhand (supinated) grip with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

Action:

a) Bring your elbows and shoulders back slightly as you curl the barbell upwards. It should feel like you are "dragging" the barbell up your body.

b) Squeeze your biceps hard at the top and slowly return to the starting position.

c) Repeat for your desired number of reps.

10. Alternating Tension Curls

Alternating tension curls are best completed with a light weight. This will prevent injury and maximize the number of reps you can do to completely fatigue your biceps.

Setup:

a) Assume a standing position with your feet close together and your back straight.

b) Grab both dumbbells with your palms facing up and extend your arms straight out in front of you.

Action:

a) Curl your right hand upwards while keeping your left arm straight.

b) Then, curl your left arm upwards as you extend your right arm back to its starting position.

c) Keep alternating arms and repeat this motion.

11. Medicine Ball Close Curl

This bicep curl variation utilizes the medicine ball to specifically target the outer portion of your bicep muscles.

Setup:

a) Assume a standing position with your feet close together and your back straight.

b) Grab a medicine ball with your hands close together.

Action:

a) Contract your biceps to curl the medicine ball upwards.

b) Squeeze your biceps hard at the top and slowly return to the starting position.

c) Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps.

12. Alternating Outer Leg Curl

The alternating outer leg curl is another bodyweight bicep curl variation that still gets the job done. With bodyweight bicep training, we use our own body against us as resistance. The key is to truly maximize your mind muscle connection with each rep to compensate for the lack of weighted resistance.

Setup:

a) Lie on your back with your legs bent in an elevated position.

b) Next, bring your shoulders off the ground and grab the back of your legs with your palms facing towards you.

Action:

a) With your elbows angled outwards, contract your right bicep to pull your right leg towards you.

b) Squeeze your bicep hard and return to the starting position.

c) Repeat this motion on the left side and keep alternating. *Note — resist the pulling motion with your legs to add resistance.

13. Dual Grip Seated Cable Curl 

You can also train your biceps using a pulley system and individual handles.

Setup:

a) Assume a seated position on the bench with your back straight and place your feet firmly onto the foot plates.

b) Grab the handles with your palms facing up and extend your arms straight out in front of you.

Action:

a) Contract your biceps to curl the handles towards your head.

b) Squeeze your biceps hard at the top and slowly return to the starting position.

c) Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps.

Looking for a Full Bicep Workout?

Follow along to this intense 5-minute dumbbell bicep workout!

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Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

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