The Dumbbell Concentration Curl 101 | Form, Benefits, & Variations!

By
Mike Kenler
November 14, 2020

Dumbbell Concentration Curl

The dumbbell concentration curl is an essential biceps isolation exercise. 

If you want to improve your arm size, strength, and appearance, the dumbbell concentration curl is for you. 

Muscles Worked by Dumbbell Concentration Curl

Primary Muscle Groups:

The dumbbell concentration curl primarily works your biceps brachii. 

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.

Secondary Muscle Groups:

The dumbbell concentration curl secondarily works your brachialis, a muscle in your biceps that lies beneath your biceps brachii.

It also activates smaller muscles in your forearms to stabilize your arm during the curling motion. 

Dumbbell Concentration Curl Benefits

1. Strength and Size Gains

The concentration curl is a premier bicep exercise. Because your arm is in an anchored position, your biceps receive more tension than they do during a standard bicep curl. 

As a result, this isolation exercise strengthens the biceps muscle and increases biceps hypertrophy.

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

2. Improved Athletic Performance

The dumbbell concentration curl can also provide a major boost to your athletic performance. Any sport that involves throwing, swinging, rowing, and other similar motions depends upon strong biceps.

For that reason, doing concentration curls can help you throw farther and row longer. Simply put, the dumbbell concentration curl can give you an extra edge over your competitors.

3. Improved Aesthetics

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

This exercise is simple to learn and can help you improve the appearance of your arms in no time. 

How to Do the Dumbbell Concentration Curl 

Equipment:

For this exercise, you will need one dumbbell.

Setup:

a) Grab a dumbbell with an underhand grip.

b) Assume a sitting position on a bench with your feet planted firmly on the ground. 

c) Place your elbow on the inside of your thigh just above your knee for support. Your arm should be straight and the dumbbell should be just above the ground.

Action:

a) Contract your bicep to curl the dumbbell 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.

Recommendation:

If you are new to the dumbbell concentration curl, choose a light weight to begin and complete 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps. 

If you are more comfortable with the form, grab a pair of heavier dumbbells and stick to the 6-8 rep range for 3-4 sets. 

Dumbbell Concentration Curl Mistakes

1. Completing Partial Reps 

The most common concentration curl mistake is completing partial reps. Lifters either stop short of curling all the way up or they don’t return the dumbbell to the starting position. 

Either way, this mistake is preventing you from maximizing the concentration curl. Remember—it is always better to lift less weight with perfect form than more weight with poor form. Feel free to reduce your weight and perform complete repetitions. 

2. Using Momentum

The dumbbell concentration curl is designed to prevent people from using momentum to lift the weight up. However, some lifters still make this mistake by moving their legs and upper body to swing the dumbbell up. 

Truth be told, this happens because they are trying to lift too much weight.

The fix is simple: choose a lighter weight and focus on perfecting your form. You will actually increase your gains and reduce your chances of injury!

3. Rushing the Motion

Another common mistake made during the dumbbell concentration curl is rushing the motion. In other words, people curl upwards in a controlled fashion and then let the dumbbell fall quickly to the bottom. 

Not only can this be unsafe, but this mistake is stealing major gains that can be made during the eccentric portion of the exercise motion.

Instead of rushing through the motion, curl the dumbbell up and down in a slow, controlled fashion. This tempo will increase your time under tension and maximize the benefits of the dumbbell concentration curl.

Dumbbell Concentration Curl Variations

1. Standing Concentration Curl

Assume a standing position with your feet wider than shoulder width apart. Grab the kettlebell with your right hand and your palm facing away from you.

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

With this stable base, complete the concentration curl with the same form as the standard variation. Repeat and be sure to switch arms!

2. Landmine Concentration Curl

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.

Straddle the barbell so that you are nearly perpendicular to it.

Hinge at the waist and anchor your right elbow to the inside of your right thigh just above your knee. Grab the barbell with your right hand and your palm facing upwards. 

Complete the landmine concentration curl with the same form as the standard variation. Repeat and be sure to switch arms!


3. Body Weight Concentration Curl

No equipment? No problem! You can still do the concentration curl without any weights. 

Begin by sitting in a chair. With your right foot planted firmly on the ground, grab the back of your left leg with your right hand. 

With your right elbow planted securely on the inside of your right thigh, use your leg as resistance and contract your right bicep to lift your left leg upwards. 

Then, return to the starting position and repeat. Be sure to switch legs!

Dumbbell Concentration Curl Alternatives

If you enjoyed the dumbbell concentration curl, check out these alternative bicep exercises to improve your bicep training:

1. Supinated Dumbbell Curl

Grab a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing forward and assume a standing position with your feet roughly hip width apart. 

Keeping your back straight, contract your biceps to curl the dumbbells upwards. Squeeze your biceps hard at the top and pause for a moment.

Slowly lower the dumbbells all the way down to the starting position. Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps.

2. Dumbbell Drag Curl

Assume a comfortable stance in a standing position. Grab a pair of dumbbells with a supinated (double underhand) grip with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

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

Squeeze your biceps hard at the top and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps.

3. Dumbbell Zottman Curl

Begin by grabbing a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing forward. Assume a standing position with your feet roughly hip width apart. 

Keeping your back straight, contract your biceps to curl the dumbbells upwards. Squeeze your biceps hard at the top and twist your hands so that your palms face downwards.

Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position and twist your hands so that your palms are facing forward again. Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps.

 

Looking for an Intense Bicep Workout?

Follow along to this 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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