Dumbbell Concentration Curls – Form, Tips and Variations


Dumbbell Concentration Curls are an isolation movement exercise with the primary purpose to peak your arm’s biceps, especially the Brachialis (outside part of biceps).  You can perform Dumbbell concentration curls in a variety of ways: sitting, standing or in a kneeling position. The movement is typically used as a finishing exercise to work the “peak” of the biceps and give gym goers the final “pump” before leaving the gym and “hitting the streets”!

 Dumbbell Concentration Curl Summary 

  • Primary Muscle(s) Worked: Bicep, Brachialis
  • Other Muscles (Secondary) Worked: None
  • Equipment: Dumbbell
  • Mechanics Type: Isolation (An exercise that involves one joint movement).
  • Force: Pull (A movement toward the center of the body during the concentric contraction of the target muscle).
  • Utility: Auxiliary (An optional exercise that may supplement a basic exercise. Auxiliary exercises may place higher relative intensity on a specific muscle or a head of a muscle).

Bicep and Brachialis Muscle Physiology Summary

The biceps brachii (Bicep) is a muscle located on the upper arm. The term biceps brachii is a Latin phrase meaning “two-headed [muscle] of the arm,” about the fact that the muscle consists of two bundles of muscle, each with its origin, sharing a common insertion point near the elbow joint. Your bicep is comprised of the long (outer) head1 and the short (inner, medial) head2. The bicep has several functions, the most critical being to rotate the forearm (supination) and to flex the elbow.

Supination is a position of either the forearm when the palm faces anteriorly or faces up (when the arms are unbent and at the sides.

The brachialis (brachialis antics) is a muscle in the upper arm that flexes the elbow joint. The brachialis (brachialis antics) lies just deep of the biceps brachii and is a synergist that assists the biceps brachii (biceps) in flexing at the elbow. Unlike the biceps, the brachialis does not insert on the radius, and therefore cannot participate in pronation/supination of the forearm.

Target Muscles 

  • Bicep Brachialis

Synergist Muscles

  • Biceps Brachii
  • Brachioradialis

Stabilizers Muscles

  • Trapezius, Upper
  • Trapezius, Middle
  • Levator Scapulae
  • Obliques
  • Erictor Spinae
  • Wrist Flexors

Antagonist Stabilizers

  • Triceps brachii

Correct Exercise Procedure Use for Dumbbell Concentration Curl 

You can perform Dumbbell concentration curls in a variety of ways: sitting, standing or in a kneeling position.

In a standing position

  • Feet should be shoulder width apart, bend over slightly grasp the dumbbell in one hand and let your free arm rest. In a sitting position, sit on a flat bench with legs spread apart into a V and lean forward.
  • Grasp dumbbell in one hand palm facing up with elbow on inside of knee if in standing position, or on inside of thigh just above knee if sitting.
  • Slowly curl the dumbbell up towards the shoulder, while inhaling, keeping the torso and upper arm still.
  • Twist your wrist as you lift so that your litter finger turns up towards your body (i.e., supinate).
  • Squeeze the bicep at the top for a one-count, and then slowly lower back down, while exhaling, to the starting position without locking the elbow at the bottom, then repeat.
  • After completing your desired reps with one arm alternate with the other until your desired sets have been completed.
How to Do Concentrations

In the sitting position

  • Sit comfortably on a gym bench with feet firmly placed on the floor
  • Grasp a dumbbell of proper weight.  
  • Spread your legs to the extent that you can rest the upper arm of the hand holding the dumbbell against the inner thigh on the same side. The dumbbell curl is performed using this support to concentrate tension in the biceps muscle for a better workout. Note: for a more advanced twist on this variation you would let your arm hang without using the inner thigh as support.
  • Brace the abdominal muscles, straighten the back, keep the head steady.
  • Curl the arm toward the chin.
  • Squeeze at the top of the movement.
  • Repeat
  • Remember to breathe out on exertion and in on recovery.

Tips for Performing Dumbbell Concentration Curl

Using the tips mention below will help your muscles full development by incorporating more muscle fibers per rep, thus increasing the muscle’s size and strength.

  • Practice proper form and control. Starting with this exercise, or any lift you have not performed before, use light weight until you have the full range of movement with proper extension and contraction completed.
  • Twist your wrist. Twisting your wrist (little finger turn upward) you increase the development of both long head (lateral head) and short head (medial head) of the biceps brachii.
  • Do not lock elbows. Keep tension on the bicep; do not lock your elbows at the bottom of the movement.
  • Do not lift elbow. Having your elbow against your leg will help in balance and keeping you from using momentum to swing the dumbbell instead of lifting it.
  • Squeeze at the top. Squeeze at the top and feel the burn.
  • Lower slowly. Keep the tension on the bicep while lowering to starting position.

Frequent Mistakes Made While Performing Dumbbell Concentration Curls 

Performing the exercise improperly, often referred to as cheating, will not allow for the muscle and muscle fibers to use their fullest potential, resulting in not achieving desired development of the muscle.

  • You perform the movement too fast. Use slow controlled motion.
  • You are using too much weight. A mistake for many lifters is trying to lift too much resistance or weight. Make sure to use the right weight that will allow you to use proper form and the full range of motion. Do not lift by swinging the dumbbell.
  • You are not keeping elbow against your leg. If your elbow is not against your leg you will tend to swing the dumbbell up instead of lifting.
  • Locking the elbows. Locking the elbows at the bottom of this movement takes the stress off the muscles worked.
  • You are limiting the range of motion. Do not limit the range of motion. Make sure the movement is performed entirely by going all the way down, twist your wrist and squeeze the bicep at the top.

Variations and other Equipment You Can Use

A variation of a specific exercise is intended to work different subgroups of muscles or work the same muscles in slightly different ways. There are many exercise variations to this strength exercise. The following are five examples of the variations use for concentration curls. All these lifts have the same characteristics as the concentration curl by activating the long head (lateral head) of the biceps brachii significantly more than the short head (medial Head) of the Biceps Brachii:

5 Curls to Keep You Muscles Confused and Growing

  • Barbell Preacher Curl. When done correctly your upper arms are locked in position by resting the triceps on the pad while arms are working together to lift the weight. Barbell preacher curl will usually allow more weight to be lifted per rep.
  • Dumbbell Preacher Curl. This exercise when performed correctly has the same movement as the concentration curl. The main difference between the two lifts is the concentration curl your upper arm is resting on inside of your leg the preacher curl on the pad. With both exercises, you are unable to use your body to help with the lift.
  • Barbell Prone Incline Curl – is another excellent exercise for Isolation the biceps. By lying on a bench adjusted in 45 to 60-degree angle, you are unable to use your body to help with the lift. Just be careful not to let your arms swing at the bottom of the movement.
  • Dumbbell Prone Incline Curl. Same as the barbell incline curl except you have the advantage of either working biceps together, but independently of each other, or alternating between them.
  • Lever Preacher Curl. This machine is designed to have the same movement characteristics as the preacher curl. The advantage this machine has over the preacher curl you can control the weight more naturally. Especially, when you lower the bar or dumbbells, on the negative. You can lower the more with a slower movement which allows you to feel the burn and incorporate more muscle fibers.

Other Exercises to Compliment Dumbbell Concentration Curls 

The following exercises directly target the Biceps Brachii, along with Brachialis, is needed for the full development of the biceps.

  • Barbell Curl. Because you are standing using a barbell, heavier weight usually can be lifted. Caution is needed not to use your body to swing the weight up when lifting. On occasion, if you want to complete a set with using a forced rep for the last one or two reps and don’t have a spotter to help, a little body movement is acceptable.
  • Cable Curl. Like with most cable exercises you have an excellent opportunity to focus heavily on the negative part of the movement, thus creating a high burn and incorporating additional muscle fibers.
  • Dumbbell Incline Curl. By sitting on an incline bench, you can hit your bicep at a slightly different angle, also taking your body out of the movement. On the incline, you are not able to lift as much weight as sitting straight up, but just as effective. The dumbbell incline curl can be completed by raising both arms simultaneously or alternating. Be careful not to use momentum by swinging your arms.
  • Cable Supine Curl – is an exercise you don’t see use a lot, but by laying flat on the floor, you all but eliminate the possibility of cheating. With cable supine curl you have great control of the weight both on the curl itself plus on the return.
  • Lever Curl. With sitting and your back firmly against the backrest, you completely isolate your biceps by not being able to use your body or swing your arms to gain momentum for the lift.

Bottom Line

Dumbbell Concentration Curl involves a rigorous movement so you should only use as much weight as you can handle with proper form. This is why the name ‘Concentration Curl’ is crucial because you need to concentrate on the biceps contraction and on being strict about making this exercise very useful. The Dumbbell Concentration Curl is a great finishing exercise because of its being one of the best weight lifts to tone arms and peaking the muscle.

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