10 Best Bicep Curl Variations To Build Muscle

Dumbbell Biceps Curl
Dumbbell Biceps CurlJames Michelfelder

If you want big arms, do a biceps curl. If you want even bigger arms, it’s time to build some curl variations into your upper body workout. Like other muscles, your biceps brachii (the official name for that large, thick muscle on the ventral portion of the upper arm) respond most efficiently to a mix of strengthening exercises.

Small tweaks—something as simple as changing the wrist position or source of resistance—allow you to target your arms from new angles while emphasizing different muscles within your arms. Over time, that means more strength and more size.

From drag curls and barbell curls to effective biceps work with resistance bands, here are 10 different ways to swiftly amp those biceps muscles. Incorporate these biceps exercises into your arm workouts—and don’t be surprised if you feel a new type of soreness the next day.

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1. Concentration Bicep Curls

Why it works: Because it takes a lot of moving parts out of the equation, the concentration curl is one of the best moves to isolate the bicep muscle.

How to do it: While sitting on a bench with your feet firmly on the floor, place the back of your left upper arm on the inside of your thigh. Keep your arm on your thigh throughout. Put your right hand on the right knee for stability. Do your curls on the left side, then repeat on the right side.

2. Preacher Curls

Why it works: Similar to concentration curls, preacher curls eliminate any momentum you can gain by swinging or twisting and puts the focus directly on your biceps. You’ll get a great stretch at the bottom of the exercise, too.

How to do it: Using a regular preacher bench, grab an EZ Curl bar with both hands using an underhand grip (palms facing upwards). Slowly curl the bar up to the top and bring it a few inches from your chin. Return the weight back down with a slow and controlled tempo to the starting position, allowing some resistance (negative) on the way back down. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

3. Hammer Curls

Why it works: Hammer curls are a great way to strengthen your biceps and forearms while targeting the “outer head” of the biceps.

How to do it: As you lower your arms, the dumbbell and wrist look like a hammer, thus the name. (The more you know, right?) Hold a set of dumbbells with a neutral grip so your palms are facing each other. Curl the dumbbells while keeping your palms facing each other.

4. Spider Curls

Why it works: Spider curls are incredible for building huge biceps. For one, similar to the preacher curl, you have to rest your triceps on a pad to prevent yourself from using momentum or swinging your body. Second, because of the starting position, you have to fight more gravity which gets you serious intensity.

How to do it: Use the preacher curl machine backwards so that your triceps are resting on the straight-up-and-down side. Start with your arms hanging straight down to the floor and curl.

5. Band Bicep Curl

Why it works: Band-resisted exercises help you explode past sticking points. During the bicep curl, for example, you engage the biceps more toward the top half of the movement than the bottom-half. By using a band, you can better match the strength curve of the movement because the resistance will be easiest at the bottom (when the muscle is fully stretched) and get harder as you rise.

How to do it: Grab the end of an exercise band with each hand holding the middle of the band under your feet. Perform your bicep curls.

Beth Bischoff

6. Zottman Curl

Why it works: This curl combines the conventional bicep curl and reverse curl for an awesome two-in-one movement. This way, you’ll target the biceps and brachialis with normal-style (wrists supinated) curls and also hammer your forearms with the reverse curl portion.

How to do it: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward. Curl the weights as you turn your wrists so that your palms face away at the top. Reverse the movement, returning to the starting position with your palms facing forward.

7. Cable Curl

Why it works: At the beginning and end of a dumbbell or barbell curl, you move the weight about parallel to the floor and, thus, don’t fighting against gravity. Once you get into the middle range of the movement, you’re finally pulling against gravity. Because cables rely on a pulley system, however, you’ll get constant tension throughout the movement for consistent stimulus.

How to do it: Attach a curl handle to the cable machine. Stand facing the machine and as close to the machine as you can. Start with your arms at your sides and curl to the top.

8. Plate Curl

Why it works: A great way to develop strong, massive forearms is to strengthen how hard your fingers can pinch together. Train this grip by varying the way you hold your weights.

How to do it: Instead of doing a bicep curl with a dumbbell, use a weight plate and grab it by its end. Do 5 – 6 sets of 4 – 8 reps; if you can do more, use a heavier plate.

9. TRX Bicep Curl

Why it works: With bodyweight exercises, all you have to do is change the angles to make it harder. Move closer to the anchor point on the TRX bicep curl, for example, and you’ll instantly ramp up the intensity. They also lower your risk of an elbow or wrist injury from ugly technique or heavy machine work, and they break the monotony of the same boring exercises everyone else does.

How to do it: Grab a TRX and face the anchor point. Lean away, keep your body straight, and pin your upper arms at your sides. Then, curl the TRX towards you. To make this harder, move your feet closer to the anchor point.

10. Fat Grip Bicep Curl

Why it works: With a thicker handle, you have to squeeze much harder just to hold the same amount of weight, which boosts your neural drive and activate more musculature. Also, because it strengths your grip, it allows you to hold more weight during conventional bicep exercises.

How to do it: Place a Fat Grip around the dumbbell handle and perform your bicep curls. (If you don’t have a Fat Grip, wrap a small towel around the handle.)


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