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How to Do the Dumbbell Arm Curl

Build the Biceps Muscle

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Updated January 29, 2008

The arm curl is a basic "isolation" exercise. You can do it with dumbbells, barbell or machines at the gym. The arm curl flexes and extends the elbow joint and targets the biceps and the brachialis muscles of the upper arm. This description describes the dumbbell arm curl.

Find out more about weight training terminology and exercise description if you need background information before you try this exercise. Print a formatted copy of this exercise. See more dumbbell exercises.

1. How to Do the Dumbbell Arm Curl - The Starting Position

Starting Position
(c) Paul Rogers
  1. Stand or sit, holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing inward (hammer grip).
  2. Position the feet firmly, slightly less than shoulder width apart.
  3. Brace the abdominal muscles and inhale ready for the movement.

2. How to Do the Dumbbell Arm Curl - The Exercise Description

Dumbbell Arm Curl
(c) Paul Rogers
  1. Bend the elbow of one arm, rotating the arm so that the palm faces upward while raising the dumbbell to the shoulder.
  2. Dumbbell becomes horizontal, forearm pointing upward, thumbs on the outside.
  3. Lower the dumbbell to the starting position and raise the other arm with the same motion. Alternate arms in a smooth progression.
  4. This exercise works the biceps and brachialis of the upper arm and the front deltoid (shoulder muscle) to a lesser extent.

3. How to Do the Dumbbell Arm Curl - Points to Note

  • Select a weight to suit your program. You should be able to complete the number of program sets without losing form.
  • Don't sway back and forward as you lift and return. This utilizes momentum to aid the lift and is called "cheating" (truly, it is). A little bit of cheating is okay, but try to keep good form with the body upright and a lift that's controlled and not too fast.
  • Optionally, this exercise can be done sitting on a chair or bench or with both arms simultaneously. A barbell be substituted for dumbbells.
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