Concentration Curls

Introduction to Concentration Curls

Concentration curls use dumbbells to isolate the biceps, concentrating the workload on the lateral head of the biceps brachii and brachialis (the outer bicep).

Biceps Brachii - Concentration CurlsThe biceps have a variety of functions, but the main ones are:

  • Flexing the elbow.
  • Rotating the forearm.

The biceps brachii is the Latin name for the two headed muscle in the upper arm. It consists of two distinct muscles: the long (lateral) head and the short (medial) head.

During concentration curls, the upper arm is rested against the inner thigh, preventing momentum being used to curl the dumbbell and forcing the biceps to work hard.

Concentration curls are often used towards the end of a workout to get a real ‘pump’ in the biceps.

Concentration Curls Instructions

  • Sit on a flat bench with the legs spread in a ‘V’.
  • Take hold of a dumbbell of a suitable weight.
  • Rest the upper arm of the dumbbell holding hand against the inner thigh on the same side. The inner thigh acts as a support for the upper arm in order to isolate the biceps. The arm holding the dumbbell should be straight. The position of the legs may need to be adjusted at this point.
  • Contract your core muscles and straighten the back.
  • Under the control of the biceps, curl the dumbbell up towards the chest.
  • Lower the dumbbell slowly back to the start position.
  • Repeat for the required amount of reps.
  • Switch arms.

Concentration Curls Muscles Worked

Concentration Curls Muscles WorkedPrimary

Biceps Brachii, Brachialis.









  • As with any exercise, concentrate on good, proper form before increasing the weight used. Aim for a proper extension of the arm at the lower position and a full contraction at the top of your concentration curls.
  • Do not lock out the elbows at the bottom of the movement. You should aim for full extension of the arm, but tension on the biceps should prevent the elbow from locking out.
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of all concentration curls to ensure full contraction of the biceps.
  • Ensure that your elbow is pressed against your leg throughout this exercise, as this will prevent you from using momentum to curl the dumbbell upward.
  • Lower the dumbbell back to the start position slowly. This concentration on the eccentric part of the movement ensures that the muscle is worked as fully as possible.
  • Twisting the wrist slightly, so that the little finger turns upward, will increase development of the long head (lateral head) and short head (medial head) of the biceps brachii.

Common Errors With Concentration Curls

The following errors will either hold back your progress or are potentially dangerous and could cause you an injury. Avoid these at all costs.

  • Performing the movement too quickly. This involves too much momentum, and takes some of the workload off the biceps. Use a slow and controlled motion.
  • Locking the elbows out. If the elbows are locked out at the bottom of your concentration curls, the biceps are being given a slight rest. Keep the biceps under tension at all times when performing concentration curls.
  • Using too much weight. It is common for guys to try and use too much weight at the expense of good form. Using too much weight means that you need to swing the dumbbell in order to complete the exercise. Concentrate on form and a full range of movement before anything else.
  • Not working the full range of movement. If you are not extending the arm fully (without locking out the elbow) at the bottom of your concentration curls, and squeezing the biceps at the top, you are not working through the full range of movement. A full range of movement is vital for maximum results.

Variations of Concentration Curls

A variation of an exercise is used to target different groups of muscles, or work the same muscles differently. The following exercises are all variations of concentration curls. They all target the long (lateral) head of the biceps brachii to a greater degree than the short (medial) head.

  • Dumbbell Preacher Curls. This exercise is almost the same as performing concentration curls, except that the upper arm is rested on the pad of the preacher rather than the inner thigh. As with concentration curls, it is difficult to use any momentum/swinging when performing dumbbell preacher curls.
  • Barbell Preacher Curls. Very similar to dumbbell preacher curls, except both arms are working together to curl the barbell so more weight may be used. Lock the arms into place by positioning the triceps and elbows flush against the pad on the preacher.
  • Barbell/Dumbbell Prone Incline Curls. Set up a bench at around 45 to 60 degrees of incline and lay face down against it whilst performing curls with a barbell/dumbbells. Very effective for isolating the biceps as momentum is taken out of the equation.

Photo Credit: Everkinetic


2 pings

  1. John

    What do you mean with “do not lock out the elbows at the bottom of the movement”. I don’t get it.

  2. Andy

    Hi John.

    Locking out the elbows is basically allowing the arm to fully straighten (maybe even a little further than straight – depending on your physique).

    As discussed above, locking the elbows out is not possible unless the biceps are allowed to relax. Keep the biceps under tension throughout this exercise, and avoid any potential injury that locking the elbows may cause.

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