7 Bicep Curl Variations That'll Spice Up Arm Day

Grab your dumbbells.

Bicep curl variations that'll spice up arm day.

If your arm day consists of bicep curls on bicep curls, it might be time to switch things up and throw some bicep curl variations into the mix. Doing slightly different takes on the staple exercise not only spices up your routine, but also help you target different muscles for a more well-rounded workout.

In general, any type of bicep curl will make your arms stronger, says Rachel MacPherson, CPT, a certified personal trainer with Garage Gym Reviews, which is why any and all curls are worth adding to your fitness regimen. Stronger arm muscles make it easier to lift heavy items, twist and turn things, push and pull, and they can even spare your back and shoulders from injury by preventing over-compensation, she tells Bustle.

Working through a range of bicep curl variations will give all the muscles in your arms some love, including the ones you might miss if you just do standard bicep curls — aka the kind where you hold a dumbbell with an underhand grip, keep your elbows at your sides, and bring the weight up towards your chest. “It's a good practice to change variations to encourage muscle stimulation and gain the benefits of novelty,” MacPherson says.

Learning different exercises will also make your workout more interesting, which is always a welcome perk. To add some new moves to your routine, give these seven bicep curl variations a try.


Concentration Curl

The concentration curl puts all the focus on your upper arms, says MacPherson.

- Sit on a bench with your legs wider than shoulder-width apart, knees bent, and a dumbbell between your feet.

- Grab the dumbbell with your right hand using an underhand grip.

- Place the back of your right arm on the top inside of your right knee, palm facing away from your leg.

- Fully extend your arm straight without letting the dumbbell touch the floor.

- Curl the dumbbell up in a smooth, arching motion by bringing it toward your right shoulder.

- Contract your bicep the whole time.

- Continue curling until the dumbbell is at shoulder height, then hold for one count.

- Lower the dumbbell back to the starting extended position with control.

- Go slowly to gain the benefits of eccentric contraction.

- Aim for 8 to 15 reps per arm.


Kettlebell Curl

Ryan Kennedy, a NASM-certified trainer and fitness director at The Park, says the kettlebell curl is one of his faves. “This variation works the biceps, but also challenges your grip and wrist strength,” he tells Bustle. “The ‘bottoms-up’ position of the kettlebell feels very wobbly, forcing you to squeeze it tightly, which engages more muscles than a simple dumbbell bicep curl.”

- Stand tall with the kettlebell (KB) in one hand with your arms by your side.

- Keep a tight grip.

- Curl one arm by bending at the elbow.

- At the top of the motion, the KB will be upside down or “bottoms up”.

- Move slowly and with control, especially when lowering the KB back down.

- Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 on each side, or do the movement with two KBs at once.


Zottman Curl

Rob Wagener, a NASM-certified personal trainer, says the Zottman curl is a good exercise to try when you want to add variety, as it involves both a bicep curl and a reverse curl in one movement. “Plus, it helps to improve grip strength and coordination,” he tells Bustle.

- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward.

- Curl the weights up towards your shoulders.

- At the top of the movement, rotate your palms so that they are facing downward.

- Lower the weights back down to the starting position.

- Reverse the movement by curling the weights back up towards your shoulders with your palms facing downward.

- Rotate your palms to face forward and lower the weights back down to the starting position.

- Aim to complete 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps with proper form using a moderate to heavy weight.

- As you get stronger try increasing the intensity by adding more sets, reps, or weights to challenge your muscles.


Incline Bicep Curl

Try this variation to make sure you reach the upper portion of your biceps. “The incline position changes the angle of the exercise, which can help to add variety to your bicep workout and help you to build overall upper arm strength,” Wagener says.

- Sit on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand.

- With your palms facing forward, curl the weights up towards your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your body.

- Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement, then slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position.

- Try sets of 8 to 12 reps with a moderate to heavy weight that allows you to complete the reps with proper form.


Hammer Curl

Wagener also recommends this bicep curl variation that works multiple muscle groups at once. “It can be done with either dumbbells or a barbell, making it a versatile option,” he says.

- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand.

- Keep your palms facing your thighs as you bend your elbows to curl the weights up toward your shoulders.

- Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement, then slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position.

- Keep your core engaged and control your movements to maximize the benefits of the exercise.

- Do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps with a moderate to heavy weight that allows you to do the move in proper form.


Barbell Curl

Here, MacPherson breaks down how to do a curl using a barbell.

- Grab a barbell with an underhand grip.

- Place your hands at a comfortable width with your elbows at your sides.

- Keep your arms close to your body.

- Curl the barbell up towards your shoulders, keeping your arms and elbows still.

- Once you get to shoulder height, your elbows can come forward as you contract your biceps.

- Pause very briefly to feel the contraction in your biceps.

- Slowly lower the barbell.

- Focus on slow and controlled lowering for the best results.

- Once your elbows are extended and the barbell is fully lowered, begin again.

- Aim for 8 to 15 reps.


Supinated Dumbbell Curl

Dave Candy, DPT, a doctor of physical therapy and owner of More 4 Life, says this variation works your forearms as well as your biceps.

- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.

- Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing in.

- Start to curl the dumbbells up with your palms facing in.

- Halfway through the movement, turn your hands upward (supinated).

- Finish the movement as you would a standard set of bicep curls.

- Reverse to lower and repeat.

- Do 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps.

Studies referenced:

Atalay, E. (2017). Effect of Upper-Extremity Strengthening Exercises on the Lumbar Strength, Disability and Pain of Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Study. J Sports Sci Med. PMID: 29238262; PMCID: PMC5721192.

Marcolin, G. (2018). Differences in electromyographic activity of biceps brachii and brachioradialis while performing three variants of curl. PeerJ. doi: 10.7717/peerj.5165.


Rachel MacPherson, CPT, certified personal trainer with Garage Gym Reviews

Rob Wagener, NASM-certified personal trainer

Ryan Kennedy, NASM-certified trainer, fitness director at The Park

Dr. Dave Candy, DPT, doctor of physical therapy, owner of More 4 Life,