How to Build Big Biceps with Concentration Curls – Benefits, Mistakes and Technique

Time to build bigger biceps with Concentration Curls.

What Are Concentration Curls?

Concentration Curls are one of the most effective isolation dumbbell bicep exercises that exist, and an important variation of the traditional bicep curl.

They deserve a place in any serious biceps session.

Concentration Curls Muscles Worked

Although the exercise does have a primary focus, it also works multiple muscle groups at the same time.

Concentration Curls Target Muscle

The primary target muscle of Concentration Curls is the biceps branchii.

The biceps are comprised from two heads. These are the long (outer) head and the short (inner) head.

These heads work in tandem as a unit in order to move the arm during lifting and pulling movements.

Concentration Curls Hits Which Biceps Head?

The Concentration Curl works both bicep heads.

Training Tip: You can change the way that you perform the exercise in order to develop one head over the other.  

Target MuscleShort (inner) HeadLong (outer) Head
Lifting MethodTwist the wrist away from the body and lift the pinkie higherAngle the curl closer to the body

Secondary Muscle Groups

The exercise also works the brachialis.

This is another anterior (front) upper arm muscle that is located beneath the biceps branchii.

The grip and forearms are also improved by this movement, alongside other stabilising muscles in the arms.

It also activates smaller muscles in your forearms to stabilize your arm during the curling motion.

Benefits of Doing Concentration Curls

There are many benefits to performing this powerful exercise.

Build Muscle

The movement is a great way to stimulate hypertrophy of the biceps.

If you want more muscle on your arms, add these into your training.

Man performing concentration curls
Stay dedicated ©Aikomo Opeyemi

Build Pulling Strength

Although exercises such as Supinated Rows, Chin Ups or Seated Cable Pulls will improve overall pulling power to a greater degree, stronger biceps will only help. If you can curl a significant amount of weight with perfect form, odds are that your biceps are pretty strong, and that is useful for all other pulling movements.

Sculpt Your Guns

If you want to grow your biceps and improve their size and shape then this a perfect exercise.

It is easy to adjust the stimulus by making slight alterations to the lifting technique, allowing you to concentrate on the peak or general mass of the muscle group.

Practice Lifting Form

The Concentration Curl is a great way to simply practice your lifting form. The movement is not complex, and allows you to eliminate body momentum, full body coordination or other distracting elements or other lifts.

In turn this will have carry over for other movements such as Chin Ups and Bicep Curls.

Enhance your Mind Muscle Connection

In a similar vein as the above point, the focus on a single movement also enhances the mind muscle connection.

You can solely focus on activating and controlling the muscle groups in the arms and build a closer, stronger mind muscle connection.

How to Do Concentration Curls with Proper Form

Use the following instructions to perform the exercise with proper form.

  • Grab a dumbbell in your right arm
  • Begin by sitting on a bench with your legs wider than hip width apart
  • Keep your back straight and hinge forwards at the hips so that your upper body is at a 45-degree angle
  • Rest the right elbow on the inside of your right leg. Place your left hand on your left knee
  • Slowly lower the right hand with the dumbbell so that it is near the floor. Extend your right arm almost completely but maintain a slight bend in the elbow
  • Point your palm away from your leg
  • Inhale and brace your core, grip and glutes
  • Rotate your shoulder outwards
  • Tense the right bicep and slowly curl the weight upwards
  • Pause and squeeze as tightly as you can
  • Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position
  • Exhale
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps

Concentration Curls Training Tips

Keep the upper portion of the lifting arm in contact with the leg at all times.

Talk to your biceps. Tell them to move. Establish a strong mind muscle connection at all times.

Don’t move any other part of your body apart from your arm.

Concentration Curl Variations

If you want to mix things up, try adding these variations into your training.

Hammer Concentration Curl

This is the same movement. However, you must twist the hand into a neutral hammer grip. This will bring the forearms into play and alter the overall stimulus to be spread more fully across your entire arms.

Cable Concentration Curl

This is performed with a cable machine and will maximise resistance at all times during the movement.

Standing Cable Curl

Here you must hinge your hips forwards whilst in a standing position and lower your arms between your legs.

Concentration Curl Alternatives

If you cannot perform the original for any reason, or simply want to test your body and fitness in new ways then check out these alternatives.

Dumbbell Drag Curl

In this exercise you must bring your elbows and shoulders slightly back and “drag” the weights up your body.

Supinated Dumbbell Curl

This is a standard bicep exercise that will yield good results. Tried and tested, it is an essential part of many hypertrophy programs.

Zottman Curl

A less common movement, the Zottman Curl incorporates a twist at the top of the range of movement to change the hands into a reverse grip position for the lowering portion of the lift.

This is a hugely effective way to maximise the impact (and resulting gains) from both the eccentric and concentric portion of the lift.

How Much Should I be able to Dumbbell Concentration Curl? (lb)

This useful information from Strength Level will help you understand your relative strength and ability.

Based on your experience, the weight you will be lifting is different.

Strength LevelWeight
Beginner14 lb
Novice29 lb
Intermediate49 lb
Advanced74 lb
Elite104 lb

Bodyweight also plays a role.

Weight is in lbs.

Table for concentration curls
©Strength Level

Dumbbell Concentration Curl Mistakes

Make sure you aren’t slowing down your progress or harming your gains by making any of these mistakes.

Using Momentum to Swing the Weight

The Concentration Curl should utilise zero momentum. Ever.

If an athlete is swinging the weight then they are killing the point of the exercise and will receive almost no benefit whatsoever.

The best cure for this (if you find it happening) is to simply lower the weight and focus on perfect form.

Using Partial Reps

Often lifters will stop short of curling all the way up or not lowering the dumbbell far enough.

This means that they do not maximise the exercise.

It is always better to lift less weight through the full range of motion, rather than go heavier and limit the range of motion unintentionally.

Some exercise, such as the Rack Pull, deliberately ustilise a partial range of motion in order to stimulate a particular form of benefit. The Concentration is not one of these exercises.

Going Too Fast

The movement should be slow and steady at all times, during both the eccentric and concentric parts of the lift.

More time under tension will help to create more hypertrophy.

Go slow, especially during the lowering part of the lift.

Use a particular tempo when lowering, such as a 3 second descent, to maximise the effects from the exercise.

Concentration Curls Workout

Add this Concentration Curls Workout into your training.

  • 3 x 8 Barbell Bicep Curls
  • 3 x 10 Dumbbell Hammer Curls
  • 3 x 12 Dumbbell Concentration Curls
  • 3 sets to failure of Chin Ups
  • Single Drop Set of Dumbbell Concentration Curls. Go until you cannot lift a single rep more with the lightest weight you have available.

Concentration Curls vs Preacher Curls

Lets break it down.

Concentration Curls


  • Higher biceps branchii activation
  • Need less equipment
  • Excellent mind muscle connection


  • Harder to lift higher weights

Preacher Curls


  • Can lift more weight
  • Use DB, barbell or EZ bar
  • Easy to maintain form
  • Easy to achieve progressive overload


  • Need more equipment

Concentration Curls FAQs

Got more questions? Scroll through to find the answers.

When should I do Concentration Curls?

Include them as the second or third exercise when you train biceps.

Go for 3 sets of 10 – 12 reps.

They can also be used as a great finisher exercise on biceps day or incorporated into drop sets so that you can squeeze every last drop of energy from your biceps.

Are Concentration Curls better than Bicep Curls?

Bicep Curls are important, however a recent study by the American Council on Exercise found that the seated concentration curl yielded 97% bicep activity in contrast to EZ-bar curls (wide grip 75%; narrow grip, 71%), incline curls (70%), and preacher curls (69%).

Do Concentration Curls Build Mass?

Yes, they are a good exercise for building mass.

However, don’t rely on them alone. Get your arms working hard during heavy Deadlifts and other pulling exercises such as Chin Ups if you want to really add muscle mass.

Man performing goblet squat
Strong arms for life ©Marvin Cors

You must also program your training in a way that is conducive to hypertrophy.

Should Concentration Curls be Heavy or Light?

You don’t need to try for any one rep maxes with this movement and form is hugely important so I would recommend starting light and building up gradually over time.

Other factors such as lifting with a total lack of momentum and strengthening the mind muscle connection are also important and beneficial adaptations that you don’t want to miss out on.

Other Types of Curls

Zottman Curl
Reverse Curl
Hammer Curl
Preacher Curl

Learn More

Add the Prisoner Squat into your training.