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Want bigger biceps and only have a pair of dumbbells available? How can you work out your biceps with a set of dumbbells and no other equipment?
Here are the six best bicep dumbbell exercises:
Below you can find a description of what those exercises exactly are and how to do them. These are the movements that target different parts of the biceps to get your biceps to grow but also make them stronger.
In my opinion, the incline dumbbell curl is the best single dumbbell exercise you can do for your biceps. If you only pick one, this is the best choice.
For this exercise, you’ll need an adjustable weightlifting bench. Any gym will have them and if you’re working out at home and don’t have one, consider getting one. They’re not very expensive and increase the amount of exercises you can do dramatically.
The incline curl has you lay down on a bench with the backrest on an incline. The arms hang down. That means there is a stretch on the long head of the biceps in the starting position which normal curls don’t have. The long head runs over the shoulder which is why it gets stretched. When you contract a muscle from a stretch, it has been shown that you can contract that muscle with more force. That means more strength and size gains.
Also, the bench stabilizes the body which takes some chance to ‘cheat’ out of the movement. With a standing curl, you can throw your body around a little bit to get the weight to move easier.
For those reasons, the incline dumbbell curl is a great exercise and in my opinion better than the standing dumbbell curl.
How To Do The Incline Dumbbell Curl:
You can do this curl in the ‘normal’ way or do hammer style. Either way, doing the incline curl has the same benefits over standing curls.
The standard dumbbell bicep curl is the standard exercise everyone goes to for bigger biceps. And while it’s not the end all and be all, it’s a very good exercise for most peoples purposes.
The standard dumbbell bicep curl is easy to explain and do and it puts a focus on the long head which creates that height on the bicep. That’s the look people want from their bicep so that’s what they train. For that reason it’s a great starting place for bigger and stronger biceps.
The benefit of the standing bicep curl over a seated or incline curl is that you stand on your feet. This requires you to stabilize your whole body and integrates your biceps strength into your whole physique.
Also, the chance for ‘cheating’ on the exercise is both a pro and a con. Most of the time, it’s better to be very strict with your movements because you want to actually train the muscle you’re targeting and not another one. However, with the standing curl, it’s quite easy to throw your body in a way that helps move and curl the weight. Throughout most of your sets and reps, that’s not a good thing. However, this can be useful to get out a few extra repetitions at the end when you can’t lift the weight with strict form anymore. You can throw the weight up and carefully lower it down for a really good eccentric stretch.
How To Do The Dumbbell Curl:
This is a common modification of the normal curl and that’s for a very good reason. The hammer curl is an exercise that targets the short head of the biceps more where the normal curl targets the long head more. It’s a very simple change to make from the normal curl so you should definitely be doing both.
The setup and exercise is very similar to the normal curl. The only change you make is that you don’t twist your lower arms throughout the curl. At the lowest position, your hands are in a neutral position which means the dumbbells are perpendicular to the body. Now you curl the dumbbells and keep your hands in that same neutral position. In the top position the dumbbell heads point forward and backward instead of side to side.
How To Do The Dumbbell Hammer Curl:
The reverse curl is a variation many people forget. If you care about complete arm development, you really should do this exercise though. While it does target the biceps a little bit, the important part here is that it really targets the Brachii and Brachialis much harder than the normal curls. For that reason some form of reverse curl deserves a spot in your routine.
You’ll see the biggest results in the lower arms but a part of the Brachii is in the upper arm as well. Overall, it results in bigger looking arms. Don’t underestimate how important the lower arms are for looks but also strength.
How To Do The Reverse Curl:
You can either curl the dumbbells up in a straight line or move the hands slightly inwards across the body. Just make sure you keep the elbows in the same position.
This movement goes by a few different names and you can do it in a few different ways. If you have a preacher curl bench, that is the better option but if you don’t have that bench, using your knee will work fine.
With the concentration curl, you place the elbow on the inside of the knee. This fixes the elbow in place unlike the normal curl where the elbow is ‘free’. Keeping the elbow in place means you can really concentrate on contracting the biceps, hence the name. It also takes any ‘cheating’ out of the movement. Your biceps has to move it and the other muscles are taken out.
If you’ve never tried this, you might be surprised that your biceps are actually weaker than you thought. In the long term, it will help you get a better mind muscle connection. Also, the concentration curl tends to keep more tension on the biceps throughout the set which leads to more hypertrophy.
How To Do The Concentration Curl:
This is a funny looking exercise that has you belly down on an incline bench with your legs straddling it.
The main benefit of the spider curl is that you have a full range of motion and constant tension on the muscles. It also mainly targets the long head of the biceps which is often neglected. And it’s being hit from a different angle which provides the body with a different training impulse.
It’s not an exercise that a beginner should/has to do. It’s a good alternate exercise that you can switch out later on if you want to try something new.
How To Do The Prone Spider Curl:
Dumbbells are probably the best tool to build biceps. Dumbbells move separately from each other so the muscles of each arm have to lift the weight by themselves. They are easy to hold and use as well. As long as you get the training and recovery part right, the biceps will grow just using dumbbells.
However, it is important to have a range of weights for the dumbbells. You want the resistance on every exercise to be optimal and if you only have one or two sets, you probably can’t get that on every exercise.
The dumbbell weight you use should be heavy enough that you can JUST finish all the reps and sets with maybe a few reps left in the tank. It’s not necessary to go to failure every time but you should get close.
For size, doing higher repetition sets (and thus with lighter weights) while for strength you should use lower reps but with higher weight. For biceps growth, use at least 12 repetition sets but more (up to 25) is possible. In general the higher repetition sets you do, the more you focus on hypertrophy (muscle growth) and less on strength. That’s why most people use 8-12 repetition sets. It’s a sweet spot between strength and size but if you want to focus on one over the other, you can adjust the amount of repetitions. As long as you also adjust the weights of course.