5 Best Dumbbell Biceps Exercises

  • March 17, 2016
  • / By Tom

Dumbbells are one of the most versatile tools for developing size and strength in the biceps muscles. While most bicep work is limited to variations of curling for the most part, you can still target those muscles in several different ways. Below are 5 of the best dumbbell biceps exercises.
dumbbell biceps exercises

Any of the lifts below can be mixed and matched as part of your arm workout with your triceps. A common rep and set range for all of these is 3 sets of 10 or more reps, but it is a good idea to mix it up frequently. In general, fewer reps with heavier weight is used when you are looking to develop strength, while more reps with lighter weight is used when looking to boost muscle size. Again, these are generalizations and variety is crucial.

You wouldn’t want to perform all of these lifts in one workout, unless you are really trying to blast your arms. Instead, choose one or two to be used as accessory work at the end of an upper-body training session.

Standing Curl

The traditional standing dumbbell bicep curl is simple, but very effective. It is one of the most common lifts you will see prescribed for muscular development of the arms.

To perform this lift, you stand upright with a solid core and good posture. You hold the dumbbells down and in front of you and then raise up your lower arms, keeping your upper arm still. You can see a demonstration in the video below.

This can be done with one or two arms at a time. If you do one arm, you can do all your reps with your first arm and then switch to the other side, or perform them in alternating fashion.

Hammer Curl

Hammer curls are very similar to the standing curl shown above. The only difference is the grip of the dumbbell, which changes the way the muscles are hit, as you can see demonstrated in the video below.

For this lift, you want to maintain good posture and a solid core, but rather than your palms facing in front of you at the start of the movement, they face towards you. This brings the head of one side of the dumbbell straight up to your delt area. These can also be done as a single arm lift instead of double, using a rotating or alternating format.

Single Arm Concentration Curl

Concentration curls are a staple in the bodybuilding community, because they target the “peak” of the bicep, similar to the hammer curl. These are performed in a seated position, such as on a flat weight bench.

You sit flat on the bench with a slight forward lean. Your of arm is resting firmly above your off knee. You place the elbow of the arm you are using inside the knee of the same leg. From there, you curl the weight up and towards your chest, before returning to the start position.

For a great arm pump, you can lower the weight very slowly to really work the muscle. Because of the way you are positioned when doing these, they are only done as a single arm exercise. You can see what it looks like in the video below.

Lying Incline Bench Curl

This is an exercise that you don’t see used very often, but can really give the arms a solid pump. These are performed from a seated/lying position on an incline bench.

You start this lift with your arms relaxed and dropped straight down, beside your body. Your upper arm remains perpendicular to the floor for the duration of the movement, while your lower arm curls the weight up towards you, with your palms facing forward. Again, this can be performed as a single or double arm exercise, but you may find it difficult to balance with just one arm.

Preacher Curl

For this lift, you will either a preacher curl bench, or an incline bench can be used as a substitute if it is stable on the ground. This can be done with different grips, although the video shows it being performed with a hammer – palms toward you – grip.

This exercise may isolate your biceps better than almost any other because it requires you to rest your triceps on the preacher or incline bench in front of you. From there, you curl the dumbbell up. This really isolates the biceps, because there is no way to cheat the weight up by using other muscles.


There are a few important things to remember when doing these exercises. Dumbbells are great, because they allow you to incorporate so much variety into your training.

You probably don’t want to do any of these exercises for more than a few weeks without switching things up. These don’t have to be major changes. You could choose a completely different exercise, or just switch up the grip or your stance slightly.

If you are creative enough, there are almost a limitless number of tweaks you can make to the above list of lifts. For most of the exercises,  you could be in a seated, standing or even lying position.

Your grip can be switched up, and you can even vary the cadence of the movement. You can do this by having a slow eccentric (lowering) portion of the lift and a fast concentric (raising) movement. If done right, this really allows you to feel the muscle working and can give you an insane pump in your arms. Get creative, as there is so many possible unique workouts for your arms that you can find.

While these are all different variations of curls, there are other ways to target your biceps muscles. When using dumbbells, upper back work like bent over rows, while primarily targeting your back, will also indirectly work your biceps.

It is important to remember that variety is key when looking to improve muscle size and strength. While there are many movements and variations, these 5 dumbbell biceps exercises are a great start for your arm training.

Photo By: Markus Spiske

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