How should I do biceps curls?

Edward Phillips
Physical Therapy
Here's how to do biceps curls:

Reps: 10
Sets: 1-3
Intensity: Light to moderate
Tempo: 3-1-3
Rest: 30-90 seconds between sets

Starting position: Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart, holding 1- to 3-pound weights at your side with your palms facing forward.

Movement: Slowly bend your elbows to lift the weights up to the front of your shoulders. Exhale as you lift. Pause. Slowly lower them to the starting position.

Tips and techniques:
  • Keep your shoulders still, down, and back.
  • Keep your wrists neutral and your elbows stationary at the sides of your ribs throughout the movement.
Too hard? Use lighter weights.

Too easy? Use heavier weights.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Stand or sit with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart, your arms down at your sides and palms facing forward. Hold a dumbbell or other kind of weight in each hand. Bend your elbows slowly, bringing your hands toward your shoulders, keeping your elbows down at your sides. Slowly return to the starting position.
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Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
To strengthen your biceps you can do bicep curls using free weights.

Primary muscle groups worked: Biceps brachii (front arm), brachialis (side arm), and brachioradialis (upper-outer forearm)

Starting position: Stand with your feet approximately shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, arms down at your sides and palms facing forward.

Action: Bend your elbows slowly, bringing your hands up towards your shoulders while keeping your elbows down at your sides and directly under your shoulders. Keep your focus forward, a natural arch in your lower back, shoulder blades pulled slightly together and down, chest up, and navel pulled towards your spine. Exhale as you lift the weights up. Return slowly to the starting position.

  • Keep your upper arms stationary and next to the side of your body without excessively pressing against your body.
  • Make sure you do not start with too heavy a weight, as that can strain the upper back.
  • If you have balance problems, sit in a chair while performing this exercise.
  • You can do this exercise seated on a bench or stool, and you should do it that way if you have low back problems.
Bicep curls can be done in a seated position, standing position, or - if you want to challenge your balance at the same time - on 1 foot. If using dumbbells, you can perform curls using both arms at the same time, alternate arms or one arm at a time. You'll want to keep your palms facing forward and keep your shoulder blades back and down to assist in shoulder stability. When curling the weight up, make sure to not swing your elbows forwards or backwards to place an emphasis on the biceps (pretend you have a rod that connects from the inside of one elbow, through your body to the inside of other elbow). Also, don't arch your back as you lift the weights. If you are having to swing the weight or arch your back to lift the weight, you're probably using too much weight. Lastly, many people focus so much on the lifting of the weight, however your biceps are still working when you lower the weight. Make sure you take advantage of challenging your biceps by slowly lowering the weight down to the starting position.
Grant Cooper, MD
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
The best way to perform the biceps curl is in the seated position. Keep your back straight and your stomach muscles slightly contracted. Hold two dumbbells at your sides. Use a small amount of weight until you can perform three sets of 12 repetitions with good form. Your palms should face outward so that your little fingers are closest to your body. As you bring the weight up, bending only at your elbows, turn your little fingers outward at the top of the repetition. Pause at the very top of the contraction, then slowly return to the starting position. Remember to keep your elbows close to your body, with no visible space in between. Alternatively, you can do this exercise while standing. If you choose to stand, be sure to keep your knees slightly bent (3 - 5 degrees), your abdominal muscles contracted, and your back straight.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.