Incline Dumbbell Curls – Biceps Exercise Guide

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Muscles Targeted: The muscles targeted with this exercise are the biceps, forearms and shoulders. The biceps are the primary muscle and the forearms and front deltoids are secondary muscles. Biceps are composed of two heads; the long head and the short head. The long head constitutes the majority of the peak and makes up the outer head of the biceps. It also runs over the shoulder joint. The short head, on the other hand, makes up the inner biceps. This exercise is performed using an inclined bench which helps to eliminate unnecessary body movement and thus the biceps are made to do all the work. Furthermore, the incline makes it slightly harder to curl the dumbbells up due to the positioning of the body. When performing this exercise, the arms are made to move behind the body. By doing this, the long head of the biceps will be stretched out very well before contracting (curling the dumbbells up). Since the biceps muscle takes on the majority of the load during this exercise, it’s an effective movement to help increase strength and size. This exercise is excellent for building the overall peak of the biceps and should be included in your workout routine if you want to build impressive arms.

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Exercise Instructions: Adjust an incline bench to about 45 degrees and while holding a dumbbell in each hand, carefully position yourself on the bench with your back flat on the bench pad and both feet planted securely on the floor. Let your arms hang straight down on both sides with your palms facing in toward each other. Slowly curl both dumbbells up at the same time using both hands. While you are curling the dumbbells, slowly turn (supinate) your wrists outward so that your thumbs point away from your body. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement for a one-count and then slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Why This Exercise is Important: Building up and strengthening the biceps muscle group is very important for normal day-to-day activities like picking items up (groceries, kids, bags) and helping to improve your overall upper body strength. Biceps are also very aesthetically appealing and are one of the favorite body parts to train when people hit the gym. A great pair of arms always looks amazing when wearing a sleeveless shirt or tank top. Here are some other important aspects of training your biceps with incline dumbbell curls:

  • Compound movements help to indirectly strengthen the biceps (deadlifts, barbell rows) due to the pulling motion of these movements. However, you should maximize the strength of the biceps through direct biceps exercises.
  • Strong biceps help to limit the potential of injuries such as tendonitis of the shoulder and elbow tendonitis.
  • For fighters and boxers, biceps workouts help you increase the power and speed of punches and upper body movements (grappling, etc).
  • If you play sports like football, baseball or basketball, training your biceps for size and strength is critical for pulling motions (tackling) and for increasing upper body strength which is a huge benefit in many different types of sports.

Things To Avoid:

  • Avoid starting out with super heavy weights. Even though you may be a person who exercises daily, you should always start our with light weights in order to fully warm-up your muscles and to make sure you get the proper technique down before moving to heavier weights.
  • Do not raise your back off the bench. This happens when you are not lying flat on the bench throughout the exercise or you start raising your buttocks off the bench. When doing this exercise you want to be in a comfortable position that will ensure that you do the exercise properly along with being safe, especially when dealing with heavy weights.
  • Always keep your feet flat on the floor. Remember that this is not a ballet rehearsal and you want your feet to be flat on the floor to provide a secure base. By having your feet firmly placed on the floor you automatically have more balance and it helps in attaining stability.
  • Avoid fast and jerky movements. You will start the exercise by letting your arms hang down at your sides while holding the dumbbells with an underhand grip. As you raise the weights up to shoulder level, you need to focus on doing it very slowly and controlled since quick and rapid movements could result in problems like a muscle tear or a rotator cuff injury.
  • Using your shoulders too much. Remember that the focus of the exercise is to build your biceps. By ensuring that your feet are firmly placed on the floor and that your body is in contact with the bench, this will help a great deal in ensuring that your shoulders are not too involved and that the exercise is done correctly. Make sure to keep your elbows in a fixed position when curling the dumbbells. Avoid moving your elbows up and down which will lead to your shoulders being more engaged, which is something you want to avoid since it takes the tension off of the biceps.

Reps and Sets: The repetition scheme for this exercise varies with the trainee. Beginners should start out slow with 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps. As you advance, you can increase the sets to around 3-4 and lower the reps to 8-10. You don’t have to do tons of sets and exercises in order to build the muscle in your biceps. The biceps are used and exercised throughout the day by various activities that we undertake. It is also a very small muscle and short intense workouts preferably done only once per week is enough. Excess workouts will overtrain the muscles and may result in a plateau where growth is halted. Remember the muscles need time to rest so that they can recover and grow.

Other Exercises To Use: Other exercises that can be combined include:

  • Barbell curls are great because they are a major mass building movement. The incline dumbbell curls can be done following this exercise.
  • Preacher curls should be included in your training also. They work the short head of the biceps. This will ensure that you have balanced biceps and overall symmetry.

View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps.

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