To get bigger arms, curling is one of the tools of the trade to get there.
But biceps training is often viewed as limited and boring.
What is done in a typical biceps workout? Curling. That’s it, right?
Well, if you get a little creative you can come up with not only a long list of creative exercises to choose from, but also plenty of bicep specific training and intensity techniques.
Are you ready to get to the next level in your biceps development?
48 Bicep Curl Variations
Below are some of the traditional bicep exercises, as well as many of my favorites, and some great methods for muscle development. Pick a couple of them and add them to your training. Your training sessions will be more entertaining (and your biceps more developed) before you know it.
1. Barbell curl
Nothing beats the good-ole-fashioned barbell curl. It allows you to use a maximum amount of weight and the motion packs on mass. This lift is a must do.
2. Dumbbell curl
Also known as the barbell curl’s little brother, dumbbells allow you to supinate and pronate the wrist in order to activate more muscle fibers. Dumbbell curls are another necessary lift in an arm workout.
3. Incline bench curl
Utilizing a inclined angle when performing incline curls allows you to stretch the biceps in a unique way recruiting even more muscle fibers to be stimulated. Slow and controlled is the way to go on this one.
4. Spider/Scott curl
Popularized by the first Mr. Olympia, Larry Scott, spider curls have you seated on the opposite side of the preacher bench pad where your arms are positioned straight down for a wicked squeeze at the top.
5. One-arm spider/Scott curl
Just as with the barbell version, this version allows you to supinate and pronate at the wrist in order to get an even tighter squeeze. Give the one arm spider curl a shot!
6. Braced concentration curl
Hone in on your bicep using conventional concentration curls. For this exercise you brace your working elbow against the inside of your knee for extra support.
7. Free-form concentration curl
As opposed to bracing your elbow, standing free form concentration curls have you standing with your elbow suspended without support. This will take a precise focus on form.
8. Seated curl
Seated on the end of a bench, place a barbell in your lap, and curl it up. Lower the bar down towards your thighs and curl it up again. This seated barbell curl will really focus on developing the peak of your bicep during contractions.
9. Cable curl
The advantage of cables is the constant tension they produce throughout the movement. They are also great for the strip method technique since all you have to do is move the pin. Perform the cable curl in the same fashion you would barbell curls.
10. One-arm cable curl
Again. One arm exercises allow you to twist at the wrist making it a much more focused exercise. Swap out the straight bar accessory for a single handle and perform these one arm cable curls for a great pump.
11. Lying curl
You won't see many gym newbies performing the lying curl. Lying on a bench that is high enough for the dumbbells to clear will give you one intense stretch. Just be sure to use lighter weights.
12. One arm at a time curl
Instead of alternating arms during dumbbell curls, perform four of five reps with one arm then four of five with the other arm. Alternate back to the other arm until all reps are completed.
21's have been a bodybuiling bicep clasic for ages. Curl the bar up half way for seven reps, then go from midpoint all the way to the top for seven reps, and then perform seven more full-range reps. That’s one set.
14. Preacher bench curl
The preacher bench will have you locked in, preventing you from swaying and swinging any weight while performing preacher curls. It is important to be cautious with heavier weights.
15. Preacher bench one-arm curl
Another great opportunity to take advantage of the twist and recruit more muscle fibers. Be sure to use a full range of motion when performing one arm preacher curls.
16. One-arm barbell curl
Balance is key here so your biceps will be working overtime. Take a central grip on the barbell and go slow.
17. Drag curl
The drag curl will allow you to use a bit more weight than the traditional curl, but still puts you in a very tight angle of execution.
18. Machine curl
There are plenty of different types of machines for biceps, just be sure to use proper form and technique. It isn’t a greenlight to stack the weight on and cheat it up.
19. Zottman curl
The Zottman curl, one of the more unique curl variations, has you curling the dumbbell up as normal and then at the top you will twist the dumbbell where your palms will be facing away from you. From there, lower the weight down and twist at the bottom before your next rep.
20. Hammer curl
The traditional hammer curl is not only great for forearm development, but also helping give your biceps that coveted peak.
21. Cross-body hammer curl
Cross body curls, also known as the piuwheel curl, takes the dumbbells across the body versus straight out in front. This will allow you to use a bit more weight and obtain a better contraction.
22. Reverse curl
Get some great forearm development and lower biceps stimulation with the reverse curl. These give your arms a unique training affect.
23. Reverse preacher bench curl
For more isolation in the forearm and biceps department, the reverse preacher bench curl delivers more focus but with a bit less weight.
24. Reverse-grip chin-up curl
Not everything here is a derivative of the traditional curl. Here, be sure as you curl up that you round your back to get more stress to the biceps.
25. High-cable curl
Curling from a cable positioned at eye level or above will put your biceps in a position for better contraction. Utilizing the high cable curl will also give you an opportunity to show off those impressive guns!
26. Reverse incline bench curl
Lie face down on an incline bench and have the bar hanging straight down. Curl up slowly without swinging for an intense squeeze.
27. Reverse incline bench dumbbell curl
With this version you’ll once again have the option to twist the wrist as you curl. Go slow and controlled.
28. Wide incline bench dumbbell curl
Perform as you would a normal incline bench dumbbell curl, but bring your arms out to your sides so they are nearly perpendicular to the bench.
29. Run-the-rack curl
Start with dumbbell curls for a few heavy reps and then, without rest, pick up the next lighter weight and rep out again. Keep going until you’ve reached the end of the rack.
30. Timed curl
Choose a time limit – let’s say five minutes. Next choose a weight that has you performing a moderate amount of reps. Curl as many reps as you can, resting only as needed, within that five minute time period.
31. Rest-pause curl
After performing a set of curls (of any variation), rest your arms for five to ten seconds and then perform more reps. Do this cycle a total of three to four times before ending the set.
32. Machine gun curl (I-go-you-go method)
After performing your set hand the same barbell to your training partner. You will rest as they perform their set. They will then hand you back the bar for your next set. Go back and forth several times without stopping.
33. Regressive giant set curl
Here, you will choose three exercises and perform them from most to least difficult without rest. So, you can go with incline bench dumbbell curls, then go straight to seated dumbbell curls, and finally to standing dumbbell curls.
34. Suspension trainer curl
The closer your feet are to the apparatus, the tougher it is to execute. Start with a standard 45 degree angle with your body and perfect form first.
35. 8 x 8 method
Popularized by Vince Gironda, the 8 x 8 method is a take on the 5 x 5 method, which is a bit more for strength. The eight sets of eight reps uses more volume which results in more muscle mass.
36. Bent-over barbell curl
This is sort of the barbell version of the dumbbell concertation curl. As it doesn’t necessarily stress the biceps at the bottom, the top serves a wicked squeeze.
37. Reverse cable curl
Face away from the cable machine with the cable coming between your legs. This angle will give you a slightly different feeling.
38. Reverse one-arm cable curl
Your position will be the same as described above but the single handle will allow you to start from behind the line of your body giving you a severe stretch.
39. Kettlebell curl
The imbalance of a kettlebell will make your biceps, and all of their supportive muscle, work overtime for one unique experience.
40. Incline bench kettlebell curl
The same imbalance principle applies here as with the kettlebell curl, but this time you’re on an incline bench which will give you that sought-after stretch in the biceps.
41. Smith machine drag curl
Much like the barbell drag curl, the Smith machine drag curl allows you to use a bit more weight, but now you take out the need to balance. This allows you to isolate the biceps even further.
42. Power/cheat curl
All this talk about form and technique can be thrown out the window with cheat curls. This version of the curl was one of Arnold’s favorites during the golden era of bodybuilding. You really need not to go too far overboard with these, but a little nudge at the bottom (or “body English”) can help.
43. Century set curl
Shoot for 100 reps with a light weight. Nothing fancy, nothing too complicated.
44. Fat bar curl
Whether your gym has a fat bar (a bar that is considerably thicker than the standard width) or you use an additional grip cover to mimic a thicker grip, they will challenge your grip, forearms, and biceps beyond the norm.
45. Open-grip curl
Normally, you would use a closed grip, or thumb wrapped around the bar, for all of your curling exercise. Try using an open grip for a change. This has your thumb on the same side as your other fingers.
46. Broken 21 curl
With 21’s you perform all phases of the curl in one set. Here you will perform the bottom half of the curl for seven reps then rest for 30 seconds. Next do the top half and rest 30 seconds and finally, go full-range for your last seven reps. Having rest periods peppered in between sets, you will be able to use more weight.
47. Set-ending pulses
This is a technique perfect for preacher curls. After you reach failure, lower the weight a few inches and start to pulse the weight with small range reps.
48. Total rep method
Choose a rep total and shoot for it. For example, if you set a goal of 100 reps, choose an exercise and perform as many sets as it takes to accomplish that goal. You should make sure you meet the number.