Just like squats may be your go-to leg exercise, curls probably dominate your arm workouts. But after repeating the same style of curls week after week, you're likely to see your gains start to plateau. And you'll definitely get bored.
Spice up your usual curls with a few variations that guarantee extra burn. New York-based physical therapist and strength coach Sam Becourtney, DPT, CSCS, suggests you incorporate these six biceps curl variations to bust out of your rut.
1. Hammer Curl
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, core braced.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, holding the weights with a neutral grip, palms facing your body.
- Keeping your elbows pinned to your sides, curl the weights up to shoulder height.
- Then, slowly lower the weights back down with control.
2. Reverse Grip Curl
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and brace your core.
- With your arms at your sides, hold a pair of dumbbells in a reverse grip, palms facing behind you.
- Keeping your elbows pinned to your sides and shoulders back, curl the weights up toward your shoulders.
- Lower the weights back down to the starting position with control.
“Do not let the weight control you, you control the weight," Becourtney says. When lowering the weights with the reverse grip, people tend to let the weight control their wrists, causing the joint to bend uncomfortably. Keep good form and go down in weight if needed.
3. Zottman Curl
- Start standing with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders back and core braced.
- Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides in a supinated grip, palms facing forward.
- Curl the weights up to your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your sides.
- Once the weights reach your shoulders, twist the dumbbell to a reverse grip, palms facing away from your body.
- Lower the weight with control.
- Then, flip the grip forward and go into the next rep.
4. Banded Tempo Curl
- Anchor one end of a long-loop resistance band around your feet and hold the other end with both hands, shoulders back and down.
- Keeping your elbows close to your sides, curl the band up to your shoulders.
- Pause here for a moment, squeezing your biceps.
- Then, lower the weights for a 4-second count, returning to the starting position.
Count aloud as you lower the weight to ensure you're keeping the tempo slow, Becourtney says.
5. Concentration Curl
- Sit on a chair or bench, holding a dumbbell in your right hand, resting between your legs.
- Place the back of your right upper arm against the inside of your right thigh.
- With the palm facing up, curl the weight to your shoulder.
- Keeping your arm pressing against your thigh, lower the weight back down slowly with control.
- After you complete your repetitions, repeat on the other arm.
6. 3-Part Curl (aka 21s)
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides, holding a pair of dumbbells.
- Keeping your elbows pinned to your sides throughout the exercise, curl the weight up to about 90 degrees, weight in line with the elbow.
- Lower the weight back down to the starting position. Perform 7 reps curling up just to 90 degrees.
- On the last rep, keep the elbows locked and weight raised, in line with the elbow. This is your new starting position.
- From here, curl the weight up to your shoulder.
- Lower back down with control to 90 degrees. Perform 7 reps here.
- On the last rep, lower the weight all the way down to your sides.
- From here, perform 7 reps of full biceps curls, bringing the weight all the way up to your shoulder and back down to your sides.
By the end of this exercise, you'll have completed 21 reps total. This exercise makes a great burnout or finisher, Becourtney says.