If you want to look like you actually work out, then you must have well-developed arms considering these limbs are many times the only thing in plain sight (e.g. wearing a short or no sleeve shirt).
Sure a huge chest, wide shoulders, and buns of steel can show through any article of clothing but when you can see muscle detail under the skin, well, there’s nothing quite like having bulging biceps. So today we bring you one of the best biceps exercises in the dumbbell incline curl.
It may not be as utilized as standing curls among gym-goers but leaving it out can mean leaving gains on the table too. This movement overloads the biceps in a maximally stretched position in a way that most variations don’t.
In this guide, we’ve provided exercise instructions, tips, variations, and more.
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Biceps Brachii
- Type: Hypertrophy, strength
- Mechanics: Isolation
- Equipment: Dumbbells
- Difficulty: Beginner/intermediate
While this exercise primarily works the biceps muscles, other muscles are involved too of which we’ve listed below.
The biceps is a two-headed muscle located on the anterior or front of the upper arm. It crosses both the elbow and shoulder joint and therefore facilitates action at both ends, although more prominently at the elbow joint.
The main function of the biceps is forearm supination (rotate palms up) and pronation (rotate palms down) but it also flexes the elbow joint.
The brachialis muscle is a pure elbow flexor that flexes the elbow at any forearm position and it gives width to the upper arms when fully developed. Neutral and overhand grip curls are recommended to maximize the engagement of this muscle but any curl or pulling movement works this muscle too.
The brachioradialis is located on the lateral portion of the forearm. It primarily flexes the elbow but also supinates and pronates the forearm too.
Any curl or pulling exercise involves this muscle.
The forearm muscles are worked during curls and pulling movements. They function to move the forearm, wrist, elbow, and digits of the hand.
Strong forearms are needed to grip and hold weights during biceps curls. But you’ll also improve your forearms and grip strength by simply doing more challenging curls.
How To Do The Dumbbell Incline Curl
- Set a bench at a 45 or 60-degree incline.
- Then, lie on the bench so your back is flat against it while holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms hanging on either side.
- Now, curl the dumbbells all the way up and squeeze at the top for 2 seconds. Exhale during this portion of the exercise.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells back down and flex your triceps at the bottom. Inhale during this portion of the exercise.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Here’s a video example…
Dumbbell incline curl tips
- You can either curl both dumbbells at the same time or alternate which could allow you to lift heavier weights and possibly squeeze out more reps. Alternating may also help to ensure you maintain proper form. Just make sure to not cheat your reps too much although a little momentum is OK!
- Always keep your back flat against the bench to ensure the biceps remain under a maximum stretch.
- Flex your triceps at the bottom of each rep when the arms are extended. This maximizes the stretch and activation of the biceps.
- Use lighter dumbbells during this exercise since the inclined position makes the movement more challenging than standard biceps curls.
It really doesn’t get much better than the dumbbell incline curl for stretching the long head of the biceps. This is a benefit that most biceps curl variations don’t provide.
But there are variations that also place the biceps under a pronounced stretch that are similar to the dumbbell incline curl.
Here are two variations that we recommend.
Cable incline curl
Why do we like the cable variation? It ensures that the biceps are under stretch and makes it harder to cheat and defeat the purpose of the exercise.
That’s because cables are always pulling back against the arms even if you bring the arms forward or find yourself lifting your back up off the bench.
To do it:
Set up between and a few feet in front of a close-positioned cable machine/s and attach a single-grip handle to both sides. Adjust the bench to an incline and grip each handle then perform the exercise as instructed above.
Do not place the bench too far away/in front of the machines as this would be very bad for your shoulders. It may take a few times to adjust your seating before you can safely and effectively perform the exercise.
Neutral or overhand grip dumbbell incline curl
A simple yet very effective variation that allows you to emphasize the brachialis and brachioradialis is to use a neutral or overhand grip.
You’ll set up and perform the exercise exactly the same.
How To Incorporate The Dumbbell Incline Curl Into Your Training
Training the biceps isn’t rocket science and generally, a curl is a curl. However, there are methods to maximize biceps development with the most common being utilizing a variety of exercises to hit all angles.
Typically, an effective biceps routine would include a heavy bilateral curl (e.g., barbell curls) – a preacher style curl where the lower biceps gets maximally stretched – an incline curl where the upper bicep is fully stretched – and a hammer or overhand grip curl to hit the brachialis and forearms.
You don’t have to incorporate these exercises all in one session but it’s good to mix things up over several workouts.
The dumbbell incline curl also makes for a great addition to a superset, drop set, and other special training methods that increase training intensity and volume.
Check out these 13 Best Methods For Increasing Training Intensity
There’s no perfect rep range for biceps curls. Although we don’t recommend you train too light or heavy. Generally, 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps is ideal for building muscle but you can also mix up your reps.
For example, 5-7 reps can be used for strength and size, and reps in the 15-25+ rep range (higher reps should be taken to failure) are good for hypertrophy muscular endurance.
Everyone trains differently and you’ll have to be able to listen to your body to determine when specific rep ranges are best.
The dumbbell incline curl is non-negotiable if you desire to maximize your biceps development. Again, it places a great stretch on the biceps near the shoulder and at the elbows too, and when under load, this is the perfect scenario for making muscle gains!