For reasons that need no explanation, home workouts are looking more attractive than ever. But not everyone can afford a home gym setup or several pairs of expensive dumbbells. That’s why we love the versatility and low cost of resistance bands, (Although there are some drawbacks too).
You can do almost anything with bands that you can with dumbbells, including isolation-focused variations like band concentration curls which this guide is all about. Additionally, you can take advantage of their built-in progression system, aka changing the band’s length to increase or decrease the resistance.
So do yourself a favor and grab a band or five for the price of a dumbbell, and let’s cause some volcanic growth in those bi’s!
In This Exercise:
- Target muscle group: Biceps brachii
- Type: Hypertrophy
- Mechanics: Isolation
- Equipment: Resistance band
- Difficulty: Beginner
- Optimal sets and reps: 3 x 10-25
Muscles Worked During Band Concentration Curls
While discussed more in-depth later on, the concentration curl was shown to be of the purest biceps activators in scientific testing (We’re not just making it up). We invite you to learn more about this small but mighty arm muscle and the neighboring brachialis below.
- Biceps brachii – A rather small muscle group, by comparison, how did the biceps become such a prominent symbol of power? Hmm, now you got us thinking. Maybe they look most impressive when flexed in a short sleeve T? Yeah, that’s it! A double-headed muscle, the biceps have shorter (Inner head) and longer (outer head) fibers. While the inner head crosses the elbow, the outer biceps intersects both the elbow and shoulder joints, where it flexes the arm, and helps lift it up in front of you. Biceps curls with a supinated or underhand grip will hit them best!
- Brachioradialis – Turn your palms down, and curl (Also called a reverse grip curl)… now you’re primarily working the brachioradialis muscle on the lateral and top knuckle side of the forearm, which is a stronger elbow flexor than biceps in this position. But truth be told, any curl or pull will have dramatically positive effects on this aesthetically important muscle.
- Brachialis – Did you know there’s an often invisible muscle next to the outer biceps head? And what if we told you it helps contributes to your upper arm size and development. If we didn’t mention it, you probably would have never know. The brachialis starts halfway up the humerus (upper arm), and drops through the elbow, where it’s a stronger arm flexor than the biceps when the palms are down in a pronated grip.
How To Do Band Concentration Curls
If you know how to do a proper dumbbell concentration curl (That’s a big if for many exercisers), the band concentration curl requires a slightly different technique.
Why is that?
It’s simple, when a band is stretched, the muscle is tensed, regardless of the angle or position. Unlike free weight curls, where body and arm position are imperative to maintaining maximal tension in the biceps. Consequently, when you’re working with cables, bands, and machines, it’s more acceptable for the front delts to experience some of the load.
- Begin from a seated position at the edge of a bench (Or chair, stool, box, etc).
- Spread your feet wide to create space between your legs.
- Place your band down on the floor and stand firmly on the center of it with your left foot.
- Reach down and grab the right end of the band with your left hand, then press the back of your left elbow against the inside of the left thigh. Keep the left arm straight.
- Now bend the left elbow and pull the handle up all the way up while flexing your biceps muscle.
- Slowly straighten your again, and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- Then place the band under your right foot and perform the movement with your right arm. Alternate between both arms for an even number of sets.
See how it’s done via the video example shown below.
- Looped bands can work too.
- If the resistance is too much, give yourself more band to work with. Likewise, if you feel there’s no challenge, make the band shorter by stepping closer to the handle, or wrap the band around your wrists.
- Some people prefer to step on the band with the opposite side leg of the working arm. You may need to experiment a little to find what works best for you.
Benefits of Band Concentration Curls
Each variation has a good argument for why it’s advantageous over the other, and band concentrations curls are no different. While we won’t give them high scores in every category, there are clear benefits.
Proof is in the study!
In a comparative study of muscle activation during various biceps exercises, the concentration curl came out on top, significantly beating out the cable curl, chin-up, and barbell curl, respectively (1). Although, a dumbbell was likely used rather than a resistance band.
“When you look at it, the concentration curl was significantly better than anything else. And I think the reason is that you’re really isolating the biceps muscle more so than in any of the other exercises,” explained John Porcari, Ph.D., and lead exercise scientist during the study.
It’s important to point out, however, that there are usually many possible variables when it comes to determining the best exercises. Experience, knowing one’s body, technique, and weight load can also play a role in the effectiveness of an exercise.
The researchers who carried out the study also mentioned the importance of variety and training according to your specific goals. So while concentration curls are a great way to stimulate muscle growth and build mind/muscle connection, you might opt for something more functional like a chin-up if you’re an athlete, or barbell curl for increasing strength.
Bands are an effective, and cheap training tool
More people exercise outside of a gym than in one, and with minimal to no equipment. A quality resistance band is as cheap as lunch, yet it affords you many of the same exercise options as a cable machine. Although we’d put the cable higher overall.
Still, bands are lightweight, able to fit in a small bag, and you can take them anywhere. So there’s no excuse not to train your biceps muscles. Plus, you can do many other biceps curl variations too.
Low impact, low stress
Not all exercises are created equally. For example, concentration curls cannot do the same thing as a heavy barbell curl. It just can’t.
The bilateral (Using both arms simultaneously to lift the weight) nature of a max load barbell curl will tax the nervous system greater, while also building more overall strength.
Concentration curls, on the other hand, are unilateral, or involving one side at a time. Which means it’s not possible to use as much weight. It is, however, generally better if you want a deeper, more intense contraction, plus the freedom of being able to rotate your wrists.
Fix the weaker side
Unilateral-based, band concentration curls and its variations are one way to fix an imbalance in the biceps. Training one arm at a time, you’ll expose the weaker side, which you can then formulate a plan to fix. Usually by performing an extra few reps for the lagging muscle.
Drawbacks of Band Concentration Curls
There are some obvious drawbacks to performing concentration curls with a band. However, there are ways to get around these potential drawbacks so that it won’t affect your gains. Below we’ve described the potential negatives but with solutions.
Progress is harder to follow
Bands don’t typically have numbers or labels to show how much resistance is being used, unlike weights, cables, and machines, for example. You can, however, get creative, and mark them to show progress, unless you’re experienced and know how to really use them, or better, have multiple bands of varying resistance. Therefore, it’s not quite as easy for beginner exercisers especially, to rely on bands.
Not as convenient
From having to anchor the band down with your feet, to the inconsistency of resistance (More or less challenging depending on how much the band is stretched), and the potential loss of elastic strength and damage over time, bands aren’t the perfect training tool. And overall, slightly inferior to free weights, machines, and cables.
Although… bands have their advantages over the aforementioned methods of training, and are an amazing tool.
What should seemingly be a simple, effective exercise oftentimes takes the form of “wasting precious gains“. But hey, we applaud the effort, and now it’s time to iron out those form mistakes.
Wrong elbow position
Where you place your elbow is everything in the concentration curl. Some people rest their elbow on top of the thigh, which has more problems than one. It’s unstable, limits range of motion, and causes a seesaw like effect which means less work for the biceps.
Using the bands ineffectively
Keep in mind that you may need to adjust certain variables for the band concentration curl to work for you. Factors such as height, limb length, band type, and band strength are all things that may need tweaking for you to feel productive.
Letting the band slip
A lot of beginners will try this variation and be totally unaware that the band is sliding under their feet. Heck, they may not even know that its a bad thing. Well, it is.
Make sure that your feet are pressed firmly onto the band, and do a few practice reps before the working set. You may also need to inspect the bottom of your shoes to ensure you’re standing on the flat part.
Variations and Alternatives
This is where it gets exciting. There are so many great variations and alternatives to choose from, especially if you have access to weights or a gym. Mixing up your movements is mentally and physically beneficial, as you’ll prevent boredom, and create new training strategies for yourself while discovering better training techniques. Plus there’s always room for more exercises in your biceps workout routine.
Band reverse concentration curl
While you’re already there, you might as well flip your palms down and train the secondary brachialis and brachioradialis muscles. The technique remains the same, you’re just curling with a reverse grip.
Dumbbell concentration curl
The OG variation, and still the best, in our opinion, dumbbell concentration curls are more efficient than the banded version. You can progress more accurately with numbered weights, skip the setup time with bands, and not have to worry about holding the band down with your foot.
However, if you train at home and don’t have dumbbells, bands are a more than capable replacement.
Standing bent over concentration curl
If you’re a bodybuilding fan, the first thought that should have popped into your head was the scene from Pumping Iron where Arnold Schwarzenegger explained his favorite aspect of training, getting a muscle pump, which he likened to one of life’s greatest gifts… but you’ll need to watch the video to find out what that is (Just keep the volume down).
So what’s the advantage of doing concentration curls standing?
Cable concentration curls
So while you could use the same seated technique for cable concentration curls, a more popular variation is the standing cable concentration curl. It’s essentially standing between two cable pulleys set to shoulder height and doing a front double biceps pose.
It may be especially beneficial for bodybuilders who must hit this pose on a competitive stage. But for anyone, it can help enhance the muscle contraction, which could make your other exercises more effective.
You’ll find two video examples of both variations below.
Here’s the standing variation we mentioned. Pro tip: Try to keep the elbows slightly higher than the shoulders for the best contraction.
A very old-school feeling biceps exercise, preacher curls are still in, and just as beneficial as ever. While it doesn’t look like a concentration curl, the padded armrest helps prevent cheating, although you still need to be conscious of your form.
Many people do it incorrectly though, leaning back and curling the weight all the way up which unloads your biceps during what should be an important part of the repetition, aka the contraction.
Machines are a great choice because you never lose that tension in the muscle. If you’re going to use dumbbells or a barbell, then you need to understand proper body mechanics.
Check out our preacher curl articles and guides for the best preacher curl training tips.
Any machine curl
Not referring to cables, but other types of biceps curl machines typically have built in armrests to keep your biceps stationary, hence replicating a concentration curl. Gyms nowadays have some really cool machine designs that are crazy ergonomic, and give the biceps an amazing workout. So give those a try too!
What's the best sets and reps for band concentration curls?
This will vary based on your experience, and overall workout routine.
However, we recommend a minimum of 2-3 sets per workout with a rep range of 10-20, to ensure adequate biceps muscle stimulation.
What are the advantages of band vs dumbbell concentration curls?
Resistance bands are much cheaper than dumbbells. In fact, you can get a set of bands for the price of one dumbbell. Additionally, bands are very lightweight, incredibly space friendly, portable, super versatile, adjustable, and safer in comparison.
There are some disadvantages of band training but the pros definitely outweigh the cons when you consider all factors.
So yes band concentration curls offer lots of benefits of its freeweight counterpart.
A refreshing change up from the usual, or complement to the more common biceps exercises, you won’t feel under-armed after including band concentration curls in your arm day artillery. Geared more toward hypertrophy than increasing strength, this versatility makes it a great option for any phase of a workout. For pumping up your biceps at home, band concentration curls are a clear winner!
Moreover, using a variety of training tools like bands is also an educational experience, and will only make you better at training, and adjusting to get the results you desire.