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Concentration Curl: Variations & Exercise Videos (2020)

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Looking for a full guide on how to do the concentration curl? We’ve got everything you need right here, from the execution of the exercise to seated dumbbell concentration curl variations. 

Plus, we even have demonstration videos so that you can complete the exercise with perfect form as part of your arms workout, so that you can get bigger arms fast. This is one of the greatest exercises for building muscle mass and strength after all, depending on how you perform it. 

Do you have an interest in working within the fitness sector? If so, go check out our fantastic range of personal training courses, or download our free course prospectus guide here before we jump straight in!

What is a Concentration Curl? 

A one arm concentration curl is a classic bicep exercise used by bodybuilders and regular weightlifters to build strength and muscle mass in the biceps. This clue is in the name, as compared to the regular curl, the bicep concentration curl focuses solely on the biceps by eradicating the body momentum that comes with performing curls in a standing position. 

Greater muscle mass and improved strength is brought about not only by performing this exercise, but by performing it with progressive overload. A. Kavanaugh explains this well in The Role of Progressive Overload in Sports Conditioning

Without overload, there is no adaptation by the body. Neuromuscular adaptation occurs first, followed by increases in muscle and connective tissue strength, and bone mass. Proper conditioning methods will lead to physiological advancements as well.

Pair the bicep concentration curl exercise with this method of training, and you’ll see results that you previously could only have dreamed of. Now that we've covered the question of what is a concentration curl?, it's time to take a look at how to perform them! 

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How to do the Concentration Curl


Set Up: For the seated concentration curl, you’ll need a gym bench and a dumbbell that you’re comfortable with lifting. If you’re looking to perform this exercise at home, check out our list of the best weight benches to find the best and most affordable pieces of equipment!

Starting Position: 

Dumbbell concentration curl with forearm grip

  • While sitting on a gym bench, grip the dumbbell with your left hand in an underhand grip
  • Your feet should be flat to the floor, at around shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing slightly outwards 
  • Have your upper left arm resting on the inner part of your left thigh as you hold the dumbbell, your arm fully extended 

Execution:

Dumbbell concentration curl with forearm grip image 

  • While squeezing the left bicep, curl the dumbbell upwards towards your chest
  • It should travel in a smooth arc until it reaches shoulder level; you should be able to feel your biceps fully contracting 
  • Hold this position for two seconds
  • Carefully move the dumbbell back into the starting position by reversing the movement that you completed during the lifting phase 
  • Repeat for your desired amount of repetitions, then switch to the opposite arm! 

Reps: 

Muscular Strength: 1-8 (very heavy weight)

Muscle Hypertrophy: 8-10 (heavy weight)

Muscular Endurance: 12-20 (lighter weight) 

Dumbbell Concentration Curl Muscles Worked 

Primary Movers: Biceps

Secondary Muscles: Brachialis muscles, triceps, pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, rectus abdominis, deltoids

Dumbbell Concentration Curl Mistakes to Avoid

  • Using momentum. If you use momentum to get you through the exercise, you will only hinder your progress. If you find that you’re doing this, as it is one of the most common seated dumbbell concentration curl mistakes, you should decrease the weight that you’re using so that you can reach your full potential with this exercise. You should also ensure that you’re using your elbows to bring the weight down gently.
  • Rushing through the exercise. Rushing will also hinder your progress, as lowering the dumbbell too quickly during the second phase of the movement will mean that you sacrifice many of the seated concentration curl benefits, such as improved strength. If you curl the dumbbell faster, and focus on lowering it slowly, you’ll feel the difference! 
  • Moving your elbows. You may be tempted to allow your elbows to flare out during this movement, especially if you’re a beginner to weight training. Always keep your elbows pinned to your inner thighs, and keep your back straight to avoid this. If it is still an issue, you may have to lower the weight. 

Dumbbell Concentration Curl Benefits

  • In comparison to the regular bicep curl, the concentration curl exercise truly targets the biceps in a way that no other exercise can due to the fact that it takes body momentum out of the equation. This is one of the greatest concentration curl benefits, and the reason that many of those who follow a hypertrophy or strength-oriented weight training program choose it over regular bicep curls. 
  • Since the lifting phase of the exercise is performed faster than the lowering phase, it is classed as a powerful movement, and can work wonders for building upper body strength and power as a result. 
  • They are easy to complete and only require basic gym equipment. You can even complete them at home with adjustable dumbbells to train with progressive overload, which is the best way to go if you’re looking to boost strength or muscle mass. 

Concentration Curl Regression & Progression 

In addition to the aforementioned benefits of the concentration curl, another plus side to incorporating this exercise into your arm day workout is the fact that it can effortlessly be made easier or more difficult for those who don’t want to complete it in its regular form. 

To make the exercise easier (concentration curl regression):

  • If you’re looking to make this exercise easier, you can start out with a lighter dumbbell. This may sound like a simple answer, but it really is worth it. Swallow your pride and grab a lighter dumbbell for this exercise if you’re struggling with it. It’s much better than sitting it out, and you’ll build more muscle mass in the long run! 
  • Alternatively, you could use a resistance band to execute this exercise by anchoring one end of the band under your foot as you curl it. Check out the 13 best resistance bands available online here so that you’re prepared for your next workout. 

To make the exercise more difficult (concentration curl progression): 

  • To make the exercise more difficult and to really boost your strength (and muscle gains), you should use a heavier dumbbell. Bear in mind, you should be training with progressive overload to make gains in the first place! 
  • If you’re not quite ready to up your load, you should slow the tempo that you’re lifting the dumbbell with. Your muscles will be placed under additional pressure since they’ll have to work harder during each individual rep, and this will push your progress even further (and ready your muscles for the heavier weights). 

Like this exercise? 

If you're enjoying this exercise, make sure you take a look at some of our other exercise guides: 

Concentration Curl Variations 

Standing Concentration Curl 


Set Up: For this exercise, a variation on the concentration dumbbell curl, you’ll need a single dumbbell that you’re comfortable with lifting. It should be enough to challenge you, but be wary of overloading your muscles. 

Starting Position: 

Dumbbell concentration curl with forearm grip

  • Stand with a wide stance, with your feet placed just over shoulder-width apart 
  • They should be fixed flat to the floor, and your toes should be pointing slightly outwards 
  • Carefully lean forwards with your torso, placing your right hand just above your right knee to support yourself 
  • Grip the dumbbell with an underhand grip
  • Have your upper left arm resting on the inner part of your left thigh as you hold the dumbbell, your arm fully extended and ready to begin the standing concentration dumbbell curl

Execution: 

dumbbell concentration curl image

  • Curl the dumbbell towards your chest in a controlled motion, focusing all of the tension in your biceps 
  • The weight should move along a smooth arc in the air, until it reaches shoulder level 
  • At this point, you should be able to feel the tension in your biceps 
  • Hold this position for two seconds
  • Carefully reverse the movement that you just completed, and move the dumbbell back into the starting position (ready for the next rep)  
  • Repeat! 

Reps: 

Muscular Strength: 1-8 (very heavy weight)

Muscle Hypertrophy: 8-10 (heavy weight)

Muscular Endurance: 12-20 (lighter weight) 

Standing Concentration Curl Muscles Worked  

Primary Movers: Biceps

Secondary Muscles: Brachialis muscles, triceps, pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, rectus abdominis, deltoids

Standing Concentration Curl Mistakes to Avoid

  • Arching the back. You may want to consider swapping out your chosen weight for a lighter alternative if you’re having this issue, as it’s usually a sign that you’re putting more strain on the biceps than they can handle. 
  • Not keeping the head in line with the spine. You should ensure that you keep your head and neck in line with your spine, otherwise you could risk injuring your neck during this exercise. 

Standing Concentration Curl Benefits  

  • This exercise is one of the most popular concentration curl variations as it demands more from the upper body as a whole, and involves more stabilising muscles (particularly during the lifting phase) in order to keep the body stable. 
  • Due to the absence of the bench, this exercise places a little less strain on the biceps and shifts this into the brachioradialis (the upper forearm). Therefore, this exercise may be the best addition to your forearm exercises if you want to further engage these muscles during concentration curls. 

Plate Concentration Curl

Set Up: To begin this exercise, you’ll need a single plate that you’re comfortable with lifting. You may want to start with a lighter plate if you’re not used to gripping them this way, and then work your way up once you adjust to this exercise when working through the concentration curl variations. 

Starting Position: 

Concentration bicep curl

  • Stand with your feet just over shoulder-width apart 
  • Grip the plate in your left hand with an underhand grip, and ensure that your palm is facing inwards and your arm is fully extended 
  • Have your right hand resting above your right knee as you hold the plate, so that you have some extra support 
  • Ensure that your back is straight, and that your neck is in line with your spine 

Execution: 

image for dumbbell concentration curl

  • Begin by curling the plate towards your chest (bending at the elbow), in a controlled motion
  • You should feel the pressure building in your biceps, especially as you reach the top of the movement 
  • Stop when the plate reaches shoulder level, and hold this position for a minimum of two seconds 
  • Move the plate back towards the position that it started in, with emphasis on ensuring that it travels in a slow and controlled manner (slower than the first phase of the exercise) 
  • Finish the movement with your arm fully extended, ready for the next rep 
  • Repeat! 

Reps: 

Muscular Strength: 1-8 (very heavy weight)

Muscle Hypertrophy: 8-10 (heavy weight)

Muscular Endurance: 12-20 (lighter weight) 

Plate Concentration Curl Muscles Worked  

Primary Movers: Biceps

Secondary Muscles: Brachialis muscles, triceps, pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, rectus abdominis, deltoids

Plate Concentration Curl Mistakes to Avoid 

  • Neglecting proper concentration curl form. If you fail to maintain good posture and concentration curl form during this exercise, you might want to try it with a lighter plate until you become accustomed with the exercise.   
  • Using momentum to lift the plate. You should avoid using momentum to propel the plate upwards, by ensuring that you’re training with the correct weight (one that isn’t too heavy). Otherwise, you’ll miss out on the relevant plate concentration curl benefits and even risk injuring yourself. 
  • Rushing through reps. Be sure to complete each rep in a slow and controlled manner to maximise the benefits that you receive from this exercise. 

Plate Concentration Curl Benefits  

  • One of the main concentration plate curl benefits over some of the other concentration curl variations is the fact that you can start with incredibly light weights if you require this, and increase them as incrementally as you wish. This makes progressive overload possible for beginners, and those who are more experienced in weight training! 
  • Since plates require significant grip strength to control them (as they lack a handle in the first place), this variation is brilliant for those looking to improve their grip strength. If you want to train this even further, you should also check out our 13 farmer’s walk benefits article to find out more about this exercise, as it’s one of the most popular exercises for training grip strength. 

Hammer Concentration Curl 

Set Up: To begin this exercise, you’ll need a single dumbbell that you’re comfortable with lifting. You should be wary of overloading your muscles, but don’t be afraid to challenge them - especially if you want to build strength and muscle mass through this exercise! 

Starting Position: 

Seated concentration curl image

  • Sit on a gym bench with your feet flat to the ground, at just over shoulder-width apart 
  • Grip the dumbbell with your left hand in an overhand grip
  • Have your upper left arm resting on the inner part of your left thigh as you hold the dumbbell, your arm fully extended and your palm facing inwards (so that it visibly resembles the starting position for a regular hammer curl)  
  • Rest your right hand on your right knee for support 

Execution: 

Bicep concentration curl

  • Begin by curling the dumbbell towards your chest in a controlled motion, whilst squeezing your biceps 
  • Your palm should face inwards throughout the movement, and you should maintain proper concentration curl form  
  • The weight should move as though it is travelling across a smooth arc, until it reaches shoulder level 
  • At this point, you should be able to feel the tension in your biceps 
  • Hold this position for two seconds
  • Move the dumbbell back towards the starting position, by reversing the movement that you just completed along the invisible arc in the air   
  • Repeat! 

Reps: 

Muscular Strength: 1-8 (very heavy weight)

Muscle Hypertrophy: 8-10 (heavy weight)

Muscular Endurance: 12-20 (lighter weight) 

Hammer Concentration Curl Muscles Worked  

Primary Movers: Biceps

Secondary Muscles: Brachialis muscles, triceps, pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, rectus abdominis, deltoids

Hammer Concentration Curl Mistakes to Avoid 

  • Arching the back. You may want to consider swapping out your chosen weight for a lighter alternative if you’re having this issue, as it’s usually a sign that you’re putting more strain on the biceps than they can handle. 
  • Not keeping the head in line with the spine. You should ensure that you keep your head and neck in line with your spine, otherwise you could risk injuring your neck during this exercise. 

Hammer Concentration Curl Benefits  

  • One of the main hammer concentration curl benefits over those of the regular concentration curl is that the hammer version is superior in targeting the long head of the bicep, as well as the brachialis and brachioradialis (forearm muscles). So, if you use both exercises as part of your arm workout, you’ll receive all of the benefits! 
  • It’s one of the most opted for concentration curl variations. Since it is completed with the wrist in the pronated position (overhand grip), it places the long head of the bicep at a greater disadvantage, and therefore works it harder. This makes it an extremely useful exercise to use as part of your bigger arms workout, especially since it is so easy to complete. 

Before you go!

Now that you’ve read our guide on how to do a concentration curl, we hope that you feel confident enough to try it out during your next workout session. 

Whether you’re going to be hitting the gym or you’re trying this at home, remember to refresh your memory on the concentration curl common mistakes to avoid, and practice the exercise safely! 

Interested in beginning a new career in fitness? There’s never been a better time. Take a look at OriGym’s online PT courses or download our course prospectus for more information. 

References

  1. Kavanaugh, A., 2007. The Role of Progressive Overload in Sports Conditioning. Conditioning Foundamentals. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal, 6(1).

Written by Chloe Twist

Fitness Content Manager, OriGym

Join Chloe on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Chloe graduated with a BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University and prior to OriGym worked at J&R Digital Marketing Agency on the Liverpool 'Female Founders' series. Since joining the company, she has become a qualified Personal Trainer and advanced Sports Nutrition Specialist. Chloe’s professional interests intersect content-development and the world of online fitness, especially across social media and YouTube, and Chloe has herself contributed pieces on fitness and weight loss to sites including the Daily Star and The Express. Outside her day-to-day role, Chloe enjoys playing the guitar, gaming and kettlebell training. 

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