For a bicep exercise that requires nothing except a weight and a bench to sit at, try concentration curls! These basic bicep exercises, which involve slowly and smoothly lifting a dumbbell up and down between your legs while seated, are the same kind that you’ve probably seen musclebound “meathead” characters perform in countless movies and television shows. Despite their reputation, concentration curls are great for virtually anyone, so get started today for toned, strong upper arms!
Doing a Standard Concentration Curl
Sit at an exercise bench. Basic concentration curls are performed sitting down. Find a low, sturdy, comfortable bench or seat and sit down at it. Position your feet flat on the floor and spread your knees somewhat to form a “V” with your legs. Sit up straight with your shoulders back and your chest out.
Grab your weight in your right hand. If you haven’t already, bring the weight you’ve chosen over to the bench. Grasp it in your right hand and put your elbow on the inside part of your right thigh or knee. Slowly lower the weight down towards the floor.
One-handed dumbbells and kettle bells work best for this exercise. Don’tuse a large or unwieldy weight like a barbell — you need to be able to keep it under control with one hand.
“Curl” the weight upward. When the weight is hanging bent below you, squeeze with your bicep to lift the weight back up towards you. Keep your upper arm and shoulder stationary while you do this. If you allow them to move, they can “help out” your bicep as it works, keeping it from getting the full benefit of the workout.
You may need to bend your back or hunch slightly to be able to perform this exercise. As long as you lift with proper form (see section below), avoid awkwardly hunching or flexing your back, and don’t tense your back muscles during the exercise, you will be safe. However, if you ever feel pain in your lower back, you should stop immediately.
Slowly lower the weight down. When you’ve raised the weight as far as it will go (it should be near your chest or torso at this point), slowly and gradually lower it back towards the floor. This part of the exercise is just as important as the lifting phase of the exercise — don’t let the weight quickly drop towards the floor or you’ll be robbing yourself of a significant portion of your workout.
Repeat this up-and-down motion. When your weight is below your body again and you’ve almost (but not quite) straightened your arm, squeeze your bicep again to lift it. Repeat this process of lifting and lowering the weight until you feel a nice “burn”.
Don’t take small rests at the top or bottom of each repetition — thiswill decrease the muscle-building benefit of the exercise (and can even hurt you). Instead, just repeat the exercise without stopping until your bicep is tired, then give it a rest.
Switch arms and repeat. When you’ve worked up a good burn in one arm, switch to the other and perform the same motions as before (only mirrored). After working out both arms, take a brief moment to rest (about 30 seconds to 1 minute is usually enough) and repeat as much as you’d like. Everyone’s exercise needs are different, so feel free to do concentration curls at your own pace. If you’re looking for a moderate workout, try doing 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions for each arm at a weight level you’re comfortable with.
Don’t let your elbows “lock” at the bottom of the lift. When performing any kind of bicep curl, including the concentration curl, it’s important not to let your arms go completely straight by locking your elbows after you lower the weight. Even if you’re performing the exercise with low weight and it doesn’t hurt to do this, you should always maintain tension in your bicep throughout the lift and start lifting the weight back up before you need to lock your elbow. Failing to do this can lead to a seriously painful condition called a hyperextended elbow.
Doing Exercise Variations
Try a standing concentration curl. For a more difficult spin on a basic concentration curl, try standing up while you perform the exercise. Stand up with your weight in one hand, bend forward very slightly at the hips and slowly lift the weight up and down by squeezing your bicep as you keep your upper arm and elbow at your side. Because you’re not resting your arm on your leg, you need to use more energy to keep your shoulder, upper arm, and elbow stationary, making for a harder exercise.
Don’t attempt this exercise if you have lower back problems. Because you’re lifting the weights with a slight bend in your hips, your lower back muscles are under minor stress while you do this exercise. This can cause problems for people with a history of back issues and even (in rare cases) lead to injury.
Try turning the wrist during the exercise. Another variation you can put on the basic concentration curl involves using your wrist to exercise a greater range of muscle than you might normally. Assume the basic concentration curl stance, but when you lift the weight, turn your wrist smoothly so that your palm is facing your torso at the top of the lift. When you lower the weight, turn your wrist back the other way so that the bottom of the hand faces your leg.
This variation is useful because it can work more of the bicep than the basic curl. Your bicep is actually made up of two bundles of muscle — an outer bundle (or “long head”) and an inner bundle (or “short head”). Turning your wrist ensures both heads are worked roughly evenly.
Try a preacher curl. If you like the workout you get from basic concentration curls but you find the pressure your elbow puts on your leg to be uncomfortable, try preacher curls. In this exercise, you sit at a special exercise rack with a pad for your elbows as you lift and lower the weight. The exercise itself is quite similar to basic preacher curls — you just slowly lift and lower the weight with your biceps while keeping your upper arms stationary.
Try a prone incline curl. Another spin you can put on a basic curl is to sit at a special type of tilted-back exercise seat called an “incline bench”. Like with a standing concentration curl, you use one arm to lower a weight down towards the floor, then lift it up towards your torso with a smooth, controlled motion. Just like with the standing curl, you use extra effort keeping your upper arms stationary. However, because you’re sitting down, the stress on your lower back is much lower.
Performing Curls Safely
Use good back posture. Back injuries are something every weightlifter should be wary of. Out of all the injuries that are possible from lifting weights, lower back injuries can be particularly painful, long-lasting, and difficult to treat. Thus, the best policy is almost always one of prevention.When you perform a concentration curl, it’s OK to bend forward slightly at the hips so that your elbow can reach past the edge of the bench. However, you won’t ever want to use a harmful wrenching or twisting motion in your back to complete your exercise — if you have to do this to lift the weight, it’s too heavy. For proper spinal health, it’s also important to ensure that your workout routine is balanced, including plenty of hip, leg, and core exercises. These muscles aren’t directly used for lifting the weight in arm exercises like the concentration curl, but they do support the body and help maintain proper posture, making injury less likely.
Use slow, steady motions. When it comes to weightlifting, slow and steady wins the race. No matter what you see other people doing at the gym, you should always perform your weightlifting exercises with slow, even, movements, especially if you’re doing a high-weight exercise. Moving a weight with quick or jerky motions can make it much more difficult to keep it under proper control, making injury much more likely.
Never use more weight than you can lift. Any reputable, experienced trainer will be able to give you the all-important advice that form should always come before weight. In other words, concentrate on doing the exercise perfectly before increasing the weight you’re using, and if you can’t do the exercise perfectly, try again with a lower weight.
As a reminder, for concentration curls, perfect form means keeping your upper arms, elbows, and shoulders motionless and avoiding any jerking or twisting with your back throughout the lift.
Give your muscles a chance to rest. Any form of weightlifting, including concentration curls, will take its toll on the body. To maximize your results from weightlifting and ensure that you’re able to perform as best as you can at the gym, sometimes, not weightlifting is necessary! In general, weightlifters are recommended to avoid training the same muscle group two or more days in a row. Allowing for a day or two of rest (with a full night’s sleep after each day) in between bicep-building sessions gives your muscles a chance to recuperate, repair themselves, and, most importantly, grow. Signs of systemic overtraining (in other words, working your entire bodytoo hard, rather than a single muscle group) include elevated pulse in the morning, persistent soreness, high blood pressure, depression, irritability, susceptibility to illness, and lack of motivation.
The benefits of these exercises are increased strength and flexibility in your upper arms.
To make this exercise less challenging, use lighter weights.
Twist your wrist while performing this exercise. By turning your little finger slightly upward, you’ll increase the amount of work your upper arms are required to do. 
Those with weak or injured elbows and lower backs should be careful when performing this exercise. Speak to your medical adviser first.
Potential injuries to your elbows may be incurred if this exercise is performed incorrectly. Do not swing the weight—always use your biceps to lift it. If you choose to do the advanced version, you should also be aware that attempting to use your back to help you lift the weights can result in lower back problems.
Things You Need
How to Get Better Biceps
How to Get Your Arms in Great Shape
How to Do Dumbbell Hammer Curls
How to Get Bigger Biceps
Sources and Citations
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