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How to Build Muscle and Bigger Arms with the Incline Dumbbell Curl

Build bigger and stronger arms.

The Incline Dumbbell Curl is an excellent accessory exercise to help you grow muscle. It is popular and effective, and will bring results when you perform and program it properly into your training.

Benefits of Incline Dumbbell Curls

If you are looking to get bigger and stronger arms then the incline dumbbell curl is what you need to add into your workout routine.

What Muscles do Incline Dumbbell Curls Work?

Biceps. This Exercise isolates the long head of your bicep, stretches it and pushes you to apply more force while contracting. This means that it can be a great exercise if you are looking to maximize the bicep peak.

Incline Dumbbell CurlSource: Unsplash
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How to do Incline Dumbbell Curls

You can always change the angle of the incline to hit different parts of your muscle but here are the instructions on how to do it the conventional way.

Sit on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand, holding them at arm’s length. Try keeping your elbows close to your torso and rotate the palms of your hands until they are facing forward. This is your starting position.

Keep your upper arm stationary and curl the weights forward while contracting the biceps as you breathe out. Make sure that only the forearms are moving. Continue the movement until your biceps are fully contracted and the dumbbells are at shoulder level. Hold the contracted position for a second.

Slowly begin to bring the dumbbells back to starting position as you breathe in.

Repeat for the recommended number of repetitions.

Incline Dumbbell Curl Alternative Exercises

This Dumbbell Curl alternatives will all target the biceps in slightly different ways.

  • Chin Up
  • Dumbbell Bicep Curl
  • Incline Hammer Curl
  • Incline Cable Curl

Incline Dumbbell Curl Mistakes to Avoid

Check out this great list of things to avoid from Gym Insider.

Things to Avoid:

“Avoid starting out with super heavy weights. Even though you may be a person who exercises daily, you should always start our with light weights in order to fully warm-up your muscles and to make sure you get the proper technique down before moving to heavier weights.

Do not raise your back off the bench. This happens when you are not lying flat on the bench throughout the exercise or you start raising your buttocks off the bench. When doing this exercise you want to be in a comfortable position that will ensure that you do the exercise properly along with being safe, especially when dealing with heavy weights.

Always keep your feet flat on the floor. Remember that this is not a ballet rehearsal and you want your feet to be flat on the floor to provide a secure base. By having your feet firmly placed on the floor you automatically have more balance and it helps in attaining stability.

Avoid fast and jerky movements. You will start the exercise by letting your arms hang down at your sides while holding the dumbbells with an underhand grip. As you raise the weights up to shoulder level, you need to focus on doing it very slowly and controlled since quick and rapid movements could result in problems like a muscle tear or a rotator cuff injury.

Using your shoulders too much. Remember that the focus of the exercise is to build your biceps.

By ensuring that your feet are firmly placed on the floor and that your body is in contact with the bench, this will help a great deal in ensuring that your shoulders are not too involved and that the exercise is done correctly. Make sure to keep your elbows in a fixed position when curling the dumbbells.

Avoid moving your elbows up and down which will lead to your shoulders being more engaged, which is something you want to avoid since it takes the tension off of the biceps.”

Incline Dumbbell Curl Angle

For Incline Dumbbell Curls, adjust the bench so that it’s at a 45-degree angle, or up to 60 degrees as needed.

Incline Dumbbell Curl Reverse 21’s

Check out this infamous routine, outlined here by T Nation.

“Traditional 21s are a classic exercise that split the range of motion of a biceps curl into three mini-sets: bottom range, upper range, and full range. Seven reps of each range are performed per set.

Reverse 21s function as a mechanical drop-set whereby the set gets “easier” as fatigue sets in.

The reverse 21 method can be used with a number of exercises. Just start with full reps, then move to the harder partial-range reps, and finish with the easier partial-range reps.

Any lifter worth his salt has tried 21s with biceps curls and has felt the brutal pump that ensues. It’s a classic hypertrophy training technique that works, and 21s can be used for other muscle groups as well. Here’s the kicker: reverse 21s are even better.


Let’s use the example of a biceps curl. Traditional 21s look like this:

Do 7 bottom-half partials where you start with the arms fully extended and curl halfway up until the forearms are parallel to the floor.

Immediately follow that by doing 7 top-half partials where you start with the arms fully flexed and lower them halfway down until they’re again parallel to the floor.

Finish with 7 agonizing, full range of motion reps.

So, if you consider bottom-half partials, top-half partials, and full reps to be three separate exercises, you’re essentially going from the easiest exercise to the hardest exercise.

Reverse 21s invert that order. Start with the hardest part of the set and finish with the easiest part. For biceps curls, it would look like this:

  • Start with 7 full reps
  • Now do 7 top-half partials
  • Finish with 7 bottom-half partials

Put another way, reverse 21s function as a mechanical drop-set whereby the set gets easier as fatigue sets in. It’s much easier to crank out some bottom-half partials at the end of a set when your biceps are already cooked than it is to do full reps.

You end up going through the same total range of motion over the course of the set, only you’re able to use significantly more weight. For example, if you’d normally do traditional 21s with 75 pounds, you’d probably be able to do reverse 21s with around 95 pounds. More weight through the same total range of motion is the recipe for more muscle. Small tweak, big difference.

Incline Dumbbell Curl Without Bench

Even if you don’t have a bench, you can still perform Incline Dumbbell Curls.

The most important parts of the movement are for the body to be in the incline position and that the arms are able to reach full extension at the bottom of the movement. I have used a wooden plank before to lie against, or a chair with a tilted back support. Both adaptions work fine.

Incline Dumbbell Curl at Home

Use a chair and place a cushion behind you to replicate the angle.

Bringing the Incline Dumbbell Curl into your Training

Reps and Sets:

The repetition scheme for this exercise varies with the trainee.

Beginners should start out slow with 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps. As you advance, you can increase the sets to around 3-4 and lower the reps to 8-10. You don’t have to do tons of sets and exercises in order to build the muscle in your biceps.

The biceps are used and exercised throughout the day by various activities that we undertake. It is also a very small muscle and short intense workouts preferably done only once per week is enough.

Excess workouts may overtrain the muscles and may result in a plateau where growth is halted. Remember the muscles need time to rest so that they can recover and grow.

Are Incline Dumbbell Curls Harder that Standard Curls?

Due to the position of your body, the incline dumbbell curl targets the long head of the biceps brachii muscle more than a traditional dumbbell curl.

And placing more tension on this part of your arm is what builds and sculpts your biceps peak.

Understanding the Biceps Muscles

The biceps are a muscle on the front part of the upper arm. The biceps includes a “short head” and a “long head” that work as a single muscle.

The biceps is attached to the arm bones by tough connective tissues called tendons. The tendons that connect the biceps muscle to the shoulder joint in two places are called the proximal biceps tendons. The tendon that attaches the biceps muscle to the forearm bones (radius and ulna) is called the distal biceps tendon. When the biceps contracts, it pulls the forearm up and rotates it outward.

Incline Dumbbell Curl

Want to expand your knowledge? Check out these Dumbbell Front Raise or Dumbbell Fly Articles.

Improve your body and skills with the DB Lateral Raise, Incline DB Press and DB Pullover.

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