Movement

Good Form: The Perfect Bicep Curl

Last updated: January 13, 2021

By Nike Training

Nike Master Trainer Flor Beckmann explains why biceps curls will boost all of your arm workouts, and how to get maximum results.

Two tickets to the gun show, anyone? Take note as Flor Beckmann shows you how to control your body—and use careful form—for the perfect biceps curl. One of the few exercises that shows instant results.

What you see is what you get with bicep curls: bigger, more well-developed biceps. It's one of the only exercises that provides instant gratification; your muscles look and feel like they're getting bigger with every rep. That's because isolation exercises like this hone in on a particular muscle, drawing blood to it. This causes the cells to swell and the surrounding skin to feel tight, AKA a "pump". Even though the pump is a short-term effect, it does contribute to long-term growth. Nike Master Trainer Flor Beckmann is here with the bicep curl benefits and know-how.

Muscles You'll Work

As the name suggests, your biceps—the two-headed muscle that runs along the front of your upper arm—are the star of the show here. They include the biceps brachii, a long and short head that help your shoulders and elbows lift loads. They're your arms' most prominent "show-off" muscles. Curls also activate the brachialis; the belly of the biceps, or medial head and the brachioradialis, which extends from your forearm to bend your elbow and rotate your forearm.

Even though curls directly stimulate your bis, your muscles work as a system—some in opposition—so the movement triggers a domino effect through the surrounding musculature. More specifically, when your biceps shorten during the concentric portion of the exercise (where you curl the weight), your triceps have to lengthen to support that contraction. The anterior deltoids (the rounded, outermost muscle of your shoulders) activate to create a strong, stable anchor point for the curl. And if you do the move correctly—that means not swinging your arms for momentum—you'll activate your core.

The Perfect Bicep Curl

Why You Should Be Doing a Bicep Curl

  1. Isolation exercises let you work a muscle to fatigue because you're loading just that particular body part on repeat. Bicep curls can stimulate the growth and definition of your biceps, making them a standout exercise if you want to boost form (read: aesthetics) and function.
  2. Because your biceps are major players in any exercise that involves pulling, curls can build the strength needed to make doing everything from pull-ups and rows to picking up a bag of shopping feel easier.
  3. Training your biceps also helps stabilise your shoulder joint and maintain proper elbow function, two crucial factors in high-momentum activities like throwing and swinging.

"Curls can build the strength needed to make doing everything from pull-ups and rows to picking up a bag of shopping feel easier"

Flor Beckmann, Nike Master Trainer

When to Do It

If you want to work your arms from every angle, do a push-pull workout that targets the front (anterior) and back (posterior) of your body. You can incorporate bicep curls with pulling exercises (for example, performing a set of curls immediately after a set of pull-ups, bent-over rows, tricep extensions or skull crushers). If you want to just target your biceps, burn them out with 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 15 reps at the end of a workout. And make sure whatever weight you choose is something you can barely do the final 2 reps of with good form.

How to Do a Bicep Curl

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, a soft bend in your knees, and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms by your sides. Pull your shoulders back and down, squeeze your abs and tuck your pelvis, to start.
  2. With your elbows close to your sides just in front of your ribcage, rotate your palms up as you curl the weights towards your shoulders. Fully contract your biceps at the top of the curl.
  3. Reverse the movement to return to the starting position. That's 1 rep.
  4. Repeat, making sure you don't swing or rock your body for momentum.
The Perfect Bicep Curl

"Make sure whatever weight you choose is something you can barely do the final 2 reps of with good form"

Flor Beckmann, Nike Master Trainer

Make It Easier

Slash the number of reps or use lighter weights. Or try a seated variation, like the concentration curl. With this exercise, you sit on a chair or bench with your elbow resting against your inner thigh and curl with just that arm for a full set. The stability you create from the leg-arm contact means your upper body doesn't have to work so hard to stay static.

Make It Harder

To focus on the isolation aspect of the curl and increase the demand on your core, kneel instead of standing or sitting. You could also use more weight or slow the speed of your curls, adding time under tension to increase muscle fibre recruitment: Raise the dumbbells for a count of 5, hold for 2, then lower for 5. Or do eccentric curls, where you take twice as long to lower the dumbbell, AKA the negative phase of the lift.

Train With Us

Tap into the ultimate training resource with the Nike Training Club App. With expertly designed workouts and holistic tips on nutrition, mindset, recovery and sleep, NTC has everything you need to perform your best.

The Perfect Bicep Curl

Join Nike Training Club

Access our world-class experts and trainers for help staying active and healthy.

By Nike Training

Nike Master Trainer Flor Beckmann explains why biceps curls will boost all of your arm workouts, and how to get maximum results.

Two tickets to the gun show, anyone? Take note as Flor Beckmann shows you how to control your body—and use careful form—for the perfect biceps curl. One of the few exercises that shows instant results.

What you see is what you get with bicep curls: bigger, more well-developed biceps. It's one of the only exercises that provides instant gratification; your muscles look and feel like they're getting bigger with every rep. That's because isolation exercises like this hone in on a particular muscle, drawing blood to it. This causes the cells to swell and the surrounding skin to feel tight, AKA a "pump". Even though the pump is a short-term effect, it does contribute to long-term growth. Nike Master Trainer Flor Beckmann is here with the bicep curl benefits and know-how.

Muscles You'll Work

As the name suggests, your biceps—the two-headed muscle that runs along the front of your upper arm—are the star of the show here. They include the biceps brachii, a long and short head that help your shoulders and elbows lift loads. They're your arms' most prominent "show-off" muscles. Curls also activate the brachialis; the belly of the biceps, or medial head and the brachioradialis, which extends from your forearm to bend your elbow and rotate your forearm.

Even though curls directly stimulate your bis, your muscles work as a system—some in opposition—so the movement triggers a domino effect through the surrounding musculature. More specifically, when your biceps shorten during the concentric portion of the exercise (where you curl the weight), your triceps have to lengthen to support that contraction. The anterior deltoids (the rounded, outermost muscle of your shoulders) activate to create a strong, stable anchor point for the curl. And if you do the move correctly—that means not swinging your arms for momentum—you'll activate your core.

The Perfect Bicep Curl

Why You Should Be Doing a Bicep Curl

  1. Isolation exercises let you work a muscle to fatigue because you're loading just that particular body part on repeat. Bicep curls can stimulate the growth and definition of your biceps, making them a standout exercise if you want to boost form (read: aesthetics) and function.
  2. Because your biceps are major players in any exercise that involves pulling, curls can build the strength needed to make doing everything from pull-ups and rows to picking up a bag of shopping feel easier.
  3. Training your biceps also helps stabilise your shoulder joint and maintain proper elbow function, two crucial factors in high-momentum activities like throwing and swinging.

"Curls can build the strength needed to make doing everything from pull-ups and rows to picking up a bag of shopping feel easier"

Flor Beckmann, Nike Master Trainer

When to Do It

If you want to work your arms from every angle, do a push-pull workout that targets the front (anterior) and back (posterior) of your body. You can incorporate bicep curls with pulling exercises (for example, performing a set of curls immediately after a set of pull-ups, bent-over rows, tricep extensions or skull crushers). If you want to just target your biceps, burn them out with 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 15 reps at the end of a workout. And make sure whatever weight you choose is something you can barely do the final 2 reps of with good form.

How to Do a Bicep Curl

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, a soft bend in your knees, and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms by your sides. Pull your shoulders back and down, squeeze your abs and tuck your pelvis, to start.
  2. With your elbows close to your sides just in front of your ribcage, rotate your palms up as you curl the weights towards your shoulders. Fully contract your biceps at the top of the curl.
  3. Reverse the movement to return to the starting position. That's 1 rep.
  4. Repeat, making sure you don't swing or rock your body for momentum.
The Perfect Bicep Curl

"Make sure whatever weight you choose is something you can barely do the final 2 reps of with good form"

Flor Beckmann, Nike Master Trainer

Make It Easier

Slash the number of reps or use lighter weights. Or try a seated variation, like the concentration curl. With this exercise, you sit on a chair or bench with your elbow resting against your inner thigh and curl with just that arm for a full set. The stability you create from the leg-arm contact means your upper body doesn't have to work so hard to stay static.

Make It Harder

To focus on the isolation aspect of the curl and increase the demand on your core, kneel instead of standing or sitting. You could also use more weight or slow the speed of your curls, adding time under tension to increase muscle fibre recruitment: Raise the dumbbells for a count of 5, hold for 2, then lower for 5. Or do eccentric curls, where you take twice as long to lower the dumbbell, AKA the negative phase of the lift.

Train With Us

Tap into the ultimate training resource with the Nike Training Club App. With expertly designed workouts and holistic tips on nutrition, mindset, recovery and sleep, NTC has everything you need to perform your best.

The Perfect Bicep Curl

Join Nike Training Club

Access our world-class experts and trainers for help staying active and healthy.