How to Do a Standing Dumbbell Curl

The standing dumbbell curl is an exercise that trainers love to hate, but secretly love. The reason: It’s an isolation exercise — targeting just one muscle group instead of several, like a compound exercise — and it’s often associated with muscle heads and excessive body English.

But when it comes to building sleeve-busting biceps, the standing dumbbell curl simply can’t be beat — if you do it correctly. The key is to keep movement to a minimum; once you begin your set, the only parts of your body that should move are your lower arms. Follow along with Jabari in the video below as he demonstrates perfect form.

Muscles worked: Biceps.

How to do it: Grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang at arm’s length by your thighs, palms facing forward. Keeping your elbows tucked and your upper arms locked in place, curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can. Pause, and then slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.

Make it easier: Use lighter weights, or perform an alternating dumbbell curl, lifting one dumbbell at a time.

Make it harder: Grab heavier weights, or do a dumbbell single-arm isometric curl. Assume the same starting position as the standing dumbbell curl, and curl the weight in your left hand until your elbow is bent 90 degrees. Hold that position as you perform reps with your right arm. Once you complete all of your reps with your right arm, hold it at a 90-degree angle, and perform an equal number of reps with your left arm.

Bonus tips: Don’t use momentum. If you need to rock forward and backward (i.e., use your body as a pendulum) to curl the dumbbells, they’re too heavy. Grab lighter ones. Also, pay attention to your elbows; if they drift up as you lift the weights, you’re shifting some of the work to your anterior deltoids (i.e., front shoulder muscles). Keep your upper arms planted by your sides to keep the focus on your biceps.