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How To Do Concentration Curls


From the Hammer Curl to the Bicep Curl machine, there are all kinds of curls, but few exercises are as recognizable as the classic Concentration Curl.

Here’s the thing though:

Guys, it’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of Concentration Curls. But do you know what I really don’t like?

When I see people doing Dumbbell Concentration Curls the wrong way.

They aren’t my favorite but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a part of an effective workout routine… so long as you’re doing them with perfect form.

If you love doing Concentration Curls, I want to make sure you’re avoiding common mistakes and doing them the right way for maximum gains.

Here’s a complete breakdown of how to do the Standard Concentration Curl along with more effective Concentration Curl alternatives.

biceps muscle anatomy


As always, I want to break down the anatomy of the primary muscle before jumping into how to do the exercise.

The better you understand how the muscle functions, the stronger your mind-to-muscle connection.

And the stronger your mind-muscle connection, the better your results, especially if your goal is building strength and size.

Let’s get to it with the anatomy of the biceps brachii muscle.

Everything you need to know about the bicep muscle is in the name. It’s called the BI-ceps because the muscle has two heads: the long head and the short head.


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long head of biceps

The biceps long head starts up near your shoulder blade, at a point on a bone called the scapula. From there, it runs down the inside of your upper arm.

The long head of the biceps is important for keeping your shoulder stable, and it helps out with several arm movements including bending your elbow, turning your palm up, and lifting your arm in front of you.

Even though there’s no one exercise that only works the long part of your biceps, there are many exercises that focus on this muscle.


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short head of biceps

Next up, we have the short head of the biceps. It starts from a small hook-like part on your shoulder blade, called the coracoid process.

The short head joins with another part, the long head, to form what you refer to as the biceps muscles. This muscle then attaches to a bone in your forearm, the radius.

Similar to the long head, the short head’s main function is to assist in active elbow flexion and forearm supination, which is the action of rotating your forearm muscle to position your palm upwards. Additionally, it plays a role in stabilizing your shoulder.


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brachalis muscle

Strictly speaking, the brachialis muscle isn’t considered part of the anatomical biceps muscle.

But it’s crucial in making your arm look aesthetically impressive, even if it isn’t technically part of the biceps.

When you work on the brachialis, your arms start to appear thicker from the front, when someone is looking at you dead-on.

In other words, focusing on the brachialis ensures a well-rounded set of arms, which is why I never leave it out when discussing arm workouts.



The Concentration Curl is not like your traditional Biceps Curls when you use a pair of dumbbells or a barbell.

So, what is the purpose of doing the Concentration Curl?

If you said that it’s to practice building connections, tapping into the right muscular recruitment pattern, and getting maximum muscle contraction of the biceps, you’re not alone.

In fact, most people would argue that the sole reason for doing this type of bicep curl is to isolate that feeling of the muscle contracting.

In other words, people want a better and more intense mind-to-muscle connection in the biceps muscle.

But the problem comes in the form of a few common mistakes that sacrifice excellent technique.

If you’re making one of the following Concentration Curl mistakes, the last thing you’ll get is the mind-body connection you’re chasing.


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How To Do Concentration Curls

Keeping your elbow in contact with the top of your leg is easily one of the most common mistakes that I see people making when performing the Concentration Curl.

You shouldn’t be keeping your elbow stationary on your thigh and then following it up with the standard curling motion. That’s because this creates a literal see-saw effect.

When the weight comes down, the positioning of your elbow brings the weight back up again, removing most of the muscle contraction that you’d normally get with a typical Biceps Curl.

Whatever weight you think you’re lifting with this form, you’re actually lifting a lot less because of that mechanical positioning.


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using elbow for leverage in concentration curls

Okay, so let’s say that you’re not making our first mistake.

You put your elbow joint right where it needs to go, against the thigh, and then you start curling.

Looks good, right?

The problem here is that now you’re taking that elbow and using it for leverage.

The elbow starts pushing into the thigh, and by pushing into the thigh, it’s giving me leverage to lift this weight.

Don’t believe this is happening? Take a look at your front delt as you do the Concentration Curl.

When you get to the hardest part in the range of motion during the curl, you’ll see your front deltoid activate. This is a clear sign that the biceps muscle isn’t doing what it should be.

Why does that happen?

Because when it’s most difficult – which is at the top of the exercise – then the delt has to kick in to help me push this up.

The delts are becoming active because I’m pushing my arm into an immoveable object – which is my leg – and that’s helping to get some leverage in the opposite direction.


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missing full range of motion in concentration curls

Finally, let’s say you know not to put the elbow on the top of your thigh or directly against the thigh, then what?

You’ll probably take your triceps and put it up against your thigh, right?

You finally figured out how to do the Concentration Curl with proper exercise technique! Not so fast.

Go back to what we said in the beginning. What is the purpose of the Concentration Curl?

You want to get a complete bicep contraction and to have the most tension in that contracted state. This means you really need to pay attention to the motion during basic Concentration Curls.

As you curl up with your triceps muscle against the thigh, you’ll get elbow flexion and supination here, but this is where the problem comes in.

The dumbbell is almost parallel with the downward force of gravity that’s acting on it. What does that mean?

That means if you go completely parallel, you could stay here for a very long period of time.

So even though I’m in a more contracted state of the biceps, I don’t have as much tension because the forces are parallel to each other.

So, what we want is to be in this fully contracted state, have gravity acting downward as much as possible on our perpendicular forearm.

We can do that by changing where we put our arm.

And that finally brings us to how to do the Concentration Curl the right way.



It’s not enough to avoid the training mistakes I mentioned above. You also want to learn how to properly perform the Dumbbell Concentration Curl.

But before we talk about how to do that, let’s talk about the repetition number.

First, you want to focus on controlled repetitions. That means getting the most out of the necessary time under tension.

Second, think about your goal. If you want to increase the size and maximum strength of your biceps, use a heavier weight, and aim for 8-12 reps. If your goal is muscle endurance and conditioning training, go for 15-20 repetitions with lighter weights.

Here’s how to do the basic Bicep Concentration Curl the right way:


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concentration curls

HOW TO DO IT:  The basic concentration curl stance starts with a half-bent seated position. Set up on a flat bench and grab a dumbbell with a supinated grip. With your feet flat on the floor, take your arm and place it deep inside your thigh toward your groin area. The important part of the exercise is how you curl during the concentric part of the exercise. Lean forward and curl toward the outside of your arm, similar to Outer Dumbbell Curls. Squeeze the biceps muscle and slowly return to the starting position. Keep this correct form for the entire curl. You can also perform these as Resistance Band Curls.

WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE:  When you perform the exercise with this lifting form, you’ll get complete elbow flexion and supination. You can really feel this thing a lot more because you’re minimizing the use of the front delt while focusing on the proper position of the dumbbell for maximum intensity.


Now, let’s go to the people that might be saying, “Jeff, I remember you said you didn’t like the Concertation Curl – That it wasn’t the best thing to do.”

You’re right. As a personal trainer, I’m not the biggest fan of this exercise and there are two main reasons for that.

The first reason is that I like more athletic technique exercises – ones that involve us using more energy and being on our feet in a standing position.

Second, and more importantly, if you’re going to go for complete contraction of the biceps, where is the flexion of the shoulder?

We know by virtue of the connection of the longhead of the biceps, past the shoulder joint, to the upper portion of our glenohumeral joint, we have room for shoulder flexion here.

Whether you do it with the cable machine or resistance bands, I have better curl variations you can do – ones you’ll get more benefits from.

It has to be part of the complete contraction. So, what does that mean for you?

It means you should have your arms up to ensure a complete biceps contraction.

If you’re sitting down, you’re not getting that.

Whether you do it with the cable machine or resistance bands, I have better curl variations you can do – ones you’ll get more benefits from.

For example, the potential for muscle growth is much higher with these exercises.

Both bicep Concentration Curl exercises get your arms up in this position, allowing for the necessary supination and elbow flexion.

In other words, I’d recommend doing these biceps isolation exercises instead for optimal biceps recruitment. Give these two variations of concentration curls a try:


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standing cable concentration curls

HOW TO DO IT:  The first of my effective isolation exercises takes your basic curl to the next level as a standing curl. Start with a grip orientation that is supinated, holding on to two cable machine handles. Take a few steps back, letting your arms extend in front of you. Curl your arms simultaneously, moving the handles past your head. Focus on the contraction in the biceps muscle the entire time and slowly release back to the starting position.

WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE:  As I already mentioned above about the key benefits, by bringing your arms up, you get all three of the necessary components of a complete biceps muscle contraction: elbow flexion, supination, and shoulder flexion. This is one of my favorites in terms of an alternative to Concentration Curls.


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walking concentration curls

HOW TO DO IT:  The second biceps isolation exercise takes the same starting form as above. Once you get to the top of the movement, stop, and hold the handles in place. Take a step back with each foot, then take a step forward. From there, release the cable handles to the starting position.

WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE:  The extra effort here is going to go a long way. This exercise is so effective because it taps into the entire posterior chain since that’s the one thing holding you up at the top of the movement.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: there are better options than the Concentration Curl, guys.

But if you really want to use these bicep curls, I just ask that you make sure you’re doing the exercise right with a focus on quality repetitions.

Be sure to also mix it up with other bicep curl exercises like Standing Cable Concentration Curls.

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  1. A proper understanding of the anatomy of the biceps brachii muscle can enhance the mind-to-muscle connection and improve results.
  2. The biceps muscle has two heads: the long head and the short head. Both assist in elbow flexion, forearm supination, and shoulder stabilization.
  3. The brachialis, while not part of the anatomical biceps, contributes significantly to the appearance of the arm and is crucial for arm workouts.
  4. The biggest Concentration Curl mistakes include resting the elbow on the knee, using the elbow for leverage, and not achieving a full range of motion.
  5. Proper execution of the Concentration Curl involves grabbing a dumbbell, placing your arm deep inside your thigh towards your groin area, leaning forward, curling toward the outside of your arm, and slowly returning to the starting position.
  6. For better Concentration Curl variations, consider performing Standing Cable Concentration Curls and Walking Concentration Curls. These concentration curl alternatives involve elbow flexion, supination, and shoulder flexion, ensuring a full range of motion and intense contraction of the muscle.


Begin by picking up a dumbbell. Position your arm so that it is nestled deeply into your thigh, close to the groin region. The key aspect of this exercise lies in your curling technique during the concentric phase. Bend forward and curl the dumbbell towards the outer side of your arm. Contract your biceps firmly, then gradually revert back to the starting position.

Concentration Curls achieve muscle activation in the two heads – short head and long head – of the biceps brachii muscle.

They also work by assisting brachialis and brachioradialis muscles, which are located in the upper and lower arm.

Take a look at your arm, specifically the belly of your biceps muscle. This is the biceps brachii muscle.

It has two heads: the long head and the short head, hence why it’s called the BI-ceps. These are the two muscle heads that are primarily worked during Concentration Curls.

When done with correct form, Concentration Curls can be a helpful part of a complete and well-rounded arm workout.

With that said, I prefer other bicep exercises such as the Standing Cable Concentration Curls and the Walking Cable Concentration Curls. These exercises will help create muscle hypertrophy to spur bicep muscle growth. They can also help you build muscular strength in the biceps

Concentration Curls are a type of exercise specifically designed to target the biceps brachii muscle in your upper arms. They're performed using a dumbbell and an exercise bench or chair.

Holding the dumbbell, put your arm in against your leg, close to where your leg meets your body. Lean forward a bit, then lift and twist the weight towards the outside of your arm. Give your biceps a good squeeze, and then slowly lower the weight back down to where you started.

One of the most easily recognized bicep muscle exercises, the Concentration Curl is an isolation movement that specifically targets both heads of the biceps.

To perform the Concentration Curl, sit on a weight bench and hold a dumbbell, letting your arm hang down. Place your arm snugly against your leg, right where your leg and body connect (groin area). Then, lean slightly forward and lift the weight while turning it towards the outer side of your arm.

Make sure to really flex your biceps, and then carefully lower the weight back down to the starting point. Using excellent form is crucial to derive any benefit from this exercise.

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Jeff Cavaliere Headshot

Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS

Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.

Read more about Jeff Cavaliere by clicking here

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