Dumbbell curls are some of the most basic strength-training exercises you can learn. If you’re ready to mix up your routine and work different arm muscles, you might consider adding incline dumbbell curls to your workout.

While both exercises use similar motions, incline curls are performed with the help of a bench, and they target the large biceps brachii muscle.

To do this exercise, you’ll need two items: a set of dumbbells and a workout bench.

Choose a set of weights that’s challenging but doable for your fitness level. You can also go up or down in weight as needed.

Before you get started, adjust the bench so that it’s at a 45-degree angle, or up to 60 degrees as needed.

To do an incline dumbbell curl:

  1. Sit down against the workout bench, keeping your back straight and your abdominal muscles tight. Your weights should be at your sides to start, one in each hand.
  2. When you’ve gotten the starting position down, lift each dumbbell, palms up, toward your shoulders. It’s important to keep your upper arms tight so that you can isolate the biceps brachii muscle as you move your lower arms only.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to your starting position. Don’t release the weights too fast or you could strain your muscles. This should be a controlled movement.
  4. Repeat the movement up to 15 times for 3 sets.

Watch a video of the incline dumbbell curl in action.

Dumbbells are most commonly used for this type of exercise. You may also be able to use barbell free weights, also called adjustable dumbbells, but be careful not to hit your upper arms as you curl up.

Another option is to use kettlebells. Make sure the weights are on the outside of your hands so that you’re curling up the handles toward your shoulders and not the entire kettle bell.

If you’re looking for more resistance than weight during this exercise, challenge yourself by using resistance bands. Hold the band down to start, with one side in each hand. Alternate bicep curls as you hold the opposite side of the band down by your lap.

You can start with as little as five pounds and work your way up in increments as you get stronger.

Weights too light

You’ll know the dumbbells are too light if you start moving them too quickly and if you’re not feeling your biceps working.

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Weights too heavy

On the flip side, not being able to lift your weights without compensating could indicate your weight is too heavy.

Remember that the key is to isolate your biceps. If you’re having to use your upper arms to lift the weights, or if you find yourself leaning into the curl, you’re not getting the most out of this exercise.

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You can mix up your incline dumbbell curl routine by doing standing curls or sitting on a stability ball for an extra core workout.

Bicep curls also aren’t the only strength-training movement for your arms. Consider mixing up your routine with other upper-body circuits, such as:

Be sure to rest a day or two between arm circuits so you don’t injure any muscles. Overall, aim for two to three strength-training sessions that include incline dumbbell curls per week.

In addition, try to get 30 minutes of cardio on most days of the week. Cardio can complement any arm work or weight training that you’re doing.

Incline dumbbell curls target your biceps brachii, which is the biggest muscle in the biceps region.

As you curl up, you’re putting resistance on the biceps brachii, which in turn engages and tightens, a process called a concentric contraction. As you slowly release the weights back down, you create an eccentric contraction, which elongates the muscle fibers in the biceps.

Collectively, concentric and eccentric contractions work together to build muscle strength.

As you do more incline dumbbell curls, you’ll begin to see noticeable definition in your biceps.

When it comes to gaining maximum definition in your biceps, incline dumbbell curls are preferable over traditional curls. Still, you should incorporate both movements into your exercise routine so that you gain better overall definition.

Doing the same exercise every day will tire out your muscles, you won’t see as much definition, and you could risk plateauing. Plus, you could also put yourself at risk for injury.

A trainer is your best source for information on which bicep exercises to perform to meet your fitness goals. You can also consult a healthcare professional or physical therapist to ensure that these types of strength-training exercises are safe for you.