10 Best Dumbbell Biceps Exercises (Muscle-Building Routine)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 8, 2024
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As a fitness coach, I’ve worked with countless clients wanting to build bigger and stronger biceps.

Since this is such a common goal, after conducting thorough research and observing my clients’ progress for years, I’ve decided to compile a list of the best dumbbell bicep exercises that can help achieve those bulging biceps my clients desire.

Let’s explore how you can improve your dumbbell biceps workout.

Quick Summary

  • The best dumbbell bicep workout includes a supinated biceps curl, hammer curl, Zottman curl, spider curl, and incline curl.
  • The biceps muscles consist of two heads, the long head and the short head, which attach at the shoulder and elbow, respectively.
  • According to a study from Peer J, bicep isolation applies a specific stimulus to the biceps, leading to greater gains in muscle size, strength, and definition.
  • To isolate the long head of the bicep, we recommend performing exercises that involve shoulder and upper body extension; to isolate the short bicep head, perform exercises that involve shoulder flexion.

10 Best Dumbbell Biceps Exercises for Quick Arm Growth

A man performing best dumbbell biceps exercises

Based on years of training, here are my top picks for your next biceps workout.

1. Dumbbell Hammer Curl

The hammer curls are an effective strength training component of dumbbell biceps workout that targets the biceps brachii and brachioradialis muscles of the arms.

According to a study on PubMed, this exercise improves grip strength and increases upper body definition [1].

To perform the dumbbell hammer curl:

  1. Stand tall with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your core engaged.
  2. Hold a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip (palms facing inwards) and by your sides.
  3. Keeping your elbows close to your torso, slowly lift the weights towards your shoulders.
  4. Pause for a moment at the top, squeezing your biceps muscles.
  5. Slowly lower the weights back down.

Also Read: Best Hammer Curl Variations

2. Incline Dumbbell Curl

This is a resistance biceps exercise performed using an incline bench, which places the arms and shoulders in a stretched position and increases their range of motion.

Here’s how to perform it:

  1. Set up an incline bench at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit on the bench with your back resting against the incline.
  3. Let your arms hang straight down with the dumbbells in your hands, palms facing forward.
  4. Curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your sides.
  5. Hold the peak contraction for a second, then slowly lower the weights back down.

3. Supinated Biceps Curl

Performing supinated bicep curls

Supinated biceps curls are a variation of the traditional biceps curl exercise.

It’s performed holding the dumbbells with an underhand grip, which places the palms facing up and elbows close to the sides.

To perform the supinated biceps curl:

  1. Stand with your feet around shoulder-width apart, and hold a dumbbell in each hand with an underhand grip, palms facing up.
  2. Keep your elbows close to your sides, and your shoulders relaxed.
  3. Slowly curl the dumbbells towards your shoulders, squeezing your biceps at the top of the movement.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back down to starting position.

Also Read: Best Bicep Peak Exercises

4. Dumbbell Drag Curl

The dumbbell drag curl is a variation of the traditional bicep curl that primarily targets the brachialis and biceps muscles.

It’s an excellent exercise for building upper arm mass and strength.

To perform it, follow these steps:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Curl the weights up towards your shoulders while keeping your elbows close to your body and your palms facing up.
  3. Once the dumbbells reach your shoulders, drag them back toward your body while keeping your elbows stationary.
  4. Lower the weights back down to the starting position.

5. Spider Curl

Spider curls on an incline bench

The spider curl is a bicep curl variation performed on an inclined bench to isolate the short head of the biceps brachii.

The exercise involves curling the dumbbells towards your forehead while keeping your arms against the bench.

To perform the spider curl, follow these steps:

  1. Lie face down on an incline bench with your chest against the pad and arms extended straight down, holding dumbbells.
  2. Curl the dumbbells towards your forehead while keeping your elbows pinned to the bench.
  3. Hold the contraction for a second and slowly lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position.

Also Read: How to Do Spider Curls Properly

6. Concentration Curl

The concentration curl isolates the long head of the biceps muscles.

It’s performed with a dumbbell while sitting on a bench, with the elbow of the working arm resting against the inside of the corresponding thigh.

To perform a concentration curl:

  1. Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the floor and your knees slightly apart.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and place your right elbow against the inside of your right thigh.
  3. Fully extend your arm and let the weight hang down.
  4. Slowly curl the weight up towards your shoulder, keeping your elbow stationary and squeezing your bicep at the top.
  5. Lower the weight back down to the starting position.

7. Zottman Curl

Doing Zottman curl using biceps

The exercise is performed with dumbbells and involves a combination of both regular and reverse curls.

It’s named after the 19th-century strongman George Zottman.

To perform the exercise:

  1. Stand with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Perform a regular biceps curl, bringing the dumbbells up towards your shoulders.
  3. At the top of the curl, rotate your wrists so that your palms are now facing down.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position with your palms facing down.
  5. At the bottom of the curl, rotate your wrists again so that your palms are now facing up.

8. Reverse Biceps Curl

Reverse biceps curls work the brachioradialis muscle of the forearm and the biceps muscle of the upper arm.

I've found it to be an effective exercise for building grip and forearm strength, as well as improving bicep development.

To perform this exercise:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. With your palms facing down, raise the dumbbells towards your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  3. Pause briefly at the top of the movement and then lower the weights back down to the starting position.

9. Cross Body Curl

Cross body curl using dumbbell

The cross-body curl is a bicep exercise that works the long head of the muscle.

This exercise helps to increase bicep size and strength while also improving forearm and grip strength.

To perform the cross-body curl:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Start with arms at your sides and palms facing inwards towards your thighs.
  3. Curl the weight in your right hand across your body towards your left shoulder, twisting your wrist as you lift the weight.
  4. Pause and squeeze your bicep at the top of the movement.
  5. Lower the weight back down to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

10. Preacher Curl

The preacher biceps curl isolates the biceps and reduces the involvement of other muscle groups.

This exercise is great for building bicep size and strength and can improve grip strength.

Here’s how to perform preacher curls:

  1. Adjust the seat and the bar holder of the preacher bench so that your armpits are just above the top of the pad.
  2. Sit down on the bench and position your upper arms fully extended on the pad.
  3. Grasp the barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing up) and lift it off the bar holder.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell down until your arms are fully extended.
  5. Curl the barbell up towards your chest, keeping your elbows tucked in and your upper arms stationary.
  6. Hold the peak contraction for a second, then slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position.

Note: Use a light dumbbell when starting out with preacher curls. It’s easy to get a bicep tear from using heavy ones.

Structure and Function of the Muscle

A woman doing two dumbbells for bicep muscles

The biceps brachii is located in the upper arm and connects the shoulder and elbow joints.

It originates from the shoulder blade and inserts on the upper arm bone to flex the elbow and supinate the forearm [2].

The muscle is surrounded by a fibrous sheath and receives its blood supply from the brachial artery.

Why Is Bicep Muscle Isolation Important in a Workout?

Close up image of bicep muscle isolation using dumbbell

Bicep muscle isolation is important in a workout because it allows for targeted and focused training of the biceps.

It applies a specific stimulus to the biceps, leading to greater gains in muscle size, strength, and definition, according to a study from Peer J [3].

“Weight training is the best way to increase biceps mass lost due to aging and keep the muscle you have, and it's never too late to begin.”

- Vijay Daryanani, Personal Trainer

Isolation exercises like bicep curls also correct muscle imbalances and improve functional strength in everyday movements involving the arms.

How To Isolate the Short and Long Heads of the Bicep?

Holding two dumbbells in front of chest

To isolate the short and long heads of the bicep, perform specific exercises that work different fibers.

To isolate the biceps’ short head, practice exercises that involve elbow flexion with palms facing up, such as dumbbell hammer curls, concentration curls, preacher curls, and cable curls using a rope attachment.

For long head isolation, perform biceps dumbbell exercises that require shoulder flexion with arms facing down.

Examples include incline dumbbell curls, spider curls, and Zottman curls.

Tips To Maximize Your Workout

Muscular person holding two dumbbells

A holistic approach to dumbbell biceps workout goes beyond just performing the exercises.

Follow the following tips to maximize your workout:

  • Use progressive overload by gradually increasing weight, reps, or sets.
  • Vary your grip and hand positioning to engage different areas of the biceps.
  • Don't neglect your triceps and forearms, as they play a role in arm size and strength.
  • Allow for adequate recovery time between workouts.
  • Protein powders can supplement your biceps dumbbell workout by providing nutrients for post-workout recovery.

Periodization in Bicep Training

Periodization is a systematic approach to training that involves varying exercise intensity, volume, and types over specific periods. This method played a major role in my bicep training for continuous muscle growth and strength gains.

Based on my years of experience, here are the best ways to do it:

  • Macro, meso, and microcycles: Break your training into larger macrocycles (several months to a year), mesocycles (several weeks to a few months), and microcycles (a week). Each cycle focuses on different training aspects — from building muscle mass to enhancing muscle definition.
  • Phases of training: Start with a hypertrophy phase focusing on moderate weights and higher reps. Progress to a strength phase with heavier weights and fewer reps. Include a power phase with explosive movements and, finally, a recovery or deloading phase to allow muscles to recover and grow.

Role of Eccentric Movement in Bicep Development

Eccentric, or negative, movements in bicep exercises are when the muscle lengthens under tension. This phase is crucial for muscle hypertrophy and strength [4].

Here’s how you can train your eccentric movement with bicep exercises:

  • Eccentric overload: Incorporate exercises that emphasize the lowering phase, like the eccentric bicep curl. Lift the dumbbell with both hands but lower it slowly using one hand. This overload causes micro-tears in the muscle fibers, leading to greater muscle repair and growth.
  • Time Under Tension: Increase the time under tension by extending the eccentric phase to 3–4 seconds. This increased tension stimulates muscle hypertrophy more effectively than concentric (lifting) movements alone.

In my experience, eccentric training doesn’t simply increase muscle growth; it also increases tendon strength and improves overall joint stability, reducing the risk of bicep and elbow injuries.


What Is the Fastest Way To Build Biceps With Dumbbells?

The fastest way to build biceps with dumbbells is to do an isolation bicep workout with exercises like biceps curl, concentration curl, and hammer curl.

Do Dumbbells Increase Arm Size?

Yes, dumbbells increase arm size when used in a progressive overload strength training program that targets the biceps and triceps muscles.


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24150552/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519538/
  3. https://peerj.com/articles/5165/
  4. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-022-05035-w
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Connor Sellers holds a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Rutgers University He is an author and personal trainer with the mission to inspire people to relentlessly pursue their fitness and lifestyle goals. He mantra is that staying fit has an overall positive effect on one’s body, mind, and spirit.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
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Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
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