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Incline Dumbbell Curl: Videos & Variations | OriGym

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Want to know how to perform an incline dumbbell curl? You’re in the right place!

Below we have included an exercise guide and video tutorial for incline dumbbell curls (also known as an incline bicep curl) and two brilliant variations that you need to try.

We’ve also explained the muscles worked by each of these exercises, and we’ve added in some tips for keeping your form so that you can avoid the common mistakes that most people make when first doing this exercise.

Basically, whatever you want to know how to do an incline bench dumbbell curl, we have got you covered.

But first, why not take the first step towards having a career that you truly care about by enquiring about our accredited personal training courses now.

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How To Do An Incline Dumbbell Curl

Watch this incline dumbbell curl video tutorial from our OriGym trainers and then stick with us to read about the muscles worked and other benefits of this exercise.

Set Up: To do this exercise you will need two dumbbells and a workout bench. This bench should be adjusted so that it makes an angle from 45-degree to up to 60 degrees, as required. 

Starting Position:

  • Hold a dumbbell in each of your hands and sit down on the adjusted workout bench. 
  • Your back should be flat against the bench, with your abdominal muscles tight (this will help to keep your back straight). 
  • Keep your hands at your sides and your elbows close to your upper body.
  • Hold the dumbbells with a supinated grip so that your palms are facing forwards.

Execution: 

  • Start the movement by curling the dumbbells towards your shoulders. 
  • As you do this, your elbows should remain in a fixed position so that your biceps are doing all of the work.
  • Curl the weight until your biceps are completely contracted and the dumbbells reach shoulder level. 
  • Hold this position for a second, keeping your muscles tight by engaging your biceps.
  • Now, breathe in and slowly return the dumbbells back to the starting position. 
  • Again, your elbows should stay in the same position, only using your biceps to drive the movement.
  • Repeat for your desired amount of reps.

Unsure how many reps of seated incline dumbbell curls you should do? We’ve covered how many reps you should do depending on your exercise goals very soon!

 

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Incline Dumbbell Curl Muscles Worked

Incline dumbbell curls are a brilliant isolation exercise that really work the biceps, specifically the biceps brachii, hence why this exercise is often referred to as a seated incline bicep curl.

The biceps brachii is the biggest muscle in your bicep and building this specific muscle is a great way of defining that well-desired peak of the biceps.

Looking for more great bicep exercises? Learn how to do concentration curls here.

How Many Reps & Sets Should You Do For Incline Dumbbell Curls?

incline bench dumbbell curl graphic

Before we cover the common mistakes to look out for with this exercise and the benefits of doing it, let's quickly cover how many reps and sets you should do.

The number of sets and reps that you should do for the incline bench dumbbell curl completely depends on your individual exercise goals, specifically, whether you want to build strength, increase muscle size (hypertrophy), or work on your muscular endurance.

To gain muscular strength, you should do 5 reps for 5 sets, using a relatively heavy pair of dumbbells.

For hypertrophy, grab a slightly lighter set of weights and perform 8-12 reps for 4 sets.

To build muscular endurance, use a lighter pair of dumbbells and do 18-20 reps for 2 to 3 sets.

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Mistakes To Avoid With Incline Dumbbell Curls

Now that you know how to do this exercise and how many reps & sets you should do, here are some mistakes to look out for so that you can perform the incline seated bicep curl perfectly. 

Stick with us to read out the benefits of this exercise, and then check out our favourite press up variations to complete your upper body workout.

Using Too Much Weight

incline dumbbell curl benefits image

You probably don’t need us to tell you that the more weight you use during strength-training, the harder your muscles will have to work and in theory, the more they will develop.

But using too much weight is not always a good thing, especially with exercises that isolate specific muscles as well as the dumbbell incline curl.

Because this exercise is so effective at focusing on the biceps, overdoing it by grabbing a heavy set of dumbbells really isn’t the best idea.

Instead of working your muscles harder, using too much weight will most likely cause you to lose your form to compensate, either by moving your elbows or swinging your arms to curl the weight.

Using momentum to drive the exercise makes the incline dumbbell curl much easier but also much less effective because a lot of the stress is taken off the biceps.

Not only that, moving your elbows or swinging the weight can really strain your joints, potentially causing a nasty injury that could leave you out of the training game for a while.

Once we're done here, we think you'll love this exercise! Check out our full guide to performing reverse grip barbell curls.

Rushing Your Workout

Seated incline bicep curl benefit

Another common mistake that we see a lot of people make when performing seated incline dumbbell curls is rushing through the repetitions. 

You might think that rushing through each exercise so that you can get more into your workout will get you closer to your exercise goals faster but rushing can actually have more of a negative impact than a good one.

Trying to get through your set as fast as you can is actually counterproductive because you can compromise the effectiveness of the exercise.

If you really want to see the benefits of dumbbell incline curls (which we’re about to discuss very soon), perform this exercise with a controlled movement and concentrate on keeping the tension in your biceps.

Ignoring Mind Muscle Connection

Incline dumbbell curl muscles worked image

When performing incline bicep curls, a lot of people underestimate just how effective focusing on and thinking about using specific muscles is. 

In this case, focusing on using your biceps does actually help you to keep the correct form and ensures that the benefits for your biceps are as significant as possible.

Don’t believe us? Here’s what Calatayud et al (2015) found when they studied the effectiveness of mind-muscle connection during resistance training: 

“Resistance-trained individuals can increase triceps brachii or pectoralis major muscle activity during the bench press when focusing on using the specific muscle at intensities up to 60 % of 1RM. A threshold between 60 and 80 % appeared to exist.”

Dumbbell Incline Curl: The Benefits

Now that you know what to look out for in terms of the common mistakes people make with incline dumbbell curls, let’s move onto the benefits of this exercise.

Find out why you need to add this exercise into your upper body workout and stick with us to find out how to do our favourite dumbbell incline curl variations very soon!

Isolation Exercise

Incline bench bicep curl graphic

The seated incline dumbbell curl is one of the best isolation exercises for your biceps, hence its often referred to as an incline dumbbell biceps curl.

Whereas compound exercises like the clean and press recruit multiple different muscles, isolation exercises are a brilliant way to target one specific muscle or muscle group in particular. 

If your exercise goals are based around developing your upper arms or biceps specifically, you’ll see a lot more progress by adding the incline dumbbell biceps curl into your routine than you would with a compound exercise.

By isolating your biceps, this exercise also helps in stabilising the joints around both your shoulders and your elbows, which will aid you to enhance your general health and protect these joints from injury.

Greater Range Of Motion

Outside of the muscles worked by incline seated dumbbell curls, here are some other ways that you will benefit from adding this exercise into your upper body workout!

The seated incline bicep curl is essentially a seated variation of a bicep curl, but one benefit of favouring dumbbell incline curls is that it allows you to move your arm in a greater range of motion, allowing for a greater stretch.

This also makes it easier to stick to the right range of motion as using an incline bench for the bicep curl limits the likelihood that you will move your elbows or swing the weight, making the exercise more effective for working your biceps.

Build Bicep Strength & Definition

Seated dumbbell curl on incline bench benefits

The most significant benefit of this exercise is that it's a brilliant move for activating your biceps in isolation.

As we mentioned when we discussed the incline dumbbell curl muscles worked, this exercise is a great way of building definition in your arms. So if your exercise goals are aesthetic based, you won’t want to miss the move out of your upper body training.

Aesthetics aside, performing a seated incline bicep curl will also help you to build your upper body strength, helping you to get stronger arms especially.

Whether you want to get stronger to progress in the gym, or you’re keen to build functional strength, you will definitely see results with this exercise!

Once we’re done here, head over to our guide to getting bigger arms and give our ultimate workout plan a try. 

Two Incline Dumbbell Curl Variations You Need To Try

Now that you’ve mastered how to do a seated incline dumbbell curl, why not mix up your upper body workouts by giving one of these variations a try! 

After that, we have compiled a full list of brilliant kettlebell exercises for arms on our recent blog post.

How To Do A Flexor Incline Dumbbell Curl

Set Up: Grab a pair of dumbbells and set up an exercise bench to a 45-60 degree angle (the same as the original incline bicep curl angle above).

Starting Position: 

Flexor Incline Dumbbell Curls starting image

  • Sit on the exercise bench with your back flat against the bench.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand, using an overhand grip so that your palms are facing the sides of your body.
  • Place your feet flat on the floor and position them hip-width apart.

Execution:

Flexor Incline Dumbbell Curls execution image

  • Curl both of the dumbbells at the same time, moving them until your biceps are fully contracted.
  • When the dumbbells are just about in front of your shoulders, pause briefly.
  • Move the weights back down to the starting position, focusing on using your biceps to move the weight and keeping your elbows fixed still. 
  • That’s one rep done! 

Reps & Sets: The same rules for reps and sets that we discussed when we explained how to do seated incline dumbbell curls apply here too! 

Flexor Incline Dumbbell Curl Muscles Worked

Primary Mover: Biceps

Secondary Muscles: Forearms 

Common Mistakes With Flexor Incline Dumbbell Curls

Just as with regular incline bicep curls, there are a couple of common mistakes that you will want to avoid, here they are!

Engage Your Core

Seated incline dumbbell curl biceps benefits image

One mistake that we see all too often with this exercise, is people arching or rounding their back as they perform the curl part of the movement.

This is the incorrect form for a flexor incline dumbbell curl, and can actually cause you to develop an injury if you continue to perform the exercise in this way over an extended period of time.

Not only that, but making this mistake will also take a lot of the stress of the exercise from your biceps, compromising the benefits of this seated incline bicep curl variation!

To avoid making this mistake, you need to keep your back straight and flat against the exercise bench. The easiest way to do this is to double check that you are engaging your core muscles correctly.

Benefits Of Flexor Incline Dumbbell Curls

As well as all of the benefits of a dumbbell incline curl mentioned above, there are additional benefits of performing this flexor alternative to the incline dumbbell curl. 

Check them out below and then stick with us for how to do incline alternating dumbbell curls too!

Recruits Forearms

Seated incline dumbbell curls benefits image

One thing that differs between this variation and a regular seated incline dumbbell curl is that the flexor alternative also recruits the forearm muscles.

Flexor incline dumbbell curls are still a great exercise for building strength and definition in your biceps but instead of only isolating the biceps, they activate your forearms too. 

There aren’t many exercises that really work the forearm muscles so if you want to bulk up your arms, this exercise is definitely one to try.

Is one of your exercise goals to build stronger forearms? These are the 17 best forearm exercises to try. 

Improves Grip Strength 

common mistakes with Seated incline dumbbell curls image

One other benefit of this alternative to the incline dumbbell curl is that because it recruits your forearm muscles so effectively, it's also a brilliant exercise to improve your grip strength.

Working on your grip strength has great transferable benefits for your workouts, mainly because good grip strength allows you to lift heavier.

Here’s what a 2019 study by Haynes & DeBeliso had to say about this:

“Researchers have found significant relationships between handgrip strength (HGS) and performance amongst weightlifters, raw powerlifters, and gymnasts.“

“Schoffstall et al. (2010) found that HGS of raw powerlifters correlated significantly with their squat (r=0.95), bench press (r=0.98), deadlift (r=0.97), and total (r=0.97).”  

How To Do An Alternate Incline Dumbbell Curl

Set Up: To set up for the alternate incline dumbbell curl, set up in the same way as regular seated incline dumbbell curls, with two dumbbells and an exercise bench adjusted to a 45-60° angle. 

Starting Position:

Alternating incline dumbbell curl starting position image

  • Grab a dumbbell with each hand with a supinated grip so that your palms are facing forwards.
  • Brace your core muscles and sit on to the exercise bench so that your back is flat against the back of the bench.
  • Hold your hands by your sides and keep your elbows tucked into the sides of your body.
  • Place your feet firmly on the floor about hip-width apart.

Execution: 

Alternating incline dumbbell curl execution image

  • Start the movement with your right arm, curling the dumbbell until it is just in front of your right shoulder.
  • Pause briefly and then move the weight back down to your side.
  • As soon as your right arm is returned to the starting position, start moving your left arm, curling the dumbbell up towards your left shoulder.
  • Repeat for your desired number of reps and sets.

Alternate Incline Dumbbell Curl Muscles Worked

This is another brilliant exercise to isolate the biceps brachii.

 

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Common Mistakes To Avoid

When performing an alternating incline dumbbell curl you should be looking to avoid all of the common mistakes that we discussed relevant to the dumbbell incline curls, as well as this additional mistake that we see a lot with this specific exercise. 

Keep Your Upper Body Still

One mistake specific to this alternative to the incline bicep curl is leaning your upper body to one side depending on which arm you are curling the dumbbell with.

If you find that you are moving your body from side to side as you alternate which arm you use to curl the weight, you are most likely overcompensating for the fact that you are using too much weight.

Doing this will make the exercise less effective and take away from its benefits for your biceps.

Truthfully, you will see more significant benefits by using a slightly lighter weight and doing the exercise with proper form than you would do using a heavy weight that you can’t curl without moving your upper body.

Benefits Of Incline Alternating Dumbbell Curls

Incline inner bicep curl image

Before we go, we thought we’d finish by discussing some incline dumbbell biceps curl benefits that are unique to this alternating arm variation.

Once we’re done here, why not complete your arm workout with one of the best tricep exercises from this list put together by our OriGym experts. 

Easier To Keep Your Form

Sitting on an incline bench to do a bicep curl already helps to keep your body in the correct form and isolate your biceps, but alternating each arm during this exercise makes it even easier to focus on your form as you curl the weight.

Moving one arm at a time means that you can focus on your form which ensures that you are doing all of the right things, such as keeping your elbows fixed and keeping your back flat against the back of the bench.

For that reason, this is the perfect alternative to incline dumbbell curls for anybody who struggles to keep their form.

Before You Go!

Now that you know how to do a seated incline dumbbell curl, what are you waiting for? Get stuck in at the gym and see the benefits for your biceps for yourself.

Ever thought of pursuing a career in fitness? Whilst you're here, why not enquire about one of our REPs accredited online personal training courses and land your dream job as a qualfiied personal trainer.

Want to learn more about the courses and qualifications that we offer here at OriGym? You can download our free course prospectus here

References

Calatayud, J., Vinstrup, J., Jakobsen, M. D., Sundstrup, E., Brandt, M., Jay, K., Andersen, L. L. (2015). Importance of mind-muscle connection during progressive resistance training. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(3), 527-533. doi:10.1007/s00421-015-3305-7 

Haynes, E., & Debeliso, M. (2019). The relationship between CrossFit performance and grip strength. Turkish Journal of Kinesiology. Available from:  https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f6b5/

Written by Abbie Watkins

Fitness Enthusiast & Blogger

Abbie is a work-hard, play-hard fitness junkie turned blogger. She loves a scenic run and a good upbeat exercise class. You can usually find her on the front row of a spin class on a Saturday morning.

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