Almost everyone would like to have arms that look toned or even ripped and are also functionally strong for everyday life and for other workouts and exercises.
For example, having strong biceps will allow you to lift and carry groceries or luggage and your biceps are involved in other compound exercises such as chin-ups and rows.
While it is important to strengthen all of the muscles in your arms, everyone loves great biceps workouts. The biceps are the “showy muscles“ at the top of your upper arms that pop when you flex.
But, what are the best dumbbell biceps exercises? How do you program a dumbbell biceps workout to build arms that look as impressive as they are functionally strong?
In this biceps workouts with dumbbells guide, we will discuss how to structure a biceps workout and provide step-by-step instructions for the following dumbbell biceps exercises:
- Dumbbell Spider Curls
- Dumbbell Biceps Hammer Curls
- Incline Biceps Curls
- Dumbbell Biceps Concentration Curls
Let’s dive in!
How to Program Biceps Workouts With Dumbbells
Before we go into the best dumbbell biceps exercises and how to structure the best biceps workouts with dumbbells based on your fitness goals, a quick little grammatical note.
Many people look for the “best bicep workouts with dumbbells” or the “best bicep dumbbell workouts.“
The biceps brachii muscle is actually written as biceps brachii or just biceps, even when you were referring to the biceps muscle in one arm.
This is because the biceps is a two-headed muscle (hence the “bi”) prefix, so we use the term biceps, not bicep workouts.The biceps muscle has a long head and a short head.
The muscle fibers from the biceps long head fuse with the muscle fibers from the biceps short head lower down in the muscle belly of the biceps, and then the muscle tapers down to its insertion point at the elbow.
Due to the different sites of attachment on the scapula, the short head is located along the inner side of the front part of your upper arm, and the long head of the biceps is located more along the outer and upper part of the front side of your upper arm.
There are various ways to strengthen your biceps.
For example, you can use resistance bands, cables, weight machines, barbells, bodyweight exercises, and kettlebells for biceps exercises.
However, one of the most common and versatile pieces of strength training equipment for biceps workouts is dumbbells. Biceps dumbbell exercises are beginner-friendly in terms of being approachable and yet they are also scalable for advanced athletes.
The ability to use each arm independently with a biceps dumbbell exercise allows you to identify and correct muscle imbalances to maximize the functional strength of your biceps and arm workouts in general.
The best biceps dumbbell workouts in terms of reps, sets, and dumbbell weights depend primarily on your fitness level and primary training goals.
For strength gains, work up to performing 2-6 sets of each biceps exercise, 3-5 reps per set, with at least 85% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) for the dumbbell weight.
The fewer reps you perform, the closer to 100% of your 1RM you should aim for with your weights.
If your goal is hypertrophy (building muscle), strive to perform three sets of each exercise, using dumbbells that are 70 to 85% of your 1RM for 8 to 12 reps.
Exercises For The Ultimate Biceps Workouts With Dumbbells
Here are some of the best dumbbell biceps exercises to add to your biceps workouts with dumbbells:
#1: Dumbbell Spider Curls
The benefit of performing spider curls over different types of biceps curls is that because you are lying down, you are unable to inadvertently cheat and use momentum or other muscles to help lift the dumbbells.
In this way, the spider curl is a great isolation exercise for your biceps using dumbbells.
Here are the steps to perform this dumbbell biceps exercise:
- Set an adjustable bench to an incline of about 45° relative to the floor. The entire bench should be set up at this incline like a tilted plank, not just the backrest.
- Lie face down on the bench so that essentially your body is in a plank position tilted 45° relative to the ground.
- Grip a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forward.
- Bend your elbows, contracting your biceps to bring the dumbbells up to shoulder height until your biceps are fully contracted. Your upper arms and shoulders should remain fixed throughout the duration of the exercise.
- Pause, squeezing your biceps for 1 to 2 seconds.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells all the way back down until your arms are hanging straight before beginning the next rep.
#2: Dumbbell Biceps Hammer Curls
This is a great exercise for your biceps workouts with dumbbells because it changes the grip position to target different muscle fibers in your biceps.
Instead of your palms being in an overhand grip facing away from your body in the starting position, your palms face towards one another throughout the duration of the movement.
This neutral wrist position off and tends to be more comfortable and natural for most lifters, allowing you to lift more weight to maximize your strength gains.
This biceps exercise also targets the biceps brachialis, which is a smaller muscle on the outer portion of your biceps, as well as the brachioradialis, which is the primary muscle in your forearms.
Here is how to do this arm exercise with dumbbells:
- Stand upright with good posture holding dumbbells down at your sides with your palms facing in
- Contract your biceps to curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders, maintaining this neutral wrist position.
- Slowly lower the weights back down with control.
#3: Incline Biceps Curls
One of the best biceps long-head exercises is the incline biceps curl with dumbbells.
When you perform the biceps curl exercise on an incline bench, your arms are able to extend behind your torso to maximize the range of motion of the exercise.
This movement pattern better matches the natural orientation of the muscle fibers in the long head of the biceps muscles.
More importantly, because you are seated in a reclined position, it is much harder to “cheat.“
When you do dumbbell biceps curls standing up, it’s easy to unintentionally use momentum or pop your hips forward as you curl to help hoist the weight.
Here is how to do incline dumbbell biceps curls:
- Set a weight bench to an incline of about 60° and then lay back on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Extend your arms fully so that they are hanging down by your side.
- Keep your shoulders pressed into the bench as you slowly curl the weights up to shoulder height and then back down. Make sure to keep your elbows pinned back.
#4: Dumbbell Biceps Concentration Curls
Most biceps workouts with dumbbells include concentration curls because it is a great variation of the standard dumbbell biceps exercise curl since sitting down and using this particular curl grip truly isolates your biceps muscle on one arm at a time.
Plus, this is a unilateral biceps exercise so you can help correct any muscle imbalances and work more heavily on your weaker side.
Doing so will help you be able to increase your load with bilateral exercises because the “lagging“ muscle will be able to carry more of the load.
You should be “concentrating“ on maintaining tension in your biceps during the entire range of motion of the movement.
Stay present and focused and do not allow gravity to do any of the work on the way down.
Here is how to perform this biceps dumbbell exercise:
- Sit on a weight bench with your feet at least three feet apart so that your arm can comfortably hang down between your two legs.
- Hold a dumbbell in just one hand.
- Rest your elbow of the working arm on the inside of the thigh on that leg.
- Slowly curl the dumbbell up “concentrating” (as the name suggests) on contracting your biceps as you do so. At the very top position of the movement, squeeze and flex your biceps muscle as much as possible before slowly returning to the starting position.
Note that you can use adjustable dumbbells to save money and space for home dumbbell workouts.
We recommend the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells, which are now supported with motion tracking via the JRNY app.
This means that you can check your form to ensure proper technique and execution.
While dumbbell biceps workouts are a great way to strengthen your arms, if you don’t have any equipment but want to work your biceps, check out our guide to the best no-equipment biceps workout here.