What are incline dumbbell curls? (A guide to bicep growth)

What are incline dumbbell curls?

What are incline dumbbell curls?

The dumbbell incline curl is an exercise used to develop the biceps for strength or hypertrophy. It is performed on an incline dumbbell bench set to a 45-degree angle with a pair of dumbbells. This is a great exercise for targeting the bicep brachii, in particular, the long head.

Which muscles are used for a dumbbell incline curl?

The target muscle with an incline bench dumbbell curl is the bicep brachii. Other muscles are also in play as secondary targets and stabilisers.

exercise to improve long head of bicep

The deltoids help to keep your upper arm in a fairly rigid position making sure that you do not swing the dumbbell while your forearm muscles help with elbow flex and wrist support.

How to perform an incline dumbbell bicep curl.

  1. Adjust a dumbbell bench to an incline position of roughly 45 degrees. If possible, adjust the seat part of the dumbbell bench to a similar angle as this helps with stability and stops you from sliding forward.
  2. Select your dumbbells. Start with a light weight to warm up as this exercise puts your shoulders and biceps under strain in the neutral position. 
  3. Sit on the bench with your dumbbells hanging down at your side and palms facing towards you in a neutral position.
  4. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, start to curl the dumbbell upwards. Be sure to keep your upper arms in a fixed position. As you curl the dumbbell, slowly rotate your forearm in an outward motion so that your palm is facing your should at the top of the movement. 
  5. Once at the top of the curl, hold the position and squeeze your bicep before slowly lowering and rotating back to a neutral wrist position. 
  6. Repeat this exercise with the alternate arm and continue to alternate between arms until the required reps are complete.

Variations to the incline dumbbell bicep curl.

Incline bench cable curls.

The incline curl can be performed with cables as an alternative to dumbbells. You will need a twin cable machine with a low pin setting. Set the bench in the middle of the cable machine in an incline position. 

Incline cable bicep curl

It is a little harder to rotate the forearm with cables so you will need to use fixed wrist starting positions. If you use stirrups, start with your palms facing forwards and keep them in that position so that they are facing your shoulders at the top of the movement. It is basically the same as an incline dumbbell curl but without the wrist rotation. 

Another option is to use a single rope attachment on each side instead of stirrups. For this, you will be keeping the palms facing in for the entire movement, as you would with a hammer curl. Whichever option you choose, make sure that your upper arms are in a fixed position and that the bicep is fully stretched in the neutral position. 

Can I use kettlebells or bands?

Kettlebells or bands can also be used for incline curls. Just make sure that you are in an incline position with your biceps stretched at the beginning of the movement. Kettlebells and bands will not work as well as dumbbells as they do not allow for wrist rotation and will probably not provide the constant tension that cables offer.

Advantages of the incline bench curl.

There is no other exercise that targets the long head of the biceps as well as an incline bicep dumbbell curl. The only one that even comes close is a drag curl. If you want to add size to your arms and make your biceps pop, make sure you add this one to your routine. 

Incline dumbbell curl vs. regular dumbbell curl.

So, which is better? This is going to depend on your objectives and preferences.

The incline dumbbell curl is better for bicep outwards growth, which builds a full and strong arm. This exercise is similar to the concentration curl, but it's done on an incline bench and you use one arm at a time. 

The benefit of this exercise is that it maximizes the range of motion, while also targeting more muscle fibres than a regular curl in both arms. This helps you achieve more volume on the biceps and force both the upper and lower portions of the muscle together to maximize tension and result in greater muscle gains. 

Doing this on an incline position gives better leverage than when doing bicep curls on a flat surface like a dumbbell bench because it limits the degree of motion it takes to complete the movement. 

There are some drawbacks to using incline curls as well. These angles won't activate your forearms as much and change how you calibrate your weights, thus making them less accurate. 

There are also risks associated with being incorrect with your form through over-extension or under-extension. Start with a light weight and focus on correct form and a slow, steady movement. Pyramid the weight up when you can perform 12-15 reps with perfect form. 

What are incline dumbbell curls alternatives?

The only movement that targets the biceps and forearms in the same way as an incline curl is a drag curl. If you are just after general bicep growth, opt for a preacher curl or regular dumbbell curl but for bigger bicep peaks and definition, give incline curls a go. 

Drag Curl

Preacher Curl

Barbell Curl

Dumbbell Curl


There is no need to choose between incline curls, hammer curls and barbell curls. The best way to promote hypertrophy in the bicep is by adding a variety of these into your program. Keep the muscles guessing and do not let them adapt to a certain movement. 

Sticking with a basic, heavy-lift with progressive overload is great for promoting growth but so is frequent, targeted isolation training. Especially when it comes to the smaller muscles like biceps and triceps. 

We hope that we have answered the original question - what are incline dumbbell curls?

For more information on hypertrophy and getting the most from your training, take a look at our FREE hypertrophy bodybuilding split. It is a scientifically-backed program that promotes training each muscle independently as soon as it has recovered from its previous workout. 

No over-resting and no hanging around and waiting for the next chest or leg day. Click here for more information on our HyperGrowth bodybuilding training strategy. 

Incline Dumbbell Curls FAQs

Should I experience pain with incline dumbbell curls?
If you are experiencing pain with your incline dumbbell curls this could be because...
1) You have DOMS from a previous workout.
2) You are training too heavy with incrorrect form. Drop the weight and focus on time under tension.
3) You have an injury or RSI that should be checked out by a physio or medical prefessional.

Should I train heavy with dumbbell incline curls?
For the purpose of muscle growth, you do not need to go too heavy with incline dumbbell curls. Use a relatively light weight, curl the bar up, hold the movement and squeeze the contracted muscle for a couple of seconds before slowly lowering the weight. This will allow you to use strict form, avoid injury and maximise time-under-tension.

Are incline dumbbell curls the best bicep exercise?
Incline dumbbell curls are a great exercise for the biceps and allow you to attack them from a different angle to other bicep exercises. That being said, for overal growth you are better off using a standing curl or preacher curl.

Gymenix offers a selection of free training programs to suit all abilities and goals. Click on the links below for FREE access. 

Beginner bodybuilding guide

Bodybuilding for the over fiftys

Over 40s Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding home workout program

Previous Post Next Post

Contact Form