Arm Curl Test (What is it and how to use it)

Arm curl test

The Arm Curl Test

The Arm Curl Test is used to measure the strength of your upper arm and forearm muscles. There are many purposes for doing this test including looking for issues with peripheral nerves, major nerve damage and central nerve involvement, including CRPS.

The SFT (Senior Fitness Test) and AAHPERD functional fitness test both use the arm curl test to measure upper body strength and functional fitness. 

What is an Arm Curl Test?

An arm curl test is a simple way to test your upper body strength. The test involves holding a weight in each hand and simply curling your arms up and down. The goal is to see how many repetitions you can do in a set amount of time, usually 30 seconds. 

This test is a great indicator of your overall upper body strength, as well as your grip strength. It's also a good measure of muscular endurance since the goal is to see how many times you can curl the weights in a set amount of time. 

Curl test at home

Benefits of the test

A curl test is a simple and efficient test that can be done with little to no equipment. 

It is a good indicator of how much force your muscles can generate and how well your nervous system is functioning. 

This test can also help you to identify any imbalances in your muscles.

The SFT (Senior Fitness Test) and AAHPERD Functional Fitness Test

This is our guide to performing the SFT and AAHPERD tests at home. You will need a 5LB dumbbell for women or an 8LB dumbbell for men. 

If you do not have dumbbells, find something else in your house that weighs the same and is easy to hold in one hand. 

You will also need a timer and a comfortable place to sit that allows you to extend your arm up and down for the curling motion. 

How do I do the arm curl test?

  1. Sit down with your strongest arm holding the dumbbell down by your side. 
  2. Set your timer for 30 seconds.
  3. Using a full range of motion, curl the dumbbell up until it reaches your shoulder.
  4. Turn the dumbbell as you lift it by gradually rotating the forearm and wrist so that your palm is facing the front of your shoulder.
  5. As you lower the dumbbell, gradually turn it again so that your palm is facing your body.
  6. Breathe in as you lift the weight and out as you lower it.
  7. Repeat this movement as many times as possible for 30 seconds.
  8. The arm must be fully bent and fully straightened to count as a full repetition
  9. Once you have recorded the results, take a few minutes to rest and repeat the process for your other arm.
You can compare the total number of repetitions that you were able to perform with the table below. 

Men’s Results

Agebelow averageaverageabove average
60-64                < 16                16 to 22            > 22
65-69                < 15                15 to 21            > 21
70-74                < 14                14 to 21            > 21
75-79                < 13                13 to 19            > 19
80-84                        < 13                13 to 19            > 19
85-89                < 11                11 to 17              > 17
90-94                < 10                10 to 14            > 14

Women’s Results

Agebelow averageaverageabove average
60-64            < 13                13 to 19                    > 19
65-69            < 12                12 to 18                    > 18
70-74            < 12                12 to 17                    > 17
75-79            < 11               11 to 17                    > 17
80-84            < 10               10 to 16                    > 16
85-89            < 10               10 to 15                    > 15
90-94            < 8                8 to 13                    > 13

This test is a great way to measure your arm strength and endurance and can be performed anywhere with minimal equipment. 

How to do the test for strength measurement

The curl test is a great way to measure your upper body strength. This method is for bodybuilders and strength trainers looking to gauge the strength in their forearms and biceps.

The only thing that you will need to perform this test is a timer and a dumbbell or a kettlebell. 

Stand in front of a mirror with your feet apart and your arms at your side holding a dumbbell. Use a mirror so that you can keep an eye on your form and ensure that you are performing full repetitions

Keeping a straight back and your elbows tucked in, curl the weight up to your shoulder.

Gradually rotate the weight as you lift and lower it.

Remember to breathe out as you lift the weight and in as you lower it. 

Perform this movement for as many repetitions as possible.

Record the repetitions performed, take a short rest and then do the same with the other arm.

This test should be a marker and something that you are looking to improve upon. Train regularly, eat a clean diet, high protein diet and repeat the test every four weeks so that you can monitor progress. 

Who should do the test

The curl test is a simple, quick way to assess someone's arm strength. 

Although it is usually used for the over 60's as a means of functional testing, it can also be used by athletes, bodybuilders or strength trainers as a way of measuring grip strength, forearm strength and upper arm strength.

If you are younger and train regularly, you are going to need to increase the weight and/or the time limit. Use it as a guide to regularly measure your progress. 

What exercises will improve my test score?

There are two different approaches to exercising for y better arm test score. 

The best way is to increase your overall strength. This is done by regular resistance training with compound movements. 

Compound Lifts

Although deadlifts do not directly target the biceps, they are the best exercise for increasing overall strength and functional fitness. 

Regular, heavy deadlifts put a huge strain on the central nervous system forcing your body to produce more IGF-1 and testosterone. These growth hormones will help the muscles in your entire body to grow and become stronger. 

Deadlifts are also great for improving grip strength in the forearm. 

Bent over rows
Bent over rows are predominantly used for developing the back but they also activate the biceps and forearms making them another great exercise for increasing your test result.

Isolation Lifts

If you are not looking to increase overall strength and just want to do better on the arm curl test, you can use isolation exercises that will just target the bicep and forearms.

Hammer curls can be performed with dumbbells or a cable machine with a rope extension. They are more beneficial than regular curls as they develop both the biceps and forearms.

Reverse grip curls can be performed on a cable machine with an EZ bar attachment or with a barbell. As with the hammer curl, they target the forearms and the bicep. By using a reverse grip, you are targeting the bicep from a different angle and adding strength to it. 

Preacher curls allow you to totally isolate the bicep and really connect with the muscle as you are lifting. Perform preacher curls with a moderately low weight and focus on time under tension. 

Experiment with a mixture of slow, controlled exercises and heavy, explosive movements. This is going to make sure that you break down as many fibres as possible in the arms. When these fibres repair, they will be stronger and bigger than before. 


The arm curl test was initially developed for fitness and functional testing in the over 60s but can be performed by anybody. 

The simplicity of the test makes it a great way to measure, monitor and track progress in strength training. 

Bodybuilders and strength trainers can both utilise the test for setting goals and tracking progression throughout a training program. 


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

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