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Concentration curls are one of the most popular isolation exercises for building bigger biceps but that doesn’t mean they are the most effective. In this video, I’m going to show you why concentration curls are not working for you as much as you may have thought if you are trying to build big arms. I will break down the most common mistakes made when doing the exercise and then show you a more athletic alternative if you want to make even better gains when training your arms.
To start, it helps to define what the goal of the concentration curl really is. Most would agree, it is a bicep exercise done to get a peak contraction on the muscle. It is an isolation movement that can help you to build a better mind muscle connection with the biceps and ultimately get it to grow bigger. I would agree with the latter half of this but only if you perform the exercise the right way and learn how to get more tension on the arm during the movement.
To that end it helps to discuss the position of the arm during the concentration curl. I see many people rest their elbows on the top of their thighs when doing the exercise. This is just wrong. You are essentially creating a see-saw effect when you lower the arm on every rep and are using momentum to get the arm back up to the top. Most will not make this mistake however and instead will lower their arm onto the inner portion of their thigh.
The issue here is that pushing the elbow into the thigh while curling the weight up is only using leverage to get the weight to the top rather than pure muscular force. Normally, leverage is not a bad thing but when you are doing it in close proximity to the muscles that you are trying to work (and with a muscle group that is often overactive during the curl in the first place) you are taking away from the effectiveness of the movement.
Some would then think that they just have to slide their arm even further down towards the floor to clear the elbow from the thigh. The problem here is again, the arm when curled into the top position is almost parallel to the downward force of gravity. This takes the tension off of the bicep in the very position that you want it to be at its highest.
The way to alter the exercise to get this to work in your favor is to reposition the arm directly in your groin. You can see how the forearm now becomes much more perpendicular to the force of gravity and you can feel the impact this has on your biceps on every rep. That said, I still think there are much more effective ways to train your biceps in a more athletic way and in a way that places even more tension on the biceps in their peak contracted state.
Check out the walk away curl shown at the end of the video for a demonstration on how to do this with either a set of bands or access to a cable machine. You will feel the difference immediately and also be able to take advantage of the isometric biceps contraction that occurs in the middle of every rep that doesn’t necessarily occur on a classic dumbbell concentration curl.
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