Types of Bicep Curl

Variations of the bicep curl

There are many types of bicep curl, each designed to work the bicep muscle in different ways.

The unilateral lift exercises one arm at a time, while the bilateral lift is for both arms together. The seated bicep curl and the preacher curl both give a more intense workout for the bicep muscle.

The bicep curl machine helps with keeping good form, and the cable machine is a useful aid for the curl exercise, though requires strict control over form from the lifter.

Types of bicep curl

It is a good idea to include all these types of bicep curl in your arms workout, after having used compound exercises, to fine tune the bicep area. Read on to find out more about each type of bicep curl:

Unilateral lift

Lifting one arm at a time during the bicep curl is called a unilateral exercise.

The unilateral bicep curl can be beneficial for weight lifters looking to focus on developing one weaker arm, or for those who prefer to maintain total concentration on a single bicep muscle at a time.

The unilateral lift can be performed with a dumbbell.

types of bicep curl - unilateral lift

Bilateral lift

Lifting both arms at the same time during the bicep curl is called a bilateral lift.

The bilateral bicep curl is useful for weight lifters who prefer to feel the stability of the weight moving with the same motion in both hands.

The bilateral lift is also a useful way to reduce total exercise time by working both bicep muscles at the same time.

The bilateral lift can be performed with a barbell or dumbbells.

Types of bicep curl - Bilateral lift

Seated bicep curl

The seated bicep curl places more strain on the bicep as it forces stricter form. This is because, when seated, the upper body cannot help the biceps by exerting momentum on the dumbbell.

As with all types of bicep curl, your upper arm should be kept still, with no help from the shoulder (deltoid).

Try to keep your upper arm pulled close to your body as you complete the lift. This strict control of the upper arm is more enforced with the seated bicep curl.

Preacher curl

The preacher curl achieves greater isolation of the bicep muscles.

To do a preacher curl you sit on a bench specifically designed for this exercise. The preacher curl bench has a pad to support your arms and a rack for the dumbbell.

The pad helps keep your upper arms motionless throughout the lift, so the only body part moving is the lower arm, focusing the tension entirely on the bicep.

The preacher curl is excellent for maintaining strong stability throughout the exercise.

preacher curl - types of bicep curl

Bicep curl machine

The bicep curl machine is used by sitting on the seat with your back supported by the back rest.

You rest the back of your your upper arms on the pads and reach down to grip the handles, then lift the weight by bending your elbows.

The pads keep your upper arms still as you lift and lower the weights. The pads help to keep your upper arm totally still. This is one of the best types of bicep curl for lifters who prefer the extra stability for their upper arm.

bicep curl machine

Bicep curl using a cable machine

The bicep curl can also be performed using a cable machine or a free cable or resistance band attached to an immovable object. The cable stretches as you lift the handle using your bicep muscles.

The bicep curl using a cable machine is less supportive than with a bicep curl machine or preacher bench, so you need to ensure there is no movement in your shoulder throughout the exercise.

The cable curl can be performed either standing or from a seated position.

bicep cable curl standing

Hammer curls

You can also perform the curl with a slight variation on grip, where the palms start facing towards your thighs and stay in this position throughout the lift. This is called the hammer curl.

The hammer curl is very similar to the bicep curl lift but the neural wrist means that the hammer curl targets the brachialis, which lies deeper than the bicep.

It is best to incorporate both curls into your workout for maximum benefit.

hammer curls

Read our bicep curl overview

Read about the tricep extension for the perfect complementary exercise to the bicep curl.

Do you prefer to workout your biceps using free weights, with cables, using a preacher bench or with a bicep curl machine? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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