The biceps, rightfully so, is one of our favorite body parts to work out as there’s a whole multitude of exercises one can perform it with. The incline dumbbell curl sets itself apart as it activates the bicep muscles more than any other movement as it isolates and stretches the long head of the biceps, pushing you to apply more force while contracting.  Your arms are visible in plain sight, and how bulky or toned they can speak volumes about your fitness. 

Adding the incline dumbbell curl to your workout routine is one of the most effective ways of building stronger and bigger biceps as it targets your biceps brachii muscle. The biceps muscles are tricky to target but putting yourself in various degrees of incline while performing curl exercises can manipulate the range of motion ideal for a deeper stretch or tighter contraction. 

Ready to give it a try? Let’s go.

This Ultimate Guide Will Cover:

  • How To Incline Dumbbell Curl
  • Incline Dumbbell Curl Benefits
  • Common Incline Dumbbell Curl Mistakes To Avoid
  • Incline Dumbbell Curl Muscles Worked
  • Incline Dumbbell Curl vs Standing Dumbbell Curl 
  • Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, & Programs
  • Incline Dumbbell Curl Variations
  • Incline Dumbbell Curl Alternative Exercises
  • FAQs About Incline Dumbbell Curl

How To Perform The Incline Dumbbell Curl Correctly

What You’ll Need:

  • Incline Bench: An incline bench is essential when performing incline dumbbell curls because it puts your shoulders in a safer position, reduces strains, and helps you maintain proper form. 
  • Dumbbells: Using dumbbells when performing biceps curls can activate the brachialis muscle, which can strengthen the movement of your elbows. 

Alternative Equipment:

  • Plastic water bottles: In case you don’t have dumbbells, you can use plastic water bottles as an alternative. 
  • Dumbbell rack: keeping your dumbbells in order and save space at home.

Step 1: Position On Your Incline Bench

Sit down against the bench inclined, ideally at 55-65 degrees, while keeping your abs muscles tight, back straight, and flat against the pad. Each of your hands should be holding a dumbbell of desired weight. This is the starting position of the exercise. 

Step 2: Curl The Dumbbells Towards Your Shoulders

With the dumbbells in a supinated grip (palms facing up) keep your upper arm stationary and slowly begin to curl the weights forward as you contract your biceps. Don’t forget to breathe in as you perform this movement. Refrain from moving your upper and lower body; only the forearms should move. Your goal here is to ensure that your biceps are fully contracted, and both dumbbells reach your shoulder level. Hold the contracted position for a couple of seconds. 

Coach’s Tip: Keep your elbows parallel to your body, and the shoulders don’t move forward as you lower the dumbbells.

Step 3: Slowly Lower Down The Dumbbells To The Starting Position 

Slowly lower the dumbbells until you reach the starting position. Pay attention to the word “slowly” here, as releasing the weights too quickly could strain or hurt your biceps muscles. Take as much time as you need to go back to the starting position. 

Coach’s Tip: Do not fully lower down the dumbbells with your elbows slightly bent to maintain the tension. Focus on the tension for an increased mind-muscle connection. 

Step 4: Repeat

Repeat the steps until you achieve your desired number of repetitions.

3 Incline Dumbbell Curl Benefits

1. Helps Build Bigger Biceps

If you want to maximize your bicep peak, incline dumbbell curls are one of the most effective ways to bulk up on muscles because it stretches the long head of your biceps brachii muscle all the way to your shoulders during curling. Putting tension in this muscle group increases your biceps activation, resulting in having well-toned arms. 

2. Allows For Greater Range Of Motion

Compared to traditional biceps curl, incline dumbbell curls stretch your arms more and allow for a greater range of motion every time you lift. Going through a full range of motion will result in better joint stability, muscle balance, proper activation of your working muscles, and stronger inner biceps. 

3. Highly Versatile

If you want to maintain proper form when performing advanced exercises, such as deadlifts, bench presses, and barbell rows, doing the incline curl can help. Incline dumbbell curls are a powerful home workout that effectively builds muscles in your upper body, making it easier for you to master other exercises.

Common Incline Dumbbell Curl Mistakes to Avoid

Performing the Movements Too Fast

Incline dumbbell curls aren’t about speed; it’s about maintaining proper form to ensure that you get the most out of the exercise. Avoid performing the movements too fast because this defeats the purpose of the exercise and puts you at risk of injuries. Slow down the repetition timing by lowering the weights in a controlled way. 

Lifting Too Light 

One of the biggest mistakes people make when performing the incline dumbbell curl is using dumbbells that are too light. This brings comfort but can also increase localized inflammation and soreness in your biceps. To build bigger and stronger arms, focus on lifting heavy while lowering your rep sets. This will help you see results fast and lower stress in your upper body. 

Swinging Arms Backward

The bottom portion of the incline dumbbell curl is the hardest movement of the exercise, causing many to swing their arms backward to move the weight. However, swinging your arms backward can only do more than good because it takes off the tension from your biceps, making the exercise less effective. To avoid this problem, pick a weight that’s heavy enough for you but still enables you to perform the exercise with good form.

Incline Dumbbell Curl Muscles Worked

While incline dumbbell curls primarily work your biceps, it also requires several muscles, such as:

  • Biceps
  • Brachialis
  • Brachioradialis
  • Forearms 

The biceps is a two-headed muscle that crosses both the elbow and shoulder joint. The main function of your biceps when you perform the incline curl is to support forearm supination (rotating the palms up) and pronation (rotating the palms down) and flex your elbow joint. The brachialis is responsible for flexing your elbow, while the brachioradialis supports the curling and pulling movement of the exercise. Lastly, your forearms move your wrists and elbows and help maintain grip strength as you perform incline dumbbell curls.

Incline Dumbbell Curl vs Standing Dumbbell Curl

Incline dumbbell curls and standing curls are different in many ways. Unlike the standing dumbbell curl, the incline dumbbell curl extends your range of motion. The exercise is performed in an inclined position, allowing your arms to travel farther, so you’ll get an extra stretch. 

Incline dumbbell curls are also a harder workout than the standing dumbbell curl because it requires more work from your biceps. This exercise especially targets your biceps brachii, the longest muscle in your upper arm. While the standing dumbbell curl also targets this muscle, the incline curl really helps target the whole muscle.

Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs

To Build Strength

If building strength is one of your fitness goals, complete 8 to 12 sets for four reps of the incline dumbbell curl. Start by using minimal weights, but you can transition to lifting heavier weights as you go along. Just make sure to lower your reps as you lift more weight. 

To Improve Muscle Endurance

You can also utilize the incline dumbbell curl to improve your muscle endurance. To achieve this goal, perform one to three sets for 12 to 20 reps using lighter weights. Keep your rest period between 30 seconds or less.

To Gain Muscle Size

Getting bigger muscles is excellent training for achieving muscular hypertrophy. Use the incline dumbbell curl to gain muscle mass by performing three to six sets of 12 reps of the exercise. Rest for 30 to 90 seconds between each set, and choose a weight that allows you to challenge your biceps while maintaining proper form.

Incline Dumbbell Curl Variations

Once you’ve mastered the incline dumbbell curl, consider adding the exercise listed below to your workout routine. These are great incline dumbbell curl variation that also targets your biceps and can make your routine more challenging and exciting. 

Preacher Curl 

The preacher curl is another popular biceps exercise, performed by sitting on a preacher bench — a bench with a seat and an angled pad to immobilize the rest of the body. The preacher curl works the same muscles as the incline dumbbell curl but doesn’t allow you to “cheat” because the immobilization of the rest of your body means you can’t swing your body or use your back (to the point where it starts to arch) to help curl the weight. 

Cable Incline Curl 

The cable incline curl primarily works your biceps brachii but also engages your brachialis, forearms, and deltoids in your shoulders. Your core will also be used in this exercise as you’ll need to stabilize your entire upper body throughout the movement. This alternative is ideal for individuals who want to have stronger biceps and improve their core stability. 

Alternate Incline Dumbbell Curl

This alternative works the same muscles as the regular incline dumbbell curl but makes it a little easier to focus on proper form. As the name suggests, the alternate incline dumbbell curl is done by working on one arm at a time. This results in better muscle isolation and improved technique and form.

Incline Dumbbell Curl Alternatives

If the incline dumbbell curl isn’t for you, or you’re looking for alternatives to target your biceps better, this section is for you. Take a look at the exercises listed below and slowly incorporate them into your workout regimen so that you can achieve your fitness goals faster.

Dumbbell Concentration Curl 

The dumbbell concentration curl requires a bench, box, or chair and dumbbells. Trying this alternative is a must because it’s been used for generations to build bigger biceps. The dumbbell concentration curl isolates your biceps and prevents you from using momentum to lift the dumbbell. We highly recommend this alternative to anyone who wants to improve their athletic performance as the exercise improves throwing, swinging, and rowing movements. 


For this exercise, you’ll need a sturdy pull-up bar. And while chin-ups aren’t a type of bicep isolation exercise, performing them regularly can still improve your biceps muscles. Chin-ups require you to lift your body up and lower it down with control. These movements engage numerous arm and back muscles, helping you achieve a well-toned and strong upper body. 

Hammer Curl 

The hammer curl only requires dumbbells. This alternative is better than other exercises because it doesn’t only target your biceps; it also improves your wrist stability and grip strength. A hammer curl is an excellent option for individuals who are sick of doing regular curls and would want to target several muscles at once.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Biceps
  • Brachialis
  • Brachioradialis
  • Forearms

The incline dumbbell curl and its variations are a great exercise to boost your arm and shoulder muscles. Because of its versatility and variations, it is helpful in avoiding the risks of plateauing as performing the same exercise daily tires the muscles up and delays hypertrophy. 

To get the best results from the incline dumbbell curl, make sure that the bench is at a 45- to 60-degree angle. Adjusting the bench within this angle range will help you maintain proper form and ensure that your biceps are targetted properly throughout the movements. 

You can still perform the incline dumbbell curl even without a bench, as there are plenty of alternatives available. For one, you can stack several towels to incline your chest. You can also use a reclining chair or the edge of a kitchen chair as an incline bench. If you have some slated bed slats, you can combine them with a kitchen chair to create a 30-degree inclined platform. 

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