bicep workout with dumbbells

Looking for a bicep workout with dumbbells that will challenge you, increase bicep strength, and give you the muscled arms you’ve been wanting? You’ve found it.

Below is everything you need to know about training your biceps. From bicep workouts for every fitness level to the 15 best dumbbell bicep exercises, your arms aren’t going to know what hit them.

I wrote this post because I used to be ashamed of my arms when I flexed my biceps. Now, I’m incredibly proud of the definition I’ve built. And I want the same for you.

Let’s get to it.

Please note: Check with your physician before starting any exercise routine or starting any particular diet. See this Disclaimer for more details. This post may contain affiliate links. For details, please visit my Disclosure page. Thank you!

Biceps Anatomy and Function

If you’re on this page, you probably already know that the biceps are located on the front and inside of the upper arms. They are the muscles you see during that classic bicep flex.

I say they because the impressive bicep flex is thanks to a couple different muscles: the biceps brachii and the brachialis.

Biceps Brachii

The biceps brachii is a muscle that attaches at two different places in your shoulder (referred to as the long and short heads), which then join together to attach to a bone in your forearm. The long head attaches to your scapula, and the short head attaches to your humerus bone, which is the bone in your upper arm.

Overall, the biceps brachii is responsible for bending your elbow, rotating your forearm, and shoulder flexion (reaching your arm back behind you).


The brachialis also contributes to the biceps bulk. It attaches from the middle of the humerus bone down to your upper forearm.

As you may guess from the location, it aids in bending your elbow.

Bicep Workout with Dumbbells

Now that you know what muscles you’re working, let’s get into the workouts. Below I have 3 workout options based on your current fitness level. Then we’ll get into the dumbbell bicep exercises.

Beginner Bicep Workout

3 sets, 1 min rest between sets

Standing bicep curl, eccentric lower10 reps
Cross body curls10 reps
Zottman curl10 reps

Intermediate Bicep Workout

4 sets, 1-2 min rest between sets

Bicep curl with 3-stop lower8 reps
Preacher curl8 reps each side
Alternating bicep curl with static hold4 reps each side, curling one arm while holding the other arm static

Advanced Bicep Workout

4-5 sets, 2-3 min rest between sets

Bicep 21s3 reps each (see form tip under exercise below)
Concentration curl6 reps each side
Incline curl6 reps


These bicep workouts are meant to be added into your larger workout. However, if you’d like to complete them as a stand-alone workout, here’s a quick warm-up:

  1. Jog in place – 30s
  2. Arm circles, backwards – 20s
  3. Arm circles, forwards – 20s
  4. Bicep wall stretch (described in the cool-down) – 30s each side, active (hold the stretch for a few seconds, then release, repeating for 30s)

Cool-Down Stretch

Just like any other muscle, it’s important to stretch your biceps after training them. For this, I love the bicep wall stretch.

To perform:

  1. Stand next to a wall corner or doorway. Raise your arm straight out to the side, at shoulder height, and place your hand and forearm flat on the corner/doorway.
  2. Walk forward a few inches until you feel a stretch in your chest and bicep.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Dumbbell Weight Recommendations

The numbers below are based on my experience training both males and females. If you are non-binary then please use your best judgement, as you know your body best. There are a lot of factors that affect how much you can lift, so use these weight recommendations a starting point if you’re unsure.

With any bicep workout with dumbbells, I recommend having at least one pair of light dumbbells and one pair of heavy dumbbells so you have options with each move. Use the heaviest dumbbell you can that still allows you to complete all reps.

Beginner Dumbbell Weight Ranges:


  • Light: 5-8 lbs
  • Heavy: 10-12 lbs


  • Light: 8-12 lbs
  • Heavy: 15-20 lbs

Intermediate Dumbbell Weight Ranges:


  • Light: 8-10 lbs
  • Heavy: 12-15 lbs


  • Light: 10-15 lbs
  • Heavy: 20-25 lbs

Advanced Dumbbell Weight Ranges:


  • Light: 10-15 lbs
  • Heavy: 15-20 lbs


  • Light: 15-20 lbs
  • Heavy: 25-40+ lbs
muscular man holding dumbbell

15 Dumbbell Bicep Exercises

1. Standing Bicep Curl

This is as basic as it gets, but for good reason. Whenever I’m short on time and need to work in bicep reps quickly, this is my go-to. If you’ve ever trained biceps before, you’ve probably done this staple.

How to perform:

  1. Stand shoulders-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms should be down by your sides, with your palms facing forward.
  2. To perform, bend your arms at the elbows, raising the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Pause at the top.
  3. Lower the dumbbells back down to your sides. That’s one rep.

Form tips:

  • Be sure to keep your elbows in the same place the whole time (by your waist). This move only involves moving your forearm, not your upper arm.
  • Don’t swing your arms. Use your muscles to maintain control over the movement.
  • Brace your abs by tensing like you’re about to be punched in the gut. This helps prevent you from arching your back as you raise the dumbbells.

2. Standing Hammer Curl

A hammer curl is performed with your palms facing inward, rather than facing forward. Holding the dumbbells this way causes your brachialis to work harder.

How to perform:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms should be down by your sides, with your palms facing inward towards you.
  2. To perform, bend your arms at the elbows, raising the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Pause at the top.
  3. Lower the dumbbells back down to your sides. That’s one rep.

Form tips:

  • You can also perform this move while seated, which will make it just a little bit harder. For best results, use a bench or straight-backed chair that you can rest your back against. Decrease the weight if you need to.

3. Cross Body Curls

I personally love cross body curls. The different angle is a great way to mix up a regular hammer curl.

To perform:

  1. Stand shoulder-width apart, arms by your sides with palms facing in.
  2. Keeping your elbow by your side, sweep the dumbbell in your right hand up to your left shoulder.
  3. Slowly lower your right hand to starting position.
  4. Complete the same movement on the other side, bringing your left hand up to your right shoulder and then lowering it back down. That’s 1 rep.

Form tips:

  • Keep your upper arm and elbow by your side during the movement.

4. Wide Bicep Curls

Completing a bicep curl with your arms rotated out changes up the basic bicep curl yet again.

To perform:

  1. Stand shoulder-width apart, arms down by your sides. Rotate your hands outwards 45 degrees.
  2. Bending at the elbows, raise the dumbbells up to your shoulders, maintaining the 45 degree angle.
  3. Slowly lower back down. That’s 1 rep.

5. Preacher Curl

The first time I tried a preacher curl, I was shocked at how much harder it felt than a standard bicep curl. I still find it fun giving these to a client for the first time and watching their surprised expression. Between keeping your arm braced and starting the move at an already loaded angle, these are sure to make your biceps burn.

To perform:

  1. Rest your right upper arm against a bench at a 45 degree incline.
  2. Keeping your upper arm pressed against the bench, curl the dumbbell up to your right shoulder.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the bench. That’s 1 rep. Complete all reps on the right side and then repeat on the left side.

Form tips:

  • Keep your entire upper arm glued to the bench the entire time
  • Use a lighter weight than you use for regular bicep curls

6. Concentration Curl

A concentration curl is similar to a preacher curl since you brace your arm, but it works your biceps from a different angle. This would be a good alternative to the preacher curl if you don’t have a good surface to lean your arm against.

To perform:

  1. In a seated position, rest the back of your right upper arm against your right thigh.
  2. Curl the dumbbell up to your shoulder, keeping your upper arm braced on your leg.
  3. Slowly lower back down. That’s one rep.

Form tips:

  • Keep your back flat and abs engaged. Avoid hunching over.
  • Maintain control as you lower the dumbbell to prevent swinging and hyperextending your elbow.

7. Static Hold

A static hold requires you to resist gravity and is a great way to increase your muscles’ time under tension.

To perform:

  1. Stand shoulder-width apart, arms down by your sides.
  2. Curl the dumbbells up, pausing when your arms are bent at 90 degrees. Hold this position.
  3. After the assigned time, lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

8. Alternating Bicep Curl and Static Hold

This one adds a little spice to the static hold. Here you’re holding one arm at 90 degrees while completing bicep curls with the other, then switching sides.

To perform:

  1. Stand shoulder-width apart, dumbbells down by your sides.
  2. Curl your left arm up, stopping at a 90 degree static hold.
  3. Now curl the dumbbell in your right hand up to your shoulder. Slowly lower back down.
  4. Complete all assigned reps and then switch sides.

9. Eccentric Bicep Curl

The eccentric part of an exercise occurs when the muscle is lengthening. For a bicep curl, this is when you are lowering the dumbbells down. One of the best things you can do to grow your biceps is to prolong the eccentric portion of the move. This will increase the time under tension, meaning your biceps will have to work longer while resisting gravity.

To perform:

  1. Perform a regular bicep curl, as described in exercise 1.
  2. When lowering the dumbbells, complete slowly, over a 4-count.

Form tips:

  • Think about your biceps while lowering the dumbbells, tensing them as you resist gravity

10. 3-Stop Lower

The 3-stop lower can help you strengthen the weakest part of your curl. By pausing at different intervals on the way down, you force your muscles to get stronger at each point.

To perform:

  1. Perform a regular bicep curl, as described in exercise 1.
  2. When lowering the dumbbells, pause at three different points (45 degrees, 90 degrees, and 135 degrees) for a 2 count.

Form tips:

  • If this move is challenging for you, take out one of the stops. For example, you could stop just above and just below the 90 degree mark.

11. Bicep 21s

I think this is the hardest exercise you can do in a bicep workout with dumbbells, simply because it involves so many reps back-to-back. Below, I’m demonstrating 3 reps of each part, but the move actually calls for completing 7 reps of each: bottom 90 degrees, upper 90 degrees, and full range bicep curl (hence bicep 21s).

To perform:

  1. Stand shoulder-width apart, dumbbells down by your sides.
  2. Complete 7 reps where you curl the dumbbells from your sides up to just 90 degrees.
  3. Now complete 7 reps where you curl the dumbbells from 90 degrees up to your shoulders.
  4. Last, complete 7 full bicep curls, curling from your sides all the way up to your shoulders and back down each rep.

Form tips:

  • If this is too many reps for you or a workout calls for multiple sets, complete fewer reps of each. For example, complete 3 reps of each as shown in the video above.

12. Inside Outside Bicep Curls

This is an efficient way to hit multiple angles in one exercise. Simply alternate back and forth between a standard bicep curl and a wide bicep curl.

To perform:

  1. Perform a regular bicep curl, as described in exercise 1.
  2. Now rotate your hands outwards 45 degrees and complete a bicep curl, maintaining that angle. At the bottom, rotate so your palms are facing forward once again. That’s 1 rep.

13. Zottman Curl

The reverse grip in the second half of the Zottman curl puts extra emphasis on your brachioradialis, a muscle that extends into your forearm. While it doesn’t contribute to the size of your biceps, the brachioradialis does aid your biceps. So it’s a helpful accessory muscle to strengthen if you want to grow your biceps the healthy way. You’ll feel this move in your biceps on the way up and in your forearms on the way down.

To perform:

  1. Stand shoulders-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms should be down by your sides, with your palms facing forward.
  2. Bend your arms at the elbows, raising the dumbbells up to your shoulders.
  3. At the top, rotate your palms so they’re facing down, then lower the dumbbells to your sides.
  4. At the bottom, rotate your palms so they’re facing forward once again. That’s 1 rep.

Form tips:

  • This move is tough on the way down, so use a lighter pair of dumbbells than you’d use for a standard bicep curl

14. Incline Bicep Curl

An incline with your arms hanging down puts your shoulders into extension. This position puts more emphasis on the long head of your biceps brachii. This is a great way to vary up one of the more traditional dumbbell bicep exercises.

To perform:

  1. Lie back on a bench raised to a slight angle. Let your arms hang down towards the floor, a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Bend your elbows, bringing the dumbbells up your shoulders. Pause at the top.
  3. Slowly lower back to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Form notes:

  • For even greater biceps brachii focus, hold the dumbbells in an offset-thumb grip. This means that your hand is off-center, holding the dumbbell with your thumb touching the side.
  • This is another tough one, so go lighter on the dumbbell weight.

15. Alternating Flex Curl

When I originally encountered this move, it was performed with a cable machine. But I figured, why not turn it into a dumbbell biceps exercise? And trust me, this one burns.

To perform:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, a light dumbbell in each hand. Raise your arms so they’re extended out to each side at shoulder height, palms facing up.
  2. Keeping your left arm still, bend your right elbow and bring the dumbbell towards your head.
  3. Slowly extend your right arm back out straight. Repeat with the left arm. That’s 1 rep.

Form tips:

  • This move is tough because it requires your arms to stay raised the whole time. Use a very light dumbbell, around the same weight you would use for a high rep count of lateral raises.
muscular woman holding dumbbell

Bicep Workout with Dumbbells – Training Tips

When to perform bicep exercises in a workout

I recommend completing this bicep workout with dumbbells during your other workouts. It would go great in a full body workout, an upper body workout, or a back and biceps strength day.

Traditionally, it was considered best to perform any compound movements first, meaning any moves that work multiple muscle groups. Then you would move on to work individual muscles (as much as that is possible).

For example, if you’re performing an upper body workout, you would perform push-ups, rows, and pull-ups before your shoulder raises, bicep curls, and tricep extensions.

But it’s actually important to work your priority first. Studies have continually shown that we see the most strength gains in the muscles we work at the start of a workout because those muscles are fresh. As you fatigue throughout your workout, you’re not able to lift as heavy, complete as many reps, or maintain your effort as well.

In a study on workout exercise order that was published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, greater increases in strength were seen in small muscle groups for the individuals who started their workouts with those small muscle groups.

This suggests that if your main training goal is to grow your biceps, it’s beneficial to actually work your biceps FIRST, regardless of it being a small muscle group.


Overall, a good starting speed if you’re newer to strength training is a 4/2/1 tempo (eccentric, isometric, concentric). For a bicep curl, this means you raise the dumbbell over 1 second, hold at the top for 2 seconds, and lower back down over 4 seconds. This builds bicep endurance.

A 2/0/2 tempo is best for increasing bicep hypertrophy, or mass. This means you raise and lower the dumbbell over 2 seconds each. This is a great tempo for the intermediate and advanced bicep workouts above.

Best number of bicep sets, reps, and rest

In this study on muscle strength and mass, a group who completed 4 sets of 10-12 reps at 70% RPM with 1 min rest was compared to another group who completed 4 sets of 3-5 reps at 90% RPM with 3 min rest. The results showed that the second group had increased strength and mass gains over 8 weeks.

This suggests that using higher weight and increased rest – despite completing fewer reps – is best for increasing both biceps strength and size.

This study was conducted with physically fit participants. For anyone who is a beginner or new to regular bicep training, start with a higher rep count and lower weights to begin and decrease risk of injury (as shown in the beginner bicep workout above).

Progressing your bicep workouts

When should you increase the weights or move to up to the next hardest bicep workout with dumbbells?

In general, every week or two you should be increasing the challenge to your biceps in some way. This could be achieved by:

  • Increasing the reps
  • Increasing the sets
  • Increasing the weight
  • Increasing the time under tension (such as with a slower lower during a bicep curl)
  • Exchanging an exercise for a harder one
  • Decreasing the rest period

This concept is called progressive overload, and it helps to prevent plateauing as your biceps get stronger. As you can see, there are multiple ways to continue challenging your biceps for continued growth.

Give yourself a solid 4 weeks of training at one level before moving up to the next workout. For example, say you start with the beginner bicep workout. Complete that as written for 2 weeks straight. Week 3, increase the weights by 2 lbs. Week 4, add 2 more reps to each exercise. Then for week 5, move on to the intermediate workout.

How to make bicep training more effective

  • Mind muscle connection – focus on the biceps as you perform every single rep.
  • Lower all the way down to the starting position between each rep.
  • When in doubt, go slower during the eccentric part of each move. Speeding through each rep is not going to help you progress.
  • Don’t hold your breath. Exhale when you are “performing the work,” in this case curling the dumbbell, and inhale while you lower it.
  • Continue to challenge yourself. Keep increasing the weight when appropriate, trying different exercises, and even changing up your grip. Even an offset-thumb or -pinky grip on the dumbbell can provide more variation.

Can you build biceps with just dumbbells?

Fortunately, it’s very possible to build your biceps with just dumbbells. You truly don’t need a barbell, pull-up bar, or workout machines to do it. Access to these things can be helpful and give you more options, but as evidenced by the many effective dumbbell biceps exercises listed above, they’re not needed.

And the nice thing about dumbbells is how accessible they are. From Amazon to Dicks Sporting Goods to Walmart, you have plenty of places you can get them from for use at home.

Having adjustable dumbbells is really helpful and gives you lots of options while training. But you can also just get 2 or 3 pairs, which will allow you to complete these workouts without stepping foot in a gym. Reference the chart above for recommended weight ranges.

Looking for dumbbells? Here are some on Amazon:

(Please note: the prices listed are for individual dumbbells, not for a pair of 2)

Looking for more ways to up your fitness game? Check out this post next:

How to Get Your First Pull-Up: The Moves that Got Me From 0 to 10 Pull-Ups

Bicep Workout with Dumbbells