Better biceps with Incline Curls

Although the biceps are one of the main muscles used when the elbow is being flexed (think curls), these muscles also cross the shoulder joint and play an assisting role in various movements involving the shoulder as well. One of these assisting roles is during shoulder flexion (i.e. raising your arm up in front of your body). The position and angle of the shoulder has a profound influence on the stretch and length of the biceps. When the arm is raised in front of the body, the biceps shorten, when the arm is extended behind the body, the biceps are in a stretched position. Most of the popular exercises used to work the biceps in isolation (such as Barbell Curls, Preacher curls etc) are performed with the arm in front of beside the body. It would greatly benefit one’s arm development if curls were also performed from a position behind the body as well where the muscle is weakest and is under the greatest stretch (muscles that are stretched with resistance receive the most overload). One particular exercise that is great for this position and purpose is incline Dumbbell Curls – check out our video demo and pointers below for how to perform this great arm exercise:

  1. Lay back on an incline bench set 30-45 degrees.
  2. With a palm-up grip, start with the dumbbells & arms hanging straight down.
  3. Bending at the elbows (not shoulders), curl the weight up, aiming for biceps to touch forearms. Keep your elbows pointed down towards the floor at all times
  4. Lower the weights to starting position under control

*Tip – remember, you are not trying to recruit the shoulders to move the weight up. You are trying to isolate the biceps in the stretched position and minimise shoulder flexion. You can also vary the grip on the dumbbells (e.g. hammer grip) to target different muscles of the arms such as the brachialis.

The typical hypertrophy rep range of 8-12 reps works well for this exercise. If you are doing this exercise for the first time, you will definitely feel your biceps the days after if you have performed the exercise correctly.