Dumbbell Bicep Workout for Strength & Mass

In this article, we’ll go over the best dumbbell bicep exercises in detail. You’ll also find a highly effective dumbbell bicep workout for building spectacular upper arms, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced bodybuilder.

For such a small muscle group, the biceps certainly demand attention beyond its size. Well-developed biceps enhance the aesthetics of your body, and for many, the biceps is a symbol of fitness and strength.

pullup biceps
Every time you pull something, be it your own body weight or something else, your biceps are heavily involved.

Fortunately, the biceps isn’t a complex muscle group to train. You don’t need fancy and expensive training equipment to build muscular, big biceps.

In fact, many of the best bicep exercises only require a set of dumbbells. If you have those, you only need to add hard work and sweat to turn those molehills into mountains.

Benefits of Dumbbell Biceps Training

A fully equipped commercial gym offers a tremendous amount of choices, but all you really need to build your biceps are dumbbells. In fact, dumbbells provide several benefits compared to machines and barbells.

  • Range of motion. Dumbbell exercises offer a more natural range of motion than barbell exercises and machine training. Dumbbell movements adapt to your body, not the other way around.
  • Unilateral training. Most of us have one arm that is bigger and stronger than the other. With dumbbells, you can train each side independently, address muscle imbalances, and improve overall symmetry.
  • Versatility. You can use dumbbells for a wide variety of exercises. Compared to machines, where you need one for each muscle group, just a few pairs of dumbbells are enough for any imaginable exercise for your entire body.
  • Functional fitness. Training with dumbbells engages stabilizer muscles and requires coordination between muscle groups, translating into improved general athletic performance.
  • Portability and convenience.  Dumbbells are easy to store and transport, making them suitable for home or gym workouts. In addition, they are generally more cost-effective than machines or a complete barbell set-up, making them an attractive option if you’re on a budget or tight on space.

Biceps Anatomy

The biceps brachii is a two-headed muscle at the front of your upper arm, opposite the triceps.

biceps anatomy for dumbbell bicep workout

The two heads of the biceps are the long and short heads, which originate from different parts of your shoulder blades and merge at the elbow joint.

They work together to perform the main functions of the biceps: elbow flexion and rotation (supination) of the forearm. It also assists in forward flexion of the shoulder joint when you bring your arm forward and upwards.

The short head is located on the “inside” of your arm, giving width to your biceps. The long head on the “outside” forms the famous peak when well-developed, as you see on bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Your biceps is only one of three elbow flexors. It works with the brachialis, located below the biceps, and the forearm muscle called the brachioradialis whenever you bend your elbow, do a dumbbell curl, or pull something.

Out of the three, the brachialis is the strongest. The biceps muscle is a strong supinator but a relatively weak elbow flexor. 

Strong biceps muscles are crucial for many sports and activities that require lifting or pulling, such as weightlifting, climbing, and throwing, as well as for functional movement in everyday life. 

What Equipment Do You Need for This Bicep Workout?

Forget the fancy equipment and the spaceship-looking machines – all you need to build a pair of tremendous biceps is a set of dumbbells.

The beginner and intermediate bicep workouts presented in this article require nothing more. A training bench with an adjustable backrest is recommended for the advanced workout.

If you’re a beginner, a single pair of dumbbells might be enough to get you going. This workout will give you stronger biceps very fast, though, meaning you’ll likely outgrow that pair quickly. That’s a good thing, but it does mean that a single pair of light dumbbells won’t be enough for long.

  • Recommended beginner dumbbells for women: a pair of 5 and 10-pound dumbbells.
  • Recommended intermediate dumbbells for women: a pair of 10 and 15-pound dumbbells.
  • Recommended beginner dumbbells for men: a pair of 12 and 20-pound dumbbells.
  • Recommended intermediate dumbbells for men: a pair of 15 and 25-pound dumbbells.

Getting a pair of adjustable ones is a good idea to avoid having half a dozen dumbbells lying around. They allow you to adjust the weight on the fly with the turn of a button or the flip of a switch.

You save money and space, and you don’t have to buy new dumbbells every time your strength increases enough to require heavier ones. In addition, you can use them for training other muscle groups that might be stronger than your biceps and call for heavier loads.

adjustable dumbbells

Of course, if you’re doing this workout in a fully equipped gym, you don’t have to think about stocking up on dumbbells.

Warming Up to Prepare for Your Dumbbell Bicep Workout

A good warm-up before a bicep workout prepares your body for the hard work to come, increases blood flow to your muscles, and activates the muscle fibers. 

Here is a warm-up protocol you can follow to prepare for your biceps workout:

  1. Cardio: 5–10 minutes of light cardio raises your heart rate and body temperature. Warm muscles perform better than cold and might be more resistant to injury. A brisk walk on a treadmill, jumping jacks, and jogging in place are a few examples of exercises you can do. Most people will likely skip this step, and that’s OK, but a few minutes of warm-up cardio really do benefit your training sessions.
  2. Arm circles: stand with your arms extended out to the sides and make small circles with your arms. Gradually increase the size of them until you are making full range-of-motion circles. Do two sets of 10–15 reps in each direction.
  3. Shoulder rotations: stand with your arms at your sides and rotate your shoulders forward in a circular motion. Like with the arm circles, gradually increase the size of the shoulder rotations. Do 10–15 reps, then switch direction and do 10–15 more.
  4. Bicep curls with light weights: hold a pair of light dumbbells and perform 10-15 slow and controlled reps. The weight shouldn’t be heavy enough to make you struggle. The goal is to activate the bicep muscle fibers and prepare them for the heavier lifts to come.

StrengthLog’s Dumbbell Bicep Workout: the Exercises

This bicep workout consists of two to four exercises, depending on your training experience, from a selection of the five best biceps exercises with dumbbells.

  1. Dumbbell Curl
  2. Hammer Curl
  3. Concentration Curl
  4. Dumbbell Preacher Curl
  5. Incline Dumbbell Curl

At the beginner level, you’ll only be doing two types of curls for your biceps. When you’re new to strength training, you don’t need a multitude of exercises to make progress, especially when it comes to a small muscle like the biceps. 

As you gain experience and advance to the intermediate workout and beyond, you’ll hit your biceps from different angles with more exercises for a greater training volume.

Let’s go through the exercises, detailing the benefits of each, with step-by-step instructions on how to perform them.

Dumbbell Curl

The standard dumbbell curl is one of the best exercises for building bigger biceps. It’s easy to learn for the beginner and remains one of the best exercises for the experienced bodybuilder.

Unlike barbell curls, dumbbell curls work each arm independently, which requires more effort and engagement. Barbell curls also have a fixed grip width, while dumbbells allow for a more natural range of motion and can be easier on the wrists.

Form tips:

Maintain good form throughout the movement and avoid swinging the dumbbells. Heavier weights do not automatically mean bigger arms. You want your biceps muscles to do all the work.

How To Perform Dumbbell Bicep Curls

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a pair of dumbbells in your hands. Your palms should be facing forward, holding the dumbbells at your sides using an underhand grip.
  2. From the start position, curl the dumbbells up to shoulder level, keeping your elbows in place and your wrist straight. Moving your elbows slightly forward is OK if that feels more natural.
  3. Pause briefly at the top of the movement and squeeze your bicep muscles to contract them fully, then slowly lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Hammer Curl

The hammer curl is a bicep curl variation where you hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip (palms facing each other). It is an excellent exercise for developing the long head of the biceps as well as both upper arm and forearm strength.

In addition, incorporating hammer curls into your dumbbell biceps workouts is a great way to add size to the brachialis muscle located underneath the biceps, creating a well-rounded appearance of your arms.

Hammer curls also target the muscles in the forearm to a greater degree than traditional bicep exercises, which helps improve your grip strength.

How to Perform the Dumbbell Hammer Curl

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell with a neutral grip in each hand, meaning your palms should face your body. 
  2. Bend your elbows, lifting the dumbbells toward your shoulders. Keep your palms facing your body and your wrists straight. Ensure your upper arms remain stationary and that only your forearms move during the curl.
  3. Pause momentarily at the top of the movement when the dumbbells are near your shoulders, and contract your biceps to maximize muscle engagement.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position in a controlled manner, keeping your palms facing your body and maintaining tension in your biceps and forearms.
  5. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Concentration Curl

The concentration curl is one of the best dumbbell exercises to completely isolate the biceps by minimizing the involvement of other muscles. You place a more significant amount of tension on the biceps, which helps stimulate muscle growth.

In addition, you perform concentration curls one arm at a time, allowing you to focus all your attention and effort on your bicep, improving your mind-muscle connection and ability to contract and control the biceps.

The key word here is concentration, which means leaving your ego outside the weight room and selecting a lighter weight that allows a full range of motion using only your biceps strength. 

While the shape of your biceps is genetic, the concentration curl is effective for working the outer (long) head, which primarily adds to your biceps peak. Done correctly, it can be an essential part of your dumbbell biceps workout and help you add lean muscle mass to your arms.

How to Perform the Dumbbell Concentration Curl

  1. Sit on a bench or chair with your feet flat on the ground, and hold a dumbbell in one hand with a supinated grip (palms facing up).
  2. Lean forward and place your elbow against the inside of your thigh, just above your knee. Keep your upper arm close to your body and your other hand on your opposite knee for support and stability.
  3. Curl the weight towards your shoulder while keeping your upper body, arm, and elbow stationary. All the movement should be in your elbow joint.
  4. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement, and hold briefly before lowering the weight back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the movement for the desired number of reps, switch arms, and repeat the exercise on the other side.

Dumbbell Preacher Curl

The dumbbell preacher curl is an excellent isolation exercise for the biceps. It effectively prevents other muscles from assisting in the movement and eliminates cheating or swinging of the weight.

You can either use a dedicated preacher bench or the backrest of an incline bench. Either way, preacher curls allow you to focus all your attention on your biceps for greater muscle activation and a more effective arm workout.

Emphasize proper form and a full range of motion over hoisting a heavy weight to get the most out of the exercise.

How to Perform the Dumbbell Preacher Curl

  1. Use a preacher curl bench, or position the backrest of a regular training bench so that it leans back slightly.
  2. Place your upper arm on the backrest of the incline bench, with your armpits at the top of the pad. At the starting position, fully extend your arm, the dumbbell resting on the bench.
  3. Curl the dumbbell up towards your shoulders, focusing on contracting your biceps.
  4. Squeeze your biceps briefly at the top of the movement before lowering the weight back down to fully extended arms or until the dumbbell hits the bench.
  5. Repeat the movement for the desired number of reps, switch arms, and repeat the exercise on the other side.

Incline Dumbbell Curl

The incline dumbbell curl forces your biceps into a stretched position, giving you a great pump and stimulating muscle growth. Incline curls target the long head of the biceps, which is responsible for the peak of your bicep. 

You’ll probably notice that you can’t use a hefty weight in the incline curl compared to regular dumbbell curls in the standing position. When seated, your upper back and hips can’t get involved in the motion, meaning your biceps have to do more work, which can lead to greater activation of the muscle fibers and help stimulate new muscle growth.

How to Perform the Incline Dumbbell Curl

  1. Adjust the bench to an incline angle of about 45 degrees. Sit down on it with your feet flat on the floor. Lean back against the backrest, holding a dumbbell in each hand using a supinated (palms facing up) grip. 
  2. In the starting position, your arms should be fully extended by your sides. Curl the dumbbells up to shoulder height while keeping your elbows stationary and close to your body. Avoid swinging the weights or using momentum to lift them.
  3. Squeeze your biceps for maximum contraction when the dumbbells are closest to your shoulders, then lower the dumbbells back to the starting position in a controlled manner, maintaining tension in your biceps.
  4. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Creating the Best Dumbbell Biceps Workout

There you have it: the five best dumbbell biceps exercises for strong arms and bulging biceps.

Let’s put them together into not one, not two, but three workouts. One for beginners, one for intermediate lifters, and one for advanced trainees and bodybuilders.

Beginner Workout

The beginner bicep workout consists of two exercises: the dumbbell curl and the concentration curl or dumbbell preacher curl. The first is your basic mass-builder, and the second isolates the muscle entirely and targets the biceps and nothing but the biceps.

Perform this workout twice weekly, and you’re on your way to building biceps to be proud of.

  1. Dumbbell Curl: 3 sets x 8–10 reps
  2. Concentration Curl or Dumbbell Preacher Curl: 3 sets x 10–12 reps

Intermediate Workout

So you’ve been training for at least a couple of months, made gains in biceps strength and size, and now you’re ready to take the step to the intermediate level.

The intermediate bicep workout adds the dumbbell hammer curl to hit areas of your upper arms that other curl variants don’t. In addition to creating more overall bicep development, it’ll add meat to your forearms.

You’ll also start varying your repetition ranges with both heavy low-rep work and high-rep sets for the ultimate pump.

Two weekly workouts will keep your biceps growing.

  1. Dumbbell Curl: 3 sets x 6–8 reps
  2. Hammer Curl: 3 sets x 8–10 reps
  3. Concentration Curl or Dumbbell Preacher Curl: 3 sets x 12–15 reps

Advanced Workout

At the advanced level, you’re already an experienced lifter. Research shows that you might need 20 sets of more per muscle group each week for optimal growth.1

When done twice weekly, the advanced workout guarantees enough training volume for any bodybuilder, using four different exercises to force your biceps to grow.

In addition to the exercises of the intermediate workout, you add incline dumbbell curls to finish the training session with a sleeve-bursting pump.

  1. Dumbbell Curl: 3 sets x 6–8 reps
  2. Hammer Curl: 3 sets x 8–10 reps
  3. Concentration Curl or Dumbbell Preacher Curl: 3 sets x 10–12 reps
  4. Incline Dumbbell Curl: 3 sets x 12–15 reps

How to Integrate the Dumbbell Bicep Workout into Your Training Routine

We all know that the biceps is the most important muscle of them all. However, for a balanced physique, you want the rest of your body to keep up with it.

The good news is that you can easily integrate this bicep workout into your training routine. Whether you have a dedicated arm day or combine your bicep session with your upper back muscles, it’ll fit seamlessly into your workout routine.

Here are three examples of complete dumbbell-oriented workouts to inspire you when designing your own.

Back and Biceps Workout

  1. Dumbbell Deadlift
  2. Dumbbell Row
  3. Dumbbell Pullover
  4. Dumbbell Curl
  5. Dumbbell Preacher Curl

This workout is perfect on pull days as part of a dumbbell push/pull/legs (PPL) split.

Push pull legs dumbbell bicep workout

Read more:

>> The Best Push Pull Legs Split for Building Muscle

Dumbbell Arm Workout

Few things give you a better pump than a pure arm day. Try this dumbbell arm workout on for size:

  1. Dumbbell Curl
  2. Hammer Curl
  3. Concentration Curl
  4. Close-Grip Push-Up
  5. Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension
  6. Dumbbell Triceps Extension

Dumbbell Arm Superset Workout for Advanced Trainees

A superset is when you perform two exercises back-to-back with little to no rest in between. It’s a sure-fire training technique to increase the intensity of your workout and save time.

Here’s how you can superset the advanced bicep workout with matching dumbbell tricep exercises.

  1. Dumbbell Curl + Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension
  2. Hammer Curl + Close-Grip Push-Up
  3. Dumbbell Preacher Curl + Dumbbell Triceps Extension
  4. Incline Dumbbell Curl + Dumbbell Kickbacks
Don’t forget leg day! Training your lower body is vital for overall balance. Matterhorn biceps look out of place when balanced on top of chicken legs.

Read more:

>> The 10 Best Bodybuilding Splits: a Complete Guide

Dumbbell Bicep Exercise Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Workouts

  • Rest for as long as you need between sets. Research suggests that both short and long rest periods are helpful for muscle growth. You might want to take at least a 1-minute breather to recover your strength between sets, but there is no need to time your rest intervals to the second.2
  • Maintain proper form. Using good form ensures you effectively target your biceps, allowing you to get the most out of your workouts and see better results over time. By maintaining proper form, you also reduce the risk of injury and keep your body safe.
  • Gradually increase the load. As you get stronger, increase the weight of the dumbbells to continue challenging your biceps and promoting growth. Never at the expense of proper form, though.
  • Get enough rest and recovery. Your biceps don’t get stronger and grow in size while you’re curling, but during the hours and days following your workout. Give your biceps time to rest and recover between sessions to promote optimal growth. Training your biceps twice weekly is ideal for most, but try to schedule your workout so that you get at least 48 hours between sessions.
  • Eat a healthy diet. A balanced and nutritious diet gives your body the necessary building blocks for muscle growth. Like the rest of your body, your biceps need enough calories, protein, and other nutrients to support your efforts.

Read more:

>> Protein for Strength Training: The Ultimate Guide

>> Eating for Muscle Growth: When, What, and How Much

Track Your Progress with StrengthLog

A workout log is the best way to keep track of your progress. 

Remember that progressive overload is the key to consistent gains over time. To continue making progress, you must gradually increase the demands on your muscles. That goes for biceps training as well.

A training log helps you stay consistent, set and achieve specific goals, track your progress over time, identify patterns in your training, and hold yourself accountable to your fitness goals. 

StrengthLog is 100% free to download and use as a workout tracker and general strength training app. All the basic functionality is free – forever. It’s like a personal trainer in your pocket.

Download StrengthLog for free, keep track of your weights and reps, and try to beat your previous numbers each biceps workout. 

Download StrengthLog Workout Log on App Store
Download StrengthLog Workout Log on Google Play Store

Good luck with your training!

>> Click here to return to our list of training programs and workouts.


  1. J Hum Kinet. 2022 Feb 10;81:199-210. A Systematic Review of The Effects of Different Resistance Training Volumes on Muscle Hypertrophy.
  2. Eur J Sport Sci. 2017 Sep;17(8):983-993. The effects of short versus long inter-set rest intervals in resistance training on measures of muscle hypertrophy: A systematic review.
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Andreas Abelsson

Andreas is a certified nutrition coach and bodybuilding specialist with over three decades of training experience. He has followed and reported on the research fields of exercise, nutrition, and health for almost as long and is a specialist in metabolic health and nutrition coaching for athletes. Read more about Andreas and StrengthLog by clicking here.