The incline dumbbell curl is the go-to biceps builder for many savvy weightlifters.

That’s because it places tension on your biceps throughout the entire range of motion and allows you to train your biceps in a fully stretched position, both of which are highly beneficial for muscle growth.

In this article, you’ll learn what the dumbbell incline curl is, its benefits, which muscles it works, how to perform the exercise with proper form, the best incline dumbbell biceps curl alternatives, and more.

What Is the Incline Dumbbell Curl?

The seated incline dumbbell curl is a biceps isolation exercise. It involves sitting back on an incline bench while holding a dumbbell in each hand, lifting the dumbbells to your shoulders by bending at the elbows, then straightening your arms.

Some prefer a variation referred to as the “alternating dumbbell curl,” which involves alternating between your arms with every rep. Performing the exercise like this helps you to focus your attention on one biceps at a time, which may aid muscle growth in some scenarios.

The downside of the incline alternating dumbbell curl, however, is that it significantly extends the length of your sets, which isn’t ideal if you’re short on time.

That’s why most prefer to perform the incline dumbbell curl bilaterally (curling both arms simultaneously). As such, that’s the variation we’ll focus on in this article.

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What’s the Best Incline Dumbbell Curl Angle?

As a general rule, an incline of 60 degrees works best. 

Sitting more upright than this places your upper arms too close to your sides, negating the benefits of the exercise. Likewise, performing the exercise through a full range of motion at a lower angle requires a degree of shoulder mobility that most people lack, which may make it uncomfortable or force you to compromise form. 

Still, everyone’s proportions, mobility, and preferences are different, so it’s best to experiment with various bench angles between 45 and 70 degrees to find what works best for you.

Incline Dumbbell Curl: Benefits

Research shows that using a variety of biceps exercises that place your upper arms in different positions relative to your torso is important for building proportional biceps.

The incline dumbbell curl is distinctive because it’s one of the few exercises that train your biceps when your arms are behind your body. 

This makes it a valuable addition to your biceps workouts alongside exercises that position your arms by your sides, including the dumbbell and barbell curl, or forward of your torso, such as the preacher curl and chin-up.

Furthermore, placing your upper arms behind your torso fully stretches your biceps. This is noteworthy because research shows that training a muscle while it’s stretched is superior for muscle growth than training it while it’s relaxed.

Another benefit is that the incline curl places tension on the biceps throughout the entire range of motion. This may mean it’s slightly more effective for developing your biceps than other biceps exercises (the preacher curl, for example) that put little stress on the biceps at the top of each rep.

Incline Dumbbell Curl: Muscles Worked

The main muscles worked by the incline dumbbell curl are the biceps brachii (or “biceps”), the two-headed muscles on the front of your upper arms, between your shoulders and elbows.

Here’s how the biceps look on your body:



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How to Do the Incline Dumbbell Curl

The best way to learn how to perform the dumbbell curl on an incline bench is to split the exercise into three parts: set up, curl, descend.

1. Set Up

Adjust a bench to around 60 degrees. Grab a dumbbell in each hand, sit on the bench with your feet planted on the floor, then lean back so that your back is against the backrest, your arms hang straight down, and your palms face forward.

2. Curl

Bend at the elbows to curl the dumbbells up until they’re in front of your shoulders.

Press your back against the backrest as you lift the dumbbells. This stops you from using momentum to “cheat” the weight up and ensures your biceps do the lion’s share of the work.

3. Descend

Lower the dumbbells and return to the starting position. Don’t let the weights fall back to the starting position or try to straighten your arms slowly. The entire “descent” should be controlled but only take about a second.

Here’s an incline dumbbell curl gif showing what it should look like when you put it all together:

Incline curl

The Best Incline Dumbbell Curl Alternatives

1. Prone Dumbbell Incline Curl

In the dumbbell prone incline curl, you perform a dumbbell curl with your chest against an incline bench, instead of your back. This keeps your arms in front of your body, which trains your biceps slightly differently than the incline dumbbell curl.

2. Incline Dumbbell Hammer Curl

The incline dumbbell hammer curl is similar to the regular incline dumbbell curl, only your palms face each other, not forward. This wrist orientation emphasizes the brachialis, a small muscle beneath the biceps that significantly adds to the biceps’ size and circumference.

3. Bayesian Curl

The main difference between the Bayesian cable curl and incline dumbbell curl is execution: in the Bayesian curl, you train each arm independently using a cable machine and while standing, whereas in the incline curl, you train both arms simultaneously using dumbbells and while seated.

However, both exercises work your biceps similarly and comparably, so you can use them interchangeably.

+ Scientific References