Incline Dumbbell Curl

Incline Dumbbell Curl

The incline dumbbell curl is a popular bicep exercise that offers some unique benefits.

Read on to learn what makes the exercise special, what area of the biceps it emphasizes, and how to perform it correctly.

What Is The Incline Dumbbell Curl?

The incline dumbbell curl is an isolation bicep exercise. Trainees must set an adjustable gym bench at a high inline, sit back, and hold a dumbbell in each hand.

Once in position, allow the arms to hang straight down and perform repetitions, similar to a regular dumbbell curl.

The arm position relative to the upper body allows for a greater bicep stretch, which can improve muscle activation and lead to superior growth.

Muscles Worked During an Incline Dumbbell Curl

The primary muscle group worked during an incline curl is the bicep, which makes up the front portion of the upper arms and produces elbow flexion (bending of the arm).

Adding a wrist supination (rotating your palms from neutral to forward-facing) at the top of each repetition can lead to stronger bicep contractions.

Both heads of the bicep work together during an incline curl. According to experts, the exercise emphasizes the bicep’s long (outer) head, contributing to a pronounced peak.

The deltoids (shoulders) also contribute during an incline curl. Some shoulder flexion occurs as you curl the dumbbells, activating the front deltoid head.

How To Perform Incline Dumbbell Curls (Step-By-Step Instructions)

  1. Set the adjustable gym bench at an incline of 60 to 70 degrees.
  2. Grab a pair of dumbbells, sit down, and place your back flat against the back support. Have your arms to your sides with palms neutral or facing forward.
  3. Bring your shoulders back, engage your abs, and inhale.
  4. Slowly curl the dumbbells and keep your elbows anchored to your sides.
  5. Lift the weights until your wrists are slightly higher than your elbows, and pause.
  6. Gradually extend your arms as you exhale.

How an Incline Curl Differs From Regular Curls

The primary difference between incline and regular curls is your body position, which influences muscle activation.

During an incline curl, your arms are slightly behind your torso, which puts a stretch on the bicep and can theoretically lead to more growth.

In contrast, your arms align with your torso or are positioned forward during other curl variations, leading to a less pronounced stretch.

Incline Dumbbell Curl

Variations of the Dumbbell Incline Curl

There aren’t many variations of the dumbbell incline curl. The primary tweak you can make is to adjust the incline on the back support.

A higher incline of 60 to 70 degrees is ideal for most people because it contributes to a good bicep stretch without putting unnecessary stress on the muscle or shoulder joint. (1)

In contrast, leaning too far back can put a lot of stress on the bicep at the bottom position, as the muscle over-extends, especially when using heavier weights. Similarly, that position could put more pressure on the anterior deltoid and shoulder joint, increasing the risk of an injury.

Safety Tips and Final Recommendations

Warm up well by doing some low-intensity cardio and dynamic stretching. Once finished, do some sets of light curls to warm up your biceps and promote blood flow before doing incline curls. (2)

Incline Dumbbell Curls Muscles WorkedYou should also train with lighter dumbbells that allow you to do at least 12 to 15 smooth and controlled reps. Incline curls are an isolation exercise, and using too much weight can put you at risk of injury.

Finally, as mentioned in the previous point, use a high incline of up to 70 degrees. Leaning back too far can put too much stress on your muscles, joints, and connective tissues.

Click to learn about long head vs short head bicep exercises, and why a comprehensive approach is important.

Some other great dumbbell exercises are dumbbell rows, dumbbell flyes, dumbbell hip thrusts, and dumbbell pullovers.

Click for more dumbbell workouts, and also see our biceps exercise videos.

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Philip Stefanov

Philip is a fitness writer, blogger, certified personal trainer, and the founder of He has spent the last nine years writing fitness content and training men and women in the gym, as well as online. His passion is fitness and exercise, and helping others improve their fitness and wellness.

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  1. Lincoln, M. (2022, November 8). How to do the incline dumbbell curl for bigger, Stronger Arms. Breaking Muscle.
  2. Contributors, W. M. D. E. (n.d.). Warm-up exercises: Do they improve performance and reduce injuries? WebMD.

Click to see our medical disclosure.