10 Dumbbell Concentration Curl Alternatives


Dumbbell Concentration Curls are one of the most popular biceps curl exercises. They’re usually the exercise that makes a cameo appearance in movies like when Ron Burgundy was doing ‘a thousand curls’ to work on his ‘upper dorsimus muscles’.

But, sometimes you might an alternative to Concentration Curls.

Maybe you don’t have the proper equipment or you just want to switch up your workout. Whatever the reason, if you need a DB Concentration Curl alternative, you’re in the right place.

In this guide, I’m going to go over 10 Concentration Curl alternatives and hopefully at least one of them will work for your particular situation.


Alternatives for Concentration Curls


All ten exercises listed here are broken up into four sections.

Don’t have dumbbells? These first four exercises may work as a good substitution if the reason you can’t do concentration curls is because of a lack of dumbbells.

The next three alternatives still use dumbbells but are different dumbbell curl variations. These can all work great if you’re getting bored with your current workout plan and looking to change things up.

Finally, the last three exercises are a bit out of the box, but they’ll all still completely smoke your biceps.

Barbell Curl

Barbell Curl

If you don’t have dumbbells, don’t worry, Barbell Curls are a perfect (some would even say better) alternative to their dumbbell cousin.

Stand tall, grip the bar shoulder-width apart, keep elbows tucked and curl the bar up to shoulder level. Slowly lower back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.

Band Curls

Band Curls not only work great if you don’t have dumbbells but also if Dumbbell Curls bother your wrist or elbow.

Stand on one end of a resistance band and grab the other end with both hands. With Band Curls, you can use more of a neutral grip by keeping your palms facing each other.

Sometimes this type of grip (also similar to the grip used in hammer curls) can be less stressful on the wrist and/or elbow.

Cable Curls

Cable Curls

Although it may seem odd that one would have access to a cable machine but not dumbbells, there is one situation in particular that I’ve been in this situation more than once – hotel gyms.

I’ve had multiple cases where the only form of resistance training in the hotel gym was some sort of universal cable machine. If this happens to be you right now, drop a cable attachment down to the bottom of the machine and start repping out Cable Curls.

EZ Bar Curls

EZ Bar Curl

I would imagine this is probably most lifter’s favorite bar to do curls with. Often times I would simply write ‘curls’ on athletes’ programs and it was always safe to assume that all 3 EZ Bars (also called cambered bars) would find their way off of their storage rack.

As for the movement itself, it is the same as a barbell curl – just with a slightly different grip angle.

Hammer Curls

Hammer Curls

Now we’re switching gears into a few exercises that are also done with dumbbells. So, if you already have a set of dumbbells in your home gym that you usually do Concentration Curls with, then these could all serve as good alternatives to add some variety to your routine.

Hammer Curls are done with both dumbbells at the same time (although you can technically do alternating hammer curls too). Working with both dumbbells at the same time addresses one of the biggest drawbacks to Concentration Curls – they take forever to do one arm at a time.

From a technique standpoint, both palms stay turned in facing one another throughout the movement. This angle puts a lot of emphasis on the brachioradialis.

Seated Alternating DB Curls

Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curls is a very close cousin to Dumbbell Concentration Curls. You know, the cousin that you see at every family get-together, not just every five years at a family reunion – that close.

You’re still sitting on a bench and you’re still curling with one arm at a time. The main difference is just the fact that you’re holding another dumbbell in the other hand and your posture is slightly different.

Having said all that, the exercises somehow feel completely different. If you really love Concentration Curls and you’re only looking for a slight tweak, this seated curl variation may be exactly what you’re looking for.

4 x 4s

This is probably the least well-known of all the exercises on the list. But, I can almost guarantee you that once you try 4 x 4s, they’ll immediately become one of your favorite biceps exercises.

Grab a dumbbell for each hand (can be done standing or seated). Curl one dumbbell up (palm facing up) so that your elbow is at a 90-degree angle and the forearm is parallel to the ground. Hold it there.

Now perform 4 dumbbell curls with the opposite arm. After the fourth rep, bring that arm up to 90 degrees and freeze it there. Then release the first arm and perform 4 curls with that arm.

Finally, perform 4 more curls with both arms at the same time. If you have the proper amount of weight, 4 x 4s will absolutely toast those biceps.

21s

21s are generally done with a partner holding the hand around the bottom of the sternum to give the lifter a visual cue to touch the bar to, but they can still be done without a partner if necessary.

Perhaps best of all you can do 21s with any of the implements I’ve discussed so far – barbell, dumbbells, cable, etc.

Curl halfway up for seven reps. Curl the bar all the way to the top of the rep and then go halfway down for seven reps. Finally, do seven reps with full range of motion.

Partner Curls

Partner Curls are one of my all-time favorites to quickly, and brutally, finish off the biceps at the end of a workout.

Grab a partner and a barbell. You won’t need very much weight at all. A 10-pound plate on each side is more than enough for most lifters.

Do one curl and hand the barbell over to your partner. They’ll do one curl and hand it back to you. Then you do two curls.

Continue handing the bar back and forth and increasing the reps each set by one. Once you both do a set of 8, start reducing the reps each set by one until you both finish with a set of one rep each.

The key to partner curls is not to sit the bar down the entire set.

Chin-ups

My final alternative for Dumbbell Concentration Curls isn’t even a curl exercise at all. However, if the point of working out is to get strong and build mass then it would be a crime to not include Chin-ups.

This is because Chin-Ups are one of the best exercises for building strong (and big) biceps. This is because using an underhand, shoulder-width, grip for Pull-ups – which is what Chin-ups are – puts so much emphasis on the biceps that they have no choice but to grow.

Final Thoughts

Dumbbell Concentration Curls are a hall-of-fame biceps exercise. However, there are situations where you either can’t do them or maybe just want to do something a little different.

Either way, hopefully, this list of Concentration Curl alternatives has given you at least one option that you can use to still get the biceps pump you’re looking for.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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