Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curls (How To & Muscles Worked)


Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curls is one of the most popular biceps curl exercises and for good reason.

This movement emphasizes flexion and pronation of the arm and supination. It works all parts of the biceps – the biceps, brachialis and even the brachioradialis. And it generates a sick biceps pump that will have you leaving the gym feeling awesome about your lift.

In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to do Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curls including important coaching points and plenty of variations and alternatives.


How To Do Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curls


Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells
  • Bench (a chair or sturdy box can also work)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Sit at the end of a bench with good posture, feet and knees close together in front of you.
  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand and start with them hanging straight down at your sides, palms facing you.
  • One at a time, flex the biceps and curl the dumbbell up toward the shoulder
  • As the dumbbell rises, rotate the arm so the palm is facing up at the top
  • Follow the same path to return the dumbbell to the starting position
  • Repeat on the opposite arm and alternate back and forth until all reps are complete.

Coaching Points

By far, the biggest mistake I see with Seated Dumbbell Curls is lifters swinging the weight up and down. Stay under control of the weight throughout the entire movement, both going up and coming down.

Staying under control doesn’t just apply to your arms either, keep your torso still as well. Do not rock back and forth in an effort to lift more weight.

Basically, if you have to cheat – rocking, swinging, using momentum – to curl the weight, it’s too heavy. Lower the weight and go back to using proper form.


Muscles Worked


Biceps Muscle 3D Body

Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curls work both major biceps muscles – the biceps brachii and the brachialis. And because of the rotation of the lower arm during the movement, the brachioradialis (a muscle that travels across the elbow joint) also gets significant work as well.

Pro Tip: Keeping the palms facing up throughout the movement will place more emphasis on the biceps and keeping the palms facing in (DB Hammer Curls) throughout will emphasize the brachioradialis.


Seated Alternating DB Curl Variations


The two closest variations to Seated Alternating Curls are two other seated dumbbell curl exercises.

Seated Dumbbell Curl

The main difference with Seated Dumbbell Curls is that both dumbbells are curled at the same time rather than one at a time.

Whether or not you keep palms up throughout the entire movement or rotate the lower arm depends on you and what muscles you want to focus on (see Muscles Worked above).

Seated Hammer Curl

Seated Hammer Curls are also done with both dumbbells moving up and down in sync. Hammer Curls also specify that the palms are to be turned in (facing each other) throughout the movement. This will put a heavy focus on working the brachioradialis.


Seated Alt DB Curl Alternatives


If you can’t do Seated Dumbbell Curls, for whatever reason, here are a couple of alternatives.

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

If Dumbbell Curls bother your wrist or elbow, you may be able to give Band Curls a try.

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.


More Links and Info


Looking for more great arm-building exercises? Horton Barbell has an entire section dedicated to biceps and triceps in its Exercise Library known simply as the Arm Farm.

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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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