Dumbbell curls are one of the most performed exercises in gyms all over the world.
They’re a hugely popular bicep-building exercise and have earned their spot in training programs of beginners and experienced gym-goers alike.
Concentration curls are an old-school variation of dumbbell curls.
Think back to old videos of bodybuilders sitting on a bench bent over curling a huge dumbbell with one arm and you get a good idea of what concentration curls are.
In this article, we compare dumbbell curls and concentration curls in terms of their difficulty, their ease of access, and their variability.
By the end of it, you should have a good idea as to which one is better for you or whether they both have a place in your arm workouts.
What’s The Difference Between Dumbbell Curls And Concentration Curls?
Dumbbell curls are usually performed standing up with both arms working at the same time, whereas concentration curls are performed sitting down with each arm being worked independently.
During dumbbell curls, your arms can move freely.
Whereas in concentration curls, your leg acts as a brace for your working arm. This restricts the movement and prevents other muscles from assisting.
Which Is Better For Building Biceps?
There’s no denying that both dumbbell curls and concentration curls are awesome at building biceps.
Concentration curls do a better job of isolating your biceps throughout the exercise though. This means they have to work harder which can lead to more gainz.
Something to keep in mind with concentration curls is that they place more emphasis on the short head of your biceps while dumbbell curls tend to work both heads more equally.
Dumbbell curls allow you to lift more weight so they can help you overload your biceps more.
There are arguments for both of these exercises being better for building biceps.
If you’re more focused on isolating your biceps, then concentration curls do this better. But if you want to lift more weight to encourage overload, dumbbell curls are better equipped for this.
Which Is Better For Building Forearms?
Neither dumbbell curls nor concentration curls are focused on building forearms.
However, as concentration curls isolate your biceps better, dumbbell curls will be a better choice for building forearms.
This is because your forearms will activate more during dumbbell curls and will act as stabilizing muscles.
Dumbbell curls are fairly straight-forward.
The technique can be hard to master as swinging and arching your back can lessen the impact on the target muscles.
However, once you’ve mastered the technique and found an appropriate weight to lift, dumbbell curls are an easy exercise to perform.
The technique of concentration curls can take a bit of getting used to.
The position of your body throughout the movement can be a bit uncomfortable if you don’t get it right, so care needs to be taken to avoid lower back issues.
The movement of concentration curls though is simply flexion of the elbow.
As this is a very basic physiological movement, most people can do concentration curls with very few issues.
Both dumbbell curls and concentration curls have a low difficulty level.
You’re more likely to get the technique of dumbbell curls wrong as your arms can move freely throughout the exercise.
As concentration curls put your working arm into a supported position, it’s easier to use the correct technique.
That being said, the body position required for concentration curls can be more uncomfortable than the standing position used for dumbbell curls.
Ease of Access
As their name suggests, all you need to perform dumbbell curls is a set of dumbbells.
In a gym environment, there are usually several sets to choose from of various weights.
Even if you train at home, dumbbells are readily available so can easily be added to your home gym inexpensively.
As dumbbells are so easy to get hold of, both in a gym and in a home gym, dumbbell curls have great ease of access.
Concentration curls only need a single dumbbell to be able to perform them correctly.
It’s worth bearing in mind that a bench or somewhere to sit is also required for concentration curls.
But whether you train at home or in a gym, there’s usually a bench or a chair or something that you can sit on.
Concentration curls are a very accessible exercise as you only need a single dumbbell.
As dumbbell curls and concentration curls only use dumbbells, they’re both equally as accessible as the other.
In gyms, there are multiple dumbbells that you can use.
So even if the exact ones you want are being used, there’ll be a suitable alternative you can use for either exercise.
Dumbbell curls are the foundation of a wide range of bicep exercises, so they’re extremely versatile and offer great levels of variability.
You can change your grip from supinated (palms-up) to pronated (palms-down) to bring in other muscle groups.
You could also change to a neutral grip (palms facing your body) to change to hammer curls.
The dumbbells could be replaced with a barbell, an EZ bar, kettlebells, weight plates, or even resistance bands and very similar muscle groups will be worked.
There aren’t many ways you can adapt concentration curls.
Although you can change from a sitting bent-over position to a standing bent-over position, this can place more pressure on your lower back making it unsuitable for some people.
The standing bent-over position allows you to use a barbell instead of a single dumbbell, although this doesn’t isolate your biceps as well as standard concentration curls.
Dumbbell curls offer far greater variability than concentration curls.
Concentration curls are somewhat restrictive in that they’re usually performed in a seated position with a single dumbbell.
As soon as you start to change positions or equipment, bicep isolation can be lost resulting in a less effective exercise.
Dumbbell Curls vs Concentration Curls: Which Is Better?
If you’re looking for an exercise that can help build big biceps, you can’t go wrong with either dumbbell curls or concentration curls.
Dumbbell curls require a bit more activation from your forearms and offer a lot more variability than concentration curls.
Concentration curls do a better job of isolating your biceps with a lot of focus being placed on the short head.
Both of these exercises have a low level of difficulty and great ease of access. The biggest deciding factor as to which is the better exercise will likely be your personal preference.
Concentration Curls Muscles Worked
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.