The seated bicep curl may is one of the best bicep exercises you can do. Yet, I’ve rarely see people do it. Most people perform bicep exercises such as the standing barbell and dumbbell curls, hammer curls, preacher curls etc.

These are great exercises but the seated bicep curl on an incline offers some unique benefits that the other exercises don’t. To understand why we have to look at the bicep anatomy and the main functions of the biceps.

The seated incline bicep curl has been a staple in my own training and I as well as the people I coach, have seen great results from it.

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Why Bicep Training?

The bicep makes up about 1/3rd of your entire upper arm. If you want big arms in general, you have to train your biceps, triceps, and shoulders (deltoids). Training these three will make your arms bigger and stronger.

Big Arms Biceps Triceps Shoulders Delts

Bicep training is not only for bodybuilders and for people who want big arms. The biceps are involved in nearly all of the major compound movements including:

  • Pull-ups
  • Chin-ups
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Rows
  • Bench Press
  • Chest Flys and more.

Having strong biceps can help nearly any strength athlete stabilize pressing movements. It can also prevent injuries when deadlifting or pulling heavy weights. And finally, training your bicep can help keep your elbows healthy from all of the pressing movements we do by balancing out the pressing and pulling strength.

Bicep Anatomy

The muscle is known as the bicep because it has 2 (bi) heads that originate at the shoulder and attach at the elbow.

The bicep has 3 main functions:

  • Elbow Flexion: Brings your wrist towards your elbow
  • Wrist Supination: turns your wrist outward and your thumbs away from the body
  • Shoulder extension

One of the lesser-known functions of the bicep is shoulder extension. The bicep is involved when you raise your arm in front of you.

Why is this important?

This is because most bicep exercises use the 2 main functions of the bicep when they curl. A great example of this is standing dumbbell curls. Typically when you begin the movement, your hands are in a neutral position (facing each other). As you curl the weight up, your palms face up (wrist supination). This exercise uses elbow extension and wrist supination but there is little to no involvement at the shoulder joint.

Benefits of Seated Incline Curls vs. Standing Curls

Standing vs Seated Incline Bicep Curls

Standing vs Seated Incline Bicep Curls

1. Increased Range of Motion

The image on the left has been tilted to show the starting position

At first, there might not seem to be a big difference between standing and seated curls but when we compare them side by side, you will see the difference in the range of motion. Since gravity pulls directly down, when you’re on an incline, you are essentially curling the weight from behind you. This means that you have to curl the weight from behind your body instead of from your sides.

2. Increased Time Under Tension (TUT)

One of the limitations of the standing bicep curl is that the actual time under tension is not lower than it seems. At the start of the movement at the bottom, there is little to no tension on the muscle. Most of the tension is in the middle of the movement and again there is very little tension at the top of the movement.

On a seated incline curl, however, there is constant tension almost throughout the movement. This is because of the angle at which gravity is acting against the weight. When you perform this movement, you will feel the tension as soon as you start moving the weights all the way to the top, where you will feel the peak contraction

3. Greater Stretch on the Bicep

Bicep curl anatomy

As we discussed earlier, the bicep originates at the shoulder joint and is involved in shoulder flexion. The stretch is one of the smaller factors of muscle hypertrophy (growth). Most bicep exercises only place a stretch at the elbow.

Because of the incline angle, the incline bicep curl places a stretch on the bicep at the shoulder AND elbow.

4. No Cheating

Standing Barbell Curl Vs Seated Incline Bicep Curl

Standing Barbell Curl Vs Seated Incline Bicep Curl

Bicep curls are some of the easiest exercises to use a little bit of body movement to cheat on. The incline bicep curl eliminates this problem almost entirely. There is nothing necessarily bad about a little bit of cheating but if your goal is to isolate the bicep muscle, the seated incline curl is a superior movement.

On a seated incline curl, your upper body is lying on the bench and it is nearly impossible to use any body movement to move the weight. As a result, your biceps have to do all the work to move the weight.

That being said, you shouldn’t cut out the other bicep exercises from your bicep workout completely. They’re still great exercises.

How to Perform the Seated Incline Bicep Curl

    • Find an adjustable bench
    • Set the angle to about 45 degrees
    • Grab some dumbbells. You will have to go lighter than what you use for a standing bicep curl.
    • Sit down on the bench and hold on to the dumbbells on your sides.
    • Rest your upper back and traps on the bench. You may also want to rest your head on the bench.
    • Keep your chest up. You should feel a stretch in your biceps, front delts and chest.
    • Start with your arms straight and locked. You can choose to keep your palms neutral or facing up. I prefer to keep them facing up for a greater stretch.
    • From a locked position, curl the weight up as high as you can and feel the contraction at the top. Try not to use any body movement.
    • Hold the contraction at the top for 1 count.
    • Lower the weight under control until your arms are straight and you feel a deep stretch in your biceps, front delts and chest.
    • Hold for 1 count
    • 8-12 reps is a good starting point.

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Key Takeaways

The bicep has 3 main functions:

  • Elbow Flexion
  • Wrist Supination
  • Shoulder Extension

Key Benefits of Seated Incline Bicep Curls

  • Increased Range of Motion
  • Increased Time Under Tension
  • Greater stretch on the bicep at the shoulder joint
  • More muscle isolation by eliminating cheating

If you’ve never tried this exercise before, I highly recommend you try it out. Don’t go too heavy and follow the form guidelines outlined above.

Have you tried this exercise yet? What exercises do you do for your bicep workout?