Most men want to have bigger biceps and a lot of women struggle with getting their arms firmer and slimmer. One of the steps to reaching these goals is direct biceps work and the curl is the main isolation exercise for the biceps.
The best thing is that you can do curls very effectively with resistance bands only. No attachments, no weights, no machines. A simple resistance band is all you need. And I promise you that it won’t be easy. Don’t believe anybody who says that you can’t train heavy with bands. They probably never tried.
Only one band is all you need to start doing bicep curls – but we recommend getting a set right at the start of your resistance band journey. This way you will make sure that you always will have the band with the right tension. In case you still don’t have a set, check out this set right here: Resistance Bands Set
After reading this article you will know how to do a perfect bicep curl – including a step-by-step description of the basic form, different grips and important Dos and Don’ts. We will cover ways to adjust the resistance of a given band and variations of the basic bicep curl. In the last section you will have the opportunity to get background information about the anatomy of the biceps, the principle behind why bands actually work for resistance training as well as a way of how to incorporate the bicep curl into a workout routine.
How To Do Bicep Curls The Right Way With Resistance Bands?
Warming is unnecessary, right? – Wrong! Please promise us and your future self to always warm up before any serious resistance training. You will be thanking yourself in the long run and also make quicker progress, since injury won’t be a problem.
You will be needing your body and a resistance band only for this exercise. But we recommend highly wearing shoes and getting yourself a pair of gloves (like these: Workout Gloves). Since the band is stretched and contracted with every rep there will be friction at any contact point. Wearing shoes and gloves will make sure that your feet and hands are fully protected!
The following 5 steps will give you the perfect Biceps Curl:
- Step on the band with both feet (shoulder width apart) and grab the band with both hands (Supinated grip – thumbs pointing outwards)
- Keep your elbows close to the side of your body throughout the exercise
- Hold your hands shoulder width apart and curl up
- Return slowly to the starting position (resist against the pull of the band)
- Repeat for reps
Grips And Arm Positions
Grip Variations – there are 3 basic grip variations then it comes to bicep curls – underhand, neutral and overhand grip.
The difference is not huge but it is still good to know what each grip is for.
- Underhand Grip – This is the most common used grip variation for bicep curls. The supinated grip will achieve the most biceps activation while your forearms won’t be involved that much.
- Neutral Grip – The neutral grip is also known as a hammer grip. It makes a bicep curl into a hammer curl, and it will involve your forearms way more.
- Overhand Grip – This grip will basically add a forearm workout into your biceps routine. The overhand grip takes a toll on your forearms since they have to work intensively to hold on to the band.
Arm Position – a variation in your arm position will slightly shift the focus on the bicep heads you are training. The biceps basically consists out of the short, the long bicep head and the brachialis.
- Narrow Curl – The narrow curl brings a bigger focus on your long head. This is the part of the biceps which is responsible for the peak when you flex your biceps.
- Standard Curl – This is the middle ground between the wide and narrow version. You will use both heads equally.
- Wide Curl – The wide version will put a higher focus on your short head. With this you will add more thickness to your biceps.
Important Dos & Don’ts!!!
⓵ No Slack! – Especially when starting out people tend to do this mistake, and it’s the biggest when it comes to training with resistance bands. Always make sure that you have tension in the band already in the starting position. This way your biceps have to work throughout the whole range of motion of the curl.
⓶ Control The Reps! – This is important for two things. First is total time under tension. If you let the band simply snap back without actively working against it, you leave a lot of muscle work on the table and this will result in slower progress. The second is injury prevention. Controlling the whole motion will make sure that you are always in control of movement. This will minimize the chance of injury.
⓷ No Swinging Of The Upper Body! – Lock your upper body in place. Don’t swing your hips or your shoulders forward and backward. This often happens if the load is too high, and you start cheating by swinging. If recognize this is happening while you perform this exercise, you might need to grab a lighter band.
⓸ Lock Your Elbows In Place! – your elbows need to be at the side of your body throughout the movement. If you let them get forward – especially in the top position – you will get lots of tension away from the biceps. And that we don’t want to happen!
Keep these Dos and Don’ts in mind to get a perfect Bicep Curl.
But there are even more mistakes to know and avoid when training with resistance bands. To get your resistance band training to the next level check out our article on The Worst Mistakes You Can Do When Training With Resistance Bands
How To Adjust The Resistance
This section is the most important! Always keep in mind to first use the full potential of a given band before jumping to the next heavier one. A resistance band doesn’t have a fixed resistance – it has a range. The reason for that is the linear variable resistance characteristic of bands. This means the further you stretch them the more resistance you will get.
So what does it mean? It means you can use one resistance band for light isolation exercises and the same band for heavy compound exercises depending on the pre-stretch of the band.
So how do you adjust the resistance of a given band?
We collected various methods on how you can change the resistance of a given band to make it more challenging and get the most out of one resistance band!
For bicep curls the best are:
Adjust the length of the band – Adjusting the length of the resistance band is always the first thing you should do if you want to increase the load in an exercise. There are basically two methods to do that – use your hands or your feet.
Wrap it around your hands – this technique you will use the most. Simply wrap the band around one or both of your hands. The band will be shortened, and you will have a greater stretch throughout the exercise and therefore more resistance.
Distance between Feet – This technique is great if you’re doing the standing version of the bicep curl. Simply step your feet apart, and you will get more resistance. The best thing about this tip is that you can change your feet position in the middle of a set.
Combine bands – Another reason for getting a set of resistance bands is the option of combining bands to get the exact right resistance. I like to add the lightest band to my exercise and see how well it works. If it is too heavy, you can simply let go of the second band and finish the set with the rest.
Double the Band –This method is a little advanced. Doubling the band will not simply double the resistance, it will have an even greater effect. The reason is the linear variable resistance. So be careful not to go overboard!
Slow it down – adding resistance is not the only way to make an exercise harder. Simply slowing your reps down will increase the intensity drastically. Your muscle will have to work harder and this will result in training progress.
Of course, you can mix and match all these techniques as well. This way, you really have a lot of possibilities to get the most out of one single resistance band.
Alternative Ways To Do Bicep Curls With Resistance Bands
The great thing about curls is that there are tons of variations out there. So there won’t be a chance that it will get boring! For some of the following variations you will be needing a door anchor to attach the band to. In case you still don’t have one, grab one right here: Door Anchor.
Our most favorite variations of the standing bicep curl are:
Crucifix Curls – With this variation you will put a focus on the short head of the biceps and the brachialis. By developing these parts of the biceps you will achieve more thickness in your upper arms. And the great thing about crucifix curls is that you won’t be able to use your upper body for cheating.
The set-up is simple. Attach a resistance band to an anchor point around head level. Step away from the anchor point until you feel a pull in the band. Shortening the band in this exercise is a great idea btw. Now align your shoulders with the band and start curling by brining your hand towards the side of your head. Make sure to not forget the other side!
Seated Concentration Bicep Curls – The concentration curl is a variation where you isolate the biceps the most. To do that, you lock your elbows in place by pressing them against a surface. We will use our thighs for that.
Attach the band to an anchor point at around floor level, sit down on the floor and move backwards until you have tension in the band. The further away you get from the anchor point the more resistance you will have in the band. Now place your elbows on your thighs. Make sure to leave them in this spot throughout the set. The last step is doing the curls.
Behind Body Biceps Curl – My favorite unilateral variation. You can adjust the resistance in the middle of a set by taking a step forward or backward, and the biceps will have a great peak contraction in the top position of the exercise.
Drag Curls – One of my favorites with bands. The drag curl gets its name because you’re “dragging” your hands along your upper body in this variation.
Start in the basic bicep curl setup. Lean your body slightly forward – really little. Now move your hands straight up – not in a curve – literally straight up. Your elbow will have to go backwards for that to happen. The great thing is that you won’t be able to cheat by swinging your upper body in this variation, and you will feel the biceps in the top position guaranteed.
Can You Do Bicep Curls Effectively With Resistance Bands?
Resistance bands for direct biceps work are more than effective. They are superior to using weights. Lots of folks out there think that resistance bands are easy and only good for warming up and mobility work. Most of the time these people didn’t really try to work out heavy and intensively with resistance bands. If they did – they wouldn’t say such nonsense.
The biggest advantage bands have when it comes to bicep curls is peak contraction. When training with weights your biceps will have to do the most work when your forearms are parallel to the ground. Anything below or above this position will be easier for your biceps. With resistance bands, you will have constant tension throughout the movement with peak contraction in the fully contracted position of your curl.
Another benefit you will have by using bands for biceps work is the sheer amount of variations you can do. When I used to train with weights I was basically limited to standing curls. The variations I only could do in the gym by using cable machines.
So don’t let be fooled! Resistance bands are a great tool to become more fit and make progress. Keep on reading, and you will find out why and benefits you can reap by using them.
Why Does Training With Resistance Bands Work
Our body doesn’t know the difference between weights, resistance bands, machines, body weight, groceries, furniture …. you get the idea. The only thing our body knows is resistance. And it is quite smart – is the resistance great enough your body will react to that by becoming stronger – over time of course 😉
So as long as your muscles have to work against a load they will get a stimulus to grow and will with time be able to handle greater and greater loads.
To get in depth information about this topic check out our full article: Why Does Training With Resistance Bands Work
Benefits Of Training With Resistance Bands
Resistance band have heaps of benefits. Some of them are:
- No Cheating! Due to the specific strength curve of resistance bands it is almost impossible to use momentum and cheating in your workouts.
- Fewer Injuries! Resistance bands are easier on the joints compared to weights. This will reduce the chance of injury.
- Mobile! Simply pack them in your bag and bring a whole gym anywhere your go with you!
- Affordable! Compared to a gym membership or expensive equipment for a home gym, bands are very cheap!
Want to know what other advantages there are by working out with resistance bands? – Find out in the full article: Benefits Of Resistance Band Training
What Muscles Are Used In A Resistance Band Bicep Curl
Like the name of this exercise already hints the main muscle trained in a curl it the Biceps Brachii. It is the smaller muscle of your upper arm. And is responsible for one third of the total mass of your upper arm. Triceps is claiming the other two thirds. Besides of the biceps your forearm muscles will be working in bicep curls as well. By changing the grip you can put an emphasis on them.
The biceps consists of 3 main muscle portions. The long and the short head form the most muscle mass of the biceps. The Brachialis is a smaller portion which connects to the forearm.
Main Working Muscles:
- Biceps Brachii
Depending on your elbow position relative to your upper body in a specific biceps curl variation there will be a slight focus on a specific head. Also, the grip and arm position play a role.
Don’t be one of those people who only do bicep curls. Curls are great, but there are not as important as compound exercise structured in an effective workout program. This should always be the base of your resistance training. After finishing the compounds we can fully focus on bicep curls.
But building your own training program is often a hustle and in the beginning you just don’t have the knowledge to do that effectively. But we have an easy solution for you. We constructed effective workouts depending on your available days per week and what goal you have and put them in an app, so you can simply follow along and start making progress!
In our BIQ Training App we have several workout routines you can follow along. You can customize your routines depending on your goals. With this app you will also have a library of all resistance band exercises with a step by step description and a how-to video in your pocket – available at all times. Find out more here: BIQ Training App