By: Adam Campbell
For decades, the dumbbell curl has been helping us build bigger biceps—but it also seems to have stripped us of our imagination. After all, how often do you try a new variation of this classic arm exercise? If it’s not every 4 weeks, then you need to shake up your workout to achieve faster results. Start today with this simple guide from The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises. By mixing and matching any of the five hand positions and five body positions described here, you can instantly create 25 different versions of the curl. The upshot: You’ll never run out of new ways to build your biceps.
The right way to curl: Let the dumbbells hang at arm’s length straight down from your shoulders. Then, without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can. Pause, and slowly lower the weights back to the starting position. Each time you return to the start, straighten your arms completely.
Hand Position: Standard
With your palms facing forward, grip the handles in the middle.
The benefit: This is the hand position for the classic dumbbell curl, which targets your biceps brachii, the largest muscle on the front of your upper arm.
With your palms facing forward, touch the outside heads of the dumbbells with your thumbs.
The benefit: As you curl the weight, you’re forcing your biceps brachii to work harder to keep your forearm rotated outward (so your palms are up).
Hand Position: Pinky Offset
With your palms facing forward, touch the inside heads of the dumbbells with your pinky fingers.
The benefit: This tweak shifts the way the weight is distributed, providing more variety to keep your muscles growing.
Hand Position: Reverse
Turn your arms so your palms face behind you.
The benefit: You’ll really feel it in your forearms: This position targets your brachioradialis, but it decreases the activity of your biceps brachii.
Hand Position: Hammer
Keep your palms facing each other.
The benefit: You’re forcing your brachialis muscle to work harder for the entire movement. Building your brachialis can make your arms look thicker.
Body Position: Standing
Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
The benefit: More muscle. Anytime you’re standing, you engage more core muscles than when you sit.
Body Position: Split Stance
Stand tall and place one foot in front of you on a bench or step that’s just higher than knee level.
The benefit: Stronger abs. This stance forces your hip and core muscles to work harder in order to keep your body stable.
Body Position: Seated
Sit tall on a bench or Swiss ball.
The benefit: Better form. Performing the exercise while seated may make you less likely to rock your torso back and forth (“cheat”) as you curl the weight.
Body Position: Decline
Lie chest down on a bench set at 45 degrees.
The benefit: Thicker arms. Lying on a decline causes your arms to hang in front of your body, a position that challenges your brachialis more.
Body Position: Incline
Lie on your back on a bench set at 45 degrees.
The benefit: Bigger guns. Lying on an incline causes your arms to hang behind your body, which emphasizes the long head of your biceps brachii to a greater degree.