4 Biceps Curl Variations That Will Firm Your Arms

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

For a stronger upper body, find your perfect version of this versatile exercise.

biceps curl variations
Your biceps are pretty darn important. Every time you bend your elbows to lift a bag, pull a door open, or comb your hair, your biceps—the muscles in the front of your upper arms—are hard at work.

But like the rest of your muscles, your biceps get weaker over the years unless you take steps to keep them strong.

Enter the biceps curl, one of the best arm exercises for older adults that you can do in a variety of ways. You can do them standing or sitting—perfect for anyone who wants an upper-body chair workout. With a gym machine, a resistance band, or dumbbells. With both arms at the same time or just one arm at a time.

What’s more, because you need to remain fairly still when doing the exercise, you’ll improve your core stability as a bonus.

Not sure where to start? Here are four biceps curl variations that will strengthen and firm your arms.

How to Use These Exercises

No matter which biceps curl variation you do, you’ll get the most benefit if you use good form. Use these tips:

  • Start with a lighter weight, and master the form first.
  • Engage your core to keep your torso stationary.
  • Keep your elbows tucked close to your sides.
  • Bend your elbows (not your wrists) to curl up.

Start with the first or second variation, working up to three sets of 10 to 15 reps. If that feels good, try the next variation, and so on. Add any you like to your regular workout.

As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or move advanced those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

Connect
Eligibility
Locations
Subscribe to our newsletter
It's quick and easy. You could be one of the 13 million people who are eligible.
Already a member? Click to discover our 13,000 participating locations.

Follow Us

Variation #1: Biceps Curl with Machine

The biceps curl machine, a seated exercise that will guide you through the movement, is a great place to start for beginners. Plus, it can help you learn proper form to do the move with a resistance band or dumbbells.

Do 10 to 15 reps

How to do it: If you’re using a machine for the first time, read the instructions that are typically posted on each machine, or ask gym staff for help. Adjust the seat so you feel comfortable, and start with a lighter weight.

Sit up tall. Keeping your torso stationary and elbows tucked close to your sides, bend your elbows (not your wrists) to curl the handles up to your shoulders. Pause, then slowly lower your arms. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 15 reps, or as many as you can with good form.

Variation #2: Biceps Curl with Band

No gym machine? No problem. This variation is still beginner-friendly, and all you need is a resistance band.

Do 10 to 15 reps

How to do it: Stand on the middle of a resistance band with your feet hip-width apart, holding the band with both hands. Let your arms hang down by your sides so the band is taut, but not stretched tight.

Keeping your torso stationary and elbows tucked close to your sides, bend your elbows (not your wrists) to curl your hands up to your shoulders. Pause, then slowly lower your arms. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 15 reps, or as many as you can with good form.

Make it easier: Perform the move while sitting tall in a chair.

Variation #3: Alternating Biceps Curl with Dumbbells

This is a fun variation that allows you to curl one arm at a time. It’s also a great way to notice—and address—strength imbalances between your right and left arms. If one arm is weaker, consider doing a few extra reps on that side.

Do 10 to 15 reps per side

How to do it: Start with lighter weights. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms at your sides and palms facing in.

Keeping your torso stationary and elbows tucked close to your sides, bend your right elbow (not your wrist) to curl the weight up to your right shoulder. As you curl, rotate your forearm so that your palm faces up.

Pause, then slowly lower your arm. Repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep. Continue alternating for 10 to 15 reps per side, or as many as you can with good form.

Make it easier: Perform the move while sitting tall in a chair.

Variation #4: Sit-Back Squat with Arm Scoop

Want a strength and coordination challenge? This double-duty variation combines two modified moves: a biceps curl and a squat.

Do 10 to 15 reps per side

How to do it: Start with a lighter weight. Take a small split stance with your left foot forward, and brace your core. With your elbows bent, hold a dumbbell at each end in front of your belly so that it’s parallel to the floor. This is your starting position.

Push your hips back, and bend your knees to sit back into a small squat. At the same time, keeping your elbows tucked close to your sides, scoop your arms into a small biceps curl.

Pause, then push through your heels and lower your arms to return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 15 reps per side, or as many as you can with good form.

Make it easier: Practice each move—the sit-back squat and arm scoop—separately first. When you’re ready to combine them, try doing the movement without weights to get a feel for it. Then add a light weight.

Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly

SilverSneakers gives you free, unlimited access to more than 16,000 gyms and fitness centers across the nation, plus classes and tools designed to keep older adults strong and independent. Check your eligibility instantly here.

Already a member? Get your SilverSneakers member ID and exclusive content by logging in to or creating your online account here.

Find out if you're eligible for SilverSneakers, the fitness benefit that's included with many Medicare Advantage plans. CHECK YOUR ELIGIBILITY