The dumbbell curl is one of the most common and effective exercises for training and building up the biceps. That being said though, for beginners it can be hard to get started with the dumbbell curl.
They don’t know which weight to pick; some want to look cool and go too heavy, others go too light and can’t feel anything.
That’s why today we’re diving deep into the average dumbbell curl weight. We’ll see what the average is for both men and women across all experience levels, beginners, intermediates and advanced.
A Quick Summary;
For Those of Us Who Hate Long Drives to the Gym…
Ahead, you will find all the deets about dumbbell curls; from the basics about dumbbells, to how you can use them for curls, how to exercise safely and tips on making the most of your workout session.
But before we dive into the nitty-gritty, it is also worth noting that dumbbells are some of the best gym equipment you can (and should) have on your dumbbell rack somewhere in your backyard gym.
These gizmos are compact, easy to use, store, or move across the room… Besides, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to own one, especially if you are quite strapped and all you want is a cheap adjustable dumbbell set.
Get a pair, and you can work out a sweat just about anywhere, anytime; heck, you can even carry the small-sized ones to work.
And yeah, they come in all shapes, sizes, colors and designs. Such adjustable ones like these high-end Bowflex dumbbells, or the more affordable Flybird ones make for an awesome addition to your fitness arsenal.
They are compact, solid, and ingenious marvels of technology. But some of us can do without having to fondle the (often complex) controls on these equipment, or spending a fortune for a set.
What is a Dumbbell Curl?
Before we go any further, we should clear up what a traditional dumbbell curl is. Not because the lift is complicated or anything, but because there are so many variations, some which can be quite confusing (think Zottman curl) which can confuse any beginning and most folks who’re just getting started with youth weight lifting training.
As mentioned above, the dumbbell curl is a bicep exercise. It is one of the best exercises to isolate the bicep muscle, though it also trains your forearms and grip strength to some extent. If your triceps are not growing and you are looking to work them while at it, then consider adding the alternating dumbbell press to your sessions.
Like I said, there are also hundreds of variations of the traditional dumbbell curl. This exercise can be performed with nothing other than a standard dumbbell. Yes, there are adjustable ones like these, but nonetheless, same thing.
Once you’ve mastered the original exercise, you can begin to experiment by changing grips to hit different heads of the bicep; using equipment like preacher benches combined affordable olympic barbells or arm blasters for better isolation or hammer curls for the size gainz.
How to Perform a Dumbbell Curl:
Most beginners think they know how to do a dumbbell curl. After all, they’ve seen it countless times on movies and tv!. However, most of the time these actors aren’t using proper form, nor trying to get a workout, they are just trying to look good for the camera! And yeah, that’s the case for pretty much any other moves you might have seen being pulled off, be they calisthenics or weight workouts.
On the other hand, we are trying to grow muscle safely, which means form comes first and looking cool comes second.
Check out the following video on how to actually perform a dumbbell curl.
To keep it simple though, this exercise is pretty much simple and straightforward. Here are the two main steps to master and keep in mind.
Step 1 – Bicep Curl Stance
Being in the right stance is crucial for standing exercises – especially ones requiring heavier weights, like the military press, for instance. It helps you distribute weight more evenly across your body and keep your spine straight.
The stance for dumbbell curls is simple: Stand with your feet facing forward, shoulder width apart, and keep your knees relaxed. Hold the dumbbells at your side in a neutral position, with your palms facing inwards. Don’t worry about dumbbell weight, we’ll deal with that later.
Step 2 – The Lift
While keeping your elbow locked in place, bring up the dumbbells while rotating your palms so that they’re facing upwards. Then slowly lower them back down and return to the starting position, with your palms facing in.
It is important to control the weights on the way down, this will help you prevent injury, but also work your biceps as you resist gravity. If you don’t resist gravity on the way down, you’re literally getting half as much benefit from the exercise!
Common Dumbbell Curl Mistakes
Listed below are some of the mistakes that beginners make when performing this exercise
Bending your Back while doing Curls
A mistake you’ll see a lot of beginners as well as teenage girls and boys make during workout, especially when they’re using too much weight, is bending their back to get the weight up. This way they are “cheating” on their curls by recruiting their core and back muscles instead of isolating their biceps.
This not only takes away from the effectiveness of the exercise, it can also be dangerous. By bending backwards you’re putting your spine in a compromised position, while also bearing a heavy load, which can result in serious injury.
Moving their Elbows Forward
Our bodies are very efficient, so instinctively it wants to recruit more muscles to make the movement easier.
That’s why a lot of people don’t even realize they are cheating on their curls by moving their elbows forward as they lift and swinging them back when returning to the start position.
By doing this, you allow the shoulder muscle to bear part of the load, which defeats the point, since you’re trying to stimulate your biceps. This can also prove taxing for this area especially if you are just recovering from training your shoulders.
Safety when doing Dumbbell Curls
Now you know some of the mistakes you need to avoid when doing dumbbell curls, that’s one way to avoid injury, but it isn’t the only one.
I can’t emphasize enough how crucial safety is when doing dumbbell curls, and of course, this goes double for dumbbell-only workouts.
Now, safety becomes even more of a priority for those who have an injury, and it is advisable to avoid working out altogether until you have recovered enough. Also, when doing the curls, listen to your body, the burn and fatigue are Ok.
However, if you start feeling pain or you get to a point and feel like you have pushed yourself hard enough, take a short break before moving on to the next set. This is important to ensure you can still maintain the right form when exercising, it could save you the risk of injury.
Another important point to note here is that heavier weights don’t mean building bulky biceps overnight. Growing muscles (be it building bigger quads, using a neck harness for a big neck, or carving out insane 10-pack abs) takes time, and effort. So right from the get-go, be ready to take it easy and grow gradually, adding weights as you go.
Adjustable dumbbells like these are priceless in this case, as they allow you to select the weight that best matches your strength level. Nevertheless, if a hand weight set of standard ones is all you’ve got then don’t worry, these are just as great too.
Too much weight too early could be a direct ticket to injury, wrong form, or fatigue without having accomplished the day’s target.
Dumbbell Curl Pro Tips
If you are a seasoned pro, this might not be for you, but for the beginners out there, here are a few tidbits to keep in mind.
Let those Wrists Turn
Among the different roles performed by the bicep muscle is the rotation of your wrists, so it pays to make it count when doing dumbbell curls too. Besides, this further helps stimulate small muscles as well as ligaments in your wrists.
Give those Biceps a Nice Squeeze
Among the most effective ways to build muscles is giving them some damn good pump. When doing dumbbell curls, you can achieve this by activating this muscle even further at the top of the move.
Trust me, this simple action enhances your mind and muscle connection, which is essential for triggering a gush of blood into this tissue. It will give you a great deal of muscular growth and strength.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
I have already mentioned something along these lines, but I still feel I need to emphasize this just a bit. In the gym, everyone has their fitness levels. So don’t go all out to get those bulky biceps you see other guys flaunting around.
It took them time to build theirs, take your time and build yours. Even if the ones you started with seem to be making better and faster progress than you are, still take it easy and stick to a pace, and dumbbell weight that feels comfortable and safe for you.
This will allow you to work your biceps to their max potential (while keeping the risk of injury at minimum) and eventually, the results will be unmistakable.
What Muscles are Worked with the Dumbbell Curl Exercise?
The dumbbell curl is mostly a hand workout, and as such, it works mainly the biceps, and forearms.
That said, it is advisable to take it easy with how you grip the bar, lest you experience fatigue in your forearms faster than necessary.
Anyone who’s read this far knows that the bicep is the primary muscle worked while doing dumbbell curls. What you might not know is that your bicep is composed of two heads, called “long” and “short” heads.
The short head is what gives your biceps that meaty look from the front, while the long head bicep is responsible for the bicep “peak” that you get when you flex. If you are looking to buff out your upper arms, then consider incorporating some exercises (like planks and/or push-ups, for instance) into your routine. Both of these workouts are particularly helpful if you are considering training your biceps and triceps on the same day.
In fact, you can choose to target each bicep head differently with the dumbbell curl just by changing your grip. If you keep your palms facing inwards during the whole movement, you’ll work more on your long head. That is called a hammer curl.
If you twist your palm upwards and even slightly raise your pinky finger, you’ll be working on your short head.
There are two ways in which your forearms contribute to the dumbbell curl. One is by gripping the dumbbell, it’s not uncommon for beginners to grip the dumbell too hard and burn up their forearms before their biceps get the chance.
The second way is by assisting in the movement itself, since some of your forearm muscles assist in flexing your elbow. In fact, if you do hammer curls like we described above (palms facing in) you will also put more tension on your forearm.
To take it a step further, if you switch your grip so that your palms are facing down, you’ll be doing reverse curls which are a forearm exercise first and foremost.
What is the Average dumbbell curl weight, what it depends on and how it is calculated
By Most Standards
Unfortunately, there’s no official numbers for what the average dumbbell curl weight is. Lucky for you, I know where to look, so I did find some references to the average dumbbell curl weight:
I set out to make this as easy for you as it can get. Let’s get right into it and see what the numbers look like, shall we?
General Weight Range, Not A Percentage
When you talk about lifting averages, it’s common for people to give them as a percentage of bodyweight. This does make sense, since you can’t expect a 200 pound man and a 120 pound woman to lift the same.
However, I don’t wanna be doing math when I’m at the gym trying to pick a dumbbell, and I’m guessing you don’t either, so I’m gonna give you numbers, not percentages, numbers. In this case, the average dumbbell curl weight is 40 pounds for men and 20 pounds for women.
Keep in mind this is for ONE repetition, called a one rep max. Next we’ll dive into the average for 8 to 12 reps.
Average Dumbbell Curl Weight – for 12 Reps
There are no sources for average dumbbell curl weights for 12 reps, and this time no amount of digging can help us. Fortunately, there are some math formulas that can predict how much weight you can lift based on your one rep max.
We know the average one rep max is 40 pounds for men and 20 for women and from there we can get an estimate.
So, we have our one rep max, we type it into the formula and this is what we get;
There we can see that our estimated dumbbell curl weight for 12 reps is 28 pounds. However, this is still going all out on one set, so you might wanna try this out with weights that are a little bit lower.
The same thing goes for women, though if you pay attention, the percentage weight is a bit lower, since on average, women have less upper body strength than men.
Should You Care About the Average Dumbbell Curl Weight?
It’s fun to compare strength standards to see where you stand and can sometimes be useful to have something to strive for and progressively get better. The flip side is that if you fall waay below strength standards you might feel awful and lose motivation to keep training.
That’s why I wanna end this by telling you that in reality, weight is just a number and it really doesn’t matter how much you lift. And this holds for other dumbbell workouts (like the dumbbell stopgap program) as well; moderation, moderation, moderation.
What matters is that you’re pushing yourself as hard as you can without risking injury, that alone will cause your muscles to grow and you to be one step closer to the body of your dreams.
Yes, I know this sounds like motivational bull crap to make people feel better, but it’s actually true! There are plenty of top bodybuilders who use relatively low weight for this (and other dumbbell exercises like the alternating dumbbell press) and instead use high reps, since the chance of getting injured is much lower.
Strength Standards – What Exactly is this Term all about?
So, what exactly are strength standards and how can you use them to figure out where you are and just how much more you should do? If you were to measure your fitness level and that of your gym bros and compare, you’d notice that everyone is in a different spot across the full spectrum of fitness levels.
From the beginners to the best of the best, we all are different. The key here is to know where you belong so you can work towards your goals.
These are the folks who are just dipping their toes in the water, have been lifting for a month or more, and are possibly stronger than a small percentage of lifters, 5% to be precise.
A novice is someone who has been lifting for about 6 months or so, they have mastered the ropes better than beginners, and are typically better than about 20% of lifters in terms of lifting strength.
If you have been practicing lifting for about 2 years, you belong in this category. You are most probably stronger than half of the lifters out there, at 50% level to be precise.
Hey big boys, this is your turf y’all who have been lifting for well over 5 years or thereabouts. It is also highly likely that you can lift more than 80% of other lifters.
This is the category of the top-ranking folks who have practiced, trained, and committed to building skills and strength to become strength sport competitors, usually for five years or more. It doesn’t come as a surprise then that they rank well above 95% of all lifters.
FAQ about Dumbbell Curls exercise
Here are the most commonly asked questions that beginners have when starting out performing this exercise
How much should I lift in one arm dumbbell curl?
You should lift as much as you can, while maintaining good form. For most people, that will be somewhere around 28-30 pounds, though if you’ve been training for a while it may be higher.
Which is better, dumbbell curls or barbell curls?
While for most people the difference is negligible, dumbbell curls are a bit better than barbell curls for two reasons. First, they allow your wrist to move more naturally during the movement. Second, they are better to avoid imbalances, since each arm does the work independently. With barbells, your dominant arm might do a bit more work.
One of my Arms is Weaker than the other, what do i do?
It’s cool, most people have one arm that is stronger than the other, usually their dominant arm. This can be fixed by starting your curls with your weaker arm and seeing how many reps you can do, then doing the same amount for your strong arm even if you have some left in the tank. That way your strong arm will stop progressing until your weak one catches up.