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.
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, that beginners might end up confused.
As mentioned above, the dumbbell curl is 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.
Like I said, there are also hundreds of variations of the traditional dumbbell curl. 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 or arm blasters for better isolation or switch to the barbell curl.
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!
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.
Step 1 – Bicep Curl Stance
Being in the right stance is crucial for standing exercises. 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.
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
here are common mistakes to avoid when doing dumbbell curls
Bending Your Back While During Curls
A mistake you’ll see a lot of beginners make, 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 the dumbbell.
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.
What Muscles Are Worked with Dumbbell Curl Exercise?
there are two main muscle group areas worked by dumbbell curls.
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 is responsible for the bicep “peak” that you get when you flex.
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. If you are like me and like to work the biceps and triceps on the same day, you might need to consider adding another exercise to your routine like the alternating dumbbell press.
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
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:
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 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. 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 and instead use high reps, since the chance of getting injured is much lower.
FAQ about Dumbbell Curls exercise
Now we tackle common questions asked about dumbbell curls.
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.
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