Workouts & Exercises

Understand Congdon Curls – How to Perform the Exercise by the Book

If you keep training your biceps and somehow, your T-shirt is still not squeezing them enough, chances are you have reached a dead point.

I have been there, and no matter how frustrating it is, I know the rule – I have to challenge those arms and make them hurt.

Sure, this is the fun type of pain – if it hurts, I know it works. If it does not, it means I have to try harder.

Now, with so many exercises for biceps, it should not be such a big deal to select one for biceps. You can try out different variations of classics, but you can also come up with something out of the box.

This is when congdon curls kick in. You need a regular dumbbells; the right pose, and you are ready to smash it. Make sure you start with low weights to help with your pose and prevent injuries.

All in all, here is what you have to know.

What is a Congdon curl?

Congdon curl is a upper body workout that targets several arm muscles including biceps and triceps the most

A congdon curl is similar to a classic bicep curl from many points of view.

There is one major difference, though – how you do those curls.

The exercise is mainly aimed at your biceps, but it will give your whole arm a good workout. Adding the exercise to your workout will give you improvements in many other exercises – mostly those involving lifts.

The congdon curl is, therefore, a sophisticated base for more difficult compound exercises, as it also targets your grip.

Just like other similar exercises, the congdon curl is adjustable and allows bringing more weights in (not the millennium dummbell, of course), as you gain experience.

While there is an average dumbbell curl weight, the truth is what works for some people will not work for everyone else, the same goes for pretty much every calisthenic or weight workout really.

So you have to figure out what works for you.

How to do congdon curls

Doing congdon curls is pretty simple if you follow the steps in the right form

Congdon Curl in four steps

The congdon curl is fairly simple to perform.

Step 1 - Get a couple of dumbbells and make sure they are a comfy weight – do not pick the heaviest you can lift. In the early stage, it is imperative to learn how to do the exercise correctly.

Step 2 - Feet must be shoulder width apart and keep the core engaged. Shoulders are moved back, and the arms are comfy by your sides.

Step 3 - Palms must face forward as you hold dumbbells. Bend elbows and bring dumbbells close to the shoulders – so far, the exercise is similar to the bicep curl.

Step 4 - Turn wrists to 90 degrees in the up position – palms should face each other then. Lower the arms in the starting position slowly.

Congratulations! You’re done with one rep.

Make sure your body does not change at all. Your elbows and lower arms are the only moving parts, as well as the wrists when you get up. 


Before doing congdon curl, warm up first, whether you do some calisthenic moves or smash a portable punching bag for a few minutes. Also few minutes cardio after workout should help you cool down.

When it comes to dumbbells, anything will do. You will gain experience and lift more, so it might be wise to go for cheap adjustable dumbbells.

The likes of BWSS adjustable dumbbells and other affordable options make for great picks. And no, you won't need to put up a dumbbell rack for these, they're the real deal when it comes to saving on space.

Related Reading; Are Adjustable Kettlebells Any Good?

Here's a video on how to do congdon curl:

Congdon curls muscles worked

Congdon curl works best on the arm muscles including biceps, triceps, deltoids and several others

Your biceps and triceps are the main muscles worked with congdon curls – biceps in particular.

Other parts in the arms are also worked, such as the forearms during the twisting movement. All the associated connections are targeted too.

Deltoid muscles benefit from this exercise too.

They are rounded by the shoulders and attached to shoulder blades. Such muscles are responsible for more movements. When it comes to the congdon curls, they help bring the upper arm forward.

Apart from extra size, you will also gain strength.

*** Other great workouts for shoulder strength include the front plate raise and dumbbell front raise.

Wrist muscles will also be improved, not to mention the brachialis muscle – located just below the biceps. The muscle keeps the elbow flexible, so it will get better with time.

Assess your fitness level before starting your workout journey and keep an eye on it. On the same note, it pays off measuring your biceps before and throughout this venture.

Related Reading; Long Head Bicep Exercises

Congdon curls benefits

Upper body muscles benefits the most from the Congdon curls especially biceps and triceps

Adding size and strength to your biceps is the primary benefit of the congdon curl.

The triceps will also grow larger as a direct consequence of biceps training.

Improve strength and flexibility

Size and definition are not the only things that matter – such exercises will stimulate your strength. As you perform this exercise more and more often, you will be able to add more weight – strength is just part of the game.

Pretty much any exercise that involves lifting will become easier – especially if they also imply a good grip.

Boost stability

Since your core also requires some engagement, these curls will boost your overall stability too. Your heart rate will go up without having to move anything else but the elbows.

Burn more fat

As if all these were not enough, the exercise can isolate muscles and burn the annoying fat deposits around your arms – in other words, you will have a bit of definition as well.

Mistakes to avoid when doing congdon curls

Make sure you do Congdon curls in correct form to avoid injuries

Every exercise out there comes with potential mistakes.

People make mistakes because they feel natural, and they ease the exercise – such mistakes increase the risk of injuries, but also reduce the effectiveness of their workouts.

Using momentum is one of the most common mistakes when lifting things. You focus on bringing those weights up, but this is it. When they go down, gravity takes over, and everything feels easier. Forget about gravity, though.

You need full control of the movement, so bring your arms back in a slow movement.

Also, focus on maintaining the spine upright by flexing your core. Shoulders should not move forward either.

Form goes over speed, so focus on maintaining the right form, rather than rushing. The movement must be smooth – take more time to lower weights. Going too fast will make your exercise less effective.

While you can train biceps and triceps on the same day, it might be a good idea to focus on biceps only when you implement new exercises. 

It is also wise to become familiar with basic biceps exercises first. If you are a senior and you want to start with more complicated exercises, think twice. There are other more essential exercises for seniors to try out.

Crouching Cohen curls alternatives

Zottman curl - One of the alternatives to congdon curl

Zottman Curl

Standing dumbbell curl - one of the alternatives to congdon curl

Standing bicep curl

Spider curl - one of the alternatives to congdon curl

Spider curl

Pretty much any type of curl can be considered an alternative to the modern congdon curl.

Bicep curls represent the most popular alternatives – similar in difficulty, but less challenging because there is no wrist movement involved. Plus, the core requires a different position.

Another popular alternative - to perform seated single arm dumbbell bicep curl, you can also sit down and work one arm at a time – keep the elbow against the thigh, grab the dumbbell and perform the curl.

Other types of curls such as standing dumbbell curl, preacher curl, zottman curl or spider curl can also be used as alternatives. 

Related Reading; Dumbbell-Only Workout Results

Final words

Congdon curls represent an excellent idea to boost your biceps workouts and not only. While the primary focus is on the biceps, you will notice other parts of your body also get involved.

The exercise can be used for the biceps, but also for upper body workouts. You will benefit from a better posture, more stability, and a leaner upper body.

Given the possibility to isolate muscles, the exercise is suitable for those who want big arms or need to burn stubborn fat around them.

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