Lateral Bicep Curls: How To, Muscles Worked,…

Photo of author
Last Updated On

You can approach your bicep workouts from many directions. Find out how to do lateral bicep curls and whether they are a good idea.

Lateral curls are a bicep curl variation where you hold your upper arms horizontally when doing the bicep curl.

With bicep workout equipment like a cable machine or resistance bands, this can be a decent bicep exercise that engages your shoulder muscles isometrically at the same time.

Keeping your arms in this position can still distract you from training your biceps optimally.

Additionally, lateral bicep curls with weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, etc. can still offer bicep growth and strength increases but are not ideal.

This is because the smaller range of motion under tension is typically not as good as a full regular bicep curl.

In simpler words, lateral bicep curls can offer results but they are generally not that effective compared to many other bicep curl variations.

How to do a lateral bicep curl

To do a lateral bicep curl you need some form of resistance. Preferably a cable machine or good resistance bands anchored at about shoulder height.

That being said, you could also use more standard equipment like a pair of dumbbells.

As an example, take the following steps to do a lateral bicep curl:

  1. Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Point your hand palms outward but let your arms hang down for now.
  2. Lift your arms sideways and upward until your upper arms are in a horizontal line. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched.
  3. Raise the dumbbells in a controlled motion by folding your arms. Keep your upper arms in the same position and stop when your forearms point up vertically.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells again so your arms are slightly less than stretched again.
How to do a lateral bicep curl

You want to really focus on keeping your upper arms and the rest of your body at the same angles. Keeping your movements slow can help with this.

If you do one arm at a time, make sure you do the same number of repetitions on each side to avoid muscle imbalances.

Muscles worked with lateral bicep curls

The main muscles you work with lateral bicep curls are your biceps brachii (commonly just called biceps) and the brachialis muscles which lie deeper in your upper arms.

Additionally, this exercise works your middle deltoids (shoulders) in an isometric (static) way.

How many bicep curls you should do depends on what you are trying to achieve.

For example, to build bicep muscle mass, you want to do about 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 (or even up to 50) lateral bicep curls.

One important downside of lateral bicep curls with more traditional weights like dumbbells is that your muscles only go through a small range of motion under tension.

After your forearms are vertical, gravity helps you move the weights.

This is a downside because smaller range of motions under tension tend to be less effective for growing and strengthening muscles.

One way to resolve this somewhat is by using resistance bands or a cable machine for lateral bicep curls.

Something else to note is that having to hold your upper arms in the air may distract you from working your biceps optimally. This could again reduce the effectiveness of your workouts.

Lateral bicep curl benefits

Lateral bicep curls are not the number one exercise out there but doing them can still offer positive effects. These are mostly similar to what you would get from other bicep exercises but to a lesser extent.

More specifically, a few benefits of lateral bicep curls include:

  1. Stronger biceps: By doing lateral bicep curls with enough resistance, repetitions, and sets, you can grow and strengthen your biceps.
  2. Better deltoid endurance: Raising your upper arms like this for extended amounts of time can improve muscle endurance in your deltoids. This could make certain daily activities more convenient.
  3. Can benefit weight loss a little: Since lateral bicep curls burn a few extra calories and potentially help build a bit of muscle mass, you can say they can benefit weight loss. Keep in mind that this effect will be small and that you likely still need to pay attention to other areas of your health to see results.

Again, lateral bicep curls are not the ultimate movement. Even for these benefits.

On the flip side, this exercise is typically still better than doing nothing at all.

Lateral bicep curl alternatives

By now, you likely understand that you want to consider other bicep exercises. Some of the lateral bicep curl alternatives you can consider are:

  • Regular bicep curls
  • Wide grip bicep curls
  • Preacher curls
  • Lateral raises
  • Row variations
  • Hammer curls
  • Reverse curls

Your reasons for considering lateral bicep curls will influence which of these alternatives suits your need best.

Are lateral bicep curls a good exercise?

Lateral bicep curls can help you grow and strengthen your biceps in combination with the right weight, repetitions, and sets.

Additionally, they may help increase muscle endurance in your deltoids (shoulders) slightly.

That being said, it is worth noting that lateral bicep curls are also not the most effective bicep curl variations.

First of all, holding your upper arms horizontally can be tiring and distract you from working your biceps optimally.

Secondly, not everyone has resistance bands with good anchors or a cable machine available.

When doing lateral bicep curls with equipment options like dumbbells, your range of motion under tension is limited. This is suboptimal for muscle-related benefits.

Photo of author


Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.