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Lateral Bicep Curls: How To, Benefits,…

There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing lateral bicep curls, what will the effects be?

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

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

With other equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, certain weight plates, etc. lateral bicep curls can offer some bicep muscle growth and strengthening.

However, with these options the exercise is not ideal since the range of motion under tension will be relatively small compared to the regular bicep curl.

For other fitness goals besides growing and strengthening your biceps, there are likely many better exercise options.

Whether you should add lateral bicep curls or other alternatives to your routine depends on things like your personal situation and training goals.

How to do a lateral bicep curl

For lateral bicep curls you need some type of bicep workout equipment as resistance, preferably a cable machine or resistance bands anchored at about shoulder height. You can also use more traditional equipment like dumbbells.

to do a lateral bicep curl with dumbbells take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Let your arms hang down for now.
  2. Lift your arms to one horizontal line. Keep them slightly less than stretched and with your hand palms pointing upward.
  3. Slowly fold your arms at the elbows until your forearms point up vertically. Keep your body and upper arms in the same position during this movement.
  4. Return to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.

Keep your upper arms and the rest of your body still and your movements slow and controlled to make your arms really work hard. You can sit down on a sturdy object to make this easier.

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

How to do a lateral bicep curl

Muscles worked with lateral bicep curls

Lateral bicep curls are mainly an upper arm isolation exercise. Additionally, you work your shoulder muscles to some extent in an isometric, more static, way.

More specifically, this exercise mainly works muscles like the biceps brachii (commonly just called biceps) with two parts, two muscle heads, and the brachialis muscles which lie deeper and are more helpful for making your upper arms look bigger overall.

The way you build muscle in places like your upper arms is by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough. This may sound counterintuitive but this damaging makes it so your body repairs these muscles, and adds a bit more to be better prepared to exert similar efforts in the future.

If you stick to exercises with the same weight, as your muscles become stronger this same effort may not damage your muscles enough to promote extra muscle growth.

By gradually increasing the resistance in exercises like lateral bicep curls you are better able to damage the muscles in a shorter amount of time.

One downside of lateral bicep curls with weights like dumbbells is that the range of motion under tension is relatively low. If you go further than vertical with your forearms, gravity starts to help.

A smaller range of motion is generally not helpful when trying to build muscle and improve strength. With a cable machine or resistance bands you can add resistance for a bigger part of the movement.

Lateral bicep curl benefits

While it may not be the most effective bicep exercise out there, adding lateral bicep curls to your routine can still offer you some helpful benefits. Some of the most important ones include:

  1. Stronger muscles: Lateral bicep curls are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your upper arm muscles.
  2. Can help with losing weight: Doing lateral bicep curls likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss. Keep in mind that there are better exercise choices if weight loss is your goal.
  3. Improves mood: Exercise like lateral bicep curls promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
  4. Slows down aging: Lateral bicep curls won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.
  5. Improves sleep: Exercise like lateral bicep curls can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.

While inevitably many workouts are better for some of these benefits than lateral bicep curls, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.

Potential risks

The main thing to keep in mind is that lateral bicep curls can be hard on body parts like your wrists, elbows, and shoulders, even if you implement the right technique.

If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any elbow or shoulder pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before implementing lateral bicep curls into your workout routine.

How heavy your weights should be for lateral bicep curls varies from individual to individual. If you are not sure how much weight would be right for you, you can start with light or no resistance and slowly build up from there.

If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that lateral bicep curls are not (yet) for you.

Lateral bicep curl alternatives

While lateral bicep curls can definitely be a good addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training similar muscles. Some of these lateral bicep curl alternatives include:

  • Regular bicep curls
  • Preacher curls
  • Lateral raises
  • Hammer curls
  • Reverse curls

Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.


Many people will benefit from adding lateral bicep curls with the right technique to their routine. Gradually increase the weights as you get stronger to keep seeing a lot of muscle growth and strength progress.

That being said, especially compared to lateral bicep curls with weights like dumbbells, there are more effective exercises for training upper arm muscles like your biceps.

Additionally, remember that lateral bicep curls can be hard on body parts like your wrists, elbows, and shoulders even if you implement the right technique.

If you are sensitive or weak in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any elbow or shoulder pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before doing more lateral bicep curls.

Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing lateral bicep curls is a workout you love, great. If not, other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.

If you do decide to implement more lateral bicep curls make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.