THE BICEPS CURL is, very likely, the most common exercise you’ll see performed at your local gym. That’s for good reason. There are few more efficient muscle-building movements that are so easily accessible for lifters at all levels. Lots of guys think that you can just walk up to the rack of weights, heft a pair of dumbbells, and raise them up to your shoulder, one after the other, cranking out reps. Before too long you’ll begin to achieve a pump, and you’ll feel exactly like Arnold circa 1975 in Pumping Iron. That’s a very slapdash view of one of the most important exercises in your fitness arsenal. You’ll have to focus on your form to reap the full muscle-building benefits of the biceps curl—but beyond dialing in on your movements and remembering a few important cues, there’s not much more to it. The simplicity and effectiveness make the biceps curl so enduring, keeping its place as one of the go-to exercises for arm training in any worthwhile workout routine.The standard version of the movement (as described above) depends on a set of dumbbells and little else other than your willingness to grit your teeth, squeeze your muscles, and lift—but that’s just one way you can curl. You can also shift up your grip, swap out implements, and even shift your position to change the focus of your reps. By adding these variations into your training plan, you’ll be able to build a stronger, more complete pair of arms (and you’ll never get bored, either). Benefits of Biceps CurlsAccessible EffectiveTrains the functions of the bicepsAs we’ve already noted, there are few exercises more accessible or effective for building biceps mass. That’s because the curl loads the main function of the muscles: elbow flexion (bending the elbow). You’ll also be able to hit another key function of the biceps, supination (turning the palm upward). Your biceps will be challenged by the movement more directly than many other exercises that involve the muscles, and you’re able to isolate them to keep the focus directly on these functions. You can make biceps curls even more effective using all sorts of training protocols too—from isometric pauses to drop sets to supersets, you can use most forms of the exercise in numerous contexts. Biceps Curl Mistakes to AvoidYes, the biceps curl is simple—but if you don’t come correct, you’ll lose out on the full effect of the movement. Sloppy curls will still have some benefits, but if you really want to make the most of your workout, you’ll practice perfect form every time. play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to playToo Much Shoulder InvolvementYour movements should be only at the elbows. Don’t allow your shoulders to take on the load. A neutral wrist position will allow your biceps to take on all the load. Bending your wrist will take the onus off your target muscles and shorten the levers, making the movement easier. Your biceps are responsible for elbow flexion and supination, and leaving this out of your curl will shortchange your workout. Importantly, this is most relevant for standard dumbbell curl variations (neutral grip hammer curls and bilateral barbell curls don’t allow for the same movement in the same way).The Best Biceps Curl Variations Check out all of these these variations to expand your biceps curl repertoire. Add these exercises to your arm day workouts and build up for more gains. play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play3 sets of 8 to 12 repsHere it is, the most common biceps curl variation. The gold standard. Use the basic setup here, including the postural notes from MH fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., as your starting point for just about every other standing version of the movement. You can do the curl alternating arms, as described below, or with both arms at the same time. How to Do It:Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides in a neutral grip (hands facing each other). Squeeze your shoulders, abs, and glutes to create full-body tension. Squeeze one of your biceps to lift the dumbbell up. Move only at the elbow, keeping your upper arm and shoulder totally vertical. As you curl up, turn your hand over so that your palm is facing the sky by the time your elbow is parallel with the ground. Continue lifting up to the top end of your range of motion without shifting your upper arms forward, emphasizing the biceps squeeze.Lower the weight back down with control, rotating back to neutral once you’ve passed the halfway point. play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play3 sets of 8 to 10 repsShift implements and get ready to work with both hands for this bilateral bodybuilding standard (just don’t do it in the squat rack). “This is the curl that’s gonna let us lift more weight than any other curl,” says Samuel.How to Do It:Stand with good posture holding the barbell in both hands with an underhand grip. Your hands should be aligned with your shoulders. Squeeze your biceps to curl the bar straight up, making sure to move only at the elbows. Grip the bar tightly and attempt to “bend the bar,” rotating your pinkies upwards to supinate.Raise the bar up as high as your range of motion allows, and emphasize the squeeze at the top. Aim to keep your upper arms pinned to your sides to avoid cheating. Lower the weight back down under control. play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play3 sets of 6 to 8 repsThis variation is all about grip. You’ll stay in neutral for the whole rep—and you’ll shift your focus to the brachialis, an important sub-biceps muscle that will make your arms pop. This is another curl you can do either with both arms at the same time or alternating arms. How to Do It:Stand with good posture holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides in a neutral grip. Squeeze your biceps to curl the weight up, moving only at the elbows. Keep your upper arm perpendicular to the ground throughout the movement. Don’t rock your waist to use momentum. Curl up as high as your range of motion allows, then squeeze your biceps and brachialis at the top. Lower the weight back down under control. play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per armThe concentration curl allows you to train the peaks of your biceps. You’ve probably watched guys plopped down on a weight bench doing this variation before—and they were probably doing the exercise wrong. Make sure you follow the form cues to avoid lazy reps. How to Do It:Sit on a bench, with a dumbbell between your legs.Grab the dumbbell with one hand, then place your upper arm (your triceps muscle) against your thigh—not on top of it. Your goal should be to keep your arm perpendicular to the ground throughout the whole movement.Tighten your core and engage your shoulder blades to create tension and reinforce posture.Make a fist with your off hand and extend your non-working arm out to the side. Curl the weight up with control, keeping the wrist in a neutral position. Emphasize the squeeze at the top of the rep; avoid any backwards lean or shoulder movement, keeping the focus on the biceps.Lower back down under control, maintaining your posture.play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play3 sets of 10 to 12 repsYou’ll need an adjustable weight bench for this variation, which uses your positioning and gravity to increase the stretch on your muscles. Don’t lift with ego here; you might use lower weights than you expect. How to Do It:Set your incline bench to around a 60 degree angle. Sit on the bench holding a pair of dumbbells. Allow your arms to hang down holding the weights, and place your back and shoulders on the bench’s back pad. Keep your head up off the pad; that might be more comfortable. Squeeze your shoulder blades and abs in your seat. Make sure your upper arms form a perpendicular line from your shoulders to your elbows, which should hang behind your torso.Curl up, moving only at the elbows. Control the movement to keep your upper arms still. Emphasize the biceps squeeze at the top of the movement. Lower the weight back down, under control. Come to a full stop before starting the next rep. play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play3 sets of 10 to 12 repsThis second bench-bound variation flips the positioning, putting your chest on the bench pad. Again, you’ll get a good stretch on the biceps from the position—while also making it much harder to cheat. That makes it easier to isolate your muscles for growth. How to Do It:Set the bench to about a 45 degree angle. Start with your chest on the bench—almost off the pad—but your feet on the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades, abs, and glutes to create full-body tension to get into the proper position.Hold a dumbbell in one hand, with your upper arm angle perpendicular to the ground. Make a fist with your off arm and extend it out to the side to help to stay in position. Squeeze your biceps to curl the weight up, rotating your pinky up and the dumbbell slightly forward. Emphasize the squeeze at the top of each rep, pausing briefly. Lower the weight back down under control. Come to a complete pause before moving into the next rep. play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 repsOne of the biggest issues with overeager exercisers and biceps curls is how easy it can be to cheat. Whether you use momentum to swing the weight up or moving your elbows forward, your position can allow you to shortchange your biceps squeeze. Putting your back and upper arms against a wall eliminates those opportunities.How to Do It:Press your entire back, butt, and upper arms against the wall, holding the dumbbells in each hand. Curl the dumbbells up until your forearms are parallel to the ground. Pause for a beat, then squeeze your biceps to raise the weight up to complete the movement.Lower the biceps back to the starting position.play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play4 sets of 10 to 12 repsLike the previous movement, this variation takes away some of your ability to cheat. This time it’s by cutting your knees out from under you—and forcing your core to work even harder to maintain good posture. How to Do It:Hold a dumbbell in each hand and kneel on the floor with arms at your sides. Tuck your pelvis under slightly so it’s parallel to the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades, core, and glutes. Keeping your upper arms at your sides, begin curling the dumbbells up. Twist your wrists outward so that your palms face the ceiling at the halfway point. Continue to curl, raising the weights up as your range of motion allows, and squeeze your biceps at the top.Lower the weights to your sides under control.play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play3 sets of 10 to 12 repsGym rats will recognize this machine variation, which puts your upper arms in a supported position away from your torso so you can really focus on the biceps contraction. How to Do It:Adjust the machine’s seat so that your chest is flush against the preacher pad, with your armpits firmly wedged in, leaving little to no gap.Grab the machines handles. Squeezing your shoulder blades and driving your lower body into the ground, begin curling the handles. Focus on rotating both pinkies toward the ceiling as you work toward a solid squeeze at the top of the rep.Lower back to start position under control.play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play3 sets of 8 to 12 repsNo preacher curl machine or bench in your gym? No problem. You can create the same upper arm-supported position using an adjustable bench and a dumbbell. How to Do It:Set up your adjustable bench at an angle that works with your height. You’ll need to put your armpit right up to the top of the bench, with no space in between. Squat low and squeeze your shoulders, abs, and glutes to maintain tension. Once you’re in position, grab your dumbbell with an underhand grip. Your forearm and the dumbbell should be just off the bench. Squeeze your biceps to curl the weight up, moving only at the elbow.Stop your curl just before your forearm is perpendicular to the ground. Pause and emphasize the biceps squeeze. Lower the weight back down under control. play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play3 sets of 8 to 10 repsThis hammer curl variation also gives your forearms a major challenge. You’ll need a towel and a kettlebell. Get ready to grip. How to Do It:Wrap the towel around the kettlebell’s handle, then grasp the ends of the towel using a neutral grip. Stand with the load, core tight, glutes squeezed, and shoulder blades tight.Keeping your upper arms as still as possible, bend at the elbows, curling the weight up until your forearms are parallel with the ground. Pause.Lower until your arms are nearly straight, then curl the weight as high as possible without lifting your elbows. Squeeze your biceps and forearms at the top. Lower back to the start under control.play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play3 sets of 10 to 12 repsHit your biceps peaks at home using a resistance band. The band will give you a different type of challenge than weights; since you’re no longer battling gravity, the resistance will be tougher as you stretch the band toward the top of the movement, rather than when you’re working with the longest lever. How to Do It:Start seated on the ground, legs straight, core tight. Loop the resistance band around your feet. Grab a handle with each hand and curl up, raising your upper arms so elbows are slightly below shoulders. Squeeze one biceps hard, while doing a curl rep on the other side. Repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep.play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play3 sets of 12 to 15 repsYou’ll need a cable machine for this notoriously tough curl variation, which removes almost all ability to cheat and changes up your angles to totally isolate the biceps. Bonus: you’ll hone your core and shoulder stability. How to Do It:Adjust the height of the cable machine so that it’s at your shoulder height as you kneel next to the tower. Your elbow should be just slightly lower than your shoulder. Get into a tall-kneeling position and grab the cable handle. Squeeze your shoulder blades, abs and glutes; imagine there’s an invisible wall in front of you that you can’t touch. Squeeze your biceps to curl the cable straight in toward your shoulder, moving only at the elbow. Emphasize the biceps squeeze at the top. Release the weight and return to the starting position under control. play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to play3 sets of 8 to 10 repsFlip the script on your typical curl session by flipping your grip halfway through the rep. By doing so, you’ll give your forearms a crushing workout. Pro tip: use a weight that’s five to 10 pounds lighter than your standard curl. How to Do It:Perform a standard barbell curl with both arms, working to emphasize the supination at the top of the rep. Rather than lowering the weights down, twist the dumbbells forward, rotating only at the forearms, so your palms are facing out. Lower the weights down, emphasizing the eccentric portion of the movement with a slow count. Aim for a two-second lowering period. Shift your grip back to neutral before the next rep. Brett Williams, a fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a NASM-CPT certified trainer and former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running. You can find his work elsewhere at Mashable, Thrillist, and other outlets.