Illustration of a bodybuilder doing lying dumbbell biceps curls.

How to Do Lying Dumbbell Biceps Curls

The lying biceps curl is a variation of the dumbbell curl. The difference is that it works your biceps through a deeper range of motion, challenging your biceps under a greater stretch, thus stimulating more muscle growth.

I’ll teach you how to do them, then explain why they’re so powerful. The research is fascinating. And just wait until you try them. You’ll feel the difference right away.

Tutorial Video

I thought it would be easiest to teach you these with a short tutorial video.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Make sure they feel good on your shoulders. Like with deficit push-ups, dips, and dumbbell flyes, lying dumbbell curls demand quite a bit of mobility from your shoulders. That’s great for improving your shoulder health and strength, but you need to be ready for them. If they feel bad, you could try a lighter weight. If they still feel bad, stick with regular curls for now.
  • You don’t need to fully contract your biceps at the top. When you feel the tension on your biceps starting to ease up, you can lower the weights back down again. This turns it into a sort of lengthened partial.
  • Lying biceps curls work your biceps quite a bit harder than regular curls. Expect to feel extra soreness. If you don’t want extra soreness, stay further from failure or do fewer sets.

Research Breakdown

The biceps in your arms are quite similar to the biceps in your legs. The biceps femoris are part of your hamstrings. They cross both the hip and knee joints. That means you can train your hamstrings with Romanian deadlifts and with hamstring curls.

Study results showing far faster muscle growth when training at long muscle lengths (stretch-mediated hypertrophy).

Here’s where it gets interesting: the researchers compared seated hamstring curls (biceps stretched at hips) against lying hamstring curls (no stretch). It turns out that if you stretch your biceps femoris at the hip joint while doing hamstring curls, you gain twice as much muscle (study).

Diagram showing that the long head of the biceps needs biceps curls.

You can do the same thing with the biceps in your arms. The long head of your biceps crosses both the shoulder and elbow joints. If you stretch them at the shoulder, I suspect you can stimulate far more muscle growth.

The Power of Lying Biceps Curls

When you move your elbows behind your body, you can work your biceps through a deeper range of motion. There are a few different curl variations that attempt to do this:

  • Drag curls: You can do standing biceps curls with your elbows behind your body. But there’s no tension at the bottom of the exercise. All the tension is at the top.
  • Incline curls: You can do incline curls, stretching your biceps at the shoulder joint, but the bottom portion of the lift isn’t particularly hard. These are great, but we can do a little better.
  • Bayesian curls: You could set up a cable stack behind you, challenging your biceps through a deep range of motion. These are fantastic.

Lying biceps curls are incredibly similar to Bayesian curls. The main difference is that lying biceps curls are more stable. I think this might make them the better of the two. I certainly prefer them.

If you try lying biceps curls, I think you’ll feel the difference. I think you’ll get a bigger pump, feel more muscle soreness a day or two later, and have an easier time building bigger, stronger biceps.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell. He's a certified conditioning coach with a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained 70 pounds and has over a decade of experience helping over 10,000 skinny people bulk up.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and is a certified trainer (PTS) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and general health, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

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2 Comments

  1. Kane on October 15, 2023 at 9:16 am

    Amazing! This may be a game-changer for me to get past a plateau (been incorporating drop sets, but this may be better). Being quite tall with monkey arms, this is what I always needed!

    • Shane Duquette on October 15, 2023 at 12:03 pm

      Yeah! That’s exactly how I’d use an exercise variation like this. It doesn’t need to become a new staple lift. It’s more of a tool to use when you need it. Using it to break through a plateau is perfect.

      Let me know what you think of them!

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