Is it Better To Do Bicep Curls Standing or Sitting?

Is it Better To Do Bicep Curls Standing or Sitting

Bicep curls can be done from either the standing or seated position, but which variation you choose is going to depend on your exercise goals.

So, is it better to do bicep curls standing or seated? While there is more core engagement for bicep curls standing, this isn’t usually the goal for bicep training.  Therefore, seated bicep curls are a much better option for bicep growth and isolation.  As well, standing bicep curls are more prone to ‘swaying’, which decreases the activation of the bicep muscle.

With that said, there is still a time and a place for standing bicep curls, which I’ll discuss below.  

In the following article I will:

  • Help you decide whether you should be training bicep curls seated or standing
  • Discuss the pros and cons of training bicep curls standing or seated
  • Cover whether training bicep curls standing or seated is more difficult; and 
  • Tell you who should do bicep curls standing or seated

Standing Bicep Curls

Bicep curls from the standing position engages the core, as well as the biceps. Because of this we have greater ability to push this exercise as far as loading goes, which might be beneficial for general strength.

Barbell curls for example, are an exercise that can be loaded up due to the bar and the ability to load with plates.

Secondary muscles can take over when fatigued, and if your goal is to target your biceps, this can be somewhat problematic in the process.

One way we can fix this sort of situation is the incorporation of an “arm-blaster” which anchors the upper arms and allows for greater bicep recruitment.

You can learn more about arm blasters in this article.  

Seated Bicep Curls

Seated bicep curls allow for greater isolation of the biceps by fixing the lower half of the body and excluding the core. 

This allows us to focus on the actions of the bicep which are elbow flexion (bend) and supination (external rotation) of the forearm. 

Biceps are a smaller muscle in the arm, which make them much harder to target. Larger muscles tend to overcompensate, as one is getting closer to fatigue, therefore placing the biceps in a position that they’re the only muscle, can be a fundamental part of promoting biceps growth. 

2 Reasons To Do Bicep Curls Standing

Standing Bicep Curls

You Want To Increase Biceps Strength

From the standing position, you are in a more advantageous position to lift more weight. If your goal is to strengthen the biceps, then you would be better off doing bicep curls from the standing position.

Strengthening the biceps can increase overall work potential and overload that is produced by the bicep, which can benefit long term bicep development.

You Are A Novice or Intermediate Lifter

Typically we wouldn’t want our larger muscles to overcompensate, however novices or intermediates can benefit from any form of total body strengthening.

Novices and intermediates still have a lot of room to grow in terms of general strengthening and muscular development. For these lifters, utilizing diverse loading, volume, and variations can be fundamental to stimulating muscular growth.

2 Drawbacks of Doing Bicep Curls Standing

Larger Muscle Groups Overcompensate

When larger muscles overcompensate, they take away from any type of targeting of the biceps. This usually occurs prior to the set, when we engage the core to brace, and stabilize the body to focus on biceps movement alone.

One way we can mitigate this is by using an item called an “arm-blaster” that sits behind the upper arms to further isolate the biceps. This item does not completely isolate the biceps, as it does still require one to stabilize the core to target the biceps. 

You Might Be Curling In The Squat Rack

This is frowned upon by many in the lifting community, as the squat rack is usually used for squatting. Instead you can grab a barbell and move outside of the squat rack where you can find some open space to curl in the gym.

2 Reasons To Do Bicep Curls Sitting

Seated Bicep Curls

Biceps Isolation

The main goal of the incorporation of bicep exercises is to target the biceps. From the seated position, the core is a nonfactor because the hips are anchored into the seat, allowing for greater isolation of the biceps. 

Easier On Problem Areas

If you have knee, hip, or ankle pain then bicep curls from the seated position will place less stress on the lower extremities. Incorporate seated bicep curls as a means of isolating the biceps and placing less stress on the low back.

2 Drawbacks of Doing Bicep Curls Sitting

Less Weight

Compared to barbell curls for example, seated dumbbell curls recruit only the biceps, which are generally a weak muscle, consequently allowing one to lift less weight. Less weight allows for less overload, which can be less gratifying or fun.

Less Total Muscular Development

Seated curls do not require the entire body to perform, which in turn will allow for less growth in the long run. Incorporating a balance of compound and isolation bicep movements ensures optimal growth of both heads of the biceps and the forearms. 

How To Do Standing Bicep Curls Properly

  • From the standing position you will hold a barbell or dumbbell just outside your thighs.
  • Take a big brace or breath and tighten the core to stabilize the entire body.
  • Arms should be hanging, with palms facing forward.
  • Initiate by flexing the elbows or raising the dumbbells or barbell up until arms are fully flexed.
  • Control the weight back to the starting position to complete the repetition.

How To Do Seated Bicep Curls Properly

  • Make sure you are seated with your feet firmly planted into the floor.
  • Arms should be hanging at your side with palms facing forward.
  • Initiate by flexing the elbows or raising the dumbbells up until arms are fully flexed.
  • To complete the repetition, return the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Is It Harder To Do Bicep Curls Standing or Sitting?

Seated bicep curls will be the much easier option, while placing less stress on the low back and lower extremities. Additionally, seated curls are more effective at isolating and targeting the biceps.

Standing Bicep Curls Variations

Barbell Curls

Barbell Curls

While being a great standing bicep variation, incorporating a barbell to do curls will challenge core stabilization while building forearm strength. For these reasons, this exercise is one of my favorite bicep curl variations as a main barbell movement. 

However, I would recommend having at least one seated variation alongside a movement like this.

Standing Cable Straight Bar Curls

Standing Cable Straight Bar Curls

Similar to the barbell curl, the attachment will keep both hands fixed, which will promote forearm stimulation as well as the biceps. However, utilizing a cable stack will place constant tension on the biceps, while tension with dumbbells will shift depending on body position.

Standing Hammer Curls

Standing Hammer Curls

Hammer curls target a very specific part of the bicep that other palms up variations will not achieve. If not standing hammer curls, I would incorporate some sort of neutral grip curl into your program to supplement your bicep routine.

Sitting Bicep Curl Variations

Seated Alternating Supinated Curls

Seated Alternating Supinated Curls

Seated alternating supinated curls target the entire biceps by externally rotating the forearm and wrist to the apex of the curl. This is another one of my favorite curls by targeting the complete bicep and forearm in one succinct motion. 

Seated Curls At An Incline

Seated Curls At An Incline

Placing you at incline, this exercise allows for greater range of motion during the bicep curl, which results in a greater stretch at the bottom that can potentially lead to greater gains. This is also one of my favorites because of the way it isolates and loads the biceps with minimal weight.

Preacher Curls

Preacher Curls

Finally, preacher curls take everything but the elbow out of play to allow for as much bicep isolation as possible. This exercise should be done with little momentum and complete focus on isolating the actions of the elbow which are flexion and extension.

Final Recommendation

If I were to choose one, seated bicep curls would win every time. This is because seated variations are more effective at isolating the biceps. However, standing bicep curls allow for greater loading, which can be an effective route to go sometimes. At the end of the day, you should have a variety of variations and loading parameters for your biceps routine.

Got other questions related to your bicep training?  Check out: 

About The Author

Javad Bakhshinejad

Javad Bakhshinejad was born and raised in the Washington Area. Currently, he is a student at Seattle University where he’s been pursuing an MS in Kinesiology, and has been a Strength Coach in the athletic department. He was a competitive bodybuilder for 8 years where he later transitioned to competitive powerlifting for 4 years. Currently, He has his own personal coaching business, where he works with powerlifters and bodybuilders.