how much weight for bicep curls

This Is How Much Weight You Should Be Lifting For Bicep Curls (According To The Experts)

Enjoyed This Content? Please Help Us Spread The Word!
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Are you looking for the perfect weight to bicep curl for bigger arms? Then stick around! Because today, I’ll be explaining how much weight you should be lifting for bicep curls.

A good weight for bicep curls is one that challenges you for 11 continuous repetitions. After 6 months of bicep training, this weight usually equates to between 20 to 25% of your body weight. Keeping bicep curling weight within this range will encourage the greatest bicep growth.

For years, I too was confused at how much weight to bicep curl. Some sources recommended light weight bicep training. Other sources recommended going heavy.

That’s why today I want to share 4 expert opinions to clarify how much weight you should be bicep curling.

This research has helped me increase my own bicep diameter by 2.5 inches!

So let’s get stuck in!

I reduced weight on my dumbbell curl to increase my bicep diameter by over 2.5 inches
I increased my bicep diameter by over 2.5 inches by using 11 reps of lighter weight bicep curls!

What’s The Ideal Weight For A Bicep Curl?

Let’s first start with some benchmark numbers. What’s the average weight a male can bicep curl?

On average, a male can dumbbell bicep curl 32 to 35% of his body weight for 1 repetition or 23 to 25% of his body weight for 10 repetitions. This assumes the individual has been practising the dumbbell bicep curl technique for at least 6 months.

Below, I’ll explain how these figures were created.

The Ideal Bicep Curl Weight Varies Between People.

Hate to say it, but there’s no such thing as one “perfect bicep curl weight”.

That’s because everyone has a different body weight and training level.

infographic to bicep curl abilities vary between individuals.

Someone who is heavier or has been training for longer will naturally be able to lift more weight on a bicep curl than someone who’s lighter or been training for less time.

In turn, a heavier and more experienced lifter needs to curl more weight to achieve the same amount of bicep-growing stimulus, compared to a lighter or less experienced lifter.

That being said, there is a way to estimate how much you SHOULD be bicep curling. And this in turn allows you to judge if your current bicep curl is good or bad.

First, you need to determine your current training level and body weight.

Now you can compare yourself to the table below, which shows the average male bicep curling weights for 10 repetitions:

Body WeightBeginner
10-Rep Bicep Curl
(1 Month Training)
Novice
10-Rep Bicep Curl
(6 Months Training)
Intermediate
10-Rep Bicep Curl
(2 Years Training)
120 lb6 lb14 lb27 lb
140 lb7 lb17 lb31 lb
160 lb10 lb20 lb35 lb
180 lb12 lb23 lb38 lb
200 lb13 lb25 lb42 lb
220 lb16 lb28 lb45 lb
240 lb17 lb30 lb48 lb
260 lb19 lb33 lb51 lb
280 lb21 lb35 lb54 lb
300 lb22 lb37 lb56 lb
Average:14 lb26 lb43 lb
10-rep bicep curl weight for male beginners, novices, and intermediates. Weights are per dumbbell. Data calculated from Strength Level.

The data for the above table is calculated from the Strength Level database, which took measurements for 171,000 individual bicep curls and organised the data according to body weight and training level.

As you can see, bicep curling weight varies greatly between individuals.

But my table gives you an idea of how much weight you should be bicep curling for 10 repetitions, according to your body weight and training level.

If your bicep curls meet or surpass your respective number on the table, then you’re doing a good job!

Check out my other article to learn how to determine how much weight to lift.

The Average Man Can Bicep Curl 19 To 50 Pounds.

Next, I turned to the Strength Level database again to find out how much the average man with 6 months of training experience can bicep curl. Here’s how much the average man can bicep curl for 1 repetition:

Body WeightMaximum Bicep Curl
(1 Dumbbell)
Maximum Bicep Curl
(2 Dumbbells)
% Of
Body Weight
120 lb male19 lb38 lb32%
140 lb male23 lb46 lb33%
160 lb male27 lb54 lb34%
180 lb male31 lb62 lb34%
200 lb male34 lb68 lb34%
220 lb male38 lb76 lb35%
240 lb male41 lb82 lb34%
260 lb male44 lb88 lb34%
280 lb male47 lb94 lb34%
300 lb male50 lb100 lb33%
Average: 28 lb56 lb34%
1-rep bicep curl weight for males with 6 months training experience. Data derived from Strength Level.

These figures seem to be a deviation from T-nations suggested 80 pound male average bicep curl.

However, T-Nation’s figure was for the average barbell curl weight, whereas my figure is for the average dumbbell curl weight.

Doubling my proposed average of 28 pounds per dumbbell produces 56 pound per dumbbell.

This still isn’t an exact match with T-Nations 80 pounds and likely due to the fact that barbells allow more weight to be lifted.

Therefore it seems the average male can bicep curl a total of 60 to 80 pounds (both hands combined), depending on the type of free weight is used.

Check out my other article to learn bout the pro’s and con’s of using dumbbells!

Are Light Or Heavy Bicep Curls Better?

As you now know, performing a bicep curl with 1 repetition allows you to lift more weight compared to curling with 10 repetitions. So should you lift heavy or light weights for big biceps?

As a general rule, lifting light weights with higher repetitions is the best method for bicep growth. Lifting light weights will allow you to maintain good form and maximise biceps activation. In contrast, heavy weights will compromise form and decrease bicep activation.

infographic comparing light and heavy weight bicep curls on bicep activation

Conventional weight lifting consensus tells us that heavy weights = more muscle.

However, there seems to be a paradox when it comes to smaller muscles such as the biceps.

This is a hotly debated question. As such, I’ve researched the opinions from 4 experts for you!

4 Reasons To Avoid Heavy Bicep Curls:

Here are the 4 experts I gathered information from:

ExpertQualification
Jeff NippardProfessional Natural Bodybuilder & Powerlifter
Jeff CavaliereCertified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
Jeremy EthierNASM-Certified Trainer
Mike DewarCertified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
Expert-opinions regarding light vs heavy bicep curling.

All 4 experts unanimously agree that the majority of your bicep curls should be done with lighter weights (relative to big compound lifts such as the row and pull up). And this is especially true if you’re a beginner.

By the way, “lighter” is very subjective, and I’ll quantitatively define this later. For now, just assume “light” means you should be lifting in the 10-rep max range (a weight that challenges you for 10 reps).

Here are 4 of the most commonly quoted reasons why you shouldn’t bicep curl with heavy weights:

1) Eccentric Phase Is Compromised.

Like all weight lifting exercises, the bicep curl consists of an upward movement (concentric) and downward movement (eccentric).

Jeff Nippard explains that both concentric and eccentric phases should be performed in a slow and controlled manner.

infographic to recommend slow and controlled bicep curls

He further advises you to squeeze your bicep at the top of the concentric phase, and lower the weight back down slowly to work your bicep eccentrically.

The eccentric phase is particularly important.

In fact, a 2017 study showed the eccentric phase to be more beneficial for hypertrophy (muscle growth) than the concentric phase.

This form of controlled bicep training simply can’t be achieved if you’re weights are too heavy.

Instead, you should reduce the weight on your bicep curl and focus on the concentric and eccentric contractions.

2) Form Breaks Down.

Good Weight lifting form refers to adopting practices to safely and exclusively activate the target muscles. In this case, it’s the bicep.

Jeremy Ethier explains that using too heavy a dumbbell encourages you to recruit neighbouring muscles to assist the bicep curl movement.

These commonly include the front deltoids (shoulders) and trapezius (upper back). A telltale sign of this is if your shoulders lift as you curl a dumbbell upwards.

How to Get Bigger Biceps (5 Mistakes You’re Probably Making)

Jeff Nippard also adds that heavy dumbbells will often cause you to use your hips and legs to help “hoist” a dumbbell upwards.

These are both examples of sacrificing form for heavy weights, and should be avoided.

Instead, you should perform lighter weight bicep curls with good form to maximise bicep engagement.

3) Heavy Weights Promote Cheating.

Jeremy Ethier points out that “cheat lifts” are a common consequence of curling a heavy weight that your biceps can’t handle.

As a result, you start using bodyweight momentum to help you swing the dumbbell upward. This in turn reduces the bicep curl range of motion and prevents you from achieving a good “bicep squeeze.

When you cheat, you’ll limit your bicep growth potential

infographic to show benefits reducing weight-load

For example, this 2012 study found that a partial range of motion (i.e. the dumbbell not travelling fully up and down) reduces bicep growth by 9%.

Additionally, another 2018 study found that those who lifted a heavier weight but failed to squeeze the bicep, saw 5.5% less bicep growth compared to those who achieved a good bicep squeeze with lighter weights.

Therefore you should use a lighter weight for bicep curls, and prevent cheating.

4) Heavy Bicep Curls Do Not Develop Mind-Muscle Connection.

Mind-muscle connection refers to a conscious effort activate a muscle.

Jeff Cavalier highlights the importance of performing lighter weight bicep curls to maximise your mind-muscle connection.

By using a lighter weight, you’re able to actively feel your bicep contract as you perform a curl. This will prevent cheat lifting, and also help you to quickly develop bicep strength.

Jeff further also notes that once you have gained a solid foundation of bicep strength, you can then start to add more weight.

What’s The Ideal Bicep Training Volume?

Next, I’ll examine how often you should be training your biceps, how many bicep curl reps you should be doing each workout, and what weight you should be bicep curling.

Work Your Biceps 2 To 3 Times A Week.

First, let’s establish how many times per week you should be training your biceps.

In general, beginners should train the biceps 2 to 3 times per week with a maximum of 5 sets per workout. Training the biceps less than the recommended frequency is insufficient for maximal bicep growth. Whereas training the biceps more than the recommended frequency leads to overtraining.

Bicep Training Volume:BeginnersIntermediates
Weekly Sets8 to 12 sets10 to 14 sets
Weekly Reps80 to 120 reps100 to 140 reps
Weekly Workouts2 to 3 days2 to 3 days
Recommended bicep weekly training volume.

This recommendation is made by Mike Dewar (C.S.C.S coach) from Barbend and Fitbod.

Mike recommends you to directly train the arms at least twice a week, in addition to your other compound push/pull exercises such as the bench press and row.

He also advises you to aim for a total of 8 to 12 sets per week which directly train the biceps. And after a year of regular training, you should increase this to 10 to 14 sets per week.

Anything more than 18 bicep sets per week is counterproductive for bicep growth!

Additionally, all 4 experts recommend you to include a variety of bicep exercises. Here are 6 of the most recommended bicep exercises:

  • Traditional bicep curl- brachialis and biceps brachii.
  • Reverse curl- brachioradialis.
  • Preacher curl- short head of the biceps brachii.
  • Incline curl- long head of the biceps brachii.
  • Chin up- short head of the biceps brachii.
  • Row- short head of the biceps brachii.

Combined, these exercises will work your biceps at different angles, each targeting the different regions of the biceps muscle.

Check out my other article to find out your ideal dumbbell training duration!

Do Around 55 Bicep Curls Per Workout.

What about reps? In other words, how many bicep curls should you be performing each workout?

In general, it is recommended to perform between 5 to 20 reps per set for bicep curls. 5 reps per set with heavier weights are recommended if you are not performing additional pulling exercises. 20 reps per set with lighter weights are recommended if you are performing additional pulling exercises.

ideal arm training volume

The most commonly recommended rep range for bicep exercises is between 5 to 20 reps and 8 to 20 reps per set.

By averaging these values, the recommended weekly bicep rep range is around 11 reps per set.

And based on 2 to 3 workouts and 8 to 12 sets per week, you should be aiming for around 55 bicep reps per workout.

Check out my other article to find out why home dumbbells are worth the money!

Suggested Weight For Bicep Curls.

If you assume the recommended 11 reps per set for bicep curls, how much weight should you be lifting?

Here’s the suggested weight for bicep curls at 11 reps per set:

Body WeightBeginner
11-Rep Bicep Curl
(1 Month Training)
Novice
11-Rep Bicep Curl
(6 Months Training)
Intermediate
11-Rep Bicep Curl
(2 Years Training)
120 lb6 lb13 lb25 lb
140 lb7 lb16 lb29 lb
160 lb9 lb19 lb32 lb
180 lb11 lb21 lb36 lb
200 lb12 lb23 lb39 lb
220 lb14 lb26 lb42 lb
240 lb16 lb28 lb45 lb
260 lb17 lb30 lb48 lb
280 lb19 lb32 lb50 lb
300 lb21 lb35 lb52 lb
Average:13 lb24 lb40 lb
11-rep bicep curl weight for male beginners, novices, and intermediates. Weights are per dumbbell. Data calculated from Strength Level.

These numbers were calculated from the Strength Level database. The database provides average 1 rep max data for 171,000 individual bicep curls. I then multiplied the 1RMs by 0.69 to produce the 11RMs (the weight you should be bicep curling for 11 reps).

Simply locate your body weight and training level, and aim for the recommended weight for 11 reps!

How Long Does It Take For Biceps To Grow?

You’ve chosen the ideal weight for bicep curls, now you can start training. But how long will it take for your biceps to grow?

On average, bicep diameter can grow at a rate of 0.12 inches per month. This assumes a disciplined training and diet programme that can produce estimated muscle gains of 2 to 3 pounds per month. Consistent adherence to your training and diet plan will yield the greatest bicep growth increase.

As beginner, your maximum rate of muscle gains is around 2 to 3 pounds per month.

Additionally it will take around 4 weeks of training for the first changes to become noticeable.

infographic showing the estimated rate of arm diameter growth

From my personal experience, 40 pounds of muscle gains increased my bicep diameter by 2.5 inches (measured by taking a tape measure around the tip of my maximum bicep and tricep peaks).

This equates to a 0.06 inch bicep diameter increase per pound of body mass increase.

Combined, this allowed me to produce an estimated rate of bicep growth:

MonthEstimated Muscle Gains (Pounds)Estimated Bicep Diameter Gains (Inches)
12 lb0.12 inches
24 lb0.24 inches
36 lb0.36 inches
48 lb0.48 inches
510 lb0.60 inches
612 lb0.72 inches
714 lb0.84 inches
816 lb0.96 inches
Estimated rate of bicep diameter increase.

Note this is a rough estimation. There are no reliable sources of data for the rate of bicep growth (to my knowledge), and I estimated the values by combining my own experience with current general consensus.

In reality, your true rate of bicep diameter growth will be affected by:

  • Training intensity- the harder you train the faster your biceps will grow.
  • Training specificity- the more target the biceps the faster they will grow.
  • Diet- a high protein and caloric surplus diet is required to gain muscle.
  • Commitment- training and diet programme discipline will encourage faster bicep growth.
  • Genetics- the point of bicep insertion will affect your bicep diameter.

Check out my other article for tips to build muscle as a skinny guy!

Conclusion

Today I’ve revealed the ideal weight for bicep training.

The optimal weight for bicep exercises will vary between people of different body weights and training levels.

However, the expert consensus generally recommends lifting with a lighter weight at around 11 reps per set. This usually works out to be between 20 to 25% of your current body weight.

You should refer back to my benchmark tables for your ideal weight for bicep curls.

By lifting with lighter weights, you can maintain good weight lifting form and get a “good bicep squeeze”. And this will maximise bicep growth.

How do your bicep curl weights compare to my benchmark standards?

Let me know in the comments below!

Alternatively, download the FREE Kalibre Muscle Blueprint to find out EXACTLY how I transformed my skinny body!

I curl 40 pounds at 160 pound bodyweight

Thanks for reading guys!

Peace Out,

Kal

(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Comments 2

  1. I’m confused. In 1 article you seem to say that for building bicep growth one should use about 70% of 1RM and do 15 reps; in this article you seem to say to use lighter weight. Please dumb it down for me.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hey Vincent,

      Thanks for the message. I hope I can help.

      Which article are you referring to?

      This article recommends lifting 70% of 1RM for 11 reps. With more experience you could do 70% of 1RM at 15 reps. It really depends on the person.

      In the grand scheme of strength and hypertrophy training, 70% of 1RM would usually be considered a moderate weight (i.e. not heavy).

      Smaller muscles usually benefit from a weight that is around 50-70% of 1RM. The exact weight you should choose will depend on the number of reps in your sets.

      But as with all things weight training, there isn’t a black and white, yes or no answer.

      In reality, doing bicep work in the 50-70% 1RM and 10-15 rep range is beneficial to growth for most people, especially beginners and intermediates.

      Ideally you should mix things up every now and again to keep your biceps challenged!

      I hope this helps!

      Best,

      Kal

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *