There are effective ways to train your biceps while seated, no matter what your physical condition.

In fact, seated biceps curls will more effectively isolate this muscle group than will standing – as a general rule, since when standing, people tend to swing their back when straining to get the weights up.

Even the slightest rocking will subtract some isolation away from the biceps.

W hen I was as personal trainer I saw this cheating going on plenty. Seated training, however, prevents the back from swinging.

Seated Dumbbell Biceps Exercises

Weightlifting bench, angled back or upright

• Angle the back-support back to 20 to 30 degrees from vertical for more isolation of the biceps. Upright is fine too (top image). Sometimes it’s a matter of comfort for the exerciser. (See top image)

• A more upright back support is also fine, but the angled version will further isolate the biceps.

• Position your back firmly against the support and do dumbbell curls.

• Keep your upper arms straight as you curl and do not flare them out.

• You may release the weights all the way to a dead hang with your arms for maximum range of motion.

• Or, you can stop the release short of a dead hang to keep the tension uninterrupted.

• A variation of this seated biceps exercise is to hold weight plates, which extends the “resistance arm” and thus, has a slightly different feel to it.

• Avoid flopping your hands as you move the weights.


• You can sit at a free barbell curling station and curl. If your butt is coming off the chair, the weight is too heavy!


• To avoid wrist strain, use an E-Z curl bar – the one that’s not a perfectly straight bar, but rather, the middle is angled.

Weight Plate Equipment

• A common mistake is to load too much weight, forcing one’s butt to leave the seat in order to pull the handles towards them.

• If you must lift your butt off the seat, again … the weight is too heavy.

• Keep your butt glued to the seat throughout the entire movement, releasing the resistance over a two to three second period — whether you’re using a free barbell or a weight plate station.

• Do not let your hands flop as you strain to pull the bar or handles towards you.

• A variation is to use a weight-stack machine in which you set the amount of resistance with a “pin.”

There are many ways you can do seated biceps exercises. Experiment to see what works best for you.

Though some exercises are more effective at building strength and muscle than are others (e.g., the Hammerstrength weight plate equipment is better than a weight stack station), if you don’t like them you won’t adhere to them.

Additional Seated Biceps Exercises

• Sit on a fitness ball and curl dumbbells.

• You can also sit on a ball, or exercise stool, and curl at a dual cable station or weight-stack pulley station.

• Sit at the edge of a standard weightlifting bench, which eliminates back support, and curl dumbbells, plates or kettlebells.

When there’s no back support, you’re more likely to engage in a little swinging when the resistance starts getting heavy.

Focus hard on avoiding this cheat move.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Pressfoto