No dumbbells, barbells or cable machines for this routine!

All you need are weight plates: 

A 25-pound, 10-pound, 5-pound and 2 and one-half pound.

You will be holding them by the center with your fingers through the hole, while your thumb is against one side of the plate.

If all four fingers do not fit inside the hole, then place your index finger against the side by your thumb.

An alternative is to hold the plates by the opening along their perimeter.

Have a seat on a bench with back support, but the bench should be tilted back. But make sure that the angle tilt does not go past 45 degrees.

If you’re pretty strong, you can start out with the 25-pounders.

If these are too heavy, use two 10-pounders stacked per hand.

A really strong person can try a 25-pounder stacked with a 5-pounder.

This exercise is also recommended for women. Find the right weight plate or or combination of weight plates (for example, try a 5-pounder stacked with a 2.5-pounder) that challenges you.

At all times, keep your wrists firm, so that your hands are in alignment with your forearms. Do not let your wrists flop as you curl.

Begin curling. Maintain a supinated grip (palms facing forward) as you start. But it’s okay to slightly rotate your palms inward as you lift.

Keep your upper arms against your sides and also vertical! This will isolate your biceps.

Do not allow your upper arms to shift forward! You do not have to bring the plates all the way up to your ears.

In fact, if you must bring them up only three-fourths the way in order to keep your upper arms perfectly vertical, this is fine.

Keep your back flat against the bench. Do not lurch forward. The goal is to isolate the biceps muscles as much as possible.

Once you bring the weights up, hold there for two seconds, then lower halfway (arms at 90 degrees) and hold for two to five seconds before lowering all the way down.

Shoot for 8-12 reps. If after 12 reps, your biceps aren’t smoking, use more weight to achieve muscle failure — that is, a burn so intense in your biceps that you cannot perform another repetition.


You don’t always need to stop midway and hold the contraction.

You can do some sets with a continuous negative (lowering of the weights), but make sure it’s controlled. Do not let your arms just lazily fall down.

For extra cruelty to your biceps, do drop-sets! Example: Set 1: A 25-pound plate, 8-12 reps. 

Set 2: Two 10-pounders, stacked, 12-15 reps. 

Set 3: A 10- and 5-pounder, stacked, 20 reps. If this doesn’t bludgeon your biceps, increase the weights accordingly.

Do six sets total, using the above-described variations. As for how many times per week to plate curl, you’ll want to experiment between once or twice a week. But there’s no need to do it three times/week.

Benefits of Plate Curling

  • Increases length of the “resistance arm.” Plates extend further out than dumbbells, creating a longer resistance arm relative to the elbow’s pivotal point.

NOTE: This extension automatically occurs if you’re holding the plates through their center hole.

If you’re holding them through a perimeter opening, you’ll need to keep them aligned with your hands rather than let the plates flop (as shown in the top image), to get that extension.

  • Involves more wrist and gripping action when you hold the plates through their center hole; you’ll strengthen your hands and wrists while strengthening the biceps.
  • Because this is different from what your body is accustomed to (dumbbells, barbells, preacher machines and cables), it will respond more due to the unfamiliar mechanics.
  • If all the dumbbells are being used, you now know a great substitute for them.
  • Plate-curling works best when integrated with other forms of biceps challenges such as dumbbells and E-Z curl bars.

Finally, this exercise should be one of your last routines of a session.

You don’t want to do these before you do any pulling movements such as seated cable rows, the dumbbell bent-over row or the lat pull-down.

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