Drag Curl: Muscles Worked, Benefits and Variations

If you’re looking for a new and challenging exercise to grow your bicep, look no further than the drag curl.

This variation of the classic bicep curl is less well-known, but it’s still a powerful exercise.

It takes your bicep development to the next level and gives your forearms a unique challenge.

The drag curl is primarily performed by bodybuilders to improve the size and appearance of their biceps and forearms.

In this blog, we will provide a guide on the following topics:

  • What drag curl
  • Muscle worked during drag curl
  • Benefits of doing this exercise.
  • How to perform drag curl correctly.
  • Best variations of the drag curl

What is a Bicep Drag Curl

The bicep drag curl is a variation of the traditional bicep curl that emphasizes the long head of your biceps

This exercise is called a “drag” curl because the weight is dragged up the front of the body rather than lifted straight up in front.

It is a great addition to any arm workout routine and can help improve biceps development and forearm strength. It can be performed with either dumbbells, barbells, and cable. All options have their benefits.

It involves pulling the barbell or dumbbell up along the front of the body, while keeping the elbows back and close to the body.

Muscles Worked During Drag Curl

The drag curls primarily activate both heads of the biceps. It focuses on the peak” or long head of the biceps.

The drag curls secondarily worked your brachialis, a muscle in your biceps that lies beneath your biceps brachii.

It also activates your brachioradialis, the most prominent muscle in your forearm.

The drag curls also work your abs and back, as a stabling muscle of your body during the curling motion.

Drag Curl Muscles Worked

Dumbbell Drag Curl

The dumbbell drag curl is a unique bicep curl variation in which you don’t completely bring the weight in front of your body. Thus, you have difficulty swinging and using momentum to get the weight up.

Although a minor difference, the drag motion may work the outer head (long head) of your biceps slightly more than regular curls.

Dumbbell variations also allow for you to do a drag curl with an overhand (reverse grip) or neutral grip (hammer grip), which some individuals may find more comfortable.

  • Reverse Grip Dumbbell Drag Curl
  • Hammer Drag Curl
  • One Arm Drag Curl
Dumbbell Drag Curl

How To Do Dumbbell Drag Curl

  1. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  2. Grab the dumbbell with a double underhand (supinated) grip, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Bring your elbows and shoulders back slightly as you curl the dumbbells upwards. It should feel like you are “dragging” the dumbbell up to your body.
  4. At the top of the curl, pause briefly and intensely squeeze your bicep.
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position.

Barbell Drag Curl

If you want to improve your arm size, strength, and appearance, the barbell drag curl is for you. 

Barbell drag curls work both biceps at the same time. This can be more efficient for maximizing workouts in short bursts and allows for focus on a more symmetrical lift.

Barbell Drag Curl

How To Do Barbell Drug Curl

  1. Grab the barbell with a supinated grip and keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold the barbell close to your body, with your arms extended and the bar touching your thighs.
  3. Keeping your elbows close to your sides, slowly drag the bar up.
  4. Keep raising the bar as high as possible without letting your elbows move forward.
  5. You should squeeze your biceps hard at the top.
  6. Slowly return to the starting position.

Cable Drag Curl

The cable provides continuous tension on the biceps throughout the entire range of motion. This isolation of the biceps through a partial range of motion builds stronger, bigger arms.

Cable handles (straight bar, ropes, etc.) can be used with different grips, like neutral and overhand grips. This can help reduce stress on your wrists compared to using dumbbells or barbell grips.

The cable setup allows you to fine-tune height and resistance to your comfort, unlike fixed-position barbells or dumbbells.

Cable Drag Curl

How To Do Cable Bicep Drag Curl

  1. Attach a straight bar to the low pulley cable machine.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent.
  3. Grab the bar with an underhand (supinated) grip, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  4. Bring your elbows and shoulders back slightly as you curl the bar upwards. It should feel like you are “dragging” the cable up to your body.
  5. Squeeze your biceps hard at the top and slowly return to the starting position.

Smith Machine Drag Curl

Smith machine drag curls offer several benefits over traditional bicep drag curls.

The guided movement of the Smith machine helps you focus on contracting your biceps and forearms without worrying about balancing the weight.

Smith Machine Drag Curls

How To Do Smith machine drag curls

  1. Set the Smith machine bar to a height that is just above your waist.
  2. Stand in front of the bar and grasp it with an underhand grip.
  3. Step back a few inches to allow the bar to clear the machine.
  4. Raise the bar straight across your body, bringing your hands toward your shoulders while pulling your elbows behind your chest.
  5. Pause at the top of the movement and squeeze your biceps.
  6. Slowly lower the bar back down to the starting position.

Reverse Drag Curl

Reverse drag curls use an overhand grip instead of the underhand grip used in traditional drag curl.

It places more emphasis on the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles in the forearms, in addition to the biceps.

In addition, reverse drag curls can be useful for those who experience discomfort in their wrists during traditional bicep curls.

How To Do Reverse Drag Curl

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the weight with an overhand grip, keeping your palms facing down.
  2. Keep your elbows back and close to your body.
  3. Curl the weight up towards your chest while pulling your elbows behind you.
  4. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement, then lower the weight back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 3–4 sets of 8–12 reps.

Seated drag curl

The seated drag curl can be beneficial for those who have difficulty maintaining proper form while standing or for individuals with lower back issues

By sitting down, you can isolate the biceps without engaging other muscles.

Seated Drag Curl

How To Do Seated Drag Curl

  1. Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight.
  2. Hold a dumbbell with an underhand grip and keep your elbows back and close to your body.
  3. Curl the dumbbell up towards your chest, squeezing your biceps at the top of the movement.
  4. Lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position.

Proper Form And Technique From Doing Drag Curl

  • Keep your elbows pinned to your sides to isolate your biceps. Avoid flaring your elbows out, as this reduces biceps engagement.
  • Start with a lighter weight than you might use for regular dumbbell curls to master the form.
  • Keep your back straight, your chest lifted, and your core engaged throughout the entire movement.
  • Avoid rounding your back or hunching forward.
  • The drag curl should be performed with slow and controlled movements without swinging the weight.
  • Pay attention to the negative portion of the movement, slowly lowering the bar back down to the starting position.
  • It is important to start with a lighter weight and gradually increase it as you become more comfortable with the movement.
  • Always warm up before performing the drag curl; include a few light sets to warm up.

The Benefits of Doing the Drag Curl

Drag curls have many benefits due to the nature of their training stimuli and the angle at which they are performed.

  • The purpose of the drag curl is to activate the biceps brachii muscles with a highly targeted activation technique.
  • The barbell drag curl is an intense biceps exercise.  At the top of each rep, your biceps are optimally targeted, which helps to strengthen the biceps muscle and increase biceps hypertrophy.
  • The dragging motion of the barbell during drag curl helps to improve grip strength.
  • It makes the biceps look toned and sculpted.
  • Adding a drag curl to your workout routine can make it more challenging.
  • It also helps to prevent boredom by offering a new way to focus.


Drag curls vs bicep curls

Drag curls are a variation of bicep curls that involve keeping the elbows back and close to the body. It emphasizes the biceps more and reduces the involvement of the shoulders and back muscles.

Traditional bicep curls involve lifting the weight straight up in front of the body.

Drag curls can be a useful addition to an arm workout routine for those looking to target the biceps in a different way.

How many reps and sets of drag curls should I do?

Do 3–4 sets of 8–12 reps of drag curls.

Although the optimal number of reps and sets can vary depending on your goals,

Can drag curls be performed with dumbbells?

Yes, drag curls can be performed with dumbbells, barbells, and the Smith machine.

Using dumbbells can provide a greater range of motion.

Are drag curls better than traditional bicep curls?

Drag curls and traditional bicep curls are both effective exercises for targeting the biceps.

Drag curls are a great addition to your bicep workout routine, as they place greater emphasis on the biceps and forearm.

Can beginners perform drag curl?

Yes, beginners can perform drag curl, but they should start with lighter weights and focus on proper form.

Do drag curls, work the long head

Drag curls work the long head of the biceps brachii muscles.

The drag curl exercise requires you to keep the elbows back, which places greater emphasis on the long head.


Drag curls are a challenging and effective exercise for anyone looking to build strong, defined biceps, whether using a barbell, dumbbell, smith machine, or kettlebell.

It provides several benefits, such as increased bicep activation and improved forearm strength.


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