Dumbbell Drag Curl: Muscles Worked, Benefit and Variations

The Dumbbell Drag Curl is a bicep curl variation that maximizes the progressive overload and mechanical tension exerted on the biceps.

It also maximizes the muscular hypertrophy and neurological adaptation.

It is a great exercise to add to your bicep workout if you want to build muscle and definition in your arms.

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

  • What dumbbell drag curl and muscle worked?
  • Benefits of doing this exercise.
  • How to perform it correctly.
  • Best variations of the drag curl and how to add variety to your workout routine.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced weightlifter, this guide will help you maximize the benefits of the dumbbell drag curl.

Muscles Worked During Dumbbell Drag Curl?

The drag curls primarily activate the two heads of the biceps brachii, a long head, and a short head. It focuses on the “peak” or long head of the biceps.

The dumbbell 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.

Dumbbell Drag Curl

What is a 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. It is performed by bodybuilders to improve the size and appearance of their biceps.

During this exercise, the dragging motion increases isolation on the biceps by removing momentum. It helps you feel a deep contraction in your biceps.

When you drag or curl up, your elbows move back behind you. Therefore, it’s harder to swing, making your long head stretch and contract harder.

The long head of the bicep is emphasized the most due to the elbow positioning.

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Who Should Perform Dumbbell Drag Curls?

The dumbbell drag curl is suitable for most gym goers and beginner to advanced level exercisers who wish to improve upon the size, appearance, or strength of their biceps brachii muscles.

Bodybuilders or athletes seeking a specific form of training stimuli targeted towards their biceps for the purposes of direct stimulation with compound exercises that also activate other muscle groups involved in the pulling-type of movement pattern.

Dumbbell drag curl can be performed in the middle or end of a particularly taxing biceps workout session without affecting the performance of other exercises.

How To Do Dumbbell Drag Curl

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent, and your abs drawn in.
  2. Grab the dumbbell with a double underhand (supinated) grip.
  3. Let your arms fully extend down in front of your thighs.
  4. 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.
  5. Continue dragging until the dumbbell reaches shoulder height. Squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the motion.
  6. Hold for a 1-2 second squeeze at the top, then slowly return to the starting position.
Dumbbell Drag Curl

Set, Reps And Frequency

The number of reps you should perform depends on your goals. They may be to increase strength and build muscle mass and endurance.

  • For muscle growth, it is best to do around 6–12 reps per set.
  • For strength, around 3–8 reps per set are recommended.
  • For muscle endurance, do 15-20+ reps per set.
Beginner2-38-121–2 times per week
Intermediate3-48-122–3 times per week
Advanced4-58-152–3 times per week

Tips and Proper Form

  • Try to use a lighter to moderate weight.
  • Perform this exercise in a slow, controlled manner for best results.
  • Keep your elbow back to keep the stress on your biceps.
  • Maintain a slight bend in the elbow at the bottom of the movement to keep tension through the biceps.
  • Keep your back straight, shoulders back, and elbows close to your torso.
  • Exhale as you lift the dumbbells and inhale as you lower them.
  • Lifting lighter weight and focusing on your mind-muscle connection will actually increase your gains and reduce your chances of injury!
  • Switch to an EZ curl bar or cable drag curl if you experience forearm or wrist discomfort while using a dumbbell.
  • Warm up your biceps and shoulders before the exercise and cool down afterward.
  • Experiment with different grip variations (neutral or hammer) to see which targets your biceps best.
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Best Variations of Drag Curl

You can perform this drag curl with a barbell, cable, or EZ bar for more variations.

1. Cable Drag Curl

The Cable drag curl workout is a unique cable bicep curl variation in which you don’t completely bring the weight in front of your body.

As you curl up, your elbows pull back behind you, which stretches the long head, activating it to a very high degree.

Cable Drag Curl

How To Do

  1. Set up the cable drag curl by attaching 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 a double underhand (supinated) grip, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  4. As you curl the bar upwards, bring your elbows and shoulders back. It should feel like you are “dragging” the dumbbell up to your body.
  5. Squeeze your biceps hard at the top and slowly return to the starting position.

2. Barbell Drag Curl

While less popular than the standard barbell bicep curl, the barbell drag curl is an extremely effective bicep exercise. 

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

Barbell Drag Curl

How To Do

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent, and your abs are drawn in.
  2. Hold the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart in an underhand grip.
  3. Keep your arms close to your body and lift the barbell up by dragging it along your body.
  4. Squeeze your biceps at the top.
  5. Then, slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.

3. Alternating Dumbbell Drag Curl

This variation involves alternating the arm that you curl with, allowing for a more balanced workout.

After curling one arm, switch to the other arm and repeat the motion.

4. Hammer Dumbbell Drag Curl

This variation involves keeping the palms facing each other throughout the exercise, which places more emphasis on the brachioradialis muscle (forearm) and less on the biceps.

5. Reverse Grip Dumbbell Drag Curl

Reverse grip drag curl involves rotating the palms to face downward during the curl.

How Do You Incorporate Drag Curls into Workout Routines?

Being a light to moderate intensity isolation exercise, the drag curl is best incorporated into a workout routine after more intense compound exercises.

The dumbbell drag curl may also be used alongside other finishing auxiliary isolation exercises that do not directly involve the biceps.

Attempt to eliminate the chance of overtraining and allow the muscles to recover entirely between sets or workout sessions.

  • If you are new to the Dumbbell drag curl, choose a lightweight to begin and complete 3–4 sets of 10–15 reps.
  • If you are more comfortable with the form, grab some moderately heavier weights and stick to the 6-8 rep range for 3–4 sets. 

Benefits of Doing the Dumbbell Drag Curl?

Drag curl has many benefits due to the nature of its training stimuli & angle at which the exercise is performed.

1. Highly Targeted Bicep Activation

The entire purpose of the drag curl is that of highly targeted activation of the biceps brachii muscles.

This is due to the biceps brachii’s placement and the contract’s nature.

2. Strength And Size Gains

The dumbbell 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.

3. Increased grip strength

The dragging motion of the dumbbells during drag curl helps to improve grip strength.

4. Athletic Benefits

In athletic endeavors and sports, such as in the throw of a football or a boxer’s uppercut, all of which take part in the force behind such a movement directly from the biceps themselves.


Are Drag Curls Safe?

The drag curl is considered one of the best possible free-weight bicep isolation exercises and is also considered to be quite safe.

Light to moderate weight is best for performing these exercises. This is a fool-proof form that is quite difficult to do improperly.

The drag curl exercise uses a supinated grip that keeps the wrist in its most secure position, which reduces the chance of tendon damage or impingement in that part of the arm.

Are drag curls better than bicep curls?

Both dumbbells drag curls, and traditional bicep curls work the biceps and forearms.

  • Dumbbell drag curls can activate the biceps and forearms more effectively and improve grip strength.
  • While traditional bicep curls are a straightforward and classic exercise for building bicep strength.

Why are drag curls so hard?

Keeping the dumbbells close and behind the body during the exercise requires increased control and muscle activation, making it a more challenging exercise than traditional bicep curls.

Additionally, the dragging motion of the dumbbells can make the exercise more difficult, especially for those with weaker grip strength.


Dumbbell drag curl is a great exercise for targeting the biceps and forearms, improving grip strength, and increasing muscle activation and control.

When incorporating Drag Curl into your workout routine, be sure to use proper form and start with lighter weights before gradually increasing the weight.


  • Nunes, J.P.; Jacinto, J.L.; Ribeiro, A.S.; Mayhew, J.L.; Nakamura, M.; Capel, D.M.G.; Santos, L.R.; Santos, L.; Cyrino, E.S.; Aguiar, A.F. Placing greater torque at shorter or longer muscle lengths? Effects of cable vs. barbell preacher curl training on muscular strength and hypertrophy in young adults. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 5859
  • Coratella, Giuseppe, Gianpaolo Tornatore, Stefano Longo, Nicholas Toninelli, Riccardo Padovan, Fabio Esposito, and Emiliano Cè. 2023. “Biceps Brachii and Brachioradialis Excitation in Biceps Curl Exercise: Different Handgrips, Different Synergy” Sports 11, no. 3: 64. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports11030064

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