Do biceps curls burn calories?

Quick Answer

Yes, biceps curls do burn calories. The exact amount of calories burned during biceps curls depends on several factors like the weight being lifted, number of reps and sets performed, and the individual’s body weight. On average, a 155 lb person can burn around 80-100 calories by doing 3 sets of 10 reps of biceps curls with a challenging weight.

How Many Calories Do Biceps Curls Burn?

The number of calories burned during biceps curls depends on:

Body Weight

Heavier individuals generally burn more calories performing the same exercise. A 200 lb person will burn more calories doing biceps curls than a 130 lb person.

Weight Being Lifted

Using heavier weights during biceps curls requires more energy expenditure and burns more calories. Lifting light weights for high reps burns fewer calories.

Number of Sets and Reps

Doing more sets and reps of biceps curls burns more calories because it requires extended effort. 3 sets of 10 reps will burn more calories than 1 set of 10 reps.

Individual Factors

Factors like age, gender, fitness level, genetics, and diet impact the calorie burn of an exercise. Men tend to burn more calories than women during weight training.

Body Weight Sets x Reps Calories Burned
130 lbs 3 x 10 60-75 calories
155 lbs 3 x 10 80-100 calories
185 lbs 3 x 10 100-120 calories

This table gives a rough estimate of the calories burned doing 3 sets of 10 reps of biceps curls for different body weights. Heavier individuals performing more sets/reps would burn even more calories.

Muscles Worked During Biceps Curls

The main muscles worked during biceps curls are:

Biceps Brachii

This muscle runs along the front of the upper arm between the shoulder and elbow. As the chief elbow flexor, it’s the prime mover during biceps curls.


This muscle sits under the biceps and also contributes to elbow flexion. It provides additional force during the lift.


This muscle connects the upper arm to the forearm and assists with elbow flexion and forearm rotation. It helps stabilize the curl movement.

Secondary muscles worked include:

– Forearm flexors: Flex the wrists and fingers.
– Shoulders: Stabilize the shoulder joint during curls.
– Core: Contracts to stabilize the body during standing curls.

By training these muscles, biceps curls boost strength, muscle size, and definition of the upper arms.

Benefits of Biceps Curls

Some benefits of adding biceps curls to your workout routine include:

Builds Bigger, Stronger Biceps

Curls directly target the biceps brachii, training this muscle through its full range of motion to build mass and strength.

Improves Elbow Flexion Strength

They strengthen the muscles that allow you to bend your elbow and flex your arm. This improves performance in pulling motions.

Helps Prevent Elbow Injuries

Curls strengthen the tendons and ligaments around the elbow joint, providing more stability.

Assistance Lift for Compound Moves

Building stronger biceps helps provide additional power in compound lifts like rows, pull ups and lat pulldowns.

Aesthetic Appeal

Well-developed biceps provide an aesthetic appearance and muscular look to the arms.

Convenient to Perform Anywhere

Biceps curls can be done at home or the gym using dumbbells, barbells or resistance bands. No machines required!

Muscle Activation

Studies analyzing muscle activation during biceps curls consistently show that:

Biceps Activation

The biceps brachii are maximally activated, ranging from 95-100% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) of this muscle during curls(1). This demonstrates it’s highly effective for targeting the biceps.

Brachialis and Brachioradialis Activity

These assisting elbow flexor muscles are activated around 50-75% MVC during curls(1). They exhibit moderate to high activity.

Wrist Flexors Activity

Some studies show significant activity in the wrist flexors, over 70% MVC(1), as they contract to hold the weight.

This research confirms biceps curls selectively target the intended muscles strongly.

Muscle Percent MVC
Biceps Brachii 95-100%
Brachialis 50-75%
Brachioradialis 50-75%
Wrist Flexors 70%+

Calorie Burn Versus Other Exercises

Compared to other common exercises:

More Than Cardio

Biceps curls burn more calories than steady state cardio. Walking for 30 minutes may burn around 100 calories versus over 100 calories for a biceps workout.

Less Than Compound Lifts

Multi-joint exercises like deadlifts, squats and bench press burn 20-40% more calories than biceps curls because they use larger muscle groups.

Similar to Other Isolation Exercises

Biceps curls burn a comparable amount of calories to triceps extensions, lateral raises and leg extensions.

So while biceps curls burn a solid amount of calories, integrating them with compound lifts optimizes calorie burn during weight training.

Tips to Maximize Fat Loss

To maximize fat burning from biceps curls:

Use Challenging Weight

Lift a weight that reduces reps to 8-12 range for best muscle stimulation and calorie burn. Go heavier to keep intensity high.

Minimize Rest Periods

Take only 30-60 seconds between sets to keep heart rate elevated and extend fat burning.

Do More Sets

Increase total workout volume by doing 4-5 sets versus 2-3 sets to expend more energy.

Superset with Other Exercises

Combine curls with moves like triceps extensions or rows to burn even more calories.

Maintain Proper Form

Control the weight and avoid cheating to prevent injury and maximize muscle work.

Proper form also enhances the effectiveness of the exercise.

Common Mistakes

Some common form mistakes people make when doing biceps curls:

Swinging the Weight

Excessively swinging the dumbbells or using momentum reduces tension on the biceps. Lift without cheating.

Poor Elbow Position

Allowing the elbows to move forward and away from the body impairs force generation. Keep them tucked by your sides.

Limited Range of Motion

Failing to fully extend elbows at the bottom and maximally contract biceps at the top reduces muscle work. Use full range of motion.

Overuse of Wrist Flexion

Excessively bending the wrists to curl the weight shifts stress away from the biceps. Minimize wrist movement.

Heavy Weights With Poor Form

Chasing heavy weights with improper form is ineffective and risky. Use a weight you can control fully.

Avoiding these mistakes allows you to maximize the benefits of your biceps workout.


Biceps curls are an effective exercise for burning calories and targeting the biceps muscles in the upper arm. On average, doing 3 sets of 10 controlled reps can burn 80-120 calories depending on your body weight and the weight lifted. Curls strongly activate the biceps while also working the brachialis, brachioradialis and forearm muscles to build arm strength and definition. When performed properly and paired with good nutrition, biceps curls can help enhance fat loss while sculpting impressive biceps peaks.

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