drag curls big biceps

How to Use Drag Curls to Trigger New Biceps Growth

The barbell curl is the most popular biceps exercise, and with a good reason – it works the biceps nicely and builds mass. The question is: can the curl be modified to hit the biceps better ?

The answer is yes, drag curls are a modification of the standard curl that can maximize your efforts and really work the biceps harder

What are drag curls ?

The drag curl is a variation of the standard barbell curl that attempts to eliminate the front deltoid involvement from the movement. With the front shoulders out of the equation, the majority of the work is done by the biceps.

The name “drag” curl comes from the movement of the bar – you actually “drag” the bar up the torso.  This exercise is usually done using moderate to high reps (10-15) as it doesn’t allow very heavy weights to be used, but it generates a strong muscle pump in the biceps.

The drag curl will definitely spark new growth in the biceps and make arm workouts more exciting.

Drag Curls Muscles Worked


The primary muscle used in the the drag curl is the biceps (both the short and the long head). The biceps is used to lift the forearms and, of course, it’s one of the most famous muscles used for flexing and “strength” presentation.


The forearms are one of the secondary muscle groups used in this movement. The brachioradialis is a muscle of the forearm that flexes the forearm at the elbow. It is also capable of both pronation and supination, depending on the position of the forearm.


The brachialis (brachialis anticus) is a muscle in the upper arm that flexes the elbow joint. It is positioned deeper than the biceps brachii. When fully developed it helps to push the biceps out while adding a little width to the upper arm.

How To Do Drag Curls

Although this is not a complex movement, as always proper execution is essential to be able to get maximal results from the exercise. Here is how to execute the drag curl:

  • Grab the bar with an underhand grip with the hands positioned at shoulder width apart. The bar should be resting on your upper thighs. Pull your shoulders back so that they are in line with your knees and hips.
  • As you start curling the bar upwards, pull the elbows back so that the bar touches your torso (the bar should “drag” up your torso). 
  • Slowly lower the bar back down while still keeping the bar in contact with your torso and your elbows back.



Other Drag Curl Variations

Besides the barbell drag curls, there are a few other variations that you should try.

1. Dumbbell drag curls

The dumbbell drag curl is a variation of the barbell curl where you can add a bit wider range of motion. You can also alternate the arms to work on your biceps using dumbbells.

2. Cable drag curls

Cables are a great alternative to barbells and dumbbells. The main difference is that you can maintain constant tension in the worked muscle. There is also the option for a different attachment and handles when using cables.

3. Reverse or hammer-grip drag curls

Using a reverse or hammer grip will really activate the brachioradialis/brachialis muscles and maximize their development. You’ll need to use lighter weights for reverse curl variations to be able to maintain a strong, neutral wrist and prevent discomfort or wrist pain.

How To Include Drag Curls In Your Routine

Like we mentioned earlier, drag curls are an exercise that doesn’t allow for very heavy weights and is executed using moderate to high reps. As such, drag curls make a great finisher.

So after you have worked your biceps with other exercises and heavier weights, you can add a few sets of drag curls to really isolate and pump up the biceps.

For example:

Standing Barbell curls 3 x 10
Preacher curls 3 x 10
Dumbbell drag curls 3 x 12

Also check:

The Complete Biceps Training Guide – What, Why and How

3 Rep Ranges for Bigger Biceps

Maximize Biceps Growth With Mechanical Drop Sets



Standard biceps curls are a great exercise for building mass and strength in your biceps. But if you want some additional stimulus and want to spark new muscle growth, then drag curls might be the puzzle you are missing. Be sure to tory all the variations mentioned above and see which one works best for you.


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