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It goes without saying that bicep curls are a staple exercise when it comes to building bigger arms.
However, there are many variations that are just as effective for recruiting the bicep muscles
One of these includes the dumbbell waiter curl, which is one of the lesser-known biceps exercises.
Want to learn more about it?
Then keep reading to discover waiter curls benefits, how to do it, along with some other variations.
But, before all that, let’s dive in to find out what a Waiter Curl actually is.
What Is The Waiter Curl Exercise
The waiter curl is a bicep curl variation that’s performed with a single dumbbell.
It involves holding the dumbbell with a narrow grip with your hands and forearms in a supinated position.
This alters the range of motion and emphasizes different muscle groups when compared to regular dumbbell curls.
What Muscles Do Waiter Curls Work
The primary muscles worked when doing a waiter curl exercise is the long head of the biceps, this is because it involves shoulder flexion and forearm supination.
Secondary muscles include the biceps brachii short head, and the brachialis and brachioradialis, which are forearm flexors.
Long Head Of The Biceps
This is a biarticular muscle meaning it crosses two joints (the shoulder and elbow).
It’s the prime mover during the waiter curl exercise thanks to the close grip involved when performing the movement.
Short Head Of The Biceps
This is the smaller head and contributes to the overall contraction of the biceps and is active during elbow flexion.
The brachialis is the main muscle responsible for flexion of the elbow and it’s located deep beneath the biceps brachii.
It’s recruited during a waiter curl as you bend your elbow to raise the dumbbell up towards your chest.
This is the largest of the forearm muscles and assists with flexing at the elbow joint through a full range of motion.
It’s activated during a waiter curl as it helps to stabilize the elbow joint and maintain the position of the wrist and forearm.
How To A Dumbbell Waiter Curl Properly
It’s not uncommon to see people doing waiter curls incorrectly and more often than not, this is because they’re not holding the dumbbell properly.
Let’s go over each step so you can get this exercise right the first time.
- Start off in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell down by your feet.
- Squat down and pick up the dumbbell by getting your hands underneath the flat end of it. Don’t just hold on to the sides of the dumbbell.
- Your hands and forearms should be supinated (palms facing the ceiling).
- Keep your arms relaxed with the dumbbell resting just in front of your thighs. This is your starting position.
- Make sure your back is straight, head and chest up with your shoulder blades back.
- From here, curl the dumbbell up towards your chest while keeping the flat end of the dumbbell facing towards the ceiling the entire time.
- At the top of the movement, squeeze your upper arm for peak contraction of the biceps.
- Use control to lower the dumbbell back to the start and repeat.
It’s worth pointing out that what dumbbell you choose may impact how you do the exercise.
For example, a hex dumbbell typically has a smaller surface area so you may need to hold it a little differently.
But as long are your arms are supinated, it doesn’t matter what type of dumbbell you use when performing a waiter curl.
When it comes to the number of repetitions you’ll want to aim for around 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps.
When starting out, stick with a lighter weight to begin with and keep reps high to exhaust the biceps.
Waiter Curls Benefits
When done with proper form the Waiter curl is a great exercise and offers many benefits.
1. Increased Forearm Emphasis
As waiter curls activate the muscles of the forearm, especially when combined with the supination (rotation of the forearm) during the lifting phase, this means it can be a great way of developing forearm strength.
Also, when forearm strength improves this carries over to grip strength.
Grip strength is important for carrying out everyday tasks but also helps when performing heavy-load exercises such as the deadlift, where the strength of your fingers and wrists can have a big impact on the weight being pulled.
2. Develops The Biceps Peak
As you adopt a narrow grip when performing the waiter curl you internally rotate your shoulders, and it’s this unique grip that automatically puts greater stress on the biceps long head and it’s this muscle head that contributes most to the biceps peak essentially helping you to develop massive biceps.
This is particularly beneficial as studies have shown that the long head of the biceps is around 15% weaker when compared to the short head.
What’s more, it also targets the brachialis, and this often neglected muscle helps to increase the thickness and width of your biceps when it’s properly developed.
As the waiter’s curl specifically recruits these muscles this leads to greater muscle growth.
3. Can Improve Joint Stability
The rotational aspect of the waiter curl activates the muscles responsible for stabilizing your elbow and shoulder joints, especially when compared to more traditional bicep exercises like hammer curls.
This can be particularly helpful if you want to enhance joint stability and promote overall joint health.
Having strong and stable joints contributes to overall functional movement which can lower your risk of injury, particularly when it comes to things like sprains and strains.
They can also better withstand sudden movements and external forces.
4. It’s Beginner Friendly
The waiter curl is a forgiving exercise when it comes to execution making it great for those new to strength training.
Because of the way the dumbbell is held this usually means you’ll be starting out with a lightweight dumbbell which puts less stress on the joints and makes it easier to adhere to proper form.
As it’s an isolation exercise, meaning movement takes place through one joint, this means less energy and coordination is required to do a waiter curl when compared to compound exercises like the squat or deadlift.
Waiter Curl Alternatives For Bicep Activation
There are many types of exercises you can do to target your biceps and it’s important to stick to a variety to keep testing the muscles and preventing any plateaus.
Let’s look at some great alternatives to the waiter curl that you can incorporate into your biceps workout.
Inverted Chin Curls
This biceps curl variation is performed using just your bodyweight, a barbell, and something to hold the bar, like a smith machine.
It’s a great exercise for building bigger biceps but does have its limitations when it comes to progressive overload.
But, if you’re looking for a bodyweight exercise then this is up there with one of the best for increasing bicep size.
The Zottman curl is a fantastic exercise for targeting multiple muscle groups.
It’s pretty much a combination between a traditional dumbbell bicep curl and a reverse curl and involves a supinated hand position during the concentric phase (curling the dumbbell up) and a pronated hand position during the eccentric phase (lowering the dumbbell down).
The preacher curl is one of the best exercises for isolating the biceps.
As your upper arms and elbows are fully supported this prevents you from using any momentum therefore increasing the tension placed on your biceps.
An important thing to note however is to stick to a realistic weight that your biceps can comfortably handle.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that driving your elbows into the pads can allow you to lift more weight than you should as this can quickly lead to injury.
For maximum muscle hypertrophy use a light weight and high rep volume.
Drag curls can be done with either a barbell or a pair of dumbbells.
It’s a simple exercise with the distinctive benefit being that it will place more tension on your biceps long head.
This is because of the position of your elbows which remain behind you as drag the dumbbells or bar up your body towards your chin.
The benefits of the waiter curl exercise make it a worthwhile addition as part of your biceps training and when incorporated with other exercises, like those mentioned above, you’ll not only increase strength, but also size and joint health.
Remember to keep exercises varied as in many cases, different curl variations will recruit the different heads of the biceps and forearm muscles.
With that in mind, learn more about the differences between the bicep short head vs long head and some recommended exercises to target both.