Premier Private Personal Trainer & Online Coach

How Many Sets And Reps For Bicep Curls?

By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES. PN-L1


Copy of Copy of SQUATS OR LUNGES (500 × 500 px) (75)-page-001

If your goals is to get bigger arms you probably want to learn how many sets and reps of bicep curls you should be doing.  The short answer is, it depends!

The ideal sets and reps for bicep curls will depend on your experience level, what your current goals are, what else you will be doing in your workout, and what type of curls you decide to do.

For the average gym goer, 6 - 8 sets of anywhere between 6 - 15 reps of bicep curls will help you build strength and muscle.  Rest 2 minutes between rounds and make sure you are training close to failure on each set.

Bicep Curls Sets And Reps For Beginners

Bicep curls are considered an isolation movement, meaning you are working a single muscle. 

As a beginner, the most important thing you can do is take the time to learn and perfect form before you start aggressively increasing weight. 

There is nothing worse than seeing the person in the gym who goes way to heavy and is thrusting the weight up with their whole body.

If you don’t take the time to learn proper form, you risk having bad form that can lead to wrist and elbow pain.  Generally speaking, for a beginner follow this advice for curls. 

Guidelines for bicep curls sets and reps for beginners:

      • Start with a bicep curl variation that you feel confident with and can perform pain free and with good form.  This can be either with dumbbells or barbells.
      • Pick 2 bicep curl movements and perform 4 sets of 6 - 12 reps for both.
      • Rest 2 minutes to ensure you are fully recovered.
      • Find a weight that you do for the 6 - 12 reps where at the end of the set, you maybe could have done 2 more reps.  So if you stop at 10, you should have been able to do 12.
Copy of Copy of SQUATS OR LUNGES (500 × 500 px) (77)-page-001

Curls Sets And Reps For Intermediate & Advanced Lifters

Once you get comfortable with bicep curl variations of your choosing, you can start experimenting with a wider range of reps that can really blow up your biceps.

Additionally, you’ll feel more comfortable pushing the intensity with your bicep curls, allowing you to get closer to failure with your reps.

Guidelines for bicep curls sets and reps for intermediate and advanced lifters:

  • Pick 2 - 4 exercises and perform 3 - 4 sets of 6 - 15+ reps.  8 - 12 total sets is ideal.
  • Rest 90 seconds - 2 minutes after each set.
  • Leave 0 - 1 reps in reserve (RIR) on each set.
Copy of Copy of SQUATS OR LUNGES (500 × 500 px) (76)-page-001

Frequently Asked Questions

What Type Of Bicep Curls Should I Do?

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again.  The best type of bicep curl is one that you enjoying doing, can perform with great form, and you can do pain free.

For most of my clients, I have them experiment with both barbells and dumbbells and let them decide which they like better.  For barbell exercise, most of my clients prefer using an ez-bar.

Find what works for you and that you enjoy.

Here are my 15 favorite bicep curl variations.

Is 5 Sets Of Bicep Curls Too Much?

Doing 5 sets of bicep curls that are close to failure is acceptable since they are an isolation exercise and don’t put too much stress on your joints.

If you notice you are sore for multiple days after doing 5 sets of curls, you may want to scale back how many sets you do.

Do Bicep Curls Respond Better To Higher Reps?

Biceps, just like any other muscle, respond best where there is enough intensity brought to the set.

If you do 12 reps and could have done 20, nothing will happen.  There wasn’t enough intensity brought to the set.  Remember above when I said you need to be close to failure.  In this example, you are 8 reps away from failure.  That’s not where you want to be.

As a finisher to a workout, I love programming one round of high rep bicep curls to “burn out” the arms.

I’ll have my clients do 1 round of 100 reps where they rest as needed and try to finish as quick as possible (with good form of course).

How Heavy Should Bicep Curls Be?

You always want to pick a weight that leaves 0 - 2 reps in reserve.  How heavy that is will depend on how strong you are.  

15 pounds may work for someone while 15 pounds may be way too light or heavy for someone else.

Always be aware of how many “reps in reserve” you have when performing bicep curl sets.

Can Other Exercises Besides Bicep Curls Build Muscle?

You can utilize compound exercises that work multiple muscles to help build muscle in your arms.

Most “pull” movements will work your back and bicep effectively.  Adding a mix of compound movements and isolation movements is a great way to build your arms.

Here are a few of my favorite resources on other ways to grow biceps.

Full Pull Day Workout To Build Muscle In the Back And Biceps

How To Chin-Ups (A Great Way To Add Size To Your Arms)

Bicep Curls Sets And Reps Recap

As you’ve learned, there is a wide range of options when picking your sets and reps.   If you’re a beginner, stick with slightly lower rep ranges and leave 1 - 2 reps in reserve.  Once you get more advanced, add more sets, more variety with rep ranges, higher intensity, and harder variations.