Are Drag Curls Better Than Regular Curls?

drag curls
January 30, 2023 0 Comments

Table of Contents


In this article I will be answering the question “are drag curls better than regular curls?”. Both curl exercises are highly effective for building bigger and stronger biceps.

There are subtle nuances with each of these exercises that I will delve deeper into. I will share my own opinion as to which exercise is better.

Are Drag Curls Better Than Regular Curls?

This is a loaded question. The drag curl is a lot harder and therefore you can’t use as much weight with it. This is because the biceps are doing more of the work with drag curls and there are fewer secondary muscles assisting in the movement.

Drag curls can be more effective for putting tension on the biceps and increasing bicep peak. They also target the long head of the biceps very well. Having said this, the regular curl allows for much heavier loads to be used.

The overall stimulus is greater with regular curls and therefore they can also add a lot of mass to your biceps. It is recommended to incorporate both curling variations into your program for best results and to get the best of both worlds.

Which exercise you find better will also depend on your own goals. If your aim is to isolate the biceps more then drag curls will be a better exercise for you.

Drag Curls Put More Tension On The Biceps

One of the big benefits of the drag curl is how well it can isolate your biceps. The traditional bicep curl involves lots of secondary muscles and can also be easier to cheat on.

The drag curl places a lot more tension on the biceps and is a very strict movement. As I have discussed many times on this site, time under tension is a very important concept in bodybuilding.

Building bigger muscles has a lot to do with placing the muscle under tension. This is why time under tension training has been proven to work so well for bodybuilding purposes.

It also explains why bodybuilders tend to have larger muscles than a lot of powerlifters, even though the powerlifters are a lot stronger. The drag curl is a great example of an isolation exercise that can help you to grow your biceps without utilising really heavy weights.

When done properly, the exercise allows you to get more out of less weight. If you want to get even more tension on the biceps you can try doing tempo rep drag curls. This is where you count “1-2-3” on the way up and on the way down.

This would make the exercise even harder and have your biceps screaming for mercy!

drag curls

Regular Curls Allow For More Weight

The big advantage of the regular barbell or dumbbell curl is that it allows for significantly heavier loads to be used compared to drag curls.

This can be a very good thing for building muscle. A greater overall stimulus is placed on the biceps and they can respond very well in terms of hypertrophy and strength.

There is a correlation between strength and size. A stronger muscle will typically be a bigger muscle. However, this is not always exactly true. But if someone is consistently curling dumbbells upwards of 50lbs, it is highly likely that they will have bigger biceps than someone who does strict curls with 25lb dumbbells.

This is especially true when it comes to natural bodybuilding. There is a good video from Alex Leonidas that you can view below. In the video he talks about the problem that prevents people from getting bigger and stronger biceps.

This is that they don’t push isolation exercises heavy enough and just view them as an afterthought. If you do make an effort to apply progressive overload to your regular curls, you will reap dividends with stronger and bigger biceps. 

How To Do Drag Curls

Pretty much everyone knows how to do standard dumbbell or barbell curls. They are very simple movements. The drag curl is slightly more nuanced. It involves keeping your elbows back and almost dragging the bar up, keeping it close to your body.

You should go up until your forearms are perpendicular to your upper arms. This is the end of the range of motion. Many people who don’t know about drag curls, see people doing them and look on in horror.

They are not intended to be a full range of motion exercise like the standard curl. The whole objective with the drag curl is to keep the tension on the biceps and isolate the biceps better.

To that end, the drag curl is a highly effective exercise. The legendary bodybuilder Flex Wheeler was well known for performing them regularly. His arms were around 23 inches and he credits drag curls for playing a big part in building his huge biceps.

The video below by the late John Meadows demonstrates how to execute the drag curl most effectively. It is a personal choice whether you rest your back on anything. Personally, I do them free standing with no back support. 

Final Thoughts

Are drag curls better than regular curls? There are advantages and disadvantages to both exercises. Drag curls allow you to isolate the biceps better and are more strict.

Regular curls let you use a lot more weight for a greater overall stimulus on the biceps. At the same time, this exercise does open the door for slightly more cheating. 

Overall, it would be advantageous to incorporate both exercises into your routine for biceps isolation work to get the best of both worlds. If you are already doing an exercise like weighted chin ups, then you could just add in drag curls to your routine.

If you have any comments on this topic, please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> Are Concentration Curls And Preacher Curls The Same?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.