How To Do Drag Curls

You’ve been doing curls on top of curls but your biceps aren’t growing. When this happens, stop doing the same thing expecting different results. It’s time to try something new!

Drag curls are a special kind of bicep exercise that changes the loading on your muscles. In this way, they can be a key for busting plateaus and reaching new arm gains.

So scroll down to learn the benefits of doing drag curls. You’ll get a step-by-step guide on how to do them with perfect form. Plus 7 variations you can do with any gym equipment.

Barbell Drag Curls

What Are Drag Curls?

Drag curls are a specific type of bicep exercise where you curl the weight straight up your body. During the movement, the barbell may actually drag against your stomach and chest. Hence, the name body drag curl.

In contrast, the weight travel out and away from your body in a standard bicep curl. By changing the movement path, drag curls target different parts of your arm muscles than regular curls.

Drag Curls Muscles Worked

As with all arm curl exercises, drag curls primarily work the bicep muscles. But your biceps are actually divided into two muscle heads.

The short head is the inner bicep that gives the peak shape. And the long head is the outer bicep that gives your arm width.

Drag curls target the inner bicep with an underhand grip. And the way your elbow travels behind your body activates the outer bicep.

Drag Curls Muscles Worked

Are Drag Curls Effective?

Drag curls are very effective for building biceps since they work the inner and outer bicep at the same time.

In addition, the load on your bicep is highest when you are in the contracted or flexed position. With standard bicep curls, the load is highest in the middle of the range of motion.

Loading the bicep in a different part of the range of motion is beneficial for stimulating more muscle fibers. And that’s what results in strength and size gains.

How To Do Drag Curls

  1. Hold the weight with an underhand grip
  2. “Drag” the weight vertically straight up the front of your body
  3. Lift until you reach about the bottom of your chest
  4. Lower the weight back down to your thighs
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps

Drag Curl Form

Here are some additional tips to help you get the most bicep activation from this exercise.

  • The weight should be very close to your body the whole time, touching or nearly touching your torso
  • Don’t flare your elbows out, but allow them to travel back as the bar comes up
  • At the top, your arms should be bent at less than a 90o angle, forearms about parallel with the floor
  • Squeeze for 1 second in the contracted position
  • Do not rush through the reps, control the weight and keep the biceps under tension
Drag Curls Form

Drag Curl Variations

There are multiple ways to perform drag curls using different kinds of weights and equipment. So no matter what gym setup you have, you can include this exercise in your routine.

Barbell Drag Curls

Probably the most common version is the barbell drag curl. This is when you use a straight bar as demonstrated in the video and images above.

The benefit of this variation is that it puts you in a strong body position. But it is a free weight movement, so it may take some practice to get your motor skills down.

Smith Machine Drag Curls

Another version of the barbell drag curl is performed using a Smith machine bar. This is essentially a barbell that moves on guide rails.

So you get the same benefits of the barbell drag curl. But the movement path is controlled for you, so you can just focus on squeezing your biceps.

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EZ Bar Drag Curls

Instead of a straight bar, you can also use an EZ curl bar. This is a shorter bar that has angled hand grips which make exercises like drag curls easier on your wrists and forearms.

Dumbbell Drag Curls

Dumbbell drag curls allow each arm to work independently. This helps prevent a dominant side from taking over. But it’s also a step up in difficulty since you have to control two weights.

Incline Drag Curls

Another way to do dumbbell drag curls is leaning back on an incline bench. The angle of the bench puts your upper arm behind your body like a drag curl. While you don’t drag the weight up your body, it does work the bicep in a similar way.

Cable Drag Curls

A cable drag curl can be performed with a straight bar or EZ bar attachment on a cable apparatus. Stand so the pulley is close to your toes then perform the movement as you would with free weights.

Resistance Band Drag Curls

If you don’t have any free weights, you can do a drag curl using resistance bands. Simply stand on the center of the band and hold one end in each hand. Then perform the movement as described above.

15 Best Resistance Band Exercises For Arms

Hypertrophy Training Program

Drag curls are an excellent addition to your arm day workout. Especially if you have stubborn biceps. But if you really want to reach your fitness goals, you need a complete resistance training plan designed for muscle gain.

In order to maximize muscle growth (aka hypertrophy), you should adjust 10 specific training variables. Check out my free hypertrophy training program to see how to optimize your workouts.

Hypertrophy Training
Gain More Muscle

With this information, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your fitness goals. And if you found this exercise tutorial helpful, click on the articles below for more workout tips!

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