How to Do Drag Curls

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTUpdated: April 17, 2023

You’ve been doing curls on top of curls, but your biceps aren’t growing. When this happens, stop doing the same thing and 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 nine 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 travels 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.

Are Drag Curls Effective?

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

Drag Curls Muscles Worked

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

The short head is the inner bicep that gives overall size and thickness. And the long head is the outer bicep that gives the peak shape when flexed.

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

How To Do Drag Curls

To perform a drag curl, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell with an underhand grip. Keep your elbows tucked in, and slowly lift the bar up towards your chest while keeping it as close to your body as possible.

Lower the bar down slowly and then repeat for several reps. The key to this exercise is to focus on keeping the bar close to your body while lifting, as this will help to target your biceps and make the exercise more effective.

Once you master the basics of this exercise, you can start to add more weight to your bar and push yourself further in each session.

Here are the steps to perform the drag curl exercise:

  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

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe, or click on the button below!

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; allow them to travel back as the bar comes up.
  • At the top, your arms should be bent at less than a 90-degree angle, with forearms roughly parallel to 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 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.

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.

Dumbbell Drag Curl

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 focus on squeezing your biceps.

Cable Drag Curls

A cable drag curl can be performed with a straight bar or EZ bar attachment on a cable apparatus. First, stand so the pulley is close to your toes, then perform the drag curl as you would with a free-weight bar.

I also recommend doing this variation with a reverse grip to isolate your outer bicep further.

Cable Drag Curl

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.

Related: 15 Best Resistance Band Exercises For Arms

workouts mobile

Custom Nutrition & Workout Plan

Get a personalized meal plan built to fit your body and lifestyle. Including a custom workout routine designed around your fitness goals.

With your custom plan, you will finally be able to burn fat, build muscle, and transform your body. All this for just $19.99!

Click here to choose your plan.

Drag Curl Alternatives

Of course, you can include many other exercises in your routine to build your bicep peak. Here are some alternatives to drag curls that you can rotate into your bicep training routine.

Cable Bayesian Curls

Another way to work the long head is by facing away from the low cable using a single-hand attachment. Next, grab the handle with an underhand grip and step forward with your back to the pulley. This starting position should place your elbow behind your torso.

From there, curl the handle up towards your armpit while keeping your elbow behind you, almost like a drag curl.

Drag Curl Alternative

Incline Dumbbell Curls

You can also hit the long head of your bicep by leaning back on an incline bench during curls. 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.

Dumbbell Hammer Curl

With hammer curls, your hand is somewhere between supination and pronation – this is called a neutral grip. As a result, your palms face inward through the whole exercise, and the dumbbell looks like the head of a swinging hammer.

This hand position is excellent for feeling the burn in your outer bicep and building massive bicep peaks.

Hypertrophy Arm Exercises & Workouts

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 to hit your arms from every angle.

Here are some additional bicep exercises and workouts to help you take your arm training to the next level!

Chris Bumstead Arm Day Workouts

How to Do Dumbbell Spider Curls

Hammer Curl vs Bicep Curl Muscle Worked

Dumbbell Back & Bicep Workout

21 Best Cable Arm Exercises

How to Get Wider Biceps

19 Bicep Peak Exercises to Fix Flat Arms

With this information, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your fitness goals and building bigger arms. So if you found this exercise tutorial helpful, click on the articles below for more tips on training, nutrition, and supplements!

How to Develop a Growth Mindset

A growth mindset can be the difference between getting better or staying the same. Learn simple steps to change your mindset and get results!

Share with your community and get the conversation started!

By |April 17, 2023|Workouts|0 Comments
Go to Top