average dumbbell curl standards for men and women
Strength Training

Average Dumbbell Curl Standards for Men and Women

The dumbbell curl is one of the most popular biceps exercises done in the gym. So, it’s not surprising that many people wonder how their dumbbell curling strength compares with other people. In this article, I’ll lay out the average dumbbell curl standards for men and women so that you see how your upper arm strength compares with others.

What Is The Dumbbell Curl?

The dumbbell curl is a free weight exercise that isolates and works your bicep muscle, officially called the biceps brachii muscle. The exercise can be performed either standing or sitting on a flat or incline exercise bench. It can also be done as an alternate dumbbell curl or with both hands together. 

The dumbbell curl works the biceps muscle through elbow flexion. It is important to maintain a consistent shoulder position and focus on flexing and extending at the elbow. Think of driving your forearm into your biceps at the top as you curl up.

This exercise helps build muscle and strength in the biceps, which carries over to help out with other strength training exercises.

To do the dumbbell curl, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Keeping your elbows in at your side and without swinging your back, curl the right dumbbell up to your shoulder. Lower all the way down before repeating with the other arm. 

Form Points

To perform this exercise correctly, you have to work to eliminate momentum. Instability in the shoulder, hips, and lower back can all create momentum and allow other muscles, such as the front deltoid, to help move the dumbbells instead of the biceps brachii. 

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Rather than starting with a heavy weight, use a lighter weight until you are sure that you have got your form sorted out. Then progressively increase your poundage over time.

Dumbbell Curl Standards

The dumbbell curl is not an exercise that features in competitions so there are no official standards for this exercise. However, the website strengthlevel.com has compiled unofficial biceps curl standards based on thousands of collected statistics from gym-goers all over the world. 

The standards in the chart below are based on a person’s one rep maximum (1 RM), which is the heaviest weight a person can lift for one repetition with proper exercise form. 

WeightBeginner LifterNovice LifterIntermediate LifterAdvanced LifterElite Lifter
130 lbs921396391
160 lbs13274773103
190 lbs17335582114
220 lbs21386190123
250 lbs24436798132

Let’s analyze what these various standards mean. A beginner lifter is stronger than five percent of the population. A beginner is able to correctly perform the exercise and has been working out for about a month. Those classified as a novice are stronger than about twenty percent of the general population. To be considered a novice will have been working out for around six months. 

An intermediate lifter who can lift at the dumbbell standard will be stronger than 50 percent of the general population. To be considered an intermediate,  you will have training between six months and 2 years. An advanced lifter who meets the standard will be stronger than eighty percent of the general population. This person will have been exercising with weights for five years or more.

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An elite lifter will have been competing in strength or powerlifting competition for several years and, if he meets the traditional dumbbell curl standard, will be stronger than 95 percent of people who regularly do the standard or incline bench dumbbell curl. 

Here are the average curl weight female standards …

WeightBeginnerNoviceIntermediateAdvancedElite
110 lbs513243957
130 lbs715274362
150 lbs817304766
170 lbs1019335070
190 lbs1121355373

Barbell Curl Averages

The barbell curl is similar to the dumbbell curl, except that you are using a barbell rather than dumbbells. As a result, we can get a good indication of dumbbell curls averages by cutting the barbell curl average in half. According to the T-Nation website, the average weight for the barbell curl for men is 80 pounds. So, if we half that number, we get an average dumbbell curl weight of 40 pounds. 

T-Nation also tells us that the average barbell bicep curl weight for females is 40 pounds. That would give us an average dumbbell curl weight of 20 pounds. 

How to Work Out Your One Rep Max

You might think that working out your one-rep max would be as simple as grabbing a heavy weight and doing a single rep with it. However, it can be quite dangerous to the bicep tendon to be playing around with max lift weights. So, rather than risking a torn bicep, you should use the following method to work out your one-rep max …

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Choose a weight that you feel comfortable with and perform as many reps as you can with proper technique. You should get somewhere between 8 and 15 reps. Now X that number of reps by 0.033. Now add 1 to this total. That is your one-repetition maximum.

Here is an example …

You are able to perform the alternate dumbbell curl for 8 reps with a weight of 40 pounds. So you multiply 8 x 0.033 to get 0.264. We add 1 to get 1.264. Now X this number by 40 to get 61.12 pounds. We then round this back to 61 pounds, which is your one-rep max. 

Conclusion

In this article, we have identified the dumbbell strength standards for the curl across a range of experience levels from for male and female athletes, from the beginner athlete through to the advanced athlete. Use them to give you an indication of where you stand in regards to your level of strength compared to your gym peers. Be careful, though, not to compare yourself to others. Focus on your own training, with the goal of making a progressive increase in your weights, and you’ll get the results you’re after. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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