In Fitness, what is a Body Curl?

Jessica Reed

A body curl is a type of exercise that involves using a dumbbell to strengthen the muscles in the arms by curling the weight across the person's chest or body. Body curls are also referred to as cross body dumbbell curls. The name comes from the movement of sweeping the dumbbell across the body and curling the arm inward. Adding this exercise to a regular exercise routine strengthens and tones the muscles in the arms and shoulders. When performed properly, it can help improve posture.

Body curls are also called cross body dumbell curls.
Body curls are also called cross body dumbell curls.

To perform the cross body dumbbell curl, a person would hold one dumbbell in each hand and stand up straight with his feet hip-width apart. It's important to breathe steadily throughout the exercise and not to wiggle the body while lifting the weights. If the weights are too heavy or feel uncomfortable, the exerciser should switch to a lighter weight and return to the heavier weight after a few weeks.

Body curls are used to strengthen the muscles in the arm.
Body curls are used to strengthen the muscles in the arm.

The exerciser should grip the dumbbells, holding them down at his sides. On an inhale, he should lift the right dumbbell up and across the chest toward the left shoulder. He should not move too fast or the dumbbell could smack into the left shoulder and cause injury. The exerciser should move in a slow, fluid motion and pause when the dumbbell is 1 to 2 inches (2.54 to 5.08 cm) from the shoulder.

After three seconds, the dumbbell should be lowered back to the original starting position while exhaling. This pattern should be repeated on the other side, and the same number of repetitions performed with each arm. Beginners may choose to do 10 repetitions for each workout and add two to three more each week.

Other variations on the body curl exist. A leg curl involves a person standing straight with the hands on the hips and lifting one leg out behind him while bending at the knee. A weighted dumbbell can be placed in the crease created behind the knee while lifting. This exercise can also be performed by lying on an exercise machine, stomach down, and using both legs to lift a weighted roller bar.

Arm body curl exercises, besides the cross body curl mentioned above, include holding a dumbbell in each hand and lifting the arms in toward the shoulders without crossing the arms across the chest. A variation on this exercise uses the same form but has the person start with his arms lifted and extended out in front of him, typically at shoulder height. He then curls the weights in toward the shoulders and back out. Each type of exercise works a different muscle in the arm.

Advantages of the body curl include strength, toning, building, and defining muscle. Injuries with the body curl are uncommon, and typically are the result of improper technique. It's important to consult with a doctor or fitness trainer before starting a new exercise routine and to follow proper posture and breathing techniques to reduce the chance of injury.

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