A Forgotten Favorite—One-Arm Dumbbell Table Curls

By: Josh Bryant 

For great arm development, its’s wise to look to the heroes of old-school arm wrestling, like the marvelous Mac Batchelor!

This exercise has cult-like allegiance amongst arm wrestlers.

All you need is a dumbbell and a table. Make sure the table is sturdy.

The table curl is performed by placing your arm on a table or bench with a resting dumbbell in your hand. From this point, you curl up toward your chest, and then repeat the motion by letting the dumbbell go back to the table as your arm stretches back to the starting position. 

For arm wrestlers, the transfer to the table is huge because the movement simulates the pulling movement utilized in some arm wrestling techniques.  Forearm and wrist strength is expedited by curling up and down on the table.  

You can take this a step further by grasping the dumbbell by the end of “bell” and every muscle in your forearms will cry, “Uncle!”

Here is where an important distinction needs to be made—the starting point. For bodybuilding and general strength purposes, start this exercise at the end position with dumbbell at end range of flexion (touching shoulder or as close as mobility allows). From this point, lower the weight and perform the exercise repetitively. 

Why start from the top?  You are a hell of a lot stronger eccentrically (negative) and on the downward movement, your muscles will store elastic-like energy that will assist in lifting the dumbbell back to the starting point.  There is not a need to overcome dead weight by eliminating the stretch-shortening cycle.

For the arm wrestler, overcoming dead weight is huge; starting from a bottom and top position is advised in training.

This movement provides a hellacious overload for the top half of a curl; of course, we have to train the full range of motion for full development.

Next Bicep Work Try this Routine

*Table Curls for 4 sets of 6-10 reps as heavy as possible 

*1/2 rep–Incline Dumbbell Curls (bottom half only, emphasize stretch) 4 sets of 8-12 reps as heavy as possible

*Hammer Curls (full range of motion) 3sets of 12-15 reps as heavy as possible.

Your biceps will be screaming!

Exercise Description

  • Sit or stand at a table, with elbow at chest level grasp one dumbbell in hand
  • Start with dumbbell in a full flexed elbow position. From this position, lower dumbbell to table under control
  • Forcefully curl dumbbell back to starting position
  • Repeat

Learn more of the forgotten favorites in The Complete Guide to Dumbbell Training: A Scientific Approach, By Dr. Fred Hatfield and Josh Bryant