Barbell Curl

Biceps - big, bulky, defined biceps are anyone's goal in the gym. There is no doubt about that. The barbell curl is perhaps the most underrated bicep exercise on the block. If done correctly, it can craft significant bicep gains. Here is the low down on bicep curls with a barbell.

How to Perform the Barbell Curls for Bigger Biceps

  1. 1
    Standing in front of a barbell, grip it slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with an underhand grip. Your palms should be facing upwards.
  2. 2
    Stand with your back straight and your feet hip-width apart. Look forward.
  3. 3
    Begin curling your arm upwards. Keep your elbows tucked in and stationary.
  4. 4
    Your body should be completely still, only your arms should hinge at the elbows. Don't bring the bar up to your shoulders. It should reach the mid-chest level.
  5. 5
    Squeeze at the top of the curl. Slowly begin lowering back to the starting position.
  6. 6
    You should control the weight on the downward return and engage all the muscles in the arms.
  7. 7
    Repeat for 3 sets of 10 - 12 reps.

TIP: Your body shouldn't swing to get the barbell up with motion. It should remain stationary; the work comes in from your biceps.

Primary Muscles Targeted & Secondary Areas

Biceps are actually two muscles; they consist of the long head and the short head. The biceps run from the elbow to the shoulders. Without a muscular bicep, the effects of aging will cause a determination in the range of movement across your entire arm. The biceps are strong and in charge of controlling elbow flexion and supination of the forearm.

The secondary target of any bicep curl, barbell or dumbbell, is the forearm. Barbell curls grow your forearms and improve your grip strength. 

Barbell Curl

Reps & Weights

As with everything, there are recommendations and suggestions. These are there to ensure that your training is risk and injury-free. Going too hard on your weights might not give you physical harm the first time, but it is enough to give you T-Rex arms the next day. Sore, cramped up, and definitely NOT the look you want.

Beginner

Beginners should go for:

  • Sets: 2 - 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Load: 70-75% of your one-rep max
  • Rest: 90 seconds rest between sets

Intermediate

Intermediate lifters can go for:

  • Sets: 3 - 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Load: 75-80% of your one-rep max
  • Rest: 90 seconds rest between sets

Advanced

Advanced level fitness fundis should aim for upwards of:

  • Sets: 4 - 5 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Load: 75-80% of your one-rep max
  • Rest: 60 seconds rest between sets

Listen to your body and perfect the movement before progressing onto heavier weight sets. That is how you guarantee a perfectly built bicep. You might also want to check out our one-rep max calculator to find the right load for you.

Barbell Curl Benefits

As far as the barbell curl goes, this exercise has several benefits. Exercises aren't just superficially great; it is a little deeper than that.

  • Creates strength for functional movement - Think about what you need your arms for. Pulling lawn mowers, opening jars, picking your kids up, the list goes on. Strong biceps improve everyday functionality.
  • Rehabilitates tendonitis - Weightlifters that are serious about their sport know about the battles with tendonitis. Bicep curls, and barbell curls particularly, are fantastic for pumping nutrient-dense blood into those tendons for rehabilitation.
  • Strengthens the bicep for other training - Stronger biceps stabilize other joints in the shoulders and the elbow for better bench presses and shoulder presses. They essentially improve your training overall.
  • Big Beautiful Biceps - Who doesn't want big arms? People of any walk of life approve of a well-defined and muscular arm.
indian male at the gym looking at his biceps

Tips FOR DOING THE BARBELL CURL

  • One of the biggest mistakes that lifters make when performing a barbell curl is using their body and momentum in the upward swing to drive the barbell up. This is cheating; it does nothing and looks a little strange! Your body should remain stationary, and only your biceps should be working to move the weight up.
man measuring his bicep
  •  Another common mistake people make is not keeping the elbows fixed and at the sides. Your elbows should hinge; they stay tucked into your sides.
  • Don't drop the weight - it should slowly return to the starting position; you should have control over the weight and your bicep at all times!
  • Drop sets - try using these in a drop set style to get a perfect pump out of your arms.
  • Measure your arms - if you are ever in doubt, grab a measuring tape and measure. You will notice a change in the size of your arms.

Adding Barbell Curls to Your Routine

How do you add these bad boys to your routine? It's simple, slot them in the right at the start of arms or chest day. Here are a few other exercises you can do alongside the curl.

Dumbbell flyes

The dumbbell fly is excellent for pecs and traps.

Standing Dumbbell Fly
  1. 1
    Lying with your head and shoulders flat on a bench at a 45-degree incline, plant your feet flat on the floor.
  2. 2
    Hold a set of dumbbells, one in each hand directly above your chest; your palms should be facing each other. Begin to form an arc as you lower the weights to your sides.
  3. 3
    Engage the pectoral muscles to reverse the movement.
  4. 4
    Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout and your back flat.

Bench press

You can't just work on your biceps alone; it will distort your arms' aesthetic if your traps, pecs, and delts are not defined and built as well. Bench presses are the perfect addition to an arm day workout involving the biceps. 

Here's how to bench perfectly:

Incline Barbell Bench Press
  1. 1
    Lying flat on a bench, grip the bar - your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. 2
    Slowly bring the bar down to your chest while you inhale.
  3. 3
    Begin pushing the bar up as you exhale, grip the bar hard and focus on a spot on the ceiling.
  4. 4
    Once at the top, squeeze for a full count of one.
  5. 5
    Slowly return to the starting position. 

Reverse barbell curl

Reverse barbell curls are vital for growing the brachialis muscle underneath the biceps, which is often neglected.

Reverse Drag Curls
  1. 1
    Gripping a bar with a shoulder-width grip, your hands should be pronated. Gripping the top of the bar, it is the opposite grip of the traditional curl.
  2. 2
    Keep your elbows close to your sides and a slight bend in your knee. Grip the bar tightly.
  3. 3
    Begin to curl it up as you would with a regular curl. The pronated grip will engage the brachialis muscles.
  4. 4
    You should feel the tension in your forearms as you come toward the top.
  5. 5
    Hold the curl for a second or two at the top, and begin to lower back down to the starting position.
  6. 6
    Repeat. Try not to go too hard here as the muscles will be sore the next day.

Concentration curl

Anyone that lifts and enjoys lifting will be able to tell you that the concentration curl is an excellent way to build bigger biceps. Try the close-grip concentration barbell curl - it’s great for working on isolating your biceps.

Concentration Curls
  1. 1
    To do these perfectly, sit on the edge of a seat and position your feet around 24 inches apart.
  2. 2
    Grip either a free weight or an EZ-bar with an underhand grasp and with around 6-inches of space between your hands.
  3. 3
    Twist forward at the midriff and support your elbows on your internal thighs around 4 inches from your knees.
  4. 4
    Focus on your biceps, lifting the bar until your lower arms touch your biceps.
  5. 5
    Contract your biceps completely. Begin to lower your arms down to the starting position slowly.
  6. 6
    Try to keep your body and upper-arms still while you're performing these curls.

Who does the curl?

The barbell curl is no stranger in the midst of heavy-weight legends. Here are a few famous lifters who love the curl, and they have the biceps to back it up.

The Rock Workout
  • Vin Diesel is known for his well-defined physique; he is not too big, not too small.
  • Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, another man well known for his powerful arms and well-built body. The guy can be spotted working out all over his social media platforms and, of course, is the king of biceps.
  • Kevin Hart - he might be tiny compared to his best friend, The Rock, but he is built! Speaking of that, check out The Rock's routine for getting huge.

Barbell Curl Variations & Alternatives

If you are looking for a few alternatives or a few variations to try out, look no further. These alternatives are bicep killers!

Incline dumbbell curls

Incline Dumbbell Curl
  1. 1
    To do the include dumbbell curls, sit down on a bench set to 45-degrees. Flatten your back against the bench. Engage your abdominal muscles tight. 
  2. 2
    Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Begin lifting each dumbbell toward your shoulders.
  3. 3
    Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position. 

Zottman curl

Zottman curls target one of the biggest muscles in the arms: brachioradialis. Here is how to get that big muscle strong and visible.

Pronated Dumbbell Curls
  1. 1
    Keep your back straight & grip a set of dumbbells. Begin contracting your biceps and curl the weights up towards the shoulders. Keep your elbows tucked in and tight.
  2. 2
    Squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the curl.
  3. 3
    Begin twisting your hands so that your palms face the ground.
  4. 4
    Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position.
  5. 5
    Turn your palms upwards to the starting position.

EZ-bar curl

EZ-bar curls are wrist savers - some lifters might find barbell curls to be uncomfortable on the wrists. They are almost exactly like regular curls except for the bar used - the EZ-bar has a set of bends in it that enable your palms to face each other. This takes a little strain off the wrist area and helps you benefit from barbell curls without strain.

Close Grip EZ Bar Curl
  1. 1
    In order for you to perform the EZ-bar curls, grab the outermost bends in the bar with an underhand grip. You should tilt your palms toward one another.
  2. 2
    The same rules apply to the EZ-bar curl. Curl the bar up towards the upper body.
  3. 3
    Stand up straight with your head up and keep your elbows stationary. There should be no motion in your elbows.
  4. 4
    As you lift the bar upwards toward your chest, your forearms should touch your biceps - lower the bar to the starting position and repeat. 

Chin-ups

Chin Ups
  1. 1
    To perform a chin-up, station a bench or jump box underneath the pull-up bar, step up to the top of the platform.
  2. 2
    Reach up and grip the bar with two hands in a palms-up grasp. Keep your back elongated and your spine straight, lift your chest and engage your abs to help stabilize your trunk.
  3. 3
    Begin pulling the body up to the bar. Try lifting your chest to the bar by pulling the elbows past the rib cage.
  4. 4
    At the top, pause and hold. Begin to control the descent as you release and lower your body down to the starting position.
  5. 5
    Don't just drop down - releasing gradually holds the muscles under pressure for longer, creating strength and definition.

The Bigger, The Better

strong bearded man does push ups exercises

Bigger, better arms are not just good to look at; they have a function and a purpose. They make your life easier doing everyday functions and picking up heavy items or moving houses.

There are few people who tell you they don't want to age well in this life. Those people are lying. Muscular and functional biceps are a lifelong advantage. Later in life and in present times, you will see the benefits and feel them instantly.

You May Also Like...

alternating superman exercise

Alternating Superman


Barbell row

Barbell Row


Barbell Shrugs

Barbell Shrugs


Lying down face up alignment alternating superman

Floor Pull Overs


Lat Pulldown

Lat Pulldown


Cable Pull Overs

Cable Pull Overs