How to Do the Barbell Curl for Bigger Biceps

How to Do the Barbell Curl for Bigger Biceps

The first barbell flourish was probably performed well-nigh three minutes without the barbell was invented and it’s been a gym staple overly since. This timeless exercise has unchangingly been reliable and constructive for towers a set of protruding biceps.

shirtless person curling barbell
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It might be seen as a very simple movement — grab the bar, flourish the bar, washed-up — but like many straightforward exercises, details can have a big impact on your results. While there is a wide range of curls at your disposal, let’s unravel lanugo why this biceps-building exercise should remain at the top of the list.

How to Do the Barbell Curl

Visually, the barbell flourish seems like a pretty straightforward exercise. You’re just limp your arms.

The truth is, there is a little increasingly happening overdue the scenes that can take you from having decent biceps to a having a great-looking set of arms.

Step 1 — Stand Tall and Proud

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Stand holding a straight barbell with your hands slightly wider than hip-width and palms up. Your stovepipe should be fully extended. Retract your shoulder blades and think well-nigh keeping your chest upper and proud.

Take a vapor and engage your core. Contract your triceps to make sure your biceps are fully lengthened. This assists in recruiting all the muscle fibers and ensures a full range of motion. Fix your elbows near your ribs. Your biceps should be slightly touching the outside of your chest.

Form Tip: If you have stereotype or shorter arms, the standard hand width will be effective. If you have relatively longer arms, you can goody from gripping the bar much wider than hip-width. Gripping too closely can put your stovepipe into a significant internal rotation at the shoulder, which can increase joint strain.

Step 2 — Flourish the Weight

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Contract your biceps while zoetic out. Alimony your shoulders in place and protract curling until your biceps are fully shortened.

As you reach the top of the movement, flourish your wrists towards your soul and grip the barbell tightly. This helps to fully contract your biceps while moreover strengthening your forearms, wrists, and grip.

In the top position, your elbows should finish a little remoter in front of the body. This is okay since it is remoter vitalizing the biceps (specifically the long throne of the muscle). (1) Just make sure to not let your shoulders come too much into play and take over as a primary mover.

Form Tip: Throughout the exercise, alimony the inside of your biceps gently in contact with the outside of your chest or serratus. This is a unconfined way to make sure you are in the correct position for maximum your biceps recruitment, and prevents your elbows from moving too far forward or back. 

Step 3 — Return to the Start

shirtless muscular person in gym curling barbell
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Take a short vapor in surpassing you lower the weight under control. Again, be mindful of where the inside of your biceps are touching (chest and serratus). Alimony your shoulders pulled back.

It is important to lower the barbell under control. Aim for a two to three second eccentric, which will recruit plane increasingly muscle fibers which can provide you with a greater opportunity at building increasingly muscle.

Form Tip: Without each rep, take a full inventory. Are your shoulders rolled forward? Have your elbows moved when overdue your body? You should be finishing the rep exactly how you started — with the inside of your biceps slightly outside your chest or serratus, your elbows in front of your body, and your shoulder blades retracted with your chest upper and proud. Don’t uncork your next rep until you’re in the right position.

Barbell Flourish Mistakes to Avoid

Like many exercises, the barbell flourish is simple and constructive when executed correctly. When executed correctly stuff the most important words. Let’s squint at some of the worldwide errors that can occur if you are not paying sustentation to technique.

Too Much Upper Soul Movement

Swinging your torso front and when as you flourish a barbell up and lanugo is the quickest way to not see results and possibly find an injury. Not only does it subtract muscular tension on the biceps, but swinging weights is a well-spoken indication that you’re trying to move weights that are way too heavy to lift with strict form.

shirtless person curling barbell
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Heaving the weights with your unshortened upper soul instead of focusing the work on your biceps moreover increases your chances of straining your lower back. That’s the type of potentially chronic injury which can impact your unshortened training plan for the long-term.

The only exception to this is when you deliberately use your unshortened soul to move very heavy weights in order to emphasize the eccentric (lowering phase) with strict control. This is a specific exercise variation, which will be discussed in a later section. It is an intentional movement to spread gravity through your legs, back, and shoulders, rather than swinging your hips and putting stress entirely on your lower back.

Avoid It: Alimony your shoulder blades retracted, and tense your abs and glutes during each rep to largest maximize muscular strength. Tenancy the descent for two to three seconds to subtract the urge to swing the weights and recruit your biceps much increasingly effectively. 

Gripping the Bar Too Wide 

Some lifters mistakenly believe that seat pressing with an extremely wide grip will increase the width of their chest. Many lifters moreover make the mistake of curling with an extra-wide grip hoping it will sculpt their biceps differently. The soul doesn’t work that way.

out of focus person performing barbell flourish with weights in focus
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Taking an incorrect grip increases the endangerment of straining the forearm and biceps tendons at the elbow joint considering tension isn’t stuff focused on the muscle itself. When stress is too much for the arm musculature to tolerate, and as you fatigue during a set, it creates wear and tear leading to the biceps tendon tears.

Avoid it: Refer to the technique setup and grip width towardly for your limb length. If you have longer arms, you’re increasingly likely to require a wider grip to maintain relative stress on the muscles due to leverage, well-outside your shoulders and up to double your hip-width. Otherwise, alimony your hands closer to hip-width.

Benefits of the Barbell Curl

The barbell curl  has long-been used to build size and strength in the biceps. Here’s a closer squint at several benefits of this is foundational exercise.

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The barbell flourish is an spanking-new exercise for new lifters due to its quick learning curve, vital mechanics, and worthiness to load the exercise with ease. It’s a highly constructive fundamental lift as a simple and constructive introduction to uncontrived arm training.

Direct Biceps Training

The barbell flourish is performed purely with elbow flexion, which is a major function of the biceps and no other soul part. Considering of this focused work, it’s one of the most constructive exercises to modernize size and strength in the biceps, specifically.

Potential for Heavy Weights

If you want to build strength, you need to move relatively heavy weights. The barbell flourish allows you to put the biceps under the heaviest potential weights compared to other biceps exercises. This can contribute to greater overall strength, particularly with pulling exercises like deadlifts and rows.

Muscles Worked by the Barbell Curl

The barbell flourish is substantially a single-joint (isolation) exercise that is one of the most constructive ways to target the biceps, primarily, and the forearms as secondary movers. However, the barbell flourish does incorporate a small stratum of movement at the shoulder joint which moreover activates the proemial deltoid (front shoulder muscle) as an spare mover.

Shirtless bodybuilder flexing biceps muscle
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For this reason, some lifters consider it a multi-joint (compound) exercise under the most technical definition of the term, often when they exaggerate or emphasize the elbow-rising position at the top of the lift.

Biceps Brachii

The biceps are a two-headed muscle with the long throne located on the outer part of the muscle and the short throne on the inner side of the muscle. The long throne attaches at the shoulder stipule while the short throne attaches at the upper arm, and both heads connect near the elbow. This is why both heads are zingy when limp the elbow and the long throne is recruited to move the arm at the shoulder.


The forearms include the wrist flexors aligned with the palm-side of and the wrist extensors on the top side of the forearm. Both muscles work urgently to hold and stabilize the barbell as you flourish the weight.

Anterior Deltoid

The deltoid (shoulder muscle) is comprised of three separate heads — the proemial (front), lateral (side), and posterior (rear). Each throne is zingy to move the arm in its respective plane. During barbell curls, the proemial delts contribute to raising the arm when the barbell is in the fully curled position.

Who Should Do the Barbell Curl

Any lifter that steps foot into the gym can goody from including barbell curls in their program. It’s a simple and versatile movement that can be programmed for several goals.

This exercise will aid in increasing muscle mass, improving arm and grip strength, and injury prevention for performance athletes that may have a higher endangerment of biceps or elbow injuries.

Strength Athletes

Strength athletes, including strongmen, strongmen, and powerlifters, will find that improved biceps strength carries over to increased stability during heavy pressing and pulling exercises, as well as improved grip strength. Light weight, high-rep barbell curls can moreover have restorative and preventative joint health benefits. (2, 3)

Physique Athletes

The barbell flourish can provide any physique-focused lifter the most zinger for the whippersnapper when it comes to towers a increasingly muscular set of arms. The barbell flourish can unbend much heavier weights than many other biceps exercises, which creates increasingly programming options for increasingly muscle-building stimuli.

How to Program the Barbell Curl

Just considering the barbell flourish is simple to perform, don’t think you can just walk into the gym and knock out random reps with no plan of attack. Below are some constructive programming options that you can use going into your next session.

Heavy Weight, Low to Moderate Repetitions

To maximize strength, three to five sets in the four to eight rep range is a good place to start. Use a weight that allows you to leave at least two reps left “in the tank”, since curling very heavy weights to muscular failure can disrupt technique.

A rest period of two minutes and thirty seconds to three minutes without each set will ensure you are worldly-wise to protract lifting with maximal effort.

Moderate Weight, Moderate Repetitions

To maximize muscle growth, aim for three to four sets in the six to 12 rep range. This will requite you a tumor in training volume, which is salubrious for towers muscle. (4) The wing of sets and volume will indulge you to develop largest coordination of the movement and thus largest recruitment of the biceps muscle overtime. 

Barbell Flourish Variations

The standard barbell flourish can be worked virtually using specific variations, for a lifter’s individual needs such as injury history, or for unstipulated transpiration in training.

EZ-Bar Curl

This very subtle, very constructive variation can provide some relief on the wrist joints and elbow joints if maintaining a palms-up (supinated) grip on a straight barbell causes discomfort. The wilted grip decreases the wrist mobility needed to maintain a full palms-up grip, which reduces strain on the wrist, forearm, and elbow tendons.

The overall execution of this exercise is identical to the straight barbell curl. The wilted grip moreover slightly alters recruitment and incorporates increasingly forearm musculature into the exercise.

Cable Curl(s)

Attaching a straight bar to low-pulley subscription will provide unvarying tension throughout the unshortened range of motion. There are two very constructive ways you can make use of this variation. The first option is to stand upright and perform the word-for-word same technical instructions as the barbell curl, using the subscription pulley. 

A increasingly intense option is to lie on the ground and perform the same curling movement. This is one of the most strict flourish variations since unchaste with a swinging torso is simply impossible. This can moreover be a unconfined biceps finisher at the end of your workout, putting the accent on maximum the time under tension to fully frazzle all muscle fibers.

Eccentric Barbell Curl

This variation is all well-nigh overloading the biceps during the lowering portion of the rep. The lengthening of a muscle under load has been shown to rationalization a upper value of muscular stress, which leads to a higher stimulation for muscle growth. (5)

Aim for five to eight seconds to lower the barbell from the top position to fully straight arms. This specific variation is one time when it’s winning to use a heavier-than-normal weight and perform a trickery rep to bring the weight into the starting position. Considering the biceps wrinkle is not a priority, use coordinated leg and when momentum to lift the weight — do not simply swing with your back.

Barbell Flourish Alternatives

The time-tested barbell flourish can be extremely useful, but some alternatives offer specific benefits the archetype barbell movement can’t match. Here are some options to consider implementing into your workout. 

Standing Dumbbell Curl

The standing dumbbell flourish is performed nearly identical to the barbell flourish with a strict upright stance and no swinging torso.

The dumbbells’ biggest wholesomeness is the worthiness to work each arm independently, which strengthens any discrepancies that often develop naturally from performing bilateral-only exercises (working both stovepipe work as a single unit).

Barbell Preacher Curl

The preacher flourish puts the muscle under increasingly stress in the lower portion of the range of motion. This unique stimulus and intense wrinkle assists in triggering increasingly muscle growth.

With the preacher bench, your stovepipe are set at a downward angle. Your upper stovepipe and shoulders are supported by the pad to minimize any unwanted movement and to help isolate your biceps increasingly effectively.

Barbell Spider Curl 

While this appears somewhat similar to a preacher flourish with the upper arm wilted from the body, the key difference is that the most difficult part of each rep is in the fully shortened position at the top of the movement, not the bottom.

This movement is often performed with your chest supported on the pad of a upper wile bench, but it can moreover be performed with your elbows on the 90-degree wile side of a preacher flourish seat with the stovepipe perpendicular to the floor.


How many variegated curls should I do in each workout?

This all depends on the goal of your workout. If you are purely without strength, performing one or two biceps exercises wideness two days of the week will be very effective. If you plan on chasing muscle gains, it would be wise to dedicate some sustentation to your biceps two or three times per week using one or two exercises per session.

When should I do barbell curls in my routine?

If your priority is to get stronger and build worthier biceps, it would be weightier to perform them at the whence of the workout. If you are simply looking to add some uncontrived biceps training into your upper-body focused workouts, then add this towards the end of the session without training the larger muscle groups.

Bring When Old School Curls

The barbell flourish is a time-tested exercise for performance-based training, as well as physique-focused lifters. Make room in your training plan for this archetype movement and you’ll sooner have to make room in your sleeves for worthier arms.


  1. Landin D, Thompson M, Jackson MR. Actions of the Biceps Brachii at the Shoulder: A Review. J Clin Med Res. 2017;9(8):667-670. doi:10.14740/jocmr2901w
  2. Shaw, Ina & Shaw, Brandon. (2014). Resistance Training’s Role in the Prevention of Sports Injuries.
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    Kubo K, Kanehisa H, Miyatani M, Tachi M, Fukunaga T. Effect of low-load resistance training on the tendon properties in middle-aged and elderly women. Acta Physiol Scand. 2003;178(1):25-32. doi:10.1046/j.1365-201X.2003.01097.x
  4. Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, K., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2019). Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 51(1), 94–103.
  5. Roig M, O’Brien K, Kirk G, Murray R, McKinnon P, Shadgan B, Reid WD. The effects of eccentric versus concentric resistance training on muscle strength and mass in healthy adults: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2009 Aug;43(8):556-68. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.051417. Epub 2008 Nov 3. PMID: 18981046.

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