How to Do the Barbell Curl for Bigger Biceps | Breaking Muscle

The primary barbell curl was most likely carried out about three minutes after the barbell was invented and it’s been a health club staple ever since. This timeless train has at all times been dependable and efficient for constructing a set of bulging biceps.

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It may be seen as a quite simple motion — seize the bar, curl the bar, achieved — however like many easy workout routines, particulars can have a big effect in your outcomes. Whereas there’s a variety of curls at your disposal, let’s break down why this biceps-building train ought to stay on the high of the record.

The best way to Do the Barbell Curl

Visually, the barbell curl looks as if a reasonably simple train. You’re simply bending your arms.

The reality is, there is a bit more occurring behind the scenes that may take you from having respectable 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 arms should be fully extended. Retract your shoulder blades and think about keeping your chest high and proud.

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

Step 2 — Curl the Weight

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Contract your biceps while breathing out. Keep your shoulders in place and continue curling until your biceps are fully shortened.

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

In the top position, your elbows should finish a little further in front of the body. This is okay since it is further activating the biceps (specifically the long head of the muscle). (1) Simply make certain to not let your shoulders come an excessive amount of into play and take over as a major mover.

Type Tip: All through the train, hold the within of your biceps gently in touch with the surface of your chest or serratus. It is a nice technique to be sure to are within the right place for optimum your biceps recruitment, and prevents your elbows from transferring too far ahead or again. 

Step 3 — Return to the Begin

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Take a brief breath in earlier than you decrease the burden below management. Once more, be conscious of the place the within of your biceps are touching (chest and serratus). Maintain your shoulders pulled again.

You will need to decrease the barbell below management. Intention for a two to a few second eccentric, which can recruit much more muscle fibers which might offer you a larger alternative at constructing extra muscle.

Type Tip: After every rep, take a full stock. Are your shoulders rolled ahead? Have your elbows moved again behind your physique? You have to be ending the rep precisely the way you began — with the within of your biceps barely outdoors your chest or serratus, your elbows in entrance of your physique, and your shoulder blades retracted along with your chest excessive and proud. Don’t start your subsequent rep till you’re in the best place.

Barbell Curl Errors to Keep away from

Like many workout routines, the barbell curl is straightforward and efficient when executed appropriately. When executed appropriately being crucial phrases. Let’s have a look at among the frequent errors that may happen in case you are not being attentive to approach.

Too A lot Higher Physique Motion

Swinging your torso back and front as you curl a barbell up and down is the quickest technique to not see outcomes and probably discover an harm. Not solely does it lower muscular pressure on the biceps, however swinging weights is a transparent indication that you simply’re attempting to maneuver weights which are means too heavy to carry with strict kind.

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Heaving the weights along with your whole higher physique as a substitute of focusing the work in your biceps additionally will increase your probabilities of straining your decrease again. That’s the kind of doubtlessly continual harm which might affect your whole training plan for the long-term.

The only exception to this is when you deliberately use your entire body 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 force through your legs, back, and shoulders, rather than swinging your hips and putting stress entirely on your lower back.

Avoid It: Keep your shoulder blades retracted, and tense your abs and glutes during each rep to better maximize muscular strength. Control the descent for two to three seconds to decrease the urge to swing the weights and recruit your biceps much more effectively. 

Gripping the Bar Too Wide 

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

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Taking an incorrect grip increases the chance of straining the forearm and biceps tendons at the elbow joint because tension isn’t being 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 appropriate for your limb length. If you have longer arms, you’re more 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, keep 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 look at several benefits of this is foundational exercise.

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The barbell curl is an excellent exercise for new lifters due to its quick learning curve, basic mechanics, and ability to load the exercise with ease. It’s a highly effective fundamental lift as a simple and effective introduction to direct arm training.

Direct Biceps Training

The barbell curl is performed purely with elbow flexion, which is a major function of the biceps and no other body part. Because of this focused work, it’s one of the most effective exercises to improve 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 curl 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 curl is essentially a single-joint (isolation) exercise that is one of the most effective ways to target the biceps, primarily, and the forearms as secondary movers. However, the barbell curl does incorporate a small degree of movement at the shoulder joint which also activates the anterior deltoid (front shoulder muscle) as an additional mover.

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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 head located on the outer part of the muscle and the short head on the inner side of the muscle. The long head attaches at the shoulder blade while the short head attaches at the upper arm, and both heads connect near the elbow. This is why both heads are activated when bending the elbow and the long head 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 actively to hold and stabilize the barbell as you curl the weight.

Anterior Deltoid

The deltoid (shoulder muscle) is comprised of three separate heads — the anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (rear). Each head is activated to move the arm in its respective plane. During barbell curls, the anterior 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 benefit 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 chance 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 also have restorative and preventative joint health benefits. (2, 3)

Physique Athletes

The barbell curl can present any physique-focused lifter probably the most bang for the buck in the case of constructing a extra muscular set of arms. The barbell curl can accommodate a lot heavier weights than many different biceps workout routines, which creates extra programming choices for extra muscle-building stimuli.

The best way to Program the Barbell Curl

Simply because the barbell curl is straightforward to carry out, don’t assume you possibly can simply stroll into the health club and knock out random reps with no plan of assault. Under are some efficient programming choices that you should use going into your subsequent session.

Heavy Weight, Low to Average Repetitions

To maximise power, three to 5 units within the 4 to eight rep vary is an effective place to start out. Use a weight that means that you can depart at the very least two reps left “within the tank”, since curling very heavy weights to muscular failure can disrupt approach.

A relaxation interval of two minutes and thirty seconds to a few minutes after every set will guarantee you’ll be able to proceed lifting with maximal effort.

Average Weight, Average Repetitions

To maximise muscle development, purpose for three to 4 units within the six to 12 rep vary. This will provide you with a bump in coaching quantity, which is useful for constructing muscle. (4) The addition of units and quantity will help you develop higher coordination of the motion and thus higher recruitment of the biceps muscle additional time. 

Barbell Curl Variations

The usual barbell curl could be labored round utilizing particular variations, for a lifter’s particular person wants similar to harm historical past, or for normal change in coaching.

EZ-Bar Curl

This very delicate, very efficient variation can present some aid on the wrist joints and elbow joints if sustaining a palms-up (supinated) grip on a straight barbell causes discomfort. The angled grip decreases the wrist mobility wanted to take care of a full palms-up grip, which reduces pressure on the wrist, forearm, and elbow tendons.

The general execution of this train is an identical to the straight barbell curl. The angled grip additionally barely alters recruitment and incorporates extra forearm musculature into the train.

Cable Curl(s)

Attaching a straight bar to low-pulley cable will present fixed pressure all through the complete vary of movement. There are two very efficient methods you may make use of this variation. The primary choice is to face upright and carry out the very same technical directions because the barbell curl, utilizing the cable pulley. 

A extra intense choice is to lie on the bottom and carry out the identical curling motion. This is likely one of the most strict curl variations since dishonest with a swinging torso is just unimaginable. This can be an incredible biceps finisher on the finish of your exercise, placing the emphasis on most the time below pressure to totally exhaust all muscle fibers.

Eccentric Barbell Curl

This variation is all about overloading the biceps in the course of the decreasing portion of the rep. The lengthening of a muscle below load has been proven to trigger a excessive quantity of muscular stress, which ends up in the next stimulation for muscle development. (5)

Intention for 5 to eight seconds to decrease the barbell from the highest place to totally straight arms. This particular variation is one time when it’s acceptable to make use of a heavier-than-normal weight and carry out a cheat rep to deliver the burden into the beginning place. As a result of the biceps contraction is just not a precedence, use coordinated leg and again drive to carry the burden — don’t merely swing along with your again.

Barbell Curl Alternate options

The time-tested barbell curl could be extraordinarily helpful, however some alternate options provide particular advantages the traditional barbell motion can’t match. Listed here are some choices to contemplate implementing into your exercise. 

Standing Dumbbell Curl

The standing dumbbell curl is carried out practically an identical to the barbell curl with a strict upright stance and no swinging torso.

The dumbbells’ largest benefit is the flexibility to work every arm independently, which strengthens any discrepancies that always develop naturally from performing bilateral-only workout routines (working each arms work as a single unit).

Barbell Preacher Curl

The preacher curl places the muscle below extra stress within the decrease portion of the vary of movement. This distinctive stimulus and intense contraction assists in triggering extra muscle development.

With the preacher bench, your arms are set at a downward angle. Your higher arms and shoulders are supported by the pad to reduce any undesirable motion and to assist isolate your biceps extra successfully.

Barbell Spider Curl 

Whereas this seems considerably much like a preacher curl with the higher arm angled from the physique, the important thing distinction is that probably the most troublesome a part of every rep is within the absolutely shortened place on the high of the motion, not the underside.

This motion is usually carried out along with your chest supported on the pad of a excessive angle bench, but it surely can be carried out along with your elbows on the 90-degree angle facet of a preacher curl bench with the arms perpendicular to the ground.


What number of totally different curls ought to I do in every exercise?

This all is dependent upon the aim of your exercise. If you’re purely after power, performing one or two biceps workout routines throughout two days of the week will probably be very efficient. In case you plan on chasing muscle features, it will be smart to dedicate some consideration to your biceps two or thrice per week utilizing one or two workout routines per session.

When ought to I do barbell curls in my routine?

In case your precedence is to get stronger and construct greater biceps, it will be finest to carry out them initially of the exercise. If you’re merely wanting so as to add some direct biceps coaching into your upper-body targeted exercises, then add this in direction of the top of the session after coaching the bigger muscle teams.

Convey Again Outdated College Curls

The barbell curl is a time-tested train for performance-based coaching, in addition to physique-focused lifters. Make room in your coaching plan for this traditional motion and also you’ll ultimately need to make room in your sleeves for greater arms.


  1. Landin D, Thompson M, Jackson MR. Actions of the Biceps Brachii on the Shoulder: A Evaluation. J Clin Med Res. 2017;9(8):667-670. doi:10.14740/jocmr2901w
  2. Shaw, Ina & Shaw, Brandon. (2014). Resistance Coaching’s Position within the Prevention of Sports activities Accidents.
  3. Kubo Ok, Kanehisa H, Miyatani M, Tachi M, Fukunaga T. Impact of low-load resistance coaching on the tendon properties in middle-aged and aged girls. 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, Ok., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2019). Resistance Coaching Quantity Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy however Not Energy in Skilled Males. Medication and science in sports activities and train, 51(1), 94–103.
  5. Roig M, O’Brien Ok, Kirk G, Murray R, McKinnon P, Shadgan B, Reid WD. The consequences of eccentric versus concentric resistance coaching on muscle power and mass in wholesome adults: a scientific evaluate with meta-analysis. Br J Sports activities Med. 2009 Aug;43(8):556-68. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.051417. Epub 2008 Nov 3. PMID: 18981046.

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