Whether you’re an experienced bodybuilder or you’re just someone hitting the gym and trying to grow your biceps, the barbell curl exercise is an essential upper-body workout to use in your strength-training program. The barbell curls exercise is the holy grail to build up your biceps, increase size, gain strength and look better in a white shirt.
What Is a Barbell Curl?
A barbell curl is a variation of the biceps curl that uses a weighted barbell. Perform barbell curls by grabbing a barbell with a shoulder-width supinated grip (palms facing towards your body). Hinge your elbows, and lift the barbell toward your chest.
3 Benefits of Doing Barbell Curls
Consider a few of the benefits of regularly performing barbell curls.
- Barbell curls increase your upper-body strength. The barbell curl targets your biceps brachii muscle as well as the brachialis, a muscle responsible for elbow flexion. With regular practice, barbell curls can help you build bigger biceps. Barbell curls generally allow you to lift heavier weight than dumbbell curls.
- Barbell curls improve your grip strength. By activating the brachioradialis muscle in your forearm, barbell curls can enhance your grip strength and improve your performance during other upper body exercises like deadlifts, bench presses, and pull-ups.
- Barbell curls are a versatile bicep exercise: You can adjust the weight plates attached to the barbell to accommodate your fitness level. Remember to start with lighter weights at first until you’re comfortable with heavyweights.
The barbell curl is an isolation exercise that can put your biceps under increasing tension, making it one of the top priorities for athletes looking to build bigger arms.
Below you will find out how to do the exercise properly, the muscles targeted, mistakes to avoid, pros and cons, and how many reps and sets you should do.
Table of Contents
- How to Do The Barbell Curl
- Muscles Targeted
- Mistakes to Avoid
- Pros and Cons of the Barbell Curl
- How Many Reps and Sets?
- Variations of the Barbell Curl
- Learn more
This biceps exercise can put a lot of strain on the wrists and elbows. Here’s how to perform the barbell curl safely and effectively
How To Do The Barbell Curl
As the name implies, you will need a barbell to do the exercise and the desired amount of weight plates.
- The barbell can be placed on the floor mat or a rack as high as your waistline.
- Grab the barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing up) with hands slightly wider than your hips.
- Stand tall, keep your spine, neck, and head neutral.
- Your elbows should be slightly bent and locked on the side of your body.
- This is the initial position.
- Begin to curl by bending your elbows and lifting the barbell in a controlled manner.
- Stop the curl when the barbell gets close to your shoulders.
- Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement.
- Slowly lower the barbell and begin extending your arms to the initial position.
- That is one rep.
The barbell curl is an isolation exercise that focuses on a single-joint movement. Therefore, there is only one main muscle that is targeted by it.
- Biceps (brachial and brachialis)
To a smaller degree, your forearms are also activated during the exercise, as you need to utilize this muscle group to maintain the barbell at the top of the movement.
Mistakes To Avoid
The most common mistake people tend to do when performing barbell curls is to utilize momentum to lift the barbell, usually by curving your back or hinging to initiate the movement. By doing this, you are taking away the tension from your biceps and distributing it to other bigger muscles. Fix this by leaving your ego outside and choosing a lighter weight.
Similar to the previous mistake, some athletes tend to move their elbows while doing the barbell curl. The elbows are supposed to be locked in position at all times so that only your biceps are working during the curl, instead of your shoulders or back muscles.
The range of motion is also important to get the benefits of this exercise, but some people perform half reps by either not lifting the barbell high enough and squeezing their biceps, or by not lowering it enough until the arms are almost straightened.
Related: Why Your Biceps Aren’t Growing
Pros and Cons of the Barbell Curl
As it is usual with all barbell exercises, the barbell curl is a great and easy way to overload your biceps. By simply adding an extra weight plate, you are putting your biceps under more tension and building more muscle.
The fact that you only need a barbell makes this exercise great for people with home gyms or small spaces.
The instructions to perform the barbell curl makes it one of the easiest exercises anyone can do.
The bicep is a small muscle in our bodies, so making sure it gets bigger is time-consuming.
The barbell curl is great for hitting your biceps, but after a few weeks doing the exercise, your body will grow accustomed to it and it will be time for you to change your curl if you want to continuously see progress.
How Many Reps and Sets?
When it comes to the barbell curl or any curl for that matter, you must put form and technique above weight. Lifting 30 kilos with poor form will not be as beneficial as lifting 15 kilos with proper technique.
Choose a weight that you can perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps for beginners.
For advanced athletes looking to increase even further their biceps, do more sets with heavier weights, but with lower reps – something in the range of 6-8 reps.
Variations of the Barbell Curl
As it is a single-joint exercise, pretty much any curl is a variation of the barbell curl and vice-versa. Here are some exercises that most resemble the barbell curl.
Seated Barbell Curl
Do you want more bicep content? Check out the links below:
Workout to Fix Skinny Arms (9 Exercises Included)
10 Best Exercises for Wider Biceps
16 Fund Bicep Curl Workouts for All Athletes
Grow your upper body with these effective barbell exercises:
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