Barbell Bicep Curls

Image of how to do the barbell curl


Type: Strength

Main Muscle Worked:Biceps

Equipment: Barbell

Level: Beginner

What is a Barbell Curl?

The arm curl, barbell bicep curl or biceps curl is a highly recognizable weight training exercise that works the muscles of the upper arm and also, the lower arm and is probably the most familiar weight training exercise around.

When someone walks into a workout room and they aren’t sure what to do, they usually go straight to the bicep curl. Why? It’s simple and very effective, and can be done by anyone. It’s a great exercise for seeing results in strength and for most importantly, size.

There are many ways you can change the workout by changing up the speed and tempo to create more time under tension for your biceps giving them more strength for the time you are doing the exercise, I recommend starting with the standing barbell bicep curl which is shown below, which you can do anywhere. Curls are a typical exercise used in upper body strength exercise routines.

For extra safety, lift heavier weights and support I recommend buying a pair of wrist straps as they help a lot, the ones I use are here: Wrist straps

Muscles Worked in Barbell Curls

Muscles worked in barbell curls

primary: biceps brachii, brachialis

secondary: brachioradialis

Benefits of Barbell Curls

Increased Upper Body Mass

The barbell curl, along with presses, rows, and dips, are all effective exercises to increase general strength and muscle mass for lifters who are looking to gain lean muscle mass, Barbell curls improve general development in lifters who lack upper body strength and  can improve joint health and/or grip by improving development of smaller muscles groups like the biceps.

Bigger Biceps

The barbell curl is one of, if not the best arm training exercise out there (ranking up there with hammer curls and chin ups) to build serious bicep and forearms muscles. Bigger biceps not only have a performance enhancing aspect to them, but some lifters can actually draw a little extra strength from having them.

Injury Prevention

The biceps are responsible for elbow flexion as well as also supporting the grip muscles in pulls and carries. Underdeveloped and weak biceps can cause grip issues, muscle tears and strain to the biceps which decrease performance in high loading or high-rep based workouts.

Improved Grip Strength

The barbell curl can be performed to help improve arm and grip strength, both of which can impact pulling strength and performance in exercises like deadlifts, carries, hanging and gymnastic work, and weightlifting. While the forearms are a secondary muscle group used to support the barbell curl, the increase in wrist strength and stability can be transferred to other movements as well.

How to do the Barbell Curl correctly

If you need a barbell one can be bought here: Barbells

Barbell Curl

  1. 1. Grab a barbell or Olympic bar at around shoulder width apart using an overhand grip (palms facing down).
  2. 2. Stand straight up, feet together (you may be more comfortable putting one foot back for stability), back straight, and with your arms fully extended.
  3. 3. The bar should not be touching your body.
  4. 4. Keeping your eyes facing forwards, elbows tucked in at your sides, and your body completely still, slowly curl the bar up.
  5. 5. Squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the movement, and then slowly lower it back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for desired reps.

Mistakes commonly made in the Barbell Curl

Wrist Position

When performing the barbell bicep curl your wrists should always be in a neutral position, not bent up or down. If you find that you cannot maintain a neutral position throughout, this means that the weight is too heavy.

Too Fast

You should also focus on good form rather than executing the rep quickly, at least when starting out. You should lift slowly and smoothly so that you feel the burn.


You should not use your momentum to lift the weight as this actually reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Quickly moving the weight allows momentum to reduce the tension within the muscles, especially at the top of the lift which reduces how much your muscles end up working in the exercise.

Elbow Position

Your elbows should not move during the barbell bicep curl as they should be close to the side of your body at all times.

Going Too Far Down

When performing the barbell bicep curl do not pull the barbell so far back that the forearm moves past a vertical position.

Safety when performing Barbell Curls

The dumbbell bicep curl is recommended for most people. Although if you have any arm injury or experience any pain during the motion, do not continue and stop the exercise. Although you should still talk to your doctor or physical therapist about if bicep curls are suitable for you.

When performing dumbbell bicep curls you can expect to feel fatigue and possibly burning in your biceps after a few reps, and this is to get your muscles to get stronger and grow. However, do not force extra repetitions once you are unable to perform the dumbbell bicep curls with good form. You should then take a rest before doing the next set.

Also, do not lift a heavy weight to begin with, don’t rush to get to heavier weights before you’re strong enough to do it with ease. Using a weight which is to heavy for you can result in Injury to the elbow or wrist, and that will affect your entire workout routine.

Variations of Barbell Curls

Barbell Reverse Curls

Barbell Reverse Curls

  1. 1. To begin the reverse curl, hold the dumbbell with a pronated grip (palms facing down). Keep your hands and feet shoulder apart and body straight with chest out.
  2. 2. While holding upper arms stationary, curl the dumbbell and let the biceps contract while you breathe out. Make sure only your forearms move.
  3. 3. Continue to curl the dumbbell till your biceps fully contract and the dumbbell is at your shoulder level. Hold contract position for a second.
  4. 4. Bring back the dumbbell down in the same motion to the starting point.

Repeat for desired reps.


Write below in the comments your opinion on the barbell curl, if it works for you and any questions you might have.

Please follow and like us: