What is a barbell bicep curl?

Bigger biceps don’t just look good, but also make you more functional and improve your performance with all those heavy deadlifts, barbell row, and pull-ups. 

The one classic exercise that has helped millions get that upper body strength is the barbell bicep curl.  

So, what exactly is a barbell bicep curl and how can you master this exercise?

A barbell bicep curl is an exercise that is done using a weighted barbell. This is one of the pull-type barbell exercises that isolate your biceps and activate and strengthen them. 

This exercise works on your:

  • Brachialis
  • Brachioradialis
  • Anterior deltoids
  • Upper and middle trapezius
  • Levator scapulae
  • Wrist flexors

How is a barbell bicep curl done?

Just like any other exercise, barbell bicep curl also needs you to master its form and technique. The traditional form of this exercise is the standing barbell bicep curl. Here is the correct technique for doing this exercise:

  1. To start this exercise, grab a weighted barbell with an underhand grip.
  2. Stand with your knees slightly bent and feet hip-width apart.
  3. Your hands must be a little wider than your hips.
  4. Make sure that your head and neck are in a neutral and stable position and your chin is tucked in throughout the movement.
  5. Bend your elbows slightly and press your hips and shoulders. Engage your core at the same time. 
  6. Now, while keeping your upper arms stable, gently squeeze your biceps to bend your elbows.
  7. Remember, the barbell must finish close to your shoulders. 
  8. When you reach the top of the movement, squeeze your biceps and hold for a couple of seconds.
  9. Slowly return to the starting position by straightening your elbows. 

Sets and reps of the barbell bicep curl: You can start by doing 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps of this exercise. Gradually build your practice.

What are some barbell bicep curl variations?

Besides the traditional standing barbell bicep curl, there are several unique variations of this exercise, which make your workout easier or more challenging for you. 

Here are some effective variations of this exercise that have the same essential elements of the classic form of barbell bicep curl but with differences that will target your form differently:

  1. Seated barbell bicep curl: This is a very effective exercise to activate your biceps brachii fully, even more than the traditional barbell bicep curl. You can do this exercise either on a standard bench press or sitting backwards on a decline bench. 
  • To begin the seated barbell bicep curl, sit straight and keep your chest and shoulders back.
  • Grasp the bar and lower it to your lap.
  • Take a deep breath and curl the weight towards your shoulders.
  • Your elbows must be placed back by your sides. 
  • Squeeze your biceps at the top of the moment and lower the bar to your lap.
  1. Reverse bicep curl barbell: As the name suggests, in this exercise, instead of curling a weight with your palms facing upwards, you do it with your palms facing down and away from you. The reverse bicep curl barbell is a great exercise to add to your strength and form. 
  • To begin this exercise, stand straight holding a barbell with your palms facing down. 
  • Your feet must be shoulder-width apart and arms fully extended.
  • Now contracting your biceps, curl the bar.
  • Remember only your forearms must move. 
  • Continue contracting your biceps till the barbell is at your shoulder level.
  • Hold the contracted pose for a couple of seconds and bring the bar to the starting position.
  1. Barbell bicep drag curl: This is the perfect variation for people who don’t want to carry too much weight, yet want bigger biceps. The barbell bicep drag curl emphasises the brachialis and the long head of the biceps. It is named so because the barbell is kept in contact with your body at all times, and you are literally dragging it up to your torso. You need to use less bicep curl barbell weight than you usually do for this exercise. 
  • Stand comfortably with your shoulders, hips, and knees in the same line. The bar must be in contact with your upper thigh.
  • Now, curl the weight up. While doing so, bring your elbows back slightly. 
  • Squeeze your biceps at the top of the contraction position. 
  • Lower the bar by keeping it in contact with the body.

What are the benefits of barbell bicep curl?

Here are some good reasons to include barbell bicep curl in your workout regime:

  1. The barbell bicep curl is an amazing exercise to work on the muscles in your upper and lower arms. By doing this exercise regularly, you strengthen these muscles that are essential for doing daily activities and lifting heavier weights.
  2. When you do the standing barbell bicep curl, your torso gets braced and the core gets strengthened automatically.
  3. By activating your forearm muscles, the barbell bicep curls improve your grip strength. This enhances your ability to do other upper body exercises such as bench presses, deadlifts, and pull-ups.
  4. You don’t need an elaborate setup to do this exercise. Just get a barbell and you can do this exercise practically anywhere anytime. This makes it a great addition to your workouts at home.

How to do barbell bicep curl?

Since it is a weighted exercise, you need to be mindful of your form while doing the barbell bicep curls. Here are some tips:

  1. Modify your form according to your individual needs and conditioning. 
  2. Start with a lesser bicep curl barbell weight and gradually move to higher weights.
  3. Don’t train your biceps daily, especially while doing workout for beginners. Give yourself adequate rest.
  4. Move your arms up and down slowly instead of doing a rapid execution of the exercise.


The barbell bicep curl is a great exercise with several variations to keep you engaged and challenged. To see constant progress in your body strength, be consistent with your workouts and incorporate warm-ups and nutrition in your daily routine. 

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May 18, 2022

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