How (and Why) to Do Bicep Curls With a Barbell

While some people may be content with simply doing bicep curls on the floor, others will want to incorporate a barbell into their routine for better results. Here is how and why you should do so!

The “barbell bicep curl” is a popular exercise that can be done with a barbell. This article will teach you how to do it, and why it’s helpful for your muscles.

illustration of man flexing in USA flag pants with "bro basics" title.

We at AoM believe that completing strength workouts that offer you the most bang for your money is essential. That means we choose compound barbell movements, which enable you to engage the most muscles, lift the most weight, and build overall strength. Deadlifts, squats, shoulder presses, bench presses, and other Olympic exercises are all on the menu. 

When you follow this philosophy, it’s easy to dismiss the kinds of exercises that are associated with “bros” working out in front of the mirror at globo gyms — exercises like curls, tricep extensions, and lat pulldowns that are focused on honing the aesthetics of one’s physique and target single, specific muscles. 

While these movements are often linked with vanity, they have a utilitarian purpose and may be included into a well-balanced strength training program. Not to mention that they can be a lot of fun; getting a good pump after a round of bicep curls is an unquestionably amazing sensation, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it. 

While these exercises should not be chastised for being meaningless, they should be chastised for being often carried out incorrectly. Just though they’re not as “serious” as exercises like the deadlift and squat doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn how to execute them correctly to get the most out of them.

So, starting today, we’ll go into the whys and hows of these supplementary workouts. “Bro Basics” is the name we’ve given it.

We’ll start with the Bro Basic’s Platonic Form: the bicep curl. Matt Reynolds, my strength coach and the head of Barbell Logic Online Coaching, gave me some advice on how to do this exercise properly. 

The Bicep(s) Muscle’s Anatomy

Before we get into how to execute various bicep curl variants, a little anatomy lesson is in order.  

While we usually refer to the muscle on the front of the upper arm as a “bicep,” it is really referred to as “biceps” because it is made up of two (bi) muscle heads — the long head and the short head — that operate together as one muscle. 

The long head starts in a hollow in your scapula called the glenoid, which is located near your shoulder. The coracoid, a protrusion of the scapula, is where the short head begins. 

The long and short heads meet in the center and are connected to the bone via tendons right behind the elbow joint on a structure known as the radial tuberosity. 

One thing to keep in mind regarding the biceps is that they are much longer than you realize. It runs through the shoulders and elbows. We want to do a curl that utilises the whole range of motion of the biceps to ensure we get the most out of them. A little more on it later. However, for the following 30 seconds, keep that information in your working memory. 


What are the Benefits of Bicep Curls?

Strengthens a functioning movement that you perform on a daily basis. The bicep muscle permits you to rotate your forearm and bend your arm at the elbow. Consider all of the motions that involve that motion: starting the lawnmower, pounding, unscrewing a stuck jar lid, taking up heavy items, and so on. Curls help to develop your biceps, making these exercises simpler. 

Tendonitis is rehabilitated. For persons who are serious about weightlifting, bicep tendonitis is a typical condition. During my five-year lifting career, I’ve fought it a few times. When I’m dealing with tendinitis, Matt likes to schedule high rep bicep curls as part of my therapy. The theory is that the high repetitions provide a lot of new blood to the tendons (which carry nutrients to the injured area). This is especially crucial for tendons since they have very little blood flow to begin with, so any aid is much appreciated.

Strengthens the biceps, which helps with the primary barbell lifts indirectly. While the biceps aren’t employed directly in movements like the shoulder press and bench press, they do help to support the elbow and shoulder joint. By strengthening your biceps, you may boost your bench and shoulder press performance indirectly.

They’re entertaining. Bicep curls are something I like doing, therefore I do them. When it comes to exercising, never underestimate the importance of having fun. 

They enhance the appearance of your arms. Biceps are seen as a symbol of virility and masculinity. It’s cool to have a jacked arm. There’s nothing wrong with wishing for something like that. Brother, curls for the ladies! 

Breaking a Myth: Curls Can’t Be Used to Sculpt a “Peak” on Your Bicep 

Many males work hard on their bicep curls in the aim of shaping their bicep to resemble a spherical baseball under their skin. Bicep curls, however, won’t help you gain additional “peak” or height unless your physiology lets it.

“The insertion locations of the bicep tendons into the elbow joint are absolutely responsible for how round a bicep muscle appears when you flex,” Matt explains. “A higher insertion point gives your biceps a more round appearance; a lower insertion point gives your biceps a longer, less peaky appearance. Bicep curls won’t affect your insertion point, but they will increase the size and strength of your biceps, so go for it.”

Bicep Curls: A Step-by-Step Guide

Bicep curls all need you to grip a weight in your hands and elevate it towards your face. Curls come in a range of shapes and sizes, depending on the weight and equipment you use:

The Barbell Curl is the King of Bicep Curls.

man demonstrating proper form of bicep curl. Bicep curls with a barbell are the best because they place your hands in a totally supinated (underhand) posture, allowing for a greater muscular contraction. This is how you should do the task correctly:

  1. Hold the barbell with an underhand/supinated grip directly outside of your hips while standing tall. 
  2. Raise your hands towards your face so that your elbows begin to bend without moving your body (this is known as “body English” or “cheating a curl”). The bicep muscles should begin to contract at this point. 
  3. Curl the bar till it reaches your eye level. Your shoulders should flex a little and your elbows should go higher. This is critical! When the bar reaches their shoulders, most individuals stop curling. However, this does not activate the whole range of motion of the biceps. Keep in mind that the bicep muscle also spans the shoulder joint. You’re just training the bottom half of the bicep when you stop the bar at shoulder height. Bringing the bar to eye level ensures that the upper region of the bicep near your shoulder is also worked. 
  4. Don’t allow the bar come too near to your body while you’re at the peak of the lift. Muscle contraction is lost when the bar approaches closer to your body. You can maintain consistent contraction by keeping the bar away from your body. It shouldn’t seem effortless at any stage throughout the barbell curl.
  5. Lower the bar gradually while maintaining your biceps taut and engaged. Return to the beginning position.

When doing a barbell curl, some individuals have discomfort in their wrists or elbows. If this is the case, just widen your grasp until no discomfort remains in these regions. If you still have discomfort in your wrists and elbows after widening your grip, try an alternate bicep curl workout, such as the ones listed below.


Bicep Curls using Dumbbells

man demonstrating proper form of dumbbell curl.

The traditional technique to conduct a bicep curl. It won’t offer you as much of a muscular contraction as a barbell curl, but it’ll be easier on your wrists and elbows.

  1. With your hands facing front, hold the dumbbells at your sides. 
  2. Bend at the elbow to curl the weights up to eye level without leaning back or swinging the dumbbells to gain momentum. (Don’t forget to work the top of your biceps!) Throughout the curl, keep your elbows glued to the sides of your body. 
  3. Slowly return the weight to the starting position.

Bicep Curls using an EZ Bar 

man demonstrating proper form of EZ bar bicep curl.

The EZ curl bar was invented by weightlifter Lewis Dymeck in 1950 and features a slightly curved design that resembles a “W.”

The bent shape of the bar helps you to execute the curl with a less supinated/more neutral grip, which lessens stress on the wrists and elbows. However, you won’t receive as powerful a contraction in the bicep muscles as you would with a typical barbell curl if you use a less supinated grip. 

The EZ bar curl is performed in the same way as a regular barbell curl.

Bicep Curls with a Hammer

man demonstrating proper form of hammer bicep curl.

The hammer curl is similar to a dumbbell curl, except that instead of using a supinated or underhand grip, you use a neutral grip the whole time. The term hammer curls comes from the neutral grip used while pounding a nail. 

The hammer curl does not put a lot of strain on the biceps. The brachioradialis and brachialis are the primary targets (forearm flexors which lie underneath the bicep above and beneath the elbow). Hammer curls will improve the size of your forearms while also contracting the bottom section of your biceps.

Matt like to employ hammer curls for rehab and injury prevention, especially for those who suffer from tendonitis around the elbow. 

“Hammer curls don’t aggravate existing tendinitis since there isn’t much of a bicep contraction.” The curl action, on the other hand, will increase blood flow to the region, providing your tendonitis the nutrients it needs to heal. With hammer curls, I want to keep the weights low and the repetitions high. “The optimal rep range for hammer curls is 12-15 repetitions,” he informed me. 

Curl Variations in Other Styles

There are additional bicep curl variants out there, but they’re not particularly practical for the average Joe. “If you’re a bodybuilder, concentration curls would be a good idea,” Matt suggests. They’re wonderful for increasing time under strain on the biceps, which may aid with hypertrophy [muscle growth], but stick with the barbell curl for the most bang for your dollars. Nothing strengthens the biceps like this.”

Bicep Curl Programming

The bicep curl should be performed as a supplement to the primary barbell movements. On days when clients perform upper body training, Matt loves to have them do bicep curls. On days when I shoulder press and bench press, he frequently plans bicep curls as part of an upper body circuit for me.


Matt advises 3 sets of 5 barbell curls at a somewhat heavy weight for overall strength. You may increase your weight by 5 pounds every week. 

After you’ve completed your strength sets, switch to a different curl and execute it with a smaller weight for more repetitions. The hammer curl is my go-to move. I’ll perform three sets of 15 reps with 25 lb dumbbells. I’m only looking for a nice pump and to avoid tendonitis problems. 



The seated dumbbell curl is a great exercise that can be done with any barbell. It’s important to know how (and why) to do this exercise properly.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you do a barbell bicep curl?

A: The standard bicep curl is performed by curling a dumbbell up towards the shoulder with your elbow bent and then returning back to starting position.

Is barbell good for bicep curls?

A: Depending on what youre training for, anything that allows the bicep to be more active can help. For a barbell curl using your own weight, I would recommend doing front and back curls rather than simple romanian (regular) curls. This is because holding onto something in a way different from how its done normally will cause an increase of muscle tension in order to keep balance which leads to greater gains after time.

Is it better to do bicep curls with a bar or dumbells?

A: It is better to do bicep curls with a bar.

Related Tags

  • ez bar curl
  • barbell curl muscles worked
  • hammer curls
  • preacher curl
  • reverse barbell curl