What is a bicep curl? (A useful guide for bodybuilders)

What is a bicep curl?

What is a bicep curl?

The barbell curl is one of the first exercises we all learn at the gym. It builds a bigger, rounder bicep as well as core strength. It is great as one of your main bicep exercises or as a finisher to an upper-body session. 

The great thing about the standing barbell bicep curl is that you can adapt it in so many ways by using different grips and partial reps.

How to perform a Standing Barbell Bicep Curl.

Before you start you will need to select your equipment. Most gyms will have a rack with fixed barbells ranging from 5kg to 50kg. This is a great place to start especially if you are going to use drop sets or pyramid sets. 

If your gym does not have fixed barbells, you will have to load some plates onto a bar. Always start with a low weight to start with as form is important. It is easy to overload a bar and tear a bicep with this exercise.

Once you have your barbell, hold it by your waist in the extended position and steady your feet at shoulder width. For a standard curl, your hands should be about shoulder-width apart on the bar, but this can be adjusted if not comfortable. Once you are set, curl the bar to your chest, being careful not to swing your upper arms. 

It can be hard to get used to this action at first as it is natural to move your upper arms. This can be overcome by standing with your back against a wall and making sure that the backs of your elbows remain in contact with it. 

Once you have curled the bar to your chest, hold the barbell there and squeeze the bicep. Close your eyes and try to feel the connection with your bicep muscle. After a couple of seconds, slowly lower the bar in a controlled motion before repeating the exercise. If hypertrophy is your goal, aim for 12-15 reps over 4-5 sets. 

Variations of a Standing Barbell Bicep Curl

The standard version of this curl will hit the inner and outer heads of the bicep. If you want to target the different heads, you can use alternative grips. On a straight barbell bar, a close grip with your hands only a couple of inches apart will target the short, inner head of the bicep. 

Moving your hands to a wider grip will target the outer head. You may find it difficult to perform these variations on a straight bar depending on your wrist mobility. If you do, consider using a V-bar or an EZ bar instead.

When should I use a Standing Bicep Barbell Curl?

The standing barbell bicep curl is great as a stand-alone exercise with heavy resistance or as a finisher when training arms with partial reps. 

What is a bicep curl alternative?


How Important are bicep curls as part of a routine?
This is down to your preferences and your goals. If you are training for strength then you do not really need to target the biceps for isolation exercises. If you are seeking hypertrophy, you will want to add in some isolation movements for maximum bice growth. 

Do I need to perform curls to grow my biceps?
Your biceps will grow with heavy compound lifts, rows and pull ups. For maximum growth, add in some isolation movements such as standing curls, rope curls and hammer curls, Try to hit both heads by varying the exercises. 

Should a beginner be performing bicep curls?
Standing bicep curls are very beginner friendly exercises. The bicep is where you will probably first notice growth from training so it can be good for motivation. That being said, the best movements for a beginner to master are squats, deadlifts and the bench press. These will give you a strong core from which to build on. 


Gymenix offers a selection of free training programs to suit all abilities and goals. Click on the links below for FREE access. 

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