Barbell Curl

Training Details for Barbell Curl

  • Primary Muscle
  • Secondary Muscle
  • Equipment
  • Level

Muscle groups and purpose

Barbell curl or biceps curl with a barbell is a perfect exercise if you really want to go heavy on your guns and build big biceps. This exercise is the foundation for many people’s biceps workouts and by varying your grip you can stimulate different parts of the biceps. The biceps muscle has two heads,  learn more about biceps anatomy here, which makes it extra important that both parts of the bicep get a little extra pressure, which a varied grip can provide.


The exercise looks quite simple but there are lots of traps to get caught in. 

Most importantly, only the forearms should move, not the shoulders, not the elbows and certainly not the upper body and hips.

Stand upright with your legs shoulder-width apart and bend  your knees slightly. Choose a suitable barbell with a suitable weight and grab the bar with an underhand grip (palms away from the body in the starting position). You should have approximately shoulder-width distance between your hands as a standard grip (we will vary the width later on). Pull back your shoulder blades and push out your chest.

“Curl” up the bar towards the upper body by lifting your forearms / bending your arms but maintaining the isolated position of the elbows. The elbows should not move forwards and backwards during the exercise, but they should be as fixed as possible.Thereafter lift  the bar until it is the same level as your shoulders or until your arms are completely bent. It is mainly the forearms that should move, the rest of the arm should be fixed.

The upper body should also be fixed, you should not swing the bar up by swinging the upper body, it should be completely still. When you reach the top position, slowly lower the bar to the ground again. It is important that you do not just “drop” the bar on the way down. A huge part of the exercise is about controlling the weight on the way back, the so-called eccentric phase. When you have come all the way down, hold it for 3 seconds and then you curl up the weight again at a faster pace, it should take about 1 second to get to the top position again. Remember to extend your arm completely in the lower position so that you briefly feel your triceps working. You do this to get maximum movement of your biceps, so-called “full range of motion”.

Different grips

A wider grip activates the inner part, the short head, of the biceps more. While a narrow grip will activate the outer part, the long head, a little bit extra.

A rule of thumb when it comes to bar grips and biceps is that the part of the biceps that you can see with your eye will be activated the most.

Guide for Barbell Curl

  • Perform the exercise in a controlled manner. Rather have a lower weight but keep full control. If you perform the exercise correctly, it will really burn in your biceps even if the weight is not that high
  • The elbow joint should be opened and closed as much as possible during the exercise. Full range of motion but do not drop tension in your biceps
  • Remember to keep your elbows still. They should not go back and forth.
  • The elbows should also not flap sideways when you lift the weight since you then lose contact with your biceps and other muscles instead becoming involved, which is not the purpose of the exercise.
  • Keep strong and hold on on the way down, the eccentric phase is important.
  • The shoulders should rotate as little as possible, keep them still.
  • Do not swing with your upper body or move your hips. If you find it difficult to keep your upper body still, you can perform the exercise with your back pressed against a wall or lower your weight!

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