Barbell Curl: A Must-Have Exercise to Increase Your Biceps

One of the best exercises to make your biceps grow.

Those who are looking to put on their biceps under tension and make them bigger cannot steer away from the barbell curl. This exercise is one of the best out there if you want to make your biceps peak.

The barbell curl is an isolation exercise that can put your biceps under increasing tension, making it one of the top priorities for athletes looking to build bigger arms.

Below you will find out how to do the exercise properly, the muscles targeted, mistakes to avoid, pros and cons, and how many reps and sets you should do.

How to Do The Barbell Curl

As the name implies, you will need a barbell to do the exercise and the desired amount of weight plates.

  • The barbell can be placed on the floor mat or a rack as high as your waistline.
  • Grab the barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing up) with hands slightly wider than your hips.
  • Stand tall, keep your spine, neck and head neutral.
  • Your elbows should be slightly bent and locked on the side of your body.
  • This is the initial position.
  • Begin to curl by bending your elbows and lifting the barbell in a controlled manner.
  • Stop the curl when the barbell gets close to your shoulders.
  • Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement.
  • Slowly lower the barbell and begin extending your arms to the initial position.
  • That is one rep.

Muscles Targeted

The barbell curl is an isolation exercise that focuses on a single-joint movement. Therefore, there is only one main muscle that is targeted by it.

  • Biceps (brachii and brachialis)

To a smaller degree, your forearms are also activated during the exercise, as you need to utilise this muscle group to maintain the barbell at the top of the movement.

Source: Total Shape / Unsplash

Mistakes to Avoid

The most common mistake people tend to do when performing barbell curls is to utilise momentum to lift the barbell, usually by curving your back or hinging to initiate the movement. By doing this, you are taking away the tension from your biceps and distributing it to other bigger muscles. Fix this by leaving your ego outside and choosing a lighter weight.

Similar to the previous mistake, some athletes tend to move their elbows while doing the barbell curl. The elbows are supposed to be locked in position at all times so that only your biceps are working during the curl, instead of your shoulders or back muscles.

The range of motion is also important to get the benefits of this exercise, but some people perform half reps by either not lifting the barbell high enough and squeezing their biceps, or by not lowering it enough until the arms are almost straightened.

Related: Why Your Biceps Aren’t Growing

Pros and Cons of the Barbell Curl


As it is usual with all barbell exercises, the barbell curl is a great and easy way to overload your biceps. By simply adding an extra weight plate, you are putting your biceps under more tension and building more muscle.

The fact that you only need a barbell makes this exercise great for people with home gyms or small spaces.

The instructions to perform the barbell curl makes it one of the easiest exercises anyone can do.


The bicep is a small muscle in our bodies, so making sure it gets bigger is time-consuming.

The barbell curl is great for hitting your biceps, but after a few weeks doing the exercise, your body will grow accustomed to it and it will be time for you to change your curl if you want to continuously see progress.

Source: Gordon Cowie
EZ biceps curls

How Many Reps and Sets?

When it comes to the barbell curl or any curl for that matter, you must put form and technique above weight. Lifting 30 kilos with poor form will not be as beneficial as lifting 15 kilos with proper technique.

Choose a weight that you can perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps for beginners.

For advanced athletes looking to increase even further their biceps, do more sets with heavier weights, but with lower reps – something in the range of 6-8 reps.

Variations of the Barbell Curl

As it is a single-joint exercise, pretty much any curl is a variation of the barbell curl and vice-versa. Here are some exercises that most resemble the barbell curl.

Seated Barbell Curl

Dumbbell Curl

Spider Curl

Preacher Curl

Do you want more bicep content? Check out the links below:

Workout to Fix Skinny Arms (9 Exercises Included)

10 Best Exercises for Wider Biceps

16 Fund Bicep Curl Workouts for All Athletes

Learn more

Grow your upper body with these effective barbell exercises:

Landmine Row – Powerful Benefits, Technique Tips and Muscles Worked
Preacher Curl – Benefits, Muscles Worked, Technique Tips and Variations
Bent-Over Row – For a Stronger Well-Rounded Back
Landmine Press– Muscles Worked, Benefits and Technique
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