How To Get The Barbell Curl Right

Man performs barbell curl, checks his form in the mirror
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We’ll be honest: although it’s a common sight in commercial gyms up and down the land, there are many more moves better for building bigger arms than the barbell biceps curl.

We’d rank hammer curls, chin-ups, EZ-bar curls and dumbbell curls as better bang-for-your-buck moves because they force the biceps to work through a fuller range of motion, as well as allowing your wrists and elbows to stay in a more natural position throughout each stage of each rep. And that’s the main problem with the barbell biceps curl: as soon as you start adding serious weight to the bar, it can place significant stress on these two joints.

However, sometimes you might have no other option than to use a barbell to work your biceps – you’re using a hotel gym, say, or your gym is packed to the rafters (although we’ll say again that any of the moves you can find in our biceps curl guide or selection of the best biceps exercises are preferable). If so, you need to train smart to get the muscle-building results you want without risking injury. Here’s how to do the move effectively.

How To Do A Barbell Curl

Man performs barbell curl

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

Stand tall with your chest up and core braced, holding the barbell with your hands just outside of your hips, using an underhand grip. Keeping your chest up and your elbows tight to your sides, initiate the move by raising your hands slightly so you feel your biceps become engaged. While maintaining tension on your biceps, curl the bar up to shoulder height, then give your biceps a one-second squeeze. Start to lower the bar slowly, keeping your biceps tensed and engaged to work as many muscle fibres as possible.

Once the bar is back in the start position, straighten your arms fully to tense your triceps to ensure that your biceps are worked through the fullest possible range of motion.

Joe Warner
Former editor of Men’s Fitness UK

Joe Warner is a highly experienced journalist and editor who began working in fitness media in 2008. He has featured on the cover of Men’s Fitness UK twice and has co-authored Amazon best-sellers including 12-Week Body Plan. He was the editor of Men’s Fitness UK magazine between 2016 and 2019, when that title shared a website with Coach.