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Barbell Curls E-mail
Written by Jeff Behar, MS, MBA   

Purposebarbell_curls

Barbell curls is a standard exercise for increasing the strength and size of your biceps muscle group. Performing the barbell curl correctly is essential for developing big biceps while minimizing your potential for injury.

Equipment Needed

  • Barbell
  • Free weights

Muscle Groups Worked

  • Biceps (biceps brachii)

Instructions for Performing Barbell Curls

  • Grasp the bar using an under handing grip (palms facing you) with your hands positioned shoulder width apart (hands should be about 18 - 22 inches apart.. 
  • Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart.
  • Allow the barbell to hang at arm's length in front of you, with your hands, arms, and shoulders aligned.
  • While focusing on your biceps and keeping your upper-arms still, raise the weights in a semi-circle upwards at a medium speed, being careful not to move the position of your elbows.
  • Lift the bar upwards to your chest.
  • Once you've lifted the bar as high as you can, squeeze your biceps and then begin slowly lowering the bar down until your arms are nearly straight, again.
  • Repeat

Comments / Tips Regarding Barbell Curls

  • Squeeze at the top of each movement for maximum gain.
  • Do not swing the weight. Keep constant steady control. It's important not to shift the stress of the weights to other muscle groups. You're focusing on your biceps, so let them do the work until you can't work them anymore.
  • It's crucial that you don't lean backwards or swing the weight during barbell curls. Leaning back causes you to cheat by using your back to lift the weight, and swinging the weight causes you to cheat by using momentum to get the bar to the top of the lift. Both cheating methods deemphasize your biceps during the lift.
  • If you're having trouble with leaning back and/or swinging the weight, you might want to place your back against a wall or other vertical surface and position your feet about 2-3 ft in front on you for balance. Doing this will help you to keep the emphasis entirely on your biceps.
  • Don't lower the weights too quickly. Much of the benefit in doing curls is in the lowering of the weights back down.
  • Grabbing the bar wider will work the outer head of the bicep more. Grabbing the bar closer (less than shoulder width grip) will start to work the inner portion of the bicep.

Bicep Curl Variations

Wide-Grip Barbell Curls. Wide-Grip Barbell Curls is a variation of barbell curls that emphasizes the inner portion of your biceps. The grip is typically wide enough so that your wrists are slightly turned outward. Typically 6 inches past shoulder width.

Close-Grip Barbell Curls. Close-Grip Barbell Curls is a variation of barbell curls that emphasizes the outer portion of your biceps. Performing Close-Grip Barbell Curls is similar to performing the wide-grip variety, except that you hold the bar with about 12 inches of separation between your hands.

EZ Curl Bar. If you find that your wrists are a bit uncomfortable during barbell curls, you can try performing EZ-bar Curls. Performing EZ-Bar Curls is just like performing regular barbell curls, except that you use an EZ-bar. The EZ-bar has bends in it that enable your palms to face each other a bit so as to relieve some of the strain that some trainees experience in their wrists.

When you perform EZ-Bar Curls, grasp the outer-most bends in the bar with an underhand grip so that your palms are tilted toward one another. When you curl with the EZ-bar, all the same rules apply as when you're performing regular barbell curls. Using the inside grips would be similar to perfoming a close grip barbell curl, as it would work primarily the outermost portion of the bicep head.

Close-Grip Barbell Concentration Curls. Close-Grip Concentration Barbell Curls is an exercise designed to  isolate the bicep. It is perfomed as follows:

  • Sit on the edge of a bench and position your feet about 24 inches apart.
  • Grasp either a barbell or an EZ-bar with an underhand grip, and with about 6 inches of separation between your hands.
  • Bend forward at the waist and place your elbows on your inner thighs about 4 inches from your knees,.
  • While focusing on your biceps, lift the bar until your forearms touch your biceps.
  • Keep you arms close to your body.  Do not swing the weight.
  • Squeeze the biceps in the final position.
  • Lower the bar in a slow controlled fashion.
  • Repeat.
Preacher Curl.  The preacher curl is another bicep isolation exercise. ATo do these, you'll need a preacher curl bench and a barbell or ez curl bar (it can also be performed with dumbbells.  To perform this exercise:
 
  • First adjust the height of the preacher bench relative to your shoulders. Depending on the type of equipment you have, you'll adjust either the height of the preacher bench or the position of the seat.
  • Make sure that your shoulders aren't elevated by the preacher bench and you're not hunching over the preacher bench.
  • Once you've adjusted the preacher bench, you can grasp the bar with a shoulder-width, underhand grip.
  • Your elbows should be resting on the pad. Start with the weight in the top position (bar should be even with your nose in this starting position).
  • Slowly lower the bar in a smooth controlled motion.
  • Use the same smooth controlled motion to lift the bar towards your chin.  You'll notice that the lift is more difficult in the beginning than towards the end.
  • Avoid rocking or heaving the weight in an attempt to start the lift.
  • Work the biceps hard by slowly lifting the weight under control, both upwards and during the descent.
  • Repeat.
  • Avoid relaxing your muscles when you raise the weight (top position) 
 
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