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Barbell curl: How-to, Explanation, Instructions & Common mistakes

The barbell curl is without a doubt one of the most famous exercises for the biceps. Training the biceps can be done in many ways, but we see this exercise very often. That is of course not without reason. Barbell curls are a complete biceps builder.

In addition, they are quite easy to perform. All you need is a barbell and free weights to hang on to. With a small investment, you can even perform this exercise at home. Read on for step-by-step explanations and frequently asked questions.

Barbell curl equipment

Which muscles do you train with a barbell curl?

The barbell curl only uses one joint, namely your elbow joint, so we count it among the isolation exercises. You train both biceps heads with this exercise, although there is a little more emphasis on the long head due to the neutral position of the upper arm in relation to the upper body.

Depending on where you place the hands, you can put a little more emphasis on a specific muscle head. If you place your hands wide apart, the exercise focuses more on the short side (inside) of your biceps. If you keep your hands close together, the exercise focuses more on the long side (outside).

The forearms are also trained during a barbell curl, but to a much lesser extent than the biceps. Strong forearms are required to hold the bar firmly throughout the entire movement. Furthermore, there are no other muscle groups that are noticeably trained directly or indirectly during the exercise.

Performance of the barbell curl

Performing barbell curls is quite easy and will be quick to learn even by a beginner. Follow the steps below carefully and you will notice that you will soon master the exercise.

  1. Stand in the starting position

    Grab the barbell at the desired width with your palms facing forward. Stand up straight and keep your arms straight at your sides in the starting position.

  2. Lift the weight

    Move your forearms up in a controlled manner while squeezing the barbell hard. Keep your elbows neatly at your sides as you perform the movement.

  3. Lower the weight in a controlled manner

    Once the barbell is at the top, lower it back down. Don't do this too quickly and try to perform the lowering movement in a controlled manner while focusing on contracting your biceps.

  4. Repeat

    Repeat the above steps for the desired number of reps.

During the exercise, make sure to keep your elbows against your sides and to keep your back neutral. Firmly squeezing the bar also ensures that you tense all your muscles as well as possible. If you're at the gym and unsure about your performance, ask an instructor to review your barbell curls or use a mirror to check your form.

Common mistakes

There are some mistakes that are very common when doing barbell curls. Please read them carefully below and avoid making them yourself.

  1. Not Keeping Upper Arms Straight
    A common mistake is using momentum when lifting too much weight. In such a situation, people often move their elbows forward so that they lift part of the weight with their shoulders. This activates the biceps less well and you are, as it were, cheating. To prevent this, imagine that you have to press an object against your side with your elbow, for example, a pencil. This keeps your upper arms neatly along your upper body and you can perform the barbell curls correctly and effectively.
  2. Rocking to Throw the Weight Up
    Another common mistake that uses momentum is rocking and using your back to throw the barbell up. During the concentric movement, people often lean back to make this easier. This is not only bad for your back, but also limits the activation of your biceps. To prevent this, you often have to lift less weight. Does it still not work? Then you can stand with your back against the wall or use an arm blaster to keep your upper arms in the correct position.
  3. Wrists Tilt
    Finally, many people tilt their wrists up or down during the exercise. This transfers some of the load from your biceps to your forearms. If you want to train your biceps to the maximum, you will have to keep your wrists in a straight line with respect to your forearms.

Would you also like to try other biceps exercises? Then take a look at the explanation of the classic dumbbell curl or the concentration curls. Both are top exercises for your biceps and are not difficult to perform.

Frequently asked questions about barbell curls

Do you have any questions about performing the barbell curl? View the frequently asked questions below. If this does not answer your question, please feel free to contact us.

Straight barbell or EZ bar?

Curling with a straight bar is not for everyone. Although a straight bar provides a little more activation of the biceps, this can be an unpleasant position for some people. Unlike a normal barbell, an EZ bar is not completely straight. The part where you grip the rod is at a slight angle to the ends of the rod. This makes it a bit more pleasant to hold them. This is a godsend for many people, especially for exercises for the biceps and triceps. Try both variants and determine which type of bar feels best for you.

Are barbell curls good for mass?

Yes, the barbell curl is one of the best exercises for building muscle in the biceps. Because you use two arms at the same time, you can often lift more weight than with dumbbell curls. Because you have to squeeze the bar considerably, you will also build some muscle mass in your forearms in addition to your biceps. View our overview with all other biceps exercises to alternate.

How many reps should I do?

This depends on what your goal is. If you want to build more muscle mass in your biceps, it is wise to do between 8 to 12 repetitions. Now this is a general guideline and it doesn't matter if you do more or less if you want to, but at least 8 to 12 is a good goal. If you want to build up more strength, you can do sets with 5 repetitions. You can then train with a slightly heavier weight than when you go for 8 to 12 repetitions.

Can you do barbell curls with fat gripz?

Yes, it is possible to do barbell curls with fat gripz. If you use this you will notice that it becomes a lot more difficult to squeeze the bar properly. Both your biceps and your forearms acidify a lot faster. By using  sports grips  you will develop extra strength and mass in your forearms, so that after a few weeks you will notice that normal barbell curls are a lot easier.

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