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Behind the Barbell Curl

Posted Aug 18 2010 5:05am

Barbell Curl

Barbell Curl

The barbell curl is a fundamental exercise to build bigger, better and more impressive biceps. Most gym-goers know this and the biceps is one of the most popular muscles to train among beginners, so the barbell curl is one of the most performed exercises. But are you employing the full range of techniques on this exercise?

Performing the Barbell Curl Correctly

Before attempting to benefit from every angle, it is perhaps useful to ensure that the technique employed to perform the barbell curl is correct. Grasp a barbell palms facing up, hands spaced shoulder width apart and standing with your back straight and legs giving you a firm balance. Look ahead and with the bar down, take a deep breath and curl the bar up to your chest. Don’t rest at the top and lower the bar again while breathing in. You have just completed one rep.

Using the Right Barbell Weight

This is an exercise where it is very easy to cheat, maybe even without realising it. By bending backwards, you are no longer pulling the weight up with your biceps exclusively. You are also shortening the distance the bar is travelling to reach your chest. Another common way to cheat, especially when lifting heavy is by bending the legs a little, or a lot if you have taken more than you can handle. Because cheating is so easy and so surreptitious, you would have to spend a considerable amount of concentration on trying not to cheat, instead of trying to focus on lifting the weight with your biceps. An easy way around this problem is to stand against a wall, leaving just a few centimetres between your feet and the wall. In order to give your arms clearance, stand against a column or protruding wall. That way, you can give all your attention to lifting the barbell weight.

Variations: EZ-bar, Incline Curl, Reverse Curls

One of the most interesting aspects of the barbell curls is the scope for varying it. First, if you find the straight barbell bar uncomfortable, do not hesitate to use the EZ-bar. With the latter, your wrists are in a more natural position. The more comfortable you feel, the heavier you can potentially lift.

Using either bar, you have the possibility to experiment which grip works best for you. Do you prefer a narrow grip to the extent that your hands are touching each other, or do you prefer a much wider grip beyond shoulder width? The emphasis on the biceps belly changes according to the spacing of your hands, with the internal head being more recruited with a wider grip and vice versa.

The barbell curl remains a cornerstone of exercises to build muscles in your arms. Instead of doing it repetitively without the full benefit of it, learn as much as you can about it and apply to your advantage, before moving onto other variations such as the incline curl or reverse curls.

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