How to do Barbell Curl

The barbell curl is a traditional exercise primarily used to increase size and strength of the biceps brachii, more commonly known as the biceps or “bi’s”.

This exercise typically uses a standard Olympic barbell which is roughly 7 feet long and weighs 45 pounds. However, individuals may also use preloaded barbells or EZ curl bars if desired.


The barbell curl specifically targets the biceps brachii which is located on the front part of your arm between the shoulder and the elbow.

This muscle’s primary function is elbow flexion and forearm supination. The biceps also has two heads known as the long head and the short head.

In addition to the biceps brachii, the barbell curl calls on other muscles to help perform the exercise.

Both the brachialis and the brachioradialis assist the biceps brachii in the curling motion. The deltoids, traps, and wrist flexors help to stabilize the arm during the curl.

How To Perform

  • Stand with feet roughly shoulder width apart.
  • Grab the barbell with an underhand grip roughly shoulder width apart.
  • Keep elbows to the side of your body at all times.
  • Keep torso upright and straight. Do not rock as you are curling the barbell.
  • Bend the elbows and start curling the barbell up towards your neckline or until forearms are perpendicular to the ground.
  • Pause at the top of the curl and slowly return to starting position.
  • To increase difficulty: increase the volume, stand on one leg or slowly raise and lower the bar.

Muscle Benefits

The amount of sets and reps is determined by your muscular goals and your one rep max (1RM).

  • Muscular endurance is typically 1 to 3 sets of 12 to 20 reps, at a weight from 0 to 50% of 1RM, and a rest time of less than 1 minute between each set.
  • Muscular strength/size is typically 1 to 3 sets of 6 to 12 reps at a weight of 50% to 80% of 1RM, and a rest time of 1 to 3 minutes between each set.
  • Muscular power is typically 1 to 2 sets of 1-4 reps, at a weight of 85% to 95% of 1RM, and a rest time of 3 to 5 minutes between each set.


With all exercises, safety and proper form are vital to a successful workout. Make sure to pay attention to the following:

  • Keep a tight grip on the barbell at all times.
  • Do not rock back and forth when performing the curling motion as this can decrease the effectiveness of the exercise and cause injuries.
  • Do not lean backwards when curling the barbell upwards as this can lead to back injuries or a loss of balance.