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Some of the best exercises to pack on size and increase strength to your bicep muscles can be done with a barbell.
If you’re used to performing endless bicep curls with a pair of dumbbells, then put them away and grab your bar.
In this article we’re going to recommend highly effective bicep barbell workouts to help you to build stronger and bigger biceps in no time.
Recommended Reading – 6 Bicep Long Head vs Short Head Exercises For Intense Arm Growth
First things first, let’s learn a little bit more about the differences between working your biceps muscles with a barbell when compared to dumbbells.
Are Dumbbells More Effective Than Barbells?
Whether or not using dumbbells is more effective than barbells will depend on what you’re trying to achieve.
Using a barbell when compared to dumbbells will allow for greater mechanical tension.
Let’s look at some of the differences in more detail.
You Can Lift Heavier When Using A Barbell
When performing a like for like exercise, studies have shown that most people can generally lift heavier loads when using a barbell compared to a pair of dumbbells.
This is because less stabilization is needed when lifting with a barbell.
Progressive Overload Is More Effective With Barbell Exercises
Progressive overload is more effective when performing a barbell exercise compared to the dumbbell alternative.
Weight plates typically allow you to make much smaller adjustments by adding a minimal amount of weight, as low as 0.125kg.
Conversely, dumbbells usually increase by 5lbs making the jumps far greater.
You’ll Have More Energy For Barbell Lifts
Getting into the correct starting position is easier to achieve when using a barbell.
This means you burn less energy thereby reserving it for your lifts.
This becomes more important when lifting heavy loads.
Dumbbells Allow For Greater Muscle Activation
Using dumbbells does allow for greater muscle activation as the range of motion is greater when compared to doing the same exercise but with a barbell.
What’s more, depending on your bodily structure, you can perform exercises in a more natural way when using dumbbells making them more comfortable to execute.
Dumbbells Are Better To Address Muscle Imbalances
If you want to address any muscle imbalances, whether that’s strength or muscle, this is easier to do when using dumbbells.
Let’s look at the dumbbell bicep curl as an example, by working each arm independently there’s no risk of your stronger arm overcompensating.
What this does show us is that it’s important to incorporate a variety of both barbell and dumbbell exercises into your strength training to properly elicit the benefits of all forms of weight training.
- You can lift heavier weights when using a barbell.
- Less stability is required with barbell exercises compared to dumbbells.
- Progressive overload is easier with a barbell.
- You can adopt a more natural position when using dumbbells so they’re more comfortable to do.
- Dumbbell exercises are better to address muscle imbalances when compared to barbell exercises.
- Dumbbells allow for a greater range of motion resulting in better muscle activation.
- Less energy is used getting into the correct starting position when using a barbell.
Best Bicep Barbell Workouts & Exercises
As well as activating your biceps muscles, the below barbell workout will also target other muscles including your traps, shoulders and wrist extensors which engage to help you stabilize the weight.
A Few Points Before You Start:
- When starting out use a lighter weight. It’s more important to focus on proper form and full range of motion. As you become stronger then you can move on to heavier weights.
- Try and avoid using momentum. When executing the exercises, especially from a standing position, it’s common to use your legs to create momentum and swing the barbell up. However, this isn’t conducive to an effective and workout routine and simply reduces tension on your biceps.
- If using a straight bar is uncomfortable on your wrists, then consider switching to an EZ curl bar. This will allow for a more neutral grip decreasing pressure on your joints.
- Maintain good posture throughout. Don’t allow your lower back to over arch when performing barbell biceps exercises as this will prevent you from engaging your core properly. You’ll also shift the emphasis away from your biceps muscles.
Half To Full Supinated Barbell Bicep Curl
Performing a barbell curl with a supinated grip (also known as an underhand grip) will allow for increased activation of the long head of the bicep making it a great way of improving that longed-for bicep peak.
How To Do The Supinated Barbell Bicep Curl:
- Take hold of the barbell using an underhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Standing with a slight bend to your knees, curl the barbell up until your forearms are parallel to the floor.
- Use control to lower it back down.
- Curl the bar back up but this time take it all the way to your chest. This constitutes on rep.
- Perform 15 reps in total.
Barbell Reverse Curl
This exercise is perfect for working on your brachialis muscle.
This is a deep-set muscle located in your upper arms and directly below the biceps brachii.
The exercise is very similar to the standard barbell biceps curl but instead you hold the bar with an overhand grip (also known as a pronated grip).
When executed with proper form it’s perfect for working on your biceps peak and increasing muscle mass.
How To Do The Barbell Reverse Curl:
- Hold the barbell with a shoulder width grip and your palms facing towards you.
- Stand upright with your head and chest up then slowly curl the barbell up towards your chest.
- Keep your elbows away from your body and just in front of your hips.
- Use control to lower the bar back to the starting position.
- Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.
Barbell Drag Curl
The barbell drag curl is perfect for targeting both biceps heads and your forearms.
As you’ll be keeping the barbell close to your body throughout the exercise, this pretty much eliminates shoulder engagement, so you focus on building big biceps.
How To Do The Barbell Drag Curl:
- Stand up straight holding a barbell with an underhand grip with your hands just past shoulder width apart.
- Start with the barbell hanging at arm’s length and just in front of your thighs.
- Slowly drag the barbell up your body, your elbows should start to move back as you do this.
- Aim to raise the barbell to the top of your chest and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Lower the bar back to the start and repeat for a total of 15 reps.
Close Grip Barbell Curl
The close grip barbell curl is a great way of targeting your brachialis which is located on the outside of your upper arm and sits just beneath your biceps.
It plays an important role in flexion of your forearm at the elbow joint and helps to give definition to your arm.
It’s a very similar exercise to the standard barbell curl the only difference being that your grip width is narrower.
If you find the exercise puts too much pressure on your wrists, you could consider swapping out your regular bar for an ez curl bar as this will keep your wrists in a more neutral position.
How To Do The Close Grip Barbell Curl:
- Take hold of the barbell with an underhand grip and position your hands just inside shoulder width apart.
- Keeping your elbows tucked in, engage your core and use control to curl the barbell up towards you.
- You may find that your range of motion is slightly less when compared to a standard curl but that’s OK.
- Pause briefly before slowly lowering the bar back down. Complete a total of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Seated Barbell Concentration Curl
The barbell concentration curl keeps your biceps engaged throughout the entire range of motion, leading to a better contraction of the muscle fibers.
This can help with increased muscle development and definition.
How To Do The Seated Barbell Concentration Curl:
- Start by sitting on the end of a weight bench or similar. The bar should be on the ground in front of you.
- Your legs should be spread with your toes and knees pointing slightly out.
- Lean forwards and take hold of the barbell with an underhand grip with hands just inside shoulder width distance.
- Staying in this position allow the backs of your arms to rest on your inner thighs. Your arms should be feeling extended.
- Curl the barbell up towards your shoulders and contract your biceps.
- Hold at the top briefly before lowering the bar back to the starting position.
- Perform 10 to 15 reps.
To prevent muscle fatigue from kicking in and any plateaus, it’s important to keep your biceps workouts varied.
Switch up exercises on a regular basis to keep testing your muscles.
You can swap out for other isolation exercises such as the barbell spider curl or the barbell preacher curl.
As we’ve shown, proper form and technique are paramount in maximizing the benefits and minimizing the risk of injury when performing these exercises.
Remember to maintain good posture, engage your core, and use a controlled range of motion.
But remember not to neglect dumbbells in favor of the barbell for working your biceps.
By keeping your workouts varied you can build bigger arms with equal muscle strength and symmetry.