7 Best Barbell Bicep Exercises For Sleeve-Busting Arms 

Sculpting impressive biceps doesn’t have to be complicated. All you need is tried and tested tools that are proven to work. 

Enter the barbell. Incorporating barbell exercises into your routine can yield massive gains in size and strength. 

As a certified personal trainer, I’ll take you through the 7 best barbell bicep exercises in this comprehensive guide. 

Get ready to achieve those sleeve-busting arms you’ve always wanted. 
Here’s what’s coming up. 

The Power Of The Barbell
7 Best Barbell Bicep Exercises 
2 More Barbell Bicep Techniques 
4 Bicep Workout Tips For Best Results
Biceps Anatomy 
Bottom Line 

The Power Of The Barbell 

Barbells are an amazing tool to help build your bicep size and strength when done right. They offer a nice balanced feel of stability and control when lifting. 

For these 7 best barbell bicep exercises, you can use a regular barbell (45 pounds), and add weight plates as needed.

Fixed-weight barbells are also a good option, and those can range from 10 pounds to 120 pounds depending on what your gym has available. 

Barbells are great because they can be adapted to suit different fitness levels and training goals.

Just pick the weight that’s right for you and adjust the sets and reps to for your program. 

7 Best Barbell Bicep Exercises 

best barbell bicep exercises

Use these exercises with proper form and technique to effectively target and develop your biceps. But don’t forget to train your triceps!

Start with lighter weights to master the movements before gradually increasing the resistance. Always warm up beforehand to prevent injury.

Standing Barbell Curl  

The standing barbell bicep curl is a fundamental exercise for targeting the biceps brachii muscles. It’s the reigning king of adding mass to our biceps. 

How To Do It

  • Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell with an underhand grip, arms fully extended.
  • Keeping your elbows close to your body, curl the barbell upwards towards your shoulders, exhaling as you lift.
  • Pause briefly at the top of the movement, then lower the barbell back down to the starting position, inhaling as you lower. 

Best Practice Tip

Focus on maintaining strict form throughout the movement. Avoid swinging or using momentum by keeping your arms steady. 

Wide-Grip Barbell Curl 

This variation puts more emphasis on the inner, meatier portion of your bicep by your armpit. This is called the short head of the bicep. 

How To Do It

  • Stand tall and hold the barbell with a grip wider than
    shoulder-width apart.
  • Curl the barbell upwards towards your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  • Pause briefly at the top of the movement, then lower the barbell back down to the starting position. 

Best Practice Tip

Keep your wrists straight through each repetition to prevent strain.

Narrow-Grip Barbell Curl   

This variation puts more emphasis on the outer portion of your bicep that forms the nice peak. This is called the long head of the bicep.  

How To Do It

  • Stand tall and hold the barbell with a grip closer than
    shoulder-width apart.
  • Curl the barbell upwards towards your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  • Pause briefly at the top of the movement, then lower the barbell back down to the starting position.

Best Practice Tip

Keep your shoulders back and chest up to maintain proper posture and engage the biceps effectively.

Barbell Preacher Curl    

This exercise uses a preacher bench to fix the shoulders and elbows in place and isolate the biceps. Beware! Going beyond your limits in this exercise can put massive strain on your biceps tendon and possibly lead to a tear!  

How To Do It

  • Sit at a preacher bench with your upper arms resting on the pad.
  • Hold the barbell with an underhand grip, arms fully extended.
  • Curl the barbell upwards towards your shoulders, exhaling as you lift.
  • Lower the barbell back down to the starting position with control. 

Best Practice Tip

Adjust the seat and pad height of the preacher bench where you feel comfortable to get a full extension and contraction of your biceps. 

Barbell Drag Curl     

This exercise really puts a burn on the long head (peak) of your biceps by altering the position of your elbows and the path of the barbell.  

How To Do It

  • Stand tall and hold the barbell with an underhand grip, arms fully extended and close to your body.
  • Curl the barbell upwards, dragging it on your torso. 
  • Focus on pulling your elbows back behind your body as you curl.
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the movement, then lower the barbell back down with control.

Best Practice Tip

Keep your core engaged and avoid excessive leaning back to maintain proper form. 

Barbell Spider Curl      

Why’s it called a spider curl? Well, you lay face down on an incline bench with the barbell hanging. Just picture the barbell as a spider slowly climbing up its web towards your face. Scary! 

This exercise puts more load on the short head of your biceps because your shoulder are in a flexed position.  

How To Do It

  • Lie face down on an incline bench with your chest against the padding and arms hanging straight down. 
  • Hold the barbell with an underhand grip with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  • Curl the barbell upwards towards your shoulders, exhaling as you lift.
  • Pause briefly at the top of the movement, then lower the barbell back down to the starting position with control.

Best Practice Tip

Adjust the incline of the bench to find the angle that allows you to fully isolate the biceps without strain on the shoulders or lower back. Usually this is 30 to 45 degrees.

Barbell Reverse Curl       

This variation is for serious for adding width to your arms. That’s because you target the brachialis and forearms more intensely.   

How To Do It

  • Hold the barbell with an underhand grip, palms facing downwards.
  • Curl the barbell upwards towards your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  • Curl the barbell upwards towards your shoulders, exhaling as you lift.
  • Pause briefly at the top of the movement, then lower the barbell back down to the starting position.

Best Practice Tip

Do this at the end of the workout because you don’t want to pre-exhaust your forearms before the biceps. 


2 More Barbell Bicep Techniques 

Here’s 2 other great techniques you can utilize to continue the bicep pump and take your growth to the next level. 

21’s      

21’s are a classic, muscle annihilator. It’s a 21 rep set that targets partial reps for an unbelievable pump.  

How To Do It

  • Stand tall and perform 7 partial reps from the bottom (arms fully extended) to halfway up (elbows at 90°). 
  • Next perform 7 partial reps from halfway (elbows at 90°) to the top (barbell by shoulders). 
  • Finish with 7 full range of motion reps.

Best Practice Tip

Use a lighter weight than you would for traditional bicep curls, as 21s can be very challenging.

Cheat Curls       

This is the one of the exercises I can think of where cheating the form is acceptable. Why? Because cheat curls are supposed to be heavy! 

The only way to curl this weight is to use momentum and leg drive to get the weight up. The idea is to get the weight up fast and let it down slowly. 

How To Do It

  • Use a slightly wider grip than shoulder-width on the barbell.
  • Use controlled momentum from your hips and back to lift the barbell upwards towards your shoulders.
  • Lower the barbell back down with control and focus on the stretch.

Best Practice Tip

Heavy weight doesn’t mean go beyond your limit. This exercise has high risk of injury, so use sparingly and with caution and alertness. 


4 Bicep Workout Tips For Best Results 

Barbells Before
Machines Or Isolation 

Barbell bicep curls have higher levels of actions during the concentric (muscle shortening) phase of the when compared to dumbbells, according to this study. 

Compound barbell exercises recruit multiple muscle groups and require stabilization from secondary muscles.

This results in greater overall muscle activation and functional strength development.

While machine-based and isolation exercises have their place in a well-rounded program, they should be used as supplementary exercises after compound movements.

Form Over Everything  

Form and technique has more pay off than loading the barbell with weight. Good form maximizes muscle engagement for maximum gains.

Sacrificing form for the sake of lifting heavier weights can lead to short-term gains at the expense of long-term progress. It can also increase the risk of injury and can make a habit of bad form. 

Choose 3 To 4 Exercises
For A Complete Biceps Workout

You don’t have to do all the exercises mentioned here! That would be serious overkill and overtraining. Biceps are a relatively arm small muscle compared to the triceps. 

Choose 3 to 4 exercises for 8-20 repetitions for 3-4 sets. That’s enough volume for the bicep muscle. If you do an arm workout twice a week consistently, that will be max volume for big arms. 

  • Start your workout with a compound barbell or dumbbell curl variation, like the barbell bicep curl or the incline dumbbell curl.
  • Compund exercises allow you to lift heavier weights and engage multiple muscle groups at the same time.
  • Follow up with one or two isolation or machine exercises that specifically target the biceps, like that hammer curl, concentration curl, or cable curl.
  • Isolation and machine exercises help to fully exhaust the biceps and promote muscle hypertrophy.

Use Progressive Overload & Track Progress

Progressive overload is the gradual increase in resistance, volume, or intensity over time. This approach will continually challenge the muscles and stimulate growth.

Tracking your performance indicators like lifting heavier weights, completing more repetitions, or achieving better form and technique over time. Setting specific, measurable, and achievable goals helps to stay motivated and track progress. 

Biceps Anatomy 

Bi-cep means “two heads.” The biceps brachii muscle consists of the long head and short head of the bicep. 

The long head is what forms the outside of the bicep and forms the peak when you  contract. The short head is the inner portion of your arm and forms the more massive portion of the bicep. 

The bicep also has accessory muscles that work together to flex your elbow. These are the brachialis and brachioradialis. Training these adds width to your arms.

Bicep genetics differ amount individuals and results in different insertion patterns. 

  • Short bicep insertions are higher up on the humerus (arm bone) and result in more peaked biceps. A classic example is Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • Long bicep insertions are lower down on the humerus and result in thicker, meatier biceps with a weaker peak.

The biceps muscle has 3 functions:

  • to flex your elbow and allow your hand to move towards your shoulder 
  • to rotate your forearm and vary the position of your palm 
  • to stabilize the shoulder joint

Bottom Line

The best barbell biceps exercises require technique and a proper training regimen. 

With these exercises, you’ll be on your way to building impressive biceps and upper body strength. 

Remember that consistency, diet, and sleep are part of the equation to put on lean muscle. 

Aim for the aesthetic gains and strength with these best barbell bicep exercises next time you head to the gym. Get ready to shape your biceps into works of art! 

Looking for more ways to exercise? Check out these 15 Crucial Movements To Do Everyday.

AUTHOR

Shalom is a content creator, musician, and a teacher at heart. As a certified personal trainer, his goal is to encourage others to lead healthier lives and to get buff in the process!

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