Best Bicep Curl Variations to Build Your Arms

Learn the best biceps exercises & how to do them to grow your biceps for bigger arms. We explain how & why we love these bicep curl variations: barbell curls, thick bar curls, dumbbell curls, and towel curls.

Muscle Functions & Programming

All these exercises train the biceps brachii muscle. This muscle has two heads–the long and short heads–and its primary functions are elbow flexion, shoulder flexion, and supination of the forearm. We perform the exercises with these functions in mind, and the different variations train the biceps–and other muscles–a bit differently.

Curls are performed with hypertrophy (muscle growth) in mind, so we typically perform all curl variations at higher rep range: 2-5 x 6-15. They almost always go at the end of a workout, after the larger press and pull exercises have been performed, and they can be performed as a superset or a circuit.

Biceps Exercises

Barbell Curls

This is the go-to that you know and love. Most people can do this, because most people have access to a barbell and plates. We like to have the arms straight in the bottom–elbows fully extended–and finish with elbows high to ensure we go through a long range of motion and train the shoulder flexion function with the top of the movement.

Thick Bar Curls

The thicker bar may limit the weight we can use slightly, but it trains the forearms more and is a good variation if you have a thick barbell or have something like Fat Gripz which you can put on your barbell. This is one I’d love to see more people do.

Dumbbell Curls

Home gym warriors may have more trouble performing curls with dumbbells, but with adjustable dumbbells and fractional plates dumbbells for your home gym are more accessible and cheaper than ever. We like to begin with a neutral grip in the bottom and supinate the dumbbell as we perform the movement. This helps the arms straighten in the bottom and trains the supination function of the biceps.

Towel Curls

This lesser known exercise is great, especially for those who are looking for a variation from the barbell curls but don’t have a thick bar or dumbbells. Like the thick bar curls, it stresses the grip more, training the muscles of the forearm. Another important note is that keep the kettlebell moving up and down is critical so it doesn’t swing and hit you.




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