9 Best Barbell Bicep Exercises

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTUpdated: March 28, 2024

The biceps are a common point of emphasis for bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. For one, they make your arms look bigger. But they also help in many compound lifts like rows and pulldowns.

There are several ways to train your biceps, including with dumbbells, cables, and machines. But one of the best ways to build biceps is using a barbell.

So this article will tell you everything you need to know about barbell bicep exercises.

Barbell Bicep Exercises

Benefits of Barbell Exercises

There are many benefits to free weight exercises like those using a barbell. For example, the movement is more natural and functional than most cable or machine variations.

In addition, the barbell is more versatile, opening up several exercise variations without needing tons of equipment. So you can do these exercises at any gym or with a basic home gym setup.

Here are some of the other benefits of barbell exercises:

  1. Strength Gains: Barbell exercises are great for increasing total body strength because they allow you to lift heavy weights and work multiple muscle groups at once.
  2. Muscle Growth: Barbell exercises are also effective for building muscle mass. By challenging your muscles with heavy weights, you can stimulate muscle growth and improve muscle size and definition.
  3. Calorie Burn: Barbell exercises can be intense and require a lot of energy, which means they can help you burn a significant number of calories compared to machines. This can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
  4. Convenience: Barbell exercises can be done at home or in a gym, making them a convenient option for those who want to exercise regularly but don’t have access to a gym or fancy equipment. Additionally, many barbell exercises are simple and easy to learn, which means you can start seeing results quickly.
  5. Work Both Bicep Heads: The barbell allows you to perform exercises that work both the long head (outer part) and short head (inner part) of the bicep.
Benefits of Barbell Bicep Exercises

Types of Barbells for Bicep Exercises

Before we get into the exercise list, it’s a good idea to talk about different types of bars you might see. Typically, the word barbell refers to a long, straight weightlifting bar.

But there are a few other bars you might want to use for bicep exercises, too. So let’s look at the definitions and differences between these bars.

Conventional Weightlifting Barbell

A weightlifting or Olympic barbell is a straight bar that typically measures about 7 feet long and weighs 44 to 45 lbs (20-20.5kg). These bars are most commonly found in commercial and home gyms due to their versatility and durability.

For example, weightlifting bars can be used for many exercises, including squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and overhead presses. And, of course, you can also use this barbell for bicep exercises.

Olympic Barbell Bicep Exercises

Fixed Weight Barbell

A fixed-weight barbell is a weightlifting bar with a set weight that cannot be adjusted. Unlike an Olympic barbell, which requires weight plates to be added or removed to adjust the weight, a fixed-weight barbell is a single piece of equipment ready to use.

Fixed-weight barbells typically range from 10 pounds up to 110 pounds or more. In addition, they often have a compact design, making them a popular choice for home gyms or commercial fitness facilities with limited space.

One benefit of fixed-weight barbells is that they don’t require adding or adjusting weight plates, which can save time. However, their fixed weight can also limit their versatility for exercises that require a range of weights or gradual weight progression.

Finally, fixed-weight barbells come in the standard straight bar or with a curved EZ bar grip.

Fixed Weight Barbell Bicep Exercises

EZ Curl Bar

An EZ curl bar is a type of weightlifting bar that is used primarily for bicep and tricep exercises. The bar has a unique shape that features a zigzag or “W” pattern in the middle, which allows for a more comfortable and natural grip for the hands and wrists.

The EZ curl bar is typically shorter than a standard barbell, measuring around 4-5 feet in length, and weighs between 15-30 pounds. It is available in both fixed and adjustable versions and can hold weight plates with a 1-inch or 2-inch diameter opening.

EZ curl bars are versatile and can be used for a variety of exercises, including bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder presses, and more. The angled grip of the bar helps to reduce strain on the wrists and elbows, making it a popular choice for many gyms.

Related: See Curl Bar Weight by Type

EZ Barbell Bicep Exercises

Tricep Bar

A tricep bar is a weightlifting bar designed explicitly for tricep exercises. The bar has two parallel handles that are close together, allowing for a neutral grip during exercises.

The tricep bar is typically shorter than a standard barbell, measuring around 3-4 feet long, and weighs 10-30 pounds. It is generally adjustable and can hold weight plates with a 2-inch diameter opening.

Tricep bars are primarily used for exercises like tricep extensions or skull crushers. But you can also use the tricep bar for neutral grip bicep exercises.

Tri Bar Bicep Exercises

Landmine

Finally, a landmine attachment is a piece of gym equipment designed to be used with a weightlifting barbell. It consists of a cylindrical tube mounted on a pivot point, then anchored to the ground or a power rack.

The end of the barbell is inserted into the tube, allowing for a wide range of rotational movements and exercises, including rows, presses, and twists. But they can also be used to perform bicep exercises.

Landmine attachments are commonly found in home gyms and commercial fitness facilities. And they are relatively inexpensive compared to other gym equipment and can be easily installed on an existing weightlifting setup.

Best Barbell Bicep Exercises

Now that you know the benefits of barbell exercises and the types of bars you can use, let’s get into the best bicep exercises using the barbell. I’ve segmented this list into sections based on the type of bar used.

This way, you can quickly jump to exercises using your equipment. But remember that many of these exercises could be done with multiple barbell types.

Olympic Barbell Bicep Exercises

Most gyms have a straight barbell, whether an Olympic bar or a fixed-weight bar. So let’s start with the best bicep exercises using this standard piece of equipment.

1. Barbell Curl

The traditional barbell curl should be a staple exercise in any arm-building workout routine. The heavy bar and additional weight plates are excellent for building bicep size and strength.

Here’s how to do a barbell bicep curl:

  1. Grab the barbell with an underhand grip, with your palms facing up and your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your elbows close to your body and your upper arms stationary, and slowly curl the barbell upwards towards your chest while keeping your wrists straight.
  3. Pause at the top of the movement for a second, squeezing your biceps and slowly lowering the barbell back down to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips:

  • Avoid swinging your body or using momentum to lift the weight. Instead, keep your body stable and focus on using your biceps to curl the barbell.
  • Exhale as you lift the barbell, and inhale as you lower it.
  • Use a weight that challenges you but allows you to maintain proper form throughout the exercise.
Barbell Bicep Exercises - Underhand Curl

2. Barbell Drag Curl

Drag curls are a specific type of barbell curl used to target the outer bicep’s long head. While it looks strange, this movement can help you target and build the peak of your bicep.

Here’s how to do a barbell drag curl:

  1. Grab the barbell with an underhand grip, with your palms facing up and your hands about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Next, drag the barbell up your body until it reaches about chest level. Keep your elbows close to your body throughout the movement.
  3. Pause for a second at the top of the movement, squeezing your biceps and slowly lowering the barbell back down to the starting position, keeping it in contact with your body.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Or check out this 49-second video demonstration.

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe, or click on the button below!

3. Barbell Reverse Curls

The reverse curl is another barbell bicep exercise variation that uses an overhand rather than an underhand grip. This change in hand position works more of the outer bicep and upper forearm than standard curls.

Here’s how to do a barbell reverse curl:

  1. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, with your palms facing down and your hands slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your elbows close to your body and your upper arms stationary, and slowly curl the barbell upwards towards your chest while keeping your wrists straight.
  3. Pause at the top of the movement for a second, squeezing your forearms and slowly lowering the barbell to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Barbell Bicep Exercises Reverse Curl

EZ Bar Bicep Exercises

The EZ bar is probably the second most common type of bar found in gyms. Many basement or garage gym owners have an adjustable EZ bar. And fitness clubs often have the fixed-weight version.

So here are some barbell bicep exercises using the EZ bar.

4. EZ Bar Curl

The EZ bar curl is identical to the standard barbell curl except for your hand position. Again, the EZ bar puts your hands in a slightly more natural position to take some strain off your wrists.

In addition, you can use either a narrow or wide grip with the EZ bar. You should feel the narrow grip a little more in your outer bicep. By comparison, the wide grip is best for hitting the inner bicep.

Here’s a short video showing you how to do a wide-grip EZ bar curl:

5. Barbell Preacher Curl

The preacher curl involves a specialized bench that holds your upper arms in front of your body while performing the bicep curl exercise. This arm position helps work more of the bicep short head.

Remember, you can perform this exercise using a straight bar or an EZ bar. But most people will find the EZ curl bar more comfortable on their wrists.

Here’s how to perform barbell preacher curls:

  1. Adjust the preacher curl bench to the appropriate height for your arms. Next, sit on the bench with your chest against the pad and your arms extended over the top, holding the bar with an underhand grip.
  2. Keep your upper arms and elbows stationary, and slowly curl the barbell up towards your chest, focusing on using your biceps to lift the weight.
  3. Pause at the top of the movement for a second, squeezing your biceps and slowly lowering the barbell to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Barbell Bicep Exercises Preach Curl

6. Barbell Spider Curl

Spider curls are another exercise variation that puts your upper arms in front of your torso to work the inner bicep. However, with this exercise, you lie face down on an incline bench with your arms hanging down.

In addition, you don’t have a preacher bench supporting the back of your upper arms. So spider curls require you to hold your elbows in place while curling the bar.

Here’s how to do barbell spider curls:

  1. Set an incline bench at a 30 to 45-degree angle. Grab the bar with an underhand grip and your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Begin with your arms fully extended and your shoulders directly over the bar.
  3. Keep your upper arms stationary and curl the barbell towards your forehead by bending your elbows.
  4. Pause at the top of the movement, squeezing your biceps and slowly lowering the barbell to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tricep Bar Bicep Exercise

The tricep bar is perfect for neutral grip exercises like skull crushers. But it’s also an excellent way to do barbell hammer curls for targeting your outer biceps.

7. Barbell Hammer Curls

Hammer curls are generally a bicep exercise performed using dumbbells. In fact, they get their name from how the dumbbell looks like the head of a swinging hammer when curled with a neutral grip.

However, the parallel bar handles of the tricep bar perfectly replicate the “palms in” grip of hammer curls. And the closeness of the handles makes your arms rotate across your body, which further targets the outer bicep.

Here’s how to do a barbell hammer curl:

  1. Grab the tricep bar with your palms facing in and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Next, curl the bar towards your chest while keeping your upper arms relatively still.
  3. Squeeze your biceps at the top before slowly lowering the bar back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Barbell Bicep Exercises Hammer Curl

Landmine Barbell Bicep Exercises

Next are barbell bicep exercises involving the landmine attachment. These exercises offer the ability to perform single-arm or unilateral bicep exercises using the barbell. So it’s kind of like turning your barbell into a dumbbell!

8. Landmine Cross-Body Curl

The landmine cross-body curl is a barbell bicep exercise replicating the cross-body dumbbell curl. Again, this arm position helps isolate the outer bicep. But the underhand grip also targets the inner bicep. So this exercise is good for working both heads.

Here’s how to do a landmine cross-body curl:

  1. Start by standing perpendicular to the landmine barbell and hold the bar sleeve with an underhand grip.
  2. Next, curl the bar up and across your body, following the natural arc of the barbell.
  3. Squeeze your bicep at the top before lowering the bar back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

9. Landmine Concentration Curl

The last exercise on the list is the landmine concentration curl. This exercise replicates the dumbbell concentration curl, which is excellent for building the inner bicep head.

Here’s how to do a landmine concentration curl:

  1. Start by straddling the landmine barbell so that you have one foot on either side.
  2. Bend your knees and lean forward at the waist so your back is nearly parallel to the floor.
  3. Grab the barbell sleeve with one hand and your palm facing upwards.
  4. Curl the end of the bar towards your chest and squeeze your bicep at the top.
  5. Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.

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Barbell Bicep Workout

I recommend including at least one barbell bicep exercise in your next arm workout. But, if you want, you could do an entire bicep workout with only a barbell!

One advantage of this workout is that you can rapidly change exercises, which saves time. In addition, you can burn more calories by mainly performing standing exercises.

This workout includes multiple hand and arm positions to hit both heads of your biceps. And repetitions from as low as 6 reps up to 15 reps to exhaust as many muscle fibers as possible.

Example Barbell Bicep Workout:

  • Barbell Curl
    • 4 sets, 6-10 reps
  • Barbell Preacher Curl (or Spider Curl)
    • 4 sets, 8-12 reps
  • Barbell Drag Curl (or Reverse Curl)
    • 4 sets, 8-12
  • Landmine Concentration Curl
    • 4 sets, 10-15 reps

More Bicep Exercises & Workouts

The barbell bicep exercises you just learned are excellent for building bigger arms with limited equipment. But, if you can, you should also include some barbells, cables, or machines.

So click the links below for arm exercises that go above and beyond barbells alone.

Top 19 Bicep Peak Exercises to Fix Flat Arms

Dumbbell Spider Curls for Thicker Arms

3 Simple Steps to Get Wider Biceps

Hammer Curls vs Bicep Curls Exercise Comparison

Complete Dumbbell Back & Bicep Workout

21 Best Cable Arm Exercises

Chris Bumstead Arm Size & Arm Day Workouts

If you feel you’ve got a good handle on the exercises, check out some of my other fitness-related content below. These articles include topics covering all things bodybuilding, nutrition, and supplements.

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By |April 24, 2023|Workouts|0 Comments
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