Spider Curls Exercise

7 Form Tips for Building Bigger Biceps

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: September 29, 2021

Spider curls are a good exercise for isolating your arms and building your biceps. But there are some subtle changes you can take this exercise from good to great.

In this article, you’ll get 7 pointers on spider curl form. With these subtle tweaks, you’ll maximize muscle stimulation and build bigger biceps.

In addition, I give you several variations and alternatives so you can do this movement with whatever gym equipment you have.

Spider Curls

What Are Spider Curls?

Spider curls are an arm exercise where you brace your upper body against an incline bench while curling a weight. The bench stabilizes your body so that only your arms move during the exercise.

In addition, the way your arms hang in front of you changes how the muscles work compared to other exercises.

Spider Curls Muscles Worked

As with all arm curl movements, spider curls primarily target the bicep muscles. The bicep is actually made up of two smaller muscles or heads.

These are called the long head and the short head. The long head makes up the outer part of your bicep. While the short head makes up the inner part.

Spider Curls Muscles Worked

Figure 1. The “bi” in bicep means it consists of two smaller muscles the run the length of the front of your arm.

In real life, it’s difficult to see the separation between your inner and outer bicep. But the colored areas in the image below show approximately how the bicep muscle is divided between the long and short heads.

Spider Curls Bicep Peak

Figure 2. Arnold Schwarzenegger is known for his mountainous biceps peak, which is the result of a super developed inner bicep.

The long head is what gives your biceps height or “peak.” But, at the same time, the short head adds bicep width.  So if you want to make your bicep thicker, you need to target the short head or inner bicep.

How To Target The Short Head

There are a few different ways to target the short head or inner part of the bicep. The first is a supinated or palms-up grip that activates the inner bicep more.

Another factor is if your arm is angled inward or outward. For example, a wide grip where your arms angle away from your body brings the inner bicep into the movement more.

Lastly is whether your arm is in front of or behind your body. The farther out in front of your body your arm gets, the more you work the inner bicep.

Spider Curls Benefits & Limitations

Your arms are automatically out in front of your body with spider curls. And you can choose to use a wide palms-up grip. So this exercise can target the inner bicep in multiple ways.


  • Prevents unnecessary movement and eliminates momentum to isolate the bicep
  • Places arms in front of the body to target short head
  • Able to change the grip to target the inner bicep further


  • Not the best exercise for going heavy

How To Do Spider Curls

Set an incline bench at 30-45 degrees to do spider curls. Next, lie face down on the bench with your chest resting at the top. Then let your arms hang straight down towards the floor.

Tip: You can carry the bar over the bench as you get in position. Or you can have a partner hand it to you after you lie face down.

From this starting position, curl the weight up towards your face while keeping your upper arms relatively still. At the top, your arms should be bent 90-degrees or less.

Now lower the weight until your arms are straight again. But don’t let your biceps relax at the bottom, keep them under constant tension. After your set, drop the weight or lift it back over the bench.

To recap, here are the step-by-step directions:

  1. Set up the incline bench and lay face down with the weight at arm’s length
  2. Curl the weight while keeping your upper arms still
  3. Lower the weight again but keep your biceps under tension
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps

EZ Bar Spider Curls Video

7 Tips For Spider Curls Form

The description and video above should give you a good idea of how to do spider curls properly. But here are 7 additional tips to really help you isolate those biceps.

1. Don’t Make The Bench Too Steep

The steeper the angle of the bench, the closer your upper arms get to your body. And remember, having your arms in front of your body is what helps target the short head and that’s what we’re after with this exercise.

So make sure you set the bench at a 45-degree angle or less from the floor.

2. Imagine Your Elbows Are Pinned In Place

I’ve said a few times already to keep your upper arms perpendicular to the floor throughout the movement. But if you’re having trouble with this, think of it like your elbow is pinned in place during exercise.

In other words, only your lower arms should move from the bottom of the movement to the top.

Spider Curl Form

Figure 3. Notice how the upper arm and elbow are in pretty much the same position at the top and bottom of the movement.

3. Use An Underhand Grip

You could choose to do spider curls with an overhand or even a hammer grip. However, if you chose this exercise for biceps width, you should use the palms-up grip to hit the inner bicep with laser focus.

4. Use The Full Range Of Motion

Another thing to keep in mind is to perform the exercise through the full range of motion. That is, going all the way down and all the way up as shown in Figure 3.

5. Squeeze At The Top

When you get to the top, try to squeeze your biceps as tight as possible. Imagine the muscle forming a tight sphere like a baseball (soon to be a softball).

6. Use A Weight You Can Do For 8-12 Reps

When training for muscle gain, it’s important to use a weight where you can complete 8-12 reps. Studies show this is the optimal rep range for muscle growth.

7. Go To Failure

When I say 8-12 reps, I don’t mean that you just stop when you get to 12… going to failure means you can’t physically do another rep. So choose a weight where failure occurs after 8 reps but before 12 reps.

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Spider Curls Variations & Alternatives

As with most bicep exercises, there are multiple ways to do spider curls using different equipment. So below is a list of exercise variations as well as alternatives you can do without an incline bench.

EZ Bar Spider Curls

Probably the most common type of spider curls involves the use of an EZ curl bar. This is a smaller barbell with a curved shaft to make it easier to grip.

One benefit of the curved handle is that it allows you to use the palms-up grip without putting excess stress on your wrists.

Barbell Spider Curls

If you don’t have an EZ curl bar, you can also do spider curls with a standard barbell. The straight bar gives you more options on grip width. Although it can put more stress on your wrist and forearm.

Related: Curl Bar Weight by Type & Brand

Dumbbell Spider Curls

Another good option is to use dumbbells instead of a barbell. With dumbbell spider curls, each arm must work independently, which prevents the dominant one from taking over.

In addition, you have the option to work both arms simultaneously or alternate arms. You can even do a whole set with one arm to focus on the mind muscle connection.

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!

Hammer Spider Curls

Hammer curls are a variation of dumbbell curls where you keep your palms facing inward. This hand position works both the inner and outer bicep. As well as the top of the forearm.

While hitting more muscles may sound like a good idea, it minimizes the effectiveness of spider curls for targeting the long head. So I don’t usually recommend this variation.

Preacher Spider Curls

A preacher bench is designed to support the back of your arms as you perform bicep curls. Usually, the angle of the arm support is roughly 45-degrees. But some preacher benches are steeper or have a completely vertical side.

When using a very steep or vertical preacher bench, the arm position ends up being very similar to the spider curl. To get an idea, look at how Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing preacher curls in Figure 2.

Cable Spider Curls

One way to do cable spider curls is by moving the incline bench close to the cable apparatus. But you can also do cable spider curls at a seated row station by keeping your arms straight out in front of you or resting on your knees.

Single Arm Dumbbell Spider Curl

Another way to do spider curls without a bench is with a variation of dumbbell concentration curls. With this exercise, you lean forward while performing a single-arm dumbbell curl.

To simulate the spider curl movement, try to curl the dumbbell straight out in front of you as opposed to across your body.

Single Arm Dumbbell Spider Curls

Figure 4. Arnold Schwarzenegger doing concentration curls to the front, which is very similar to spider curls.

Hypertrophy Training Program

Spider curls are one of the best exercises for adding mass and thickness to your bicep. But if you really want to reach your fitness goals, you need a complete resistance training plan designed for muscle gain.

In order to maximize muscle growth (aka hypertrophy), you should adjust 10 specific training variables. Check out my free hypertrophy training program to see how to optimize your workouts.

With this information, you’ll be well on your way to building bigger arms and a better body. And if you found this article useful, I hope you’ll check out some of my other informative content below!

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By |September 29, 2021|Workouts|0 Comments
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