Barbell Curls: The Muscles Worked

If you’re looking to increase your strength and overall muscular development, barbell curls are an excellent exercise choice.

When done correctly, this classic move will engage multiple muscles in the upper arm area, as well as other areas of the body.

Understanding which muscles are worked by barbell curls is essential for maximizing gains from this popular lift.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the various muscles worked by barbell curls, explore some of their benefits, and offer a few variations on how to perform them effectively.

Plus we’ll take a look at alternative exercises that target similar muscle groups.

Barbell Curls Muscles Worked

Muscles Worked by Barbell Curls

Primary Muscles:

The primary muscles worked when performing barbell curls are the biceps brachii and brachialis.

These two muscles work together to flex the elbow joint, which is the main movement of a barbell curl.

The biceps brachii is located on the front of your upper arm and has two heads originating from different points in your shoulder blade area.

The brachialis lies underneath the biceps and originates from just below your elbow joint.

Both of these muscles help to bring your forearm up towards your shoulder during a curl exercise.

Secondary Muscles:

In addition to working the primary muscle groups, barbell curls also engage several secondary muscle groups including the forearms, shoulders, trapezius (upper back), and core musculature.

Your forearms act as stabilizers throughout each repetition by helping to keep tension on both sides of your wrists while curling up with a straight-back posture.

Your shoulders assist in keeping proper form throughout each rep by providing stability for your arms while they move through their range of motion.

Lastly, engaging your core helps you maintain good posture while curling so that all energy is focused on moving only one part of your body at a time instead of using other areas for momentum or balance assistance during an exercise set.

Benefits of Barbell Curls

When done correctly, barbell curls can help to build size and definition in your arms while also increasing overall strength.

Improved Strength and Muscle Mass:

Barbell curls target both fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers, allowing you to increase your strength quickly with consistent practice.

With regular use of this exercise, you will be able to lift heavier weights over time as your muscles become stronger and more resilient.

As a result, you can develop larger biceps that are better defined than before.

Improved Posture and Balance:

By strengthening the muscles around your shoulders through barbell curls, you can improve your posture by reducing tension on other areas, such as your back or neck.

Additionally, since these exercises involve stabilizing movements that require balance from both sides of the body at once, they help strengthen core muscles like those found in the abdominals, which helps promote good posture even when not actively exercising.

Regular practice of barbell curls can help reduce stiffness in joints, making them less prone to injury during physical activity due to their ability to increase blood flow throughout the entire arm area, including tendons and ligaments surrounding the elbow joint itself.

This exercise also increases flexibility within joints like elbows or wrists, allowing for greater range of motion during other activities outside of lifting weights, such as sports or everyday tasks like gardening or reaching items off high shelves.

Exercise Variations for Barbell Curls

Standing Barbell Curl:

This exercise is a classic strength training move that targets the biceps.

To perform this variation, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell in both hands with an overhand grip.

Keep your elbows close to your sides as you curl the weight up towards your chest, squeezing your biceps at the top of the movement before slowly lowering it back down.

Keep good form throughout by not swinging or jerking the weight and avoiding locking out your elbows at any point during the exercise.

Seated Barbell Curl:

This variation can be done on a bench or chair for increased stability and balance while performing the exercise.

Start by sitting upright with feet flat on the floor and holding a barbell in both hands with an underhand grip (palms facing up).

Keeping arms close to the body, curl the weight up towards shoulders until forearms are parallel to the ground then lower back down slowly for one rep.

Ensure proper form by not arching back or using momentum from legs/hips when curling weight upwards.

Alternating Barbell Curl:

This advanced version of barbell curls helps increase muscular endurance and coordination while also targeting smaller stabilizing muscles in addition to larger ones like biceps brachii (the main muscle worked during regular curls).

Begin standing upright with feet hip-width apart, holding a barbell in both hands using an alternating grip (one hand overhand, other underhand) so that palms face each other when gripping the barbell tightly.

Slowly curl one arm up towards the shoulder, then switch arms without resting between reps; continue alternating until the desired number of reps has been completed for one set, then rest before repeating if needed.

Alternative Exercises for Working the Same Muscles as Barbell Curls

Dumbbell Bicep Curl Variations:

Dumbbell bicep curls are a great alternative to barbell curls and can be done with either one or two dumbbells.

The most common variation is the standing dumbbell curl, which involves holding a single dumbbell in each hand and curling them up towards your shoulders.

For an added challenge, you can also do alternating dumbbell curls by curling one arm at a time.

You can also try hammer curls, which involve keeping your palms facing inward as you curl the weights up toward your chest.

Hammer Curl Variations:

Hammer curls are similar to regular bicep curls but involve keeping your palms facing inward throughout the exercise.

This variation puts more emphasis on the brachialis muscle located on the outside of your upper arms and helps build strength in that area.

You can perform this exercise using both arms simultaneously or alternate between each arm for an extra challenge.

To make it even harder, try doing incline hammer curls while seated on an inclined bench or step-up box with feet flat on the floor and torso leaning back slightly so that elbows are higher than hands when starting position is reached.

Cable Bicep Curl Variations:

Cable bicep curl variations are another great way to work out those same muscles as barbell curls without using free weights like dumbbells or barbells.

With cables, you have more control over how much weight you’re lifting since they provide constant tension throughout the entire range of motion, unlike free weights, which require momentum from gravity to move them through their range of motion.

Some cable exercises include straight cable curl, reverse grip cable curl, overhead cable curl, cross body hammer cable curl, wide grip rope press down, and narrow grip rope press down.

These exercises help target different areas of your arms, such as the inner head, outer head, brachialis etc.

FAQs in Relation to Barbell Curls Muscles Worked

Do barbell curls work chest?

No, barbell curls do not work the chest muscles.

While they can help to strengthen the biceps and forearms, they primarily target the muscles of the upper arms.

To effectively target your chest muscles, you should focus on exercises such as bench presses, push-ups, and dips that involve pushing movements rather than pulling movements like barbell curls.

What happens if I do barbell curls every day?

Barbell curls are an excellent exercise for building strength and size in the biceps, but doing them every day can lead to overtraining.

Overtraining can cause muscle fatigue, joint pain, decreased performance, and even injury.

Mixing up your workouts with other exercises like rows or tricep extensions to ensure you’re getting a balanced workout that won’t put too much strain on any muscle group.

Give yourself rest days between sessions, so your body can recover and grow stronger.

Are barbell curls better than bicep curls?

It is difficult to definitively answer whether barbell curls are better than bicep curls as it depends on various factors, such as individual goals and preferences.

Barbell curls can provide more stability and control when performing the exercise due to the weight being distributed evenly across both arms.

However, bicep curls allow for greater range of motion and may be more comfortable for some individuals.

Ultimately, which exercise is best will depend on what you hope to achieve from your strength training program.


By understanding which muscles are worked by barbell curls, you can ensure that your workouts are as effective as possible.

Additionally, there are several variations of this exercise available, such as hammer curls or incline dumbbell curls, so you can find an option that works best for you.

Finally, if barbell curls aren’t accessible to you due to equipment limitations or injury prevention reasons, there are plenty of alternative exercises that work the same muscles as barbell curls.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to make sure your workouts target the right muscles when doing barbell curl exercises.