Muscles Targeted: Close grip barbell curls is one of the best mass building exercises for your arms. It’s very effective for increasing strength and building rapid growth in both the inner and outer heads of the biceps muscles (bicep brachii). With the close grip, also referred to as a “narrow grip”, the long head of the bicep muscle is emphasized more with the positioning of the hands with this movement.
Exercise Instructions: Hold a barbell securely with both hands using an underhand grip (palms up) and position your hands about 4-6 inches apart on the bar. Stand straight up and keep your back flat with your shoulders back in a firm and stable position. Slowly curl the bar up to the top position while flexing your biceps at the peak to get a full contraction. Keep your elbows in a fixed position and tucked in closely to your sides during the movement (do not move your elbows up and down). Slowly return the weight back down to the starting position and repeat.
Why This Exercise is Important: Close grip barbell curls is one of best movements for adding size and strength to your biceps. With the normal grip, the major emphasis is on both heads of the biceps. However, the further you move your hands inward you add emphasis on the outer and longer head of biceps. There are many variations of the close grip barbell curl exercise that you can incorporate into your arm workouts by using either the traditional straight barbell or you can opt for the EZ-bar which places your wrists in a much more natural position while curling the weight up and down. Increasing strength in the biceps is extremely important not only for aesthetics (beach muscles) but also for functional daily activities like picking up heavy objects during the day (luggage, children, groceries).
Things To Avoid: Overall form and technique is crucial when performing this exercise. It is a very common mistake to “cheat” and swing the weight up while performing this movement. If you are swinging back and forth as you lift the weight up and down, you are simply cheating yourself and this reduces the emphasis of the exercise and it could possibly lead to an injury. Be closely aware of your body positioning and overall stability.
When you bring your hands close together on the bar, there is a natural tendency to put extra stress on your lower back and lean over while hunching your shoulders and upper back. Place your feet securely on the ground with a shoulder width stance and a slight bend in your knees to take some pressure off your back. Keep your shoulders back, your chest out and your back straight during the execution of this exercise. Posture is extremely important with this movement in order to place proper tension on the biceps and avoid injury to the back.
Make sure to also avoid any type of fast and jerky movements and always perform this exercise with a smooth and controlled tempo at all times. Always be aware of your technique and train in front of a mirror if you want to really examine your positioning to adhere to correct form. Warm-up your biceps with very light weight when first starting out with around 15-20 reps to get blood into the muscle and your arms fully warmed up before moving into heavier sets.
Reps and Sets: If you are still a beginner, shoot for 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps on this exercise. As you advance, you can increase the weight and overall sets to 4-5 and decrease the reps to 6-8 per set in order to properly overload the biceps.
Other Exercises To Use: This exercise can be coupled with the following biceps and triceps exercises to complete a great mass building arm workout in the gym:
- Alternating Hammer Curls
- Machine Preacher Curls
- Concentration Curls
- Lying Triceps Extensions
- V-Bar Pushdowns
- Triceps Kickbacks
View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps.