Muscles Targeted: This is one of the best exercises to include in your arm workout for building mass and strength in your biceps. Wide grip barbell curls target several different muscle groups of the arm which includes the biceps brachii (2 heads of the biceps), brachialis (area between the biceps and triceps) and brachioradialis (forearms). This is a great exercise for targeting the small head of the biceps, located on the inner part of the arm, due to the wide grip position of the hands which creates an angled position of the forearms and places maximum tension on the small head.
Exercise Instructions: Hold a straight barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing upward) at just outside a shoulder width position with your hands (a little wider than normal barbell curls). Position your feet securely on the ground with an athletic stance and a slight bend in your knees. Keep your back straight, shoulders back and chest out. Let the barbell hang down comfortably and rest it on your upper thighs. Slowly curl the barbell up to the top to a position at about the upper chest. Be sure to keep your elbows tucked in firmly at your sides and avoid moving them up and down throughout the movement. Slowly return the bar back down to the starting position and repeat.
Why This Exercise is Important: Biceps are probably the most noticeable muscle group on a person’s physique. Because of this, there are many gym-goers who spend the majority of their time in the gym training them. This attention is disproportionate to their size because the biceps is one of the smallest muscle groups on the body. What happens is that these same people who are doing way too many sets and exercises, end up quickly overtraining this muscle group which halts their progress quickly and then they wonder why their arms aren’t growing and getting any bigger. The key point to learn from this is to only use a limited number of overall sets for your entire biceps workout. This means a total of about 7-8 sets, not 15-20 sets and train them only once per week, not 3-4 times! Hit your guns hard with the right exercises and then let them rest, recover and grow.
Aside from aesthetics, there are many real life benefits to toning and strengthening your biceps. Your arms connect your body to the world. You lift, move, push and pull objects using your arms. You even hug people using them. Weak arm muscles will definitely affect your daily life activities and definitely limit your growth potential in the gym.
Nevertheless, despite their importance, exercises to build biceps consists mostly of curls. Therefore, there is the possibility that you might get bored when training them each week with similar movements. Wide grip barbell curls will ensure that you keep your arm training sessions fun, exciting and stimulating by hitting them with different angles.
Things To Avoid: If you have elbow problems, be careful when doing wide grip barbell curls. Check the weight of your barbell because any additional resistance increases the stress to your elbows. And if your joints are weak, make sure that you do not overdo this exercise and injure yourself. Skip this variation if you have back problems, and instead opt for seated bicep exercises (on a bench with back support) like dumbbell curls and hammer curls.
Your exercise technique and form is extremely important when doing wide grip barbell curls. Spread your hands out a little wider than your shoulders, but not too far that it places too much tension on the rotator cuffs which will render the exercise useless and could possibly cause injury. Plant your feet firmly on the floor, hip-width apart and let your arms rest in front of your thighs. Pull in your abdominals, stand tall and slightly bend your knees. Curl the bar up to about the upper chest, pause for a moment, and then slowly return the barbell back down to the starting position. Make sure to maintain proper posture throughout the entire range of motion. This exercise is best performed in front of a mirror or with the assistance of a training partner who can correct your technique if you start to get sloppy.
As you go through the repetitions, remember to relax your knees a little to protect your back and do not rock back and forth. If you are doing this, it means that you are “cheating” the weight up and you’re probably using too much weight so don’t let your ego get the best of you. Take a few plates off the barbell and drop the weight down so you can properly execute the movement. You should avoid using momentum from your upper body to help curl the barbell up to the top (arching your back and swinging the weight). Use a very slow and controlled tempo at all times and really try to feel the “burn” in your muscles as you finish each repetition.
Reps and Sets: As noted earlier, since your arm muscles are smaller than the rest of your main upper body muscles (back and chest), there is no need to spend a lot of time training them with tons of different exercises. If your goal is merely to tone and strengthen them, perform 10-12 reps for 1-3 sets using wide grip barbell curls. For those who aim to maximize size and strength, drop the reps down to 6-8 reps, increase the weight and do 3-4 sets. Make sure to properly warm up your muscles before your workout with a set of 15-20 reps with very light weight to get some blood into the muscle and prime your body for an intense workout.
Other Exercises To Use: Train your biceps and triceps equally if you want well-developed and symmetrical arms. Aside from wide grip barbell curls, you can include alternating hammer curls and cable preacher curls for an effective biceps workout routine. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps and other muscle groups.