barbell curl alternative
Exercise Alternative

10 Barbell Curl Alternatives for Massive Upper Arms

The barbell curl will always be the king of biceps exercises. If you are after massive upper arms, it should form the foundation of your routine. But the traditional barbell curl can quickly get pretty boring. Here are ten alternative exercises designed to spice up your bicep workout without losing any of the benefits of the regular barbell curl.

1. Close Grip Barbell Curls

Why it’s a great alternative + muscles worked

The close grip curl is a stricter form of the regular barbell curl that shifts the focus to your inner bicep head. 

Equipment used

Barbell

Step-by-step how-to

1. Stand with a barbell held at arm’s length with your pinkies just six inches apart.

2. Keeping your elbows in at your sides, curl the bar up to shoulder level.

3. Lower and repeat.

Tips

Do not swing with your back; keep your feet even – no staggered stance.

2. Close Grip EZ-Bar Curls

Why it’s a great alternative + muscles worked

Doing a close grip curl with an EZ curl bar allows you to angle your hand positioning. This puts even more direct emphasis on the inner biceps head, making this a very targeted exercise for biceps mass. 

Equipment used

EZ curl barbell

Step-by-step how-to

1. Grab the barbell with your hands gripping the first of the angled portions so that your pinkies are about eight inches apart. 

2. Curl the bar directly up so that your hands end up at chest level. 

3. Lower and repeat.

Tips

Squeeze your biceps in the top position. Make sure that your arms are moving through a complete range of motion.

3. Wall Curl

Why it’s a great alternative + muscles worked

The wall curl is a very strict form of the regular barbell curl because it takes all momentum out of the exercise. The wall prevents you from swinging your back so that it’s all biceps!

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Equipment used

Wall, barbell

Step-by-step how-to

1. Stand with your back against the wall with a barbell held at arm’s length. Your butt and shoulder blades should be against the wall at all times.

2. Curl the bar up to full biceps contraction.

3. Lower under control and repeat.

Tips

It is imperative that your entire backstays against the wall at all times. You may have to use a lighter weight to keep this move extremely strict. You can also do a wall dumbbell curl. 

4. Plate Curl

Why it’s a great alternative + muscles worked

The plate curl allows you to get a good bicep workout in even if you don’t have access to a barbell or dumbbells. It also strengthens your grip more than most other curl versions.

Equipment used

 Weight plate

Step-by-step how-to

1. Stand with a weight plate gripped in your hands at arm’s length in front of your groin. You should be holding the plate on its edges.

2. Curl the plate up to chest level.

3. Lower and repeat.

Tips

Contract the biceps tightly at the top of each rep.

5. Incline Band Curl

Why it’s a great alternative + muscles worked

The incline band curl is a strict version of the curl that can be done when you don’t have access to free weights. It works on both heads of the biceps muscle.

Equipment used

Incline bench, resistance exercise band

Step-by-step how-to

1. Set an incline bench to a 45-degree angle and get on the bench with a resistance loop band in your hands. Place band under your feet and adjust so that it is taut when you are seated with your arms hanging down.

2. Curl both arms up at the same time.

3. Lower together and repeat.

Tips

It is vital that the band is taut in the starting position of the exercise. Adjust the length that is under your feet to allow for this. 

6. Chain Curls

Why it’s a great alternative + muscles worked

The chain curl allows you to increase the load as you are curling. This matches the natural strength curve, recruiting more muscle fibers and making the exercise harder toward the end of the curl.

Related Post:  13 Decline Bench Press Alternatives

Equipment used

 Barbell, chains

Step-by-step how-to

1. Grab a standard barbell and then place a chain on each end of the bar so that the links of the chain go down to the floor and bunch up there.

2. From this starting position, curl the bar up to shoulder level. As the chain comes off the floor, the resistance will increase.

3. Lower and repeat.

Tips

You will need to experiment to get the ideal chain length. Rather than focusing on heavy weights, concentrate on feeling and contracting the working muscle. 

7. Seated Barbell Curl

Why it’s a great alternative + muscles worked

The seated version of the standard barbell curl is a much stricter exercise as you are not able to use your legs to create momentum.

Equipment used

Barbell curl, flat bench.

Step-by-step how-to

1. Sit on a flat bench with a barbell resting on your lap.

2. Grab the barbell just outside your thigh level.

3. Curl the bar up to your chest level.

4. Slowly lower under control.

Tips

Do not swing with your back. Be sure to move through a full range of motion. 

8. TRX Curl

Why it’s a great alternative + muscles worked

The TRX curl makes use of gravity and your body weight to provide overload on the biceps muscle.

Equipment used

TRX 

Step-by-step how-to

1. Secure a TRX band to a secure upright and stand in front of it, grabbing the handles with an underhand grip. Lean back until your arms are fully extended.

2. Return to an upright position by pulling your body forward and curling your arms too full contraction.

3. Lower under control back to the start position.

Tips

To make the exercise harder stand further away from the anchor point.

9. Fat Grip Curl

Why it’s a great alternative + muscles worked

The Fat Grip curl places more emphasis on your forearms while you are curling. It will strengthen your grip as it builds your biceps.

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Equipment used

Fat Gripz, barbell

Step-by-step how-to

1. Place a Fat Grip on a standard barbell and hold the bar with hands shoulder-width apart.

2. From this starting position, curl the bar up to your chest level.

3. Lower and repeat

Tips

Squeeze the Fat Grips tightly to activate the forearms.

10. Sissy Curl

Why it’s a great alternative + muscles worked

By leaning back and bringing your knees forward when you do the sissy curl, you are able to increase the moment arm to make the exercise harder in the bottom position and better follow the natural strength curve of the biceps. 

Equipment used

Barbell

Step-by-step how-to

1. Stand with a barbell held as if you were about to do a standard barbell curl.

2. Lean back and bring your knees forward as if you were about to do a sissy squat.

3. Curl the bar up to full bicep contraction.

4. Reverse and repeat.

Tips

This is a strict version of the curl. You may have to lower the weight that you are using.

Conclusion

In this article, I’ve presented you with some unique and interesting traditional bicep curl exercises to take your workouts beyond the productive but quite boring standard curl. Why not experiment with them to find out which ones work best for you? Then throw them into your routine to keep your muscles guessing and to add some spice to your routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you improve your biceps peak?

No, you cannot improve the biceps peak. The shape of your biceps is determined by your genetics. You can make the muscle bigger but the basic shape will never change. 

Do preacher curls work forearm muscles?

No, doing the curl on the preacher curl bench is primarily a biceps exercise. However, if you do the preacher hammer curl this will switch the focus to the biceps. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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