How To Do The Seated Barbell Curl Properly

The seated barbell curl, also known as the sitting barbell curl, works your biceps using resistance from a barbell, from a seated position.

It is a fantastic movement to include in your bicep workout, not just as a primary exercise but also as a secondary one in a few instances, as you will soon learn in this article.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Get an adjustable bench and set it to 90 degrees.
  • Load the desired amount of weight onto a barbell.
  • Grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip.
  • Sit on the bench and rest the barbell on your thighs .
  • Curl the bar up while keeping it very close to your body.
  • Keep lifting it until your biceps come into contact with the forearms.
  • Hold this position for a second or two, before lowering the weight slowly and with control until the weight is almost touching your legs.
  • Do 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps each.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE SEATED BARBELL CURL WORK?

At the very center of the focus of the seated barbell curl is the biceps brachii muscle on your upper arm.

This is the muscle responsible for the flexion and outward rotation of your upper arms.

Other muscles recruited in this movement are the forearm flexors, brachialis and brachioradialis.

BENEFITS OF SEATED BARBELL CURL

ENHANCES PROPER FORM

This exercise encourages you to curl the weight with strict form because you cannot swing the bar using your back, hips and legs when they are rendered motionless in your seated position.

YOU CAN LIFT MORE WEIGHT

The seated barbell curl allows you to lift a bit more weight than the standing variation because the bar does not have to travel very far.

Also, curling from a seated position allows you to fully focus on using only your arms to lift as the rest of your body remains stationary.

WORKS THE LONG HEAD OF THE BICEPS

If you mostly only do exercises like the straight bar spider curl and the preacher curl, both which involve curling with your arm out in front of your body, with time you might discover that the long head of your biceps is severely underdeveloped.

This could be because the biceps lack that peak or width that they gain when the long head is sufficiently developed.

To work the long head effectively during the seated barbell curl, keep the weight as close to your body as possible so that you drift your elbows behind your torso to naturally shift the tension onto the long head of the biceps.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE SEATED BARBELL CURL

STANDING CABLE CURL

The standing cable curl gives your biceps a thorough workout by maintaining constant tension in the muscle fibres since the resistance pulls from a diagonal direction.

Steps:

  • Stand about two feet away from a cable column and grab a cable machine handle.
  • Pin your elbows into your sides and maintain them in that position. Lean slightly away from the column.
  • Inhale deeply and tighten your core.
  • Curl the handle upwards without moving your elbows away from your upper body.
  • Slowly, lower the cable handle until you fully extend your elbows.

If you do not want to rock forwards and backwards during this movement, try slowing down to control the ascent portion.

Curling the handle up too aggressively may make you tip forward and ruin your form.

ZOTTMAN CURL

The Zottman curl is almost similar to the seated barbell curl except it involves additional rotation through the forearms and more time under tension for your muscles.

It also uses dumbbells to work your muscles instead of a barbell.

Steps:

  • Stand upright with your feet together and grab onto a pair of dumbbells, one in each hand.
  • Press your elbows against your torso.
  • With your palms facing forward, curl the weights upwards
  • Stop curling just before your elbows start moving away from your torso.
  • Hold for a few seconds and rotate the forearms to make your palms face downwards.
  • Lower the weights to the bottom position until you fully extend your elbows.
  • Rotate your forearms in the other way to make your palms face forward.
  • Repeat these reps for the desired number of reps.

SEATED BARBELL CURL MISTAKES TO AVOID

USING YOUR SHOULDERS

Swinging the barbell up using your shoulders shifts the focus of the exercise from your arm muscles to your shoulders and the result of that is reduced effectiveness of the movement.

Always use your biceps to lift the weight when performing this exercise.

RUSHING THROUGH YOUR REPS

While it may seem more practical to perform reps quickly especially if you are looking to burn calories, it may in actual sense hinder your progress.

Your motions should be smooth, slow and controlled to keep as much tension  in your biceps as possible.

If you are unable to slow down your movement on your own, you can instead reduce the amount of weight so that you can focus on perfecting your form first.

SQUEEZING THE BARBELL TOO HARD

While you may want to have a tight grip on the weight you’re lifting so that it does not slip, giving it a death grip will do you more harm than good.

It recruits your forearms instead of the biceps, and you may end up not working the biceps as well as you wished to.

CONCLUSION

You’d  think that because it allows for the use of strict form, the seated barbell curl is ideal for beginners who are just getting started on working their biceps but in real sense, the opposite is true.

It is ideal as a secondary exercise for intermediate and advanced lifters who want to touch upon their physiques.

This is because it essentially promotes training through half reps.

For beginners, other curl variations that allow you to use a full range of motion are ideal for building muscle mass.

The seated barbell curl sure is a great way to grow your biceps but you’re likely to get a better outcome if you combine it with other bicep-building exercises such as those mentioned in here.

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