The Seated Barbell Curl to Build Biceps

Turn your bicep peaks into mountains

When it comes to hitting your bicep curls, there are plenty of pieces of gym equipment you can use as well as positions you can take up to change how your muscles are hit. Preacher curls, cable curls, barbell curls, and so on. When you are doing your barbell bicep curls, typically you do them standing to get the full range of motion and really stress the muscle. But, have you ever tried a seated barbell curl?

A seated barbell curl? You might be thinking that there is absolutely no way you can perform such a thing and have it actually be effective for your physique and strength. However, this movement could hit your biceps like never before, and further your gains even more.

What is a Seated Barbell Curl?

Honestly, you may have never heard of a seated barbell curl before, as they are not all that common in the gym. However, a seated barbell curl is performed exactly how it sounds; it is pretty much just a barbell curl that you do when you are seated. You would sit on an adjustable weight bench at 90 degrees, the barbell would rest in your lap, and you curl up. 

The seated barbell curl eliminates the bottom part of the barbell curl and you are left completing just the mid to top half of the movement, which helps hit the peak of the bicep.

How to Perform the Seated Barbell Curl

Many times, people will place the bar too close to their knees before they start the movement, and this is not the proper way to do the exercise. 

Instead, you should rest the barbell closer to your body and perform the movement almost like a drag curl. This will hit more of the outside head of the biceps, and develop your peak a bit more. 

Another thing worth noting is you should watch how much weight you are using for this movement. You do not want to go too heavy, as that compromises your posture and even your form, causing you to lean forward too much. This will recruit other muscle groups such as the back

To properly execute the movement, you can rest the barbell on your quads, cock your shoulders back slightly, and curl the weight up. Another way to make it a little more interesting is utilizing an EZ bar and going wide with your grip so the curves in the bar rest comfortably on your legs.

Here is a quick breakdown on how to perform the movement: 

  1. Grab a flat bench and select a regular barbell or an EZ bar, and place it at one end of the bench.
  2. Grab the barbell about shoulder width apart with an underhand grip and sit on the bench, and place the barbell on your thighs. Your back should be straight, shoulders back and knees and feet together, like you are sitting upright in a chair.
  3. Keep your elbows at your side and lift the barbell off your thighs, curling it towards you
  4. Lower, but do not let it rest on your thighs until you are done, and repeat the movement

Benefits of the Seated Barbell Curl

When it comes to the seated barbell curl, there are a few benefits of it worth discussing. For one, it gives you a change of pace. If you are someone who has been bodybuilding for a while, this movement is something that can help you switch things up and add a little variety to your training. 

There are also strength benefits that can sprout from the seated barbell curl, as it forces you to go lighter and focus on form and mind muscle connection. Proper form and quality repetitions can help strengthen the muscles, which transfers over to other exercises such as many of the exercises that take place on back day.

Another benefit to the movement is you can help pack on muscle mass in the bicep peaks a little more, as it is an isolation exercise and with proper form you should not be incorporating any other muscle groups into the movement. When you are doing a standing barbell curl, you can sway your body a little bit and then your back and legs come into play, taking away from the biceps. Whether you are new to the gym and still making those newbie gains, or you are a seasoned veteran and need that change of scenery like we mentioned above, exercises that can help promote even more growth are always worth trying. 

Standing vs. Seated

preacher curls best biceps exercises

When it comes to choosing which movement you should be doing, both have their benefits and there is no harm in incorporating standing and seated barbells into your training routine. However, let’s break it down a bit.

Standing Barbell Curl

Pros Cons
Full range of motion Can cheat on reps easily
Hits both heads of the biceps
Can go heavy

Seated Barbell Curls

Pros Cons
Isolation movement Not full range of motion
Hits the peak of the biceps Only hits one head
Forces you to focus on form

While the seated barbell curl certainly has its benefits to your biceps, the regular standing barbell curl still takes the cake for your gains. It hits both heads of the biceps and is a movement you can easily overload your biceps to help pack on the size. 

The seated barbell curl is still similar to a half rep, and with the standing barbell curl you are getting that full range of motion, and the bottom of that curl really adds to your gains. With the seated barbell curl, you are eliminating the bottom half of the movement, and taking the engagement out of part of your biceps. 

Wrap Up

Overall, the seated barbell curl is definitely an exercise worth trying. Not only does it change up your training a bit, but it is a good mass builder for the peaks of your biceps. Although it does not beat the classic standing barbell curl, it still has its benefits and is worth throwing into your training regimens. 

Will you be giving this exercise a try?


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I work mainly in content writing, focusing my free time on bodybuilding and strength sports. I was introduced to fitness in high school and after watching Generation Iron movies. I love to train. I have competed multiple times, even winning a junior title in classic physique. I have a bachelor's in criminal justice and business obtained through Alvernia University. When I am not focused on work or training, I enjoy watching films or reading about anything and everything.