Wide Grip Barbell Curl Exercise Guide – Muscles Worked, How to, Benefits, & Alternatives

wide grip barbell curls and spider curls

The wide grip curl variation focuses on the short head biceps muscle. 

The barbell curl is an isolation exercise for your arms (1). It effectively strengthens the biceps muscles and is often one of the initial exercises people use to train their arms. This iconic movement is a staple in many training programs for good reason, with the wide grip barbell curl being a notable variation. As the spider curls, this movement focuses on the inner biceps. 

The wide-grip barbell curl offers a unique approach to target your arm muscles, utilizing both load and elbow flexion while incorporating forearm supination for optimal engagement. This comprehensive exercise guide will delve into properly executing the wide-grip barbell curl for full biceps development. Additionally, we’ll explore alternative exercises equally effective in sculpting impressive arms.

Techniques & Muscles Worked

The wide grip barbell curl targets the biceps with emphasis on the short head of this muscle. Focusing on the short head of the biceps — the muscle shown while flexing — increases the overall size of your arms. The wide grip barbell curl also engages synergist muscles like brachialis, brachioradialis, pecs, lats, abs, and obliques.

To do the wide grip barbell curl, you only need a barbell and would perform a moderate of 8-12 reps per set, which research supports as the ideal range for hypertrophy (2). Below is a step-by-step guide on how to do the wide grip barbell curl.  

  1. Load the barbell with the weights you want to use and set it in front of you.
  2. Stand with your legs at shoulder-width apart and keep your back and spine neutral. Slightly bend your knees.
  3. Grip the barbell with your palms facing up at a distance greater than shoulder width. Engage your core by tensing your abs. Then, stand tall with the barbell in your arms, hanging straight down. This is your starting position. 
  4. Tuck in your chin and keep your head and neck neutral. Then, bend your shoulders slightly to engage them.
  5. Squeezing your biceps, lift the barbell till your lower arm meets your biceps. 
  6. Pause briefly, straighten your elbows to return to the starting position, and complete the rep.
  7. Repeat for an average of 8-12 reps for muscle growth. 

Benefits

The wide grip barbell curl works on your arms and increases upper body strength. It recruits multiple muscles and improves your form for other exercises that involve the arms. Below are the benefits of doing the wide grip barbell curl. 

Bigger Biceps

The wide grip barbell curl hits the short head of the biceps, which increases in size and strength when stressed. Due to the grip of this exercise, it hits the inner side of your biceps, isolating and growing your arms. Compared to dumbbell curling movements, the barbell allows you to lift more, increasing muscle growth.  

Greater Stability

The short head of the biceps also plays a vital role in the stability of your shoulders. Strengthening them leads to greater stability and less risk of injury. The curling during this exercise also reinforces a natural arm pattern, which makes it functional and practical for everyday activities and other lifting routines. 

Balance Biceps Mass

Many exercises target and build the long of the biceps. While this can help increase the width of your arms, it can cause an imbalance if your short head is not getting as much work. The wide grip barbell curl fixes that imbalance by near isolation of the short head.

Lift Heavier

The mechanics of the wide grip barbell curl allow you to lift heavier than the close-grip variation. Your arms travel a shorter distance, and you can better utilize your forearm muscles when lifting. In general, more loads typically lead to greater muscle hypertrophy

Improved Grip

As stated above, you better activate your forearms when doing the wide grip barbell curl. This exercise also activates and strengthens your brachioradialis muscles, improving your grip strength. 

Improve Your Double Front Biceps Pose

The double front biceps pose is an iconic bodybuilding pose that showcases your inner biceps. Building the short head of your biceps and strengthening it could help you strike this pose better, which is essential in the judges’ scoring if you’re a bodybuilder

Wide Grip Barbell Curl Alternatives

Besides this curling exercise, here are more exercises that focus on the short head of the biceps and can help improve your grip strength

Spider Curl

The spider curl is a prone incline curl and targets your inner biceps. The spider curl is one of the best arm isolation exercises and uses a full range of motion. The spider curl also prevents you from doing cheat reps and puts constant tension on your muscles, leading to more growth. 

Wide Grip EZ Bar Curl

Like the spider curl, the wide grip EZ bar curl also targets your inner biceps but has some advantages. The more natural feel of the bar avoids wrist and forearm discomfort for many users. As a result, you can focus on your form more and get better results. 

Wide Grip Dumbbell Curl

You can also use a wide grip to focus on your inner biceps when using dumbbells. This variation, called the wide grip dumbbell curl, also develops your elbow contraction alongside your arms. Moreover, gripping the dumbbells will also increase your grip strength. 

FAQs

What do wide grip barbell curls work?

Wide grip barbell curls focus on your inner arm. This works the short head of your biceps, leading to muscle growth and increased strength. 

What are the benefits of a wide grip barbell curl?

The wide grip barbell curl is excellent for the double front bicep pose as a bodybuilder. It can also help to fix imbalances between the long and short heads of your biceps. For more benefits, please check the exercise guide above. 

What is the best grip for bicep curls?

The wider grip and narrow grip both have their benefits when doing bicep curls. If you want to build your bicep peak and hit the long head of your biceps, the narrow grip works best. The wide grip, on the other hand, targets the short head of your biceps and allows you to lift more weight. 

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References

  1. Marcolin, G., Panizzolo, F. A., Petrone, N., Moro, T., Grigoletto, D., Piccolo, D., & Paoli, A. (2018). Differences in electromyographic activity of biceps brachii and brachioradialis while performing three variants of curl. PeerJ, 6, e5165. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5165 
  2. Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D. W., & Plotkin, D. L. (2021). Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum. Sports (Basel, Switzerland), 9(2), 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9020032
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.