Doing The Barbell Curl Right
The barbell curl is one of the standard weightlifting and muscle building exercises, yet it has been unfairly maligned by some as not being as effective as is often claimed. In that respect, the barbell curl is not different from most other muscle building exercises. If done incorrectly, or sporadically, it won't do the intended job.
Nine times out of ten, if the barbell lift doesn't seem to be effective in building up the biceps, it's either because the wrong weight is being used, the number of sets or repetitions isn't right, the grip is wrong, or, most importantly perhaps, the form is poor.
One can pump iron all day with poor form and have little to show for it beyond sore muscles and fatigue. As simple as the barbell curl appears to be, when first starting to do it as a part of your exercise routine, it's always best to start slow, and by all means start with a weight that is light enough so you have perfect control. It won't hurt one bit to watch yourself in a mirror, and compare what you're doing to photos you may have looked at or videos you've seen. The services of a personal trainer can be invaluable in learning to do the barbell curl, or any other exercise properly, and even after you've got the hang of it, it doesn't hurt to have a weightlifting buddy check your form from time to time.
It doesn't take much to get into a bad habit, such as swaying or not standing straight. And unless you're grip is the right one, the muscles in your biceps won’t be getting the optimum effect from the exercise.
The Grip - There are those who will tell you that a narrow grip will give you better results with the barbell curl, while others emphasize the importance of varying the width of your grip from time to time. It can take some time to find out for yourself what works the best, and it is not uncommon for bodybuilders to continuously adjust and refine their grip and form. There is more than one right way to do may exercises, but there are also wrong ways, which are certainly to be avoided. Again, a personal trainer or an experienced bodybuilder can often give expert and very useful advice when it comes to the all important subjects of grip and form.
The Entire Body Is Involved - It is all too easy to focus on the simple mechanism of lifting the barbell and forgetting that your entire body is participating in the exercise. This seemingly irrelevant statement really means that instead of thinking only about lifting, and the effect of lifting on your biceps, you've got to take in to account your stance, the action of the hips, your posture, and the smooth and controlled movement of your arms. While your arms and biceps are indeed doing most of the work, a strong and stable stance goes a long ways towards keeping your movements controlled. The hips aren't actually moving actively, but participate by maintaining posture and assist in the transmittal of energy up from the floor, through your legs, and to your arms. The action of the hips is very subtle, but they do play a role. Posture is of course all important. If you bend or lean, lifting the barbell will either become too easy or too difficult, in both cases taking away from the effectiveness of the lift.
All of this is not intended to make a seemingly simple exercise overly complicated, but simply to remind you that even the simplest of exercises designed to build and strengthen muscles have more going on than often meets the eye, and doing the exercise right not only takes some thought but a good deal of practice as well.