How to barbell curl
Use a preacher bench and execute the movement slowly for 8-12 reps per set at 3 to 5 sets. Leave one minute between sets. Use an EZ bar instead of a barbell to protect your wrists.
What is your why
Before we go into the details of how to barbell curl, let me ask you a couple of questions:
Why do you want to barbell curl
Why do you want to get stronger
Why do you want to build muscle
What happens if you do
What happens when you don’t
While these questions seem trivial, they are vital for your long term success. Reaching your goals depends to a huge degree on whether you quit or push through. Most people quit quite early. Answering these questions and understanding your deeper motivations will make it less likely for you to quit. Most people go through life in this manner:
What do I want
How do I get it
Why do I want it
Many people know exactly what they want. Fewer go deeper and make a detailed plan on how to achieve it. Almost none know why they want to achieve their goals. Something interesting happens when you flip these questions on their head:
Why do you want something
How do you get it
What do you need to do to get it
Starting with the question of why will refocus you on the important things in life. This will make your actions and thoughts not connected towards one goal which actually makes a difference to your life. Productivity will increase and results follow. If you want to know how this works on a psychological level read Daniel Kahneman's thinking fast and slow. Watch Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle of you are not convinced yet. He makes a very compelling case telling the story of the Wright brothers.
Barbells are available in most commercial gyms and can be used for various purposes. You will most likely have access to a 20kg version. The whole bandwidth reaches from:
Lighter barbells usually come in smaller dimensions or are made of Aluminium instead of steel. These are less common in commercial gyms. All can be used for barbell curls.
The challenge with straight barbells is that they are not ergonomically ideal for curls. Your wrists have a tendency to turn inwards at the top of the curl. Straight metal does not accommodate that twist. An Ez bar fixes this.
The EZ bar
The EZ bar fixes the challenge of straight metal in the curl. It is still very similar to a barbell in look and feel. The main difference is that it is usually lighter and is waved.
Most gyms stock at least one Ez bar so you should have no trouble getting your hands on one.
The barbell curl is an isolated exercise which mainly targets your biceps. There are different options to perform it:
Standing against a wall
You can do your curls in a preacher bench while being seated. A preacher bench provides a surface that your arms can rest on. This isolates your arms and biceps and usually gives you a better pump. Take care when you set up the bar on a preacher bench. They usually come in different shapes and forms and do not hold the bar optimally. This is especially important when you do finish a set and rack the bar again. Doing this uncontrolled can easily lead to a ripped biceps or tendon, especially when you go heavy.
The next options to go free standing. This has the advantage that you can use more body English for the curl. Body English means that you use your entire body to move the weight, not just the ones you want to isolate. If you want to break the world record for the one repetition maximum on the barbell curl, this is what needs to be done. Most mere mortals want to grow their biceps. For this less body English and controlled movements are better.
Another variation is to do the curls with your back against the wall. This will keep you from swinging your entire body to get the reps done. It just might look a bit silly in a crowded gym so preacher curls are the option which I prefer.
Pros of the curl
The bicep curl is a great exercise to make your arms bigger. If you stick with regular fitness or lifting programs only, you usually will not get a huge biceps. If that is what you are after, curl away.
Cons of the curl
If you do it with a barbell you might hurt your wrists. It also does not do a lot for your entire body. There are other exercises which train you more in less time like the squat, deadlift, burpee or echo bike. They will not train the biceps specifically but adress your entire body better.
Alternatives to the curl
Some alternatives to curl are
Cable pulls and various forms
You can also use sled work to improve your arm strength, it all depends on whether you want strong arms or just pump up your biceps.