Like most guys at the gym, you want to build massive biceps. But there’s nothing more disappointing than hitting your biceps hard for years and not even adding an inch to them.
Well, maybe you were doing the wrong biceps exercise. Let’s figure out whether the barbell curl or the dumbbell curl is better for mass.
Table of Contents
- What is the Barbell Curl?
- What Barbell Do We Recommend?
- 2 Benefits of the Barbell Curl
- 1 Reason Against the Barbell Curl
- What is the Dumbbell Curl?
- What Dumbbells Do We Recommend?
- 2 Benefits of the Dumbbell Curl
- 1 Reason Against the Dumbbell Curl
- Barbell Curl vs. Dumbbell Curl for Mass Conclusion
What is the Barbell Curl?
The barbell curl is the standard biceps exercise for most serious lifters. To do this exercise, all you need is a barbell loaded up with weight plates.
Here’s how it’s done.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Grab the barbell with both hands shoulder-width apart with your palms facing up.
- Keep your elbows stable and tucked into your sides.
- Bring the barbell to your chest.
- Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
It’s important to note that the only part of your body moving during a bicep curl is your forearms. You shouldn’t be using momentum to bring the weight up to your chest.
What Barbell Do We Recommend?
We recommend the Olympic Super Curl Bar by CAP Barbell. This curved bar will allow you to vary your hand placement depending on what’s more comfortable for your wrists and grip.
CAP is also recognized as one of the leaders in strength training equipment and the solid steel and chrome finish ensures this bar is going to last a very long time.
2 Benefits of the Barbell Curl
It’s Easy to Keep Proper Form
The best part of the barbell curl is that there isn’t much leeway in terms of form. There are actually a few reasons for that.
The first is the hand placement.
As soon as your hands are grasping the bar, your hand placement on the bar won’t move. That means you’re getting the same exercise during each and every rep (so, no funky movements).
Then, there are your legs.
Your barbell will stop moving as soon as it meets your legs. You won’t be able to use momentum to swing the barbell back and then bring it forward to your chest.
You’ll Set New PRs
For some reason, doing barbell curls usually means you can lift a much heavier weight. So instead of doing dumbbell curls with a 25-pound dumbbell in each hand, you might be able to curl a 60-pound barbell.
That can do wonders for your PRs at the gym.
The more you work your biceps on the barbell curl, the more strength you’ll build, and the quicker you’ll build it. You’ll be on to curling more weight before you know it.
Seeing a higher and higher PR at the gym will also be a huge self-esteem boost. If you were lacking the motivation to hit the gym before, you sure won’t be now.
1 Reason Against the Barbell Curl
One Arm Might Overcompensate
No matter how evenly you try to use your arms, there’s no shot that your right biceps are just as strong as your left (or vice versa).
The difference might be small, but it’s there.
Let’s say you’re doing a barbell curl at your heaviest weight yet. As you’re getting to the top, the barbell is sinking down a little on the left.
Your right arm pulls up just a little bit more and you’ve reached the top. So while you’ve completed the barbell curl in a technical sense, one of your arms has worked harder.
You might end up making your strong arm even stronger and leaving your weak arm in the dust.
What is the Dumbbell Curl?
The dumbbell curl is very similar to the basic barbell curl, but it takes advantage of different equipment. To do this exercise, you’re going to need two dumbbells of the same weight.
Here’s how it’s done.
- Start with your feet shoulder-width apart (just like the barbell curl).
- Hold the dumbbells at your sides with your arms extended.
- Keep your elbows tucked in to your sides and as straight as possible.
- One at a time, bring the dumbbell to your chest with your palms up.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell back to your side.
- Perform on the opposite side.
Remember that there should be absolutely no swinging of your arms on the way up or on the way down. If you’re unable to control the dumbbell, use a lighter weight, or slap on a belt like the Dark Iron Fitness weightlifting belt.
What Dumbbells Do We Recommend?
Some of the top brands in adjustable dumbbells are Bowflex, Powerblock, and CAP Barbell. If the price is no object, go with the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells since they save on storage and they’re very high-quality.
If you like the space-saving design, but don’t want to spend as much, go with the POWERBLOCK Sport 24 Adjustable Dumbbells. And if it doesn’t bother you to have a few weights lying around, check out the set by CAP Barbell.
2 Benefits of the Dumbbell Curl
You Work Each Biceps Individually
Barbell curls definitely give you the chance to show off your strength at the gym. But your stronger arm is always going to take the reins.
Dumbbell curls let you target each biceps individually.
That means you can slowly perform each rep and be sure that both sides are getting a full range of motion with absolutely proper form. That’s especially the case if you’re doing alternating dumbbell biceps curls.
Now you don’t have to worry about one arm being stronger than the other!
You’ll Get Full Range of Motion
One of the best parts of dumbbell curls is that you literally have complete range of motion. You can bring the dumbbell all the way to your sides and then up to your chest.
The greater the range of motion, the more you work your muscles. That can result in greater muscle mass in some instances.
Think about it. It would be absolutely ridiculous to do squats to a 30-degree angle and then expect to walk away with massive quads, right?
Well, the same thing goes for your biceps.
1 Reason Against the Dumbbell Curl
It’s Easy to Cheat
We’ve all seen it — a guy at the gym using pure momentum to get those dumbbell curls done at 50 lbs or more. That’s because the dumbbell curl gives you a huge range of motion.
Swing your arm back a little and momentum will help you to bring up the weight.
Well, doing this is very dangerous. It puts a lot of strain on the joints and muscles that shouldn’t be worked by the dumbbell curl (like the back, for example) and puts you at risk for injury.
Barbell Curl vs. Dumbbell Curl for Mass Conclusion
Both the barbell curl and the dumbbell curl can add mass to your biceps. The problem is that they’re not exactly the same exercise, though they work the same muscles.
Barbell curls are great for putting up heavier weights and boosting your confidence at the gym. Yet, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re not getting a full range of motion and you might have one biceps compensating for a weakness in the other.
The best bet?
You have to do dumbbell curls.
You’ll be able to hit literally every muscle fiber of your biceps while also working each arm individually with good form. Just make sure you’re not cheating!
And if you’re looking for a set of dumbbells to build up your biceps, check out the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells on Amazon.