Since the short head has a different biceps brachii insertion to the long head (the short head doesn’t cross the shoulder joint), you can preferentially target the inner muscle fibers of your biceps with exercises like DB concentration curls or barbell concentration curls, which have you lift the weight in front of your body.
Barbell concentration curls provide a more potent peak contraction than the traditional standing barbell curl because they train your biceps in a shortened muscle position. This naturally increases your pump as well, which in turn improves the appearance of your biceps during your workout.
Related Exercise: Narrow grip barbell curl
Barbell concentration curl exercise details
- Main Muscles: Biceps brachii
- Secondary Muscles: Brachioradialis, brachialis, forearm flexors
- Exercise Type: Strength
- Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
- Difficulty Level: Beginner
- Equipment Needed: Bench, barbell, weights
How to do barbell concentration curls
- Load an appropriate amount of weight onto a barbell. Alternatively, use a fixed bar for more convenience.
- Sit on a bench with your legs apart.
- Bend over and grab the barbell with a close grip.
- Rest your elbows against the insides of your legs.
- Curl the weight toward your shoulders.
- Keep lifting until the undersides of your forearms touch your biceps.
- Hold the contraction for a second, and then lower the bar under control until your elbows are completely locked out.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps.
Barbell concentration curl pros and cons
Barbell concentration curls can undoubtedly build plenty of muscle mass if you perform them consistently. However, there are also some drawbacks that you need to consider before including this exercise in your training program.
You can also check out our preacher vs concentration curl comparison to learn which kind of bicep movement is right for you and your goals.
Pro: It’s convenient
Like most bicep barbell exercises, the concentration barbell curl is incredibly convenient because you only need basic free weights and a small amount of space. This makes the movement especially useful if you train at home and can’t get to a gym.
Pro: It pumps up your biceps
Performing a concentration curl with a barbell really pumps up your arms because it trains your biceps in a shortened muscle position. While this exercise doesn’t offer constant tension like concentration cable curls, it does provide one of the most intense peak contractions that you’re ever likely to experience in your training career. I hope you like lactic acid.
Con: You’re forced to use a narrow grip
Unless you opt for the bent over barbell concentration curl (more on that in a minute), you’re forced into using a close grip. This makes it harder to get a full range of motion and also doesn’t stimulate the short head of the biceps optimally—which is the prime mover in a concentration curl—because the inner head becomes more active when you use a wider grip.
See our guide to the wide grip barbell bicep curl for more information on grip widths and how they affect bicep recruitment.
Con: It could fatigue your back
Bending over while sitting down can strain your back, especially if you have preexisting spinal problems. This is also an issue with the concentration hammer curl, but you can remedy the situation somewhat by doing the exercise in a standing position, which naturally shifts more of the tension onto your legs as opposed to your lower back.
Bent-over barbell concentration curl guide
The bent-over barbell concentration curl burns more calories than the seated version because it activates more muscles, even if only for stabilization purposes.
Performing the barbell concentration curl standing also takes some of the stress off your lower back because more of the tension will naturally go through your legs when you’re stood up.
Further still, the bent-over barbell concentration curl lets you use more hand spacing in order to shift the emphasis onto the inner muscle fibers of your biceps, which is the whole point of a concentration curl.
To perform it, simply grip a barbell just outside shoulder width and then bend over at the waist slightly. Then, let the weight hang so that your elbows are fully extended. While keeping your back straight, curl the bar toward your shoulders and flex your biceps forcefully. Lower the weight slowly until your elbows are once again extended. Do 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps in total.
Alternatively, you can bend over to a 90-degree angle at the waist. The form is exactly the same. The only difference is that you’ll generate a stronger peak contraction when you do it this way. The trade-off, however, is that bending over like this will put more stress on your spinal erectors.
Conclusion: Are barbell concentration curls effective?
Barbell concentration curls are a great isolation drill for the biceps. Because your arms are braced against your legs, your biceps have to handle all of the tension since you can’t swing the weight up with your other muscles.
The movement is also highly versatile because you can do it in a standing position as well as sitting down, which means that you have no need for a weight bench (ideal if you lift at home). Performing the barbell concentration curl bent over like this is easier on your lower back, but it also opens the movement up to momentum because it’s easier to use your shoulders to swing the weight up.
Of course, if you use good form, then this shouldn’t be an issue. Try both variations and see which you prefer.