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Barbell spider curl exercise guide

Learn the 6 pros and cons of doing straight bar spider curls.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 14th June 2021
A man doing a barbell spider curl for his biceps

The barbell spider curl is a brilliant isolation exercise for beefing up the biceps because the movement naturally lends itself to lifting heavy weights. Compared to regular spider curls, you can gain strength faster on straight bar spider curls because it's easier to increase the resistance in more manageable increments.

This guide shows you how to perform the spider barbell bicep curl and discusses the main pros and cons of the movement so that you can decide if it's right for you and your goals.

Barbell spider curl exercise details

  • Main Muscles: Biceps brachii
  • Secondary Muscles: Brachioradialis, brachialis, forearm flexors
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: Adjustable Bench, Barbell, weights

How to perform barbell spider curls

  1. Position the backrest of an adjustable bench to a 60-degree angle.
  2. Place a barbell at the backrest end of the bench.
  3. Sit on the bench in a reverse position so that your chest is pressed into the back pad.
  4. Reach forward and grab the bar.
  5. Curl the bar toward your front delts and squeeze your biceps as hard as you can.
  6. Keep curling until your forearms and biceps make forceful contact.
  7. Hold the contraction for a second, and then lower the weight under control until your elbows reach full extension.
  8. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.

Barbell spider curl advantages

A man performing straight bar spider curls for his biceps

The straight bar spider curl offers some undeniable bicep-building advantages. So here's what you can expect to gain when you make it part of your arm routine.

Fantastic bicep isolation

It's really hard to swing the weight up when your chest is pressed against the bench because you can't use your legs and back to cheat. As such, your biceps have to perform the majority of the lifting, which also means that they enjoy most of the tension.

Remarkable muscle pump

Barbell spider curls train your biceps in a shortened (which is to say a maximally contracted) muscle position. This results in a powerful muscle pump that makes your arms appear more vascular and which can also lead to significant hypertrophy with help from an appropriate diet and good recovery.

Great for strength gains

While it's true that movements like the single-arm spider curl can build muscle, bicep barbell exercises are better for gaining strength because you can increase the resistance in more manageable increments.

Barbell spider curl disadvantages

A man performing barbell spider curls

Despite offering an array of muscle-building advantages, the spider barbell curl also comes with some unavoidable drawbacks that you need to consider before including it in your workout routine.

Need to lift less weight

You can't lift as much weight on a barbell spider curl as you can on straight bar preacher curls and the hammer grip barbell curl. This is because spider barbell curls work your biceps in a shortened muscle position, which is naturally the weakest position for any muscle due to the need to maximally contract.

Difficult setup

Just like spider EZ bar curls, barbell spider curls can be an absolute pain to set up, especially if you have short arms. You have to get in position and then reach forward to lift the barbell off the floor, which might mean asking someone to pass you the bar if your arms aren't long enough.

Uncomfortable positioning

When I said that the straight bar spider curl was a pain to set up, I wasn't just saying that the exercise can be a frustrating experience. The spider barbell curl can cause discomfort in your sternum because you have to press your chest into the backrest of the bench. So if you feel any kind of pain, then it's recommended to try a more comfortable movement, such as a sitting barbell curl.

Should you do straight bar spider curls for your biceps?

If you want to increase the size and strength of your biceps, then the barbell spider curl is an excellent exercise for the job. Using a straight bar enables you to get stronger in less time by making manageable weight jumps.

Unlike the reverse grip spider curl, barbell spider curls provide a much better workout for your biceps because they have you curl with your hands in a palms-up position, which naturally results in a much stronger muscle contraction.

The only real downside of straight bar spider curls is the setup. You have to get in the correct position and then attempt to grab the barbell off the floor, which, as mentioned, is easier said than done if you don't have long arms.

For best results, use a full range of motion comprised of a full contraction and a proper stretch. This way, you'll stimulate the growth of the most muscle fibers possible and build the biceps that you're after.

Liam Brown
Liam Brown has been coaching clients as a personal trainer for more than 12 years. Raised by his athlete mother and physiotherapist father, he understands the critical importance of learning the proper technique for both avoiding injury and building muscle.
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