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Close grip barbell curl tutorial and advantages

Widen your biceps with narrow grip barbell curls.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 12th June 2021
A man performing close grip barbell curls

The bicep anatomy has two main jobs; flex the elbow and supinate the forearm. If you can find an exercise that trains both of these functions simultaneously, then you've hit the muscle-building jackpot.

The barbell biceps curl is a prime example of such an exercise. It's made yet more effective because barbells enable you to overload your biceps with more resistance than other types of free weights.

Close grip barbell curls are another of these barbell exercises for the biceps, and they're the main topic of this article. In our guide, you'll learn how to perform the exercise optimally and then discover the three advantages of narrow grip barbell curls.

Close grip barbell curl exercise details

  • Also Known As: Narrow grip barbell curl
  • Main Muscles: Biceps brachii
  • Secondary Muscles: Brachioradialis, brachialis, forearm flexors
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: Barbell, weights

How to do close grip barbell curls

  1. Load some weight onto a barbell. For more convenience, use a fixed bar.
  2. Grab the bar with a narrow underhand grip so that your elbows are in front of your body rather than by your sides.
  3. Curl the weight toward your chest by moving your forearms toward your biceps.
  4. Keep lifting until the undersides of your forearms press right up against your biceps.
  5. Hold the contraction for a moment and then lower the bar under control until your elbows are extended.
  6. Perform 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps in total.

Narrow grip barbell curl advantages

The close grip standing barbell curl has some distinct advantages over the wide-grip standing barbell curl that you might not have considered. Learn what they are to decide if the exercise is right for you.

Emphasizes the long head

The long head of the biceps brachii muscle

The close-grip barbell curl shifts the tension onto the outer muscle fibers of the biceps (also known as the long head).

This is an area that many lifters want to improve, seeing as having a well-developed long head can make your biceps look broader and more peaked.

You can also check out our wide grip vs narrow grip curls comparison to learn more about how the various grip widths affect muscle activation and recruitment. But one thing that you should know now is that there are definitely merits to using both types of grips for achieving optimal bicep development.

Produces a potent muscle pump

A man performing a narrow grip barbell curl

You might not have realized this, but when you do a close grip barbell bicep curl, you're essentially turning your torso into a mini preacher pad by bracing your elbows against your body.

In this sense, the exercise feels similar to when you do concentration curls with a barbell because the peak contraction is really intense.

Also, by keeping your elbows braced against your body throughout the entire duration of the set, you naturally resist the urge to swing the weight up with your shoulders. This helps to ensure that the tension stays squarely on your biceps, which maximizes the effectiveness of this isolation exercise.

Of course, to get the best pump possible, you'll want to train closer to failure and use high reps to increase the amount of lactic acid in your biceps. This makes sense considering that you'll need to lift slightly lighter on close grip barbell curls anyway.

Builds overall mass

A man doing a close grip barbell curl

The fact that you're lifting an Olympic bar means that the close grip barbell curl is an effective mass-building movement. This is because barbells enable you to overload the target muscles with more resistance than any other training tool.

Ultimately, the extra muscle fibers that you'll naturally recruit by lifting barbells will lead to greater hypertrophy, which is the primary reason why most people do the narrow grip barbell curl in the first place.

Exercises like narrow grip cable curls definitely have their place as well. It's just that barbells generally enable you to use heavier poundages and are obviously far more convenient and accessible.

Conclusion: How good are close grip barbell curls?

Close grip barbell curls take one of the most popular arm exercises ever created and turn it into a highly effective outer bicep builder. While you can't completely isolate the heads of the biceps, using a narrow grip will still shift the emphasis onto the long head and ensure that it does most of the lifting.

As such, the close grip barbell curl is a valuable exercise for lifters who already have a solid foundation of mass and want to bring up their weak points. Yet, the movement is also handy for beginners because it has you press your elbows against your torso as you lift the weight, which minimizes cheating and keeps tension on the target muscles.

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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