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Seated Barbell Curls Build Bigger Biceps

Dumb Or Smart?!

Posted by Scott_Herman - August 1st, 2019

Today we’re going to talk about the seated barbell curl. I’ve mentioned this video in the past, when I mentioned it in my video about the dumbest exercises I’ve seen in the gym, so you know that I didn’t think this exercise was good in the past. However, after I made that video, quite a few people told me that Jim Stoppani and others have talked about the benefits of seated barbell curls for biceps. So even though I’m against the exercise, I’m open minded so that I can learn more. So I watched Jim’s video and I actually came to an interesting conclusion.

Regular Barbell Curls Are Best!

Let me make it very clear from the beginning – no other exercise is going to replace your standard, standing barbell curl. A half rep in my book is still a half rep. The hardest part of a biceps curl (or the sticking point) is the bottom of the movement. That’s where your biceps engage and that’s where you’re weakest so for me, I don’t feel like I’m getting a good biceps workout unless I have at least one movement where I’m working through that bottom portion of a biceps curl.

Therefore, my initial thinking was that, if I think doing half reps of just the top portion of a barbell curl is bad, why would I think a seated version of that is any different? It would make me a hypocrite. One of the things Jim mentioned in his video is that, a lot of the times when you do a biceps curl, your brachioradialis and brachialis start to fatigue before your biceps do. When that happens, you’re not able to really full exhaust your biceps because your brachioradialis and brachialis muscles have fatigued first. There is some truth to that, but it’s not for everyone.

When you’re a beginner, you tend to fatigue the muscles that are furthest away from your centre of gravity first, before you get to the ones you’re trying to target. If you’re bench pressing as a beginner, for example and trying to target your chest, your triceps and shoulders will tend to fatigue before your chest does. Or, if you’re doing a biceps curl, chances are that your forearm and your grip are fatiguing before your biceps. However, over time as you get stronger and build a solid mind-muscle connection, you’re able to focus better on areas you’re trying to target and use techniques that you’ve adapted to over time.

Seated Barbell Biceps Curl – Proper Form

One of the other key things Jim talked about was how you’re not supposed to bring the bar to your knees and curl from there. I feel that a lot of people who are doing seated barbell biceps curls are doing exactly that, which is not the correct way to perform the exercise.

Instead, you should be holding the barbell as close to your body as possible and doing a drag curl. Jim mentions that by doing this, you can focus more on the outside head of your biceps which is true, as I’ve made videos in the past talking about how barbell drag curls work on the peak of your biceps because it targets the outside head.

The Problem With Regular Barbell Drag Curls

Therefore, the exercise shouldn’t be called a seated barbell curl, it should be called a modified drag curl. Whenever I do drag curls, to be honest, I don’t really like the exercise because whenever I try to go heavier with the weight, what usually happens for me (and probably a lot of you) is that in order to maintain proper form and posture, I elevate my shoulders and I tend to engage a bit more delts and traps as I try to bring the weight up. So unless you’re doing moderate to light weight to really focus on that perfect form, you tend to get that elevation and activation of other muscle groups.

If you do the seated version, you skip that whole phase of trying to get the bar into the proper position to do the curl to target that outside head. If you do it seated, sit up straight and keep your core nice and tight, you’re already set in the perfect position to do the drag curl and focus on the most important part of that range of motion which actually is from the waist to the top part of the position. Again though, this isn’t something to do as a MAIN movement.

Are Seated Barbell Curls Worthwhile?

This would be something to do if you’ve been bodybuilding for a while and you need to try something new to get more growth on your peak. If you’re a beginner, you just want to grow and it’s in your best interests to do exercises that are really going to maximize your time. While this modified drag curl targets the outside head of the biceps, as a beginner, you want to be targeting the inside AND outside heads of your biceps. So your best bet is to do a standing barbell curl and hit both heads at the same time and focus on overloading.

Even if you are an advanced athlete, you can focus on techniques like I use in my Cheat & Recover program. With barbell curls, you’re roughly 40% stronger on the eccentric portion of the movement compared to the concentric. So you can handle a lot more weight on the negative compared to bringing the bar up. With cheat reps, you can use a bit of momentum, thrust the weight up and then fight the negative. You get the most muscle breakdown in the negative and you’re stronger in the negative, so it makes sense to overload that way rather than sitting down and only focusing on the outside head.


So do I really still think the seated barbell biceps curl is a dumb exercise? Now that I’ve done a bit more research and figured out its proper use, I really don’t. If you use the exercise as intended, as a modified drag curl to hit the outside head of your biceps, I think it’s a great exercise to do. But only AFTER you pre-exhaust your biceps with an exercise like a barbell or dumbbell curl.

Related Videos:

How To REALLY Build Bigger Biceps Naturally | Advice That Works Because I'm Not A FAKE NATTY SCUMBAG


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