Barbell Curl vs Dumbbell Curl (Which One is Better?)


Barbell Curls vs Dumbbell Curls

The barbell curl and dumbbell curl are two popular exercises that target the muscles of the upper arm, including the biceps and brachialis.

Both exercises involve curling a weight towards the shoulders, but the movements and muscles worked are slightly different.

In this article, I will compare the barbell curl and dumbbell curl, including their differences in technique, muscle activation, and potential benefits. In just a few minutes, you will have a better understanding of both exercises and how to incorporate them into your workout routine.


Barbell Curls


Equipment Needed

  • Barbell

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Stand tall, back straight, head up, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the barbell with both hands, palms up (supinated grip).
  • Start with the bar at arm’s length against the upper thighs.
  • Curl the bar up towards the shoulders until the forearms touch the biceps.
  • Keep upper elbows close to the side.
  • Lower the bar back to starting position using the same path.
  • Continue until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

By far the most common mistake with any curl exercise, but perhaps even more so with Barbell Curls is swinging and rocking in an attempt to lift more weight. If you need to swing the bar, use momentum or generally contort your body to move the weight, it’s too heavy. Lower the weight and use proper form.

Don’t allow the wrists to bow back when holding and curling the bar. Keep the wrist neutral by keeping the forearms engaged. This will take pressure off the wrist that could otherwise lead to Barbell Curls being very uncomfortable on the wrists.

Related –> 10 of my favorite Barbell Curl alternatives for muscle growth

Benefits

Some potential benefits of performing barbell curls include:

  • Increased upper arm strength and size
  • Improved grip strength
  • Enhanced athletic performance in activities that require upper body strength

Additionally, the barbell curl is a relatively simple and convenient exercise that can be performed using a standard barbell and weight plates. This makes it a popular choice for strength training at home or in the gym.


Dumbbell Curls


Dumbbell Curl

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells

Instructions

  • Start in a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in the knees.
  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand and stand tall with good posture.
  • You can start with palms facing forward or facing in toward the body.
  • Now, curl both dumbbells up to shoulder level by flexing the biceps hard. Palms should finish up, facing the shoulder.
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the rep and then lower back down to the starting position.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see with Dumbbell Curls is swinging the dumbbells at the bottom of the rep. Lower the weights down under control and do not swing them at the bottom.

The other mistake I see usually comes when an athlete is trying to use too much weight. Instead of keeping the elbow, they allow the elbow to drift back which turns the movement into more of a row than a curl.

Benefits

Some potential benefits of performing dumbbell curls include:

  • Increased upper arm strength and size
  • Improved grip strength
  • Enhanced athletic performance in activities that require upper body strength

Additionally, dumbbell curls allow for a greater range of motion and variation compared to other upper arm exercises, such as the barbell curl. This makes dumbbell curls a valuable addition to any workout routine.

Barbell Curls vs Dumbbell Curls: Which is Better?

Now, let’s compare the two exercises side-by-side and see which is better for popular workout goals.

Better For Developing Strength: Barbell Curl

This one is really close, but I’ll give a slight edge to Barbell Curls.

Both barbell curls and dumbbell curls can be effective for developing strength in the biceps. The truth is, the best choice may depend on your individual preferences, as well as the availability of equipment.

Some potential benefits of barbell curls include the ability to use heavier weights and the ability to place more emphasis on the biceps by using a narrow grip. On the other hand, dumbbell curls allow for a greater range of motion and can better target the biceps muscles individually, which may be beneficial for muscle balance and symmetry.

Better For Growing Muscle: Barbell Curl

Most of the time, developing strength and muscle growth go hand-in-hand. I believe that it holds true here as well. I think the difference between Barbell Curls and Dumbbell Curls when it comes to strength and hypertrophy is minimal at best.

Barbell Curls allow the lifter to use more weight which is a big contributor to gaining both size and strength. However, dumbbells force each arm to work independently which ensures even work on both arms.

Ultimately, I suggest utilizing both in your workouts to add variety. I would also suggest that if you really prefer doing one or the other – go for it. If you really like an exercise you’re much more likely to put a level of effort into it which is going to lead to gains in the weight room.

Better For Beginners: Dumbbell Curl

For beginners, dumbbell curls may be a better option than barbell curls. This is because dumbbells allow for a greater range of motion and can better target the biceps muscles individually, which may be beneficial for muscle balance and symmetry.

Additionally, dumbbells are often easier to grip and control than a barbell, which can be helpful for beginners who may not have a lot of experience with resistance training.

Of course, the best exercise for a beginner will depend on their individual goals, fitness level, and any injuries or limitations they may have.

Final Thoughts

I’ve just half an article comparing which is better – Barbell Curls or Dumbbell Curls. However, the truth is, there is no reason you shouldn’t have both exercises in your strength training program.

Both are excellent exercises for developing strong shoulders and a strong upper back. Incorporating both exercises into your training program can also add variety and keep your workouts from getting stale.

So, my suggestion would be instead of trying to decide between the two exercises, figure out how you can utilize both Barbell Curls and Dumbbell Curls in your training plan.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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