Dumbbell Curl Vs. Barbell Curl

barbell curl

The dumbbell and barbell curls are both effective exercises for targeting the arm flexor muscles, particularly the biceps brachii and brachialis. The biceps brachii is a two headed muscle which runs the length of the upper arm and is responsible for the flexing of the arm. The biceps brachii is often just referred to as the biceps. The brachialis also runs the length of the upper arm, but is located beneath the biceps brachii and aids with arm flexion. This article looks at each exercise in turn and outlines the benefits of drawbacks of both these popular curling exercises.

Dumbbell curl

The dumbbell curl can be performed seated or standing. The trainee curls each dumbbell in an alternating fashion, focusing 100% on each arm at a time. The dumbbell curls utilises the rotation of the wrist during the movement, therefore reducing the stress on the wrist joint and dynamically working the arm flexor and forearm muscles.

The dumbbell curl is unilateral in nature; each arm is working independently of the other, therefore receiving equal stress if the same resistance and time under tension is applied. There is no room for a stronger arm to overpower the weaker, so over time any imbalances should be reduced and eventually ironed out.

Barbell curl

barbell biceps curl
The barbell curl has long been the staple exercise of many trainees arm routines. It is possible to use a relatively heavy load during the barbell curl, therefore inducing greater overall stress to the arm flexor muscles. It is important to remember that incorrect form can reduce the stimulus to the target muscles however, so any weight used must allow the trainee to perform the exercise without neglecting form and posture.

Which one is best?

For most cases a mixture of the two would be the best approach. A routine should ideally contain an array of exercise variations, allowing the trainee to exercise a muscle with continually changing demand. Sticking to one exercise would result in greater stagnation, and possibly reduced overall development.

For some people the barbell curl may not be a suitable option, however. The exercise does place the wrist in an uncomfortable position, which may not be tolerated by some. The exercise may also not be suitable for those with back injuries, whom prefer the seated curling variations instead.

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