1 Standing barbell curl

Why it’s on the list: The shoulder-width curl engages the short and long heads of the biceps equally, you can really pile on the weight, and you don’t have to sit there endlessly working one arm at a time. How many more reasons do you need? If you’re only going to do one biceps exercise, make it this one.

Just don’t expect the studies to agree wholeheartedly; the gold-standard EMG study by Boeckh-Behrens from 2000, and a more recent ACE study from 2014, rank this exercise about halfway down their lists. We favor it because of the increased potential for loading, and the ease with which you can alter your grip width to change the emphasis. You can also switch from a straight bar to an EZ-bar to take it easy on your wrists.


So do it—and do it as many ways as you can! Wider can give a little more emphasis to the short head, and a narrow grip hits the long head. But be warned: A narrow grip reduces overall muscle activation by nearly 15 percent, so don’t use this grip exclusively.2

In your workout: Do it first, at the beginning of your biceps workout, so you can really challenge yourself with weight. For a bit more of a strength stimulus, choose a weight you can handle for about 6-8 reps. Warning: It’s really easy to cheat on this movement. Keep it strict for the most part, especially when you’re going heavy.