A lot of folks who venture into the weight room wind up doing the bicep curl over and over again, gradually adding weight over time. But as lifting guru Mark Rippetoe says, “Lifting more weight is not always the same thing as getting stronger.”
By that, he means that to really make your biceps explode, you need to press the issue, to mix things up. You need to grab the curl bar and do reverse curls, drop sets, 21s and more.
Otherwise, you’re just running in place. Fret no more, because we have the list of the 10 best curl bar exercises that will help you build massive guns.
Take these exercises consistently so you can finally wind up with biceps that will raise eyebrows.
Top 10 Curl Bar Exercises
The best curl bar exercises are those that work the entire upper arm, including both heads of the bicep and the tricep.
Let’s take a look at 10 of them.
1. Preacher Curl
The promise of the preacher curl is simple: you’ll get bigger biceps. Studies show that during this type of curl, activation of the bicep is at its maximum due to the support of the preacher bench.
Here’s how you do the preacher curl:
2. Reverse Grip Curl
The reverse curl helps you achieve more fully realized upper arms by working muscles not always targeted by standard bicep curls including those at the top of the forearm.
Here is how you do it:
3. Varied Grip Curl
The bicep has 2 heads—the long and (little understood) short head. The positioning of your hands as you exercise influences which head is emphasized. Since you want both heads to benefit from your workouts it’s important to vary the way you grasp the bar.
Here’s the best way to incorporate this into your routine:
4. Back and Forth Curl
Back and forth workouts require a training buddy. One of you will set the challenge and the other takes it up, back and forth until neither can continue anymore.
This exercise results in serious bicep pumps but is not for the faint-hearted.
5. Close Grip Curl
With this type of curl, you’re executing a standard curl but with your hands in close and your elbows pinned to your sides.
6. Drop Set
The drop set curl was designed to allow you to press on past the initial failure point, with the goal being to max out the potential growth you achieve during each workout. 
Here’s how it’s done:
7. Upright Rows
The unique shape of the curl bar allows you to use it for more than just standard curls. The upright row is a perfect example. Because of the curve in the bar, you’re able to raise your arms higher than you could with a straight bar and thereby activate your traps. 
Here’s how you do it:
8. Overhead Triceps Extensions
As they age, people will notice that the tissue under their bicep will start to sag.  Most simply accept these saggy triceps. But you don’t have to. Overhead triceps extension curls will help keep that area toned.
Here’s how they’re done:
If you’re interested in creating savage-looking biceps then you’ll want to explore 21s. “21” in this case refers to the number of reps per complete set, with each set comprised of 3 segments each requiring 7 reps.
Here’s how you do them:
100s get their name from the fact that you’re going to do 100 reps total over 3 segments of each set. This exercise will help build muscle endurance as well as strength.
Load up 40 percent of the weight you would normally use to do 6-8 reps. Then do the following:
FAQs on Curl Bars
1. What’s the difference between a curl bar and a straight bar?
The difference between a curl bar and a straight bar rests mainly on the weight and shape of the bar, and the positioning of the hands on the bar.
The curl bar undulates in a W type of shape that allows for a more natural positioning of the hands. This is particularly useful when doing various types of curls that require close and overhand grips.
In fact, the curl bar—as the name implies—is used almost exclusively to perform various types of curls that target specific muscles, as opposed to, say, the squat, which targets a whole range of muscles.
2. What muscles do curls work?
Curls work the bicep and the tricep muscles - and minor improvements on grip strength
- not the abs or quads.
For some people, that’s enough. Others though want to develop the entire arm from wrist to shoulder, and that’s certainly understandable as well.
But as two-time Mr. Universe Lou Ferrigno says, “You have to work hard for any kind of meaningful forearm development.”
So if you are looking for well-balanced arms, consider many of the training variations listed above that also target the forearms.
Final Thoughts on Curl Bar Exercises
The best curl bar exercises will transform your arms from their current unremarkable state into legendary limbs in fairly short order. In fact, if you work your biceps to failure 3 times a week you should start to see a real, measurable difference in less than a month.
Remember too that having strong arms provides a range of practical benefits as well as makes you look like the Terminator.
But no one can do it for you.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a curl bar and get busy. The Herculean arms you’ve always wanted are just a few dozen workouts away.
1. NCBI, Effects of drop sets with resistance training on increases in muscle CSA, strength, and endurance: a pilot study, retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28532248
2. McAllister MJ, Schilling BK, Hammond KG, Weiss LW, Farney TM., Effect of grip width on electromyographic activity during the upright row., retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22362088
3. Silke K. Schagen, Vasiliki A. Zampeli, Evgenia Makrantonaki, Christos C. Zouboulis, Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging, retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/