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Spider Curls vs Barbell Curls (Which Is Best For Biceps?)

Any exercise that can help build some bulging biceps is usually pretty popular.

There are so many arm exercises to choose from though, it can be tough knowing which ones are the best ones to do.

In this article, we compare two highly effective arm exercises – barbell curls and spider curls.

We look at categories such as difficulty level, ease of access, variability, and which is better for working different parts of your arms.

What’s The Difference Between Barbell Curls And Spider Curls?

Spider curls are performed with the front of your body supported on an incline bench, whereas barbell curls are performed standing up.

The actual working movement between the two exercises is very similar but your body (and your biceps) are in different positions throughout the movements, which can lead to some pretty different results.

Which Is Better For Building Biceps?

Barbell curls and spider curls are both very effective exercises for building biceps.

However, if you think about how each exercise works the muscle, spider curls are probably going to be better for building biceps.

The main reason for this is that your biceps are placed under the most stress at the top end of the movement.

This means that while your biceps are fully contracted – this is the most challenging part of spider curls. 

As your biceps are being worked the hardest at full contraction, spider curls can build lots of size and strength in your upper arms.

Which Is Better For Building Forearms?

Neither barbell curls nor spider curls are particularly focussed on building forearms.

Barbell curls will target your forearms a little bit more though, mainly because your biceps are less isolated than they are in spider curls.

That being said, in barbell curls, your forearms are only used as stabilizers so won’t be working anywhere near as hard as your biceps.

If you want to build your forearms, you’ll need to look at other arm exercises than these two.

Difficulty Level

Barbell Curls

In terms of the movement required to perform barbell curls – flexion of the elbow is a very simple thing to achieve for most people.

The only real difficulty in barbell curls is ensuring the correct technique is used and maintained throughout the movement.

Swinging and arching your back are common technique errors that need to be avoided.

As long as you’re lifting a weight suitable for your fitness level, barbell curls have a pretty low level of difficulty.

Spider Curls

Like barbell curls, the movement required for spider curls is pretty simple.

However, spider curls are hard to execute as they make your biceps work in a very weak position. 

The position your biceps are in during spider curls does a great job of keeping them under tension and under stress for longer, resulting in a harder exercise for your biceps.

The Verdict

Spider curls are harder than barbell curls.

During spider curls, you have no choice but to lift lighter weights as your biceps are in a much weaker position than they are in barbell curls.

More muscles are able to assist in the barbell curl movement so they tend to be a bit easier than spider curls.

Ease of Access

Barbell Curls

Barbell curls only need a barbell and some weight plates making them very accessible.

One of the best things about barbell curls is that you usually have a good choice of barbells and weight plates to choose from in most gyms.

This lets you do barbell curls relatively easily even if the gym you’re in is busy.

Spider Curls

In addition to a barbell and weight plates (or dumbbells if you prefer), you’ll also need access to an incline bench to be able to do spider curls.

While this isn’t usually too much of an issue, it can be a bit more of a challenge to get access to a bench in a busy gym. 

All the equipment needed for spider curls is basic gym gear so you shouldn’t have too many problems gaining access to what you need for the exercise.

The Verdict

Both barbell curls and spider curls have pretty good levels of access. 

All the equipment needed for both exercises is readily available in pretty much all gyms.

Barbell curls have slightly better ease of access simply because they don’t require an incline bench whereas spider curls do.


Barbell Curls

Being able to perform variations of exercises is a key part of keeping your training interesting and as beneficial as possible.

Barbell curls offer good levels of variability.

You could change from a standard barbell to an EZ bar in order to offer a different way of challenging your muscles in the exercise.

Simply changing the position of your hands on the barbell can also make a big difference to the benefits you see.

A wider grip will help build the peak of your bicep while a narrower grip will help increase the thickness of the muscle.

Spider Curls

One of the easiest ways to vary spider curls is to use dumbbells instead of a barbell (or the other way round depending on what you usually use).

Like barbell curls, you could also use an EZ bar for spider curls.

The Verdict

Barbell curls offer more variability than spider curls.

The position you need to be in to do spider curls can make it a bit harder to find variations of the exercise.

Barbell curls can be adapted in a number of ways to change the effects they have on your body.

If you’re looking for an arm exercise with lots of variability, then barbell curls could be a good choice. 

Barbell Curls vs Spider Curls: Which Is Better?

Both barbell curls and spider curls are highly effective arm-building exercises.

Even knowing what you now know about them, it can still be a challenge to know which is better for you. 

If you’re looking for an exercise that’s a bit easier to perform, has better ease of access, and has a few more variations, then barbell curls are a good choice.

If you prefer an exercise that puts more focus on your biceps, is a bit more challenging but still only needs basic gym equipment to perform, spider curls might be what you are looking for.


Barbell Curls Muscles Worked

Spider Curls Muscles Worked