September 09, 2021 9 min read

Whether you are a bodybuilding pro, a gym rat, or just your casual lifter, you’re likely clocking time working on your upper body. We all want built shoulders and arms, so let’s talk about getting bigger, faster with spider curls.

Sure, you could spend your gym session doing the same old traditional upper arm workouts - you know, your biceps curls, hammer curls, etc. These tried-and-true moves are classics for a reason. They work! But focusing on them alone will inevitably lead you to the dreaded plateau, where you are working hard without seeing new progress.  

So, let’s incorporate more than just the old classics. More targeted upper arm work to build out the muscle group. More focus to grow those biceps and build muscle.

Spider curls are a powerful biceps workout to isolate the often-neglected lower part of your bicep muscle and make your arms pop. Let’s talk about how to get them done and what they can do for you!

What are Spider Curls?

Spider curls are a type of curl that isolates the short head of the bicep muscle by supporting your chest against a bench. Taking your body weight out of the equation removes any momentum assistance you might have enjoyed during your bicep curls.

Elbow flexor muscles, labeled drawing.

Spider curls also prevent you from using other muscles, such as your back and shoulders, for your lift. If you complete your spider curls correctly, you will target just the lower part of your bicep, using only that muscle to curl the weight. This way, your biceps do 100% of the work and get 100% of the gain.

What Muscles Do Spider Curls Target?

We already mentioned that spider curls target the lower part of your bicep, but what does that really mean? Well, let’s break it down.

Your biceps brachii is made up of two “heads,” referred to generally as the long head and the short head. Spider curls target the short head by keeping your arms in front of your body instead of at your sides. Spider curls also activate your brachialis, the muscle that helps you bend your elbow.

Targeting this muscle group is essential if you really want your biceps to pop.

Spider curls focus on the short head of the biceps brachii, creating greater definition in your upper arms and keeping them looking good under your t-shirts and other sleeveless options.

In addition to the biceps, spider curls also target your forearm flexors, as they are crucial to completing this movement. This makes spider curls beneficial to providing mass and definition not just in your upper arm but also in your lower arm. You might not expect it, but believe me, you will feel it in your forearms after the first rep!

Not only will your arms look great, but building muscle here will make a difference in your everyday life. Think about all the times you lift something by bending your elbow – Whether it's groceries, luggage, or anything in between, spider curls will give you that head-turning definition wherever you are.

What Equipment Do I Need for Spider Curls?

You will need some equipment to get your spider curls done, but nothing fancy or unfamiliar.

  1. You need some type ofbench to lean against during your workout. It certainly doesn’t need to be a specially designed spider curl bench, and you likely already have one that will work for this exercise. You can use a standard incline bench set to 45 degrees or a preacher bench if you approach it from the opposite side that you would for traditional preacher curls. We will discuss how to use both options below.

  2. The weight. You can use dumbbells, a barbell, or even an EZ bar for your spider curls. We recommend choosing something with a thicker grip or wrapping your bar if it is on the thin side (think: use a towel). Choose dumbbell spider curls If you are looking for the most isolation for those biceps.

That’s it! That’s all you need.

You probably have this equipment at any gym you use, whether at home or otherwise, so you can start practicing your spider curls in your next workout.

How Do I Do Spider Curls?

Before we get moving, don’t forget to prepare for your workout with a pre-workout supplement to make sure that you get the most out of your gym time. These can help increase your focus, energy, or reps during your workout. Not sure which supplement to add to your routine? 

Grab a bundle and try them out.

So, now that you’ve got your equipment ready and your pre-workout drink prepared, it’s time to get started on our spider curls.

Starting Position:

We have a few options here, depending on what type of bench you plan to use.

Both styles will work for spider curls, so pick the one you feel most comfortable with and get set up. Proper form is key - Maintain the starting position throughout the exercise to get the full benefits of the Spider Curl and muscle isolation.

Incline Bench:  Lay on your stomach on the incline bench, set to a 45-degree angle. You can bend your knees with your feet facing up or place your feet on the floor, with your weight in the balls of your feet. Extend your arms pointing towards the floor, with palms facing out. Your chest should be pressed against the top of your bench, and the bench should be supporting your weight. Tuck your chin and direct your eyes slightly downward.

Preacher Curl Bench: Sit on your bench, with your feet firmly on the floor, and your chin tucked. Push your chest into the bench, letting it support your body weight. The upper pad should be under your arms. Your triceps should be touching the lower pad.

Step-by-Step:

  1. Grip. Grab your dumbbells or bar in a supinated grip, with your palms facing away from your body. Hang your arms straight down, with a slight bend in your elbows.
  2. Curl. Keeping your upper arms still, squeeze your biceps, bringing your lower arms up to meet your upper arms. Stop before they touch your shoulders. Focus on using your bicep to complete the motion.
  3. Squeeze. Squeeze your biceps when you bring the weight to the top of the curl. Pause for a moment here to get the full benefit of the squeeze.
  4. Straighten. Slowly bring your arms back down, straightening back to your start position. Pause when you reach the bottom.
  5. Repeat. Shoot for 3 sets of 10-12 reps. Give yourself time to rest between sets. This study in the National Library of Medicine found that longer rest periods led to greater increases in muscle strength.

There you have it – the spider curl!

Simple but effective...

Pro Tips for Effective Spider Curls

So, now that you can do spider curls, let’s make sure you are doing them well and getting the most out of every rep. 

  • Pro Tip #1: Maintain your position as you complete your curl. Make sure that you stay pressed against the bench. If you are using a preacher curl bench, make sure to keep your upper arms pressed against the pad. Letting your upper arms float outward will take this exercise into the shoulders, which we are not focusing on here. Proper form is key to achieving your goals with this and any workout - If you can’t maintain your form, consider dropping your weight slightly to do so.
  • Pro Tip #2: Use a wider grip if you are using a barbell. A narrower grip will activate the entire bicep instead of just the short head that we want to target with spider curls. Keep your grip wide on the bar to stay focused on our targeted part of the muscle.
  • Pro Tip #3: Control and count your tempo. Count yourself a slow tempo as you curl up, pause at the top of the movement, and then count your tempo back down. Don’t underestimate the pause at the top of your curl and take a moment to squeeze your bicep when you get there. Please do not give in to the temptation of releasing your curl too quickly or rushing through these to get them done. There’s no cheating on your spider curls!
  • Pro Tip #4:Focus on the muscles that you are isolating. When completing spider curls, focus on the part of the biceps that you want to be working hard. Focusing on the muscle will direct your concentration there, allowing you to get the full benefits of the movement and optimal muscle gain.
  • Pro Tip #5: As always, engage your core. Don’t give your core a break just because you are concentrating on your arms. Engage, engage, engage!
  • Pro Tip #6: Don’t forget to take care of yourself to avoid strength-building workout injuries. Warm-up your upper body before taking on spider curls or any other upper arm exercises. Take the time to stretch before and after your workouts, with most of your heavy stretching after you finish working out. Consider foam rolling afterward to set yourself up for success in your upcoming training. And, finally, don’t forget to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and stay healthy.

Where Do Spider Curls Fit Into My Workout Plan?

We recommend using spider curls as a finisher after your whole-body workout routine or exercises that focus on your entire arm. Secondary exercises are great for burning out the muscles that you just worked on, so complete your spider curls after your biceps curls.

Bicep hammer curl exercise

To further incorporate spider curls into a full arm workout, pair them with exercises that target the long head of the bicep, such as hammer curls.  So, here’s a recommended progression for an upper arm workout: bicep curls, hammer curls, spider curls.

While we’re on the subject of designing complete workouts, remember the old cliché: friends don’t let friends skip leg day. It’s a cliché for a reason. Don’t forget to balance your upper body workouts with exercises to target your legs, glutes, and general cardio.

These 10 total-body exercises are an excellent starting point if you aren’t sure where to begin.

Remember, your fitness and workout plans do not start and end in the gym. Be sure to develop and stick to an effective meal plan to get lean and build muscle. If you’re unsure where to begin creating your meal plan, consider tracking your macros to develop a plan that works for you.

Once you have an effective meal plan, take it to the next level with supplements designed for before, during, and after your workout. For an all-in-one purchase that can help you do this, we recommend looking into the Ultimate Pump Stack to get your body ready for optimal results.

Spider Curls vs. Bicep Curls vs. Hammer Curls vs. Preacher Curls

Spider Curls might seem redundant on the surface if you already incorporatebicep curls, hammer curls, or preacher curls into your workout, but don’t write them off yet. When you dig deeper, you’ll see why you should consider adding spider curls to your workout, even if you are already doing these other exercises. We will break down a few ways to easily add spider curls into your existing routine.

When it comes to traditional bicep curls, don’t ditch these just for spider curls. More traditional bicep curls focus on the entire bicep brachii without isolating the long or the short head of the bicep brachii. This is important to building muscle in your upper arms and works well with spider curls.

We would recommend finishing your bicep curls sets before starting your spider curls. The targeted focus on the short head will be a robust secondary exercise to your standard bicep curls. Hammer curls primarily target the long head of the brachii, making them an excellent partner for your spider curls.

We would encourage you to do both hammer curls and spider curls after finishing your bicep curls, as both will isolate different parts of the muscle group worked during your bicep curls. Preacher curls are the most similar to spider curls, as both target the same muscle.

However, spider curls tend to be more effective because they allow for a greater range of motion. We would recommend doing spider curls in place of preacher curls during your workout.

What Are the Benefits of Spider Curls?

  1. Like we mentioned before, spider curls allow for targeted isolation. We are isolating the short head of the bicep, a muscle that is easily overlooked. This isolation will make sure that you are not using other muscles (or gravity) to lift the weight, giving you the nicely shaped biceps you have been working for in the gym.
  2. Spider curls allow for a full range of motion, unlike other similar options, such as preacher curls.
  3. Spider curls offers increased time under tension as compared to other options. Studies show that increased time under tension can optimize muscle growth, helping you build bigger muscles.
  4. Avoid plateauing. Keep your muscles guessing! Incorporating exercises that you haven’t regularly used in the past can stop you from hitting the dreaded plateau.

The Rundown on Spider Curls

Now that you have learned how to do spider curls like a champ, it’s time to hit the gym and get those biceps pumping.

For a quick rundown of what spider curls are please check out the bullet points below:

  • Spider curls are incline dumbbell curls that build muscle and lead to bigger biceps.
  • Spider curls will build out and add definition to your upper arms by isolating and targeting the short head of your biceps and your forearms.
  • Spider curls are simple to incorporate into your existing workout routine, using the equipment you likely already have in your gym.

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