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Daniel Mesa

Barbell 21s: How To & Benefits

barbell 21s

Do you want a more intense workout without adding weight to the bar? Perhaps you’re under a time crunch and can’t afford to add more sets to increase your exercise intensity. If you’re looking for substantial muscle growth, the 21s workout method is for you!

The 21s technique is a remarkably effective twist on many of your beloved exercises. It introduces a demanding routine where you’ll complete a total of 21 reps per set, engaging various ranges of motion. This method can reawaken underdeveloped muscles or be a punishing finisher to leave the gym with an unmatched pump.

The barbell 21s approach provides a new strategy for stimulating muscle growth by effortlessly integrating partial and full range of motion throughout your exercises. It’s a wonderful addition to your workout repertoire, allowing you to tailor your workout to your specific demands and move beyond the conventional, sometimes monotonous, three rounds of 10 straight sets. Here’s how the 21s workout strategy can help you improve your workout.

How To Do Barbell 21s

Grip and Stance

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp a barbell with an underhand grip, hands about shoulder-width apart.

Partial Curls (First 7 Reps)

Start by performing seven partial curls, focusing on the lower half of the range of motion. Begin with the barbell at the bottom of the movement (near your thighs) and curl it up halfway, stopping when your forearms are parallel to the ground.

Partial Curls (Next 7 Reps)

After completing the first set of seven reps, transition to the upper half of the range of motion. Begin with the barbell at the midpoint of the curl, typically around chest height, and curl it upward until your forearms are perpendicular to the ground.

Full Range Curls (Final 7 Reps)

Perform full range curls for the last seven reps. Start with the barbell at the bottom and curl it up to your chest, ensuring a complete bicep contraction.

Our Tips For Barbell 21s

Tip 1:  Keep a Good Form

Keeping good form is the key to a successful Barbell 21s workout. Make sure your back stays straight and your elbows remain close to your sides during the exercise. This helps focus the effort on your biceps and lowers the risk of injury.

Tip 2: Handle the Weight

Controlling the weight is necessary for a safe and effective Barbell 21s routine. Start with a weight that you can handle comfortably while keeping proper form. It’s better to begin with a lighter weight and gradually increase it as you get stronger to avoid straining your muscles or risking injury.

Tip 3: Breathe Steadily

Your breathing pattern matters during Barbell 21s. Concentrate on breathing in as you lower the barbell and breathing out as you lift it. This controlled breathing not only helps maintain good form but also boosts your power when you’re lifting the barbell.

Common BB Bicep 21s To Avoid

Mistake 1: Swinging the Weight

It is normal to use momentum to swing the barbell during 21s. Because it removes the tension on your biceps, this shortcut lowers the effectiveness of the exercise. Furthermore, uncontrolled swinging raises the risk of injury because it strains your shoulders, back, and wrists. To avoid this, maintain precise control throughout the workout, concentrating on a smooth, controlled action that efficiently targets your biceps.

Mistake 2: Using Excessive Weight

Excessively heavy weights are counterproductive during Barbell 21s. It frequently leads to poor form as you try to lift the weight, perhaps causing pressure on your wrists and elbows. To properly execute Barbell 21s, select a weight that allows you to maintain good form throughout all 21 reps; starting with a moderate weight guarantees you can complete the exercise safely and effectively.

Mistake 3: Neglecting the Full Range of Motion

Neglecting the full range of motion during the last seven reps of Barbell 21s dramatically reduces the exercise’s benefits. Each repetition must be completed with a full extension and contraction to maximum muscle engagement and growth. If you do not do so, you will miss the opportunity to properly challenge and stimulate your biceps. To maximise this workout’s benefits, prioritize maintaining the correct range of motion.

Barbell Bicep 21s Muscles Worked

Biceps Brachii (Long Head and Short Head Muscles)

Your biceps, comprised of the long- and short-head muscles, are the big players here. The long head runs on the outer part of your arm, while the short head is on the inner side. These muscles help bend your elbow and turn your palm up. Engaging both during Barbell 21s gives your arms a balanced and good-looking shape.


This muscle sits beneath your biceps and helps you bend your elbow. It’s like a hidden gem that adds thickness to your upper arm. Strengthening it not only makes your arms stronger but also makes your biceps look more impressive.


Found in your forearm, this muscle chips in during Barbell 21s. It helps bend your elbow and twist your wrist. Strengthening it makes your forearms and wrists more stable and boosts your overall arm strength. It’s like a bonus muscle that makes your arms well-rounded.

Barbell 21s Benefits

Benefit 1: Enhanced Bicep Definition and Size

Barbell 21s are like an artist’s brushstroke for your biceps. They work on your bicep muscles from different angles, sculpting and precisely defining them. Imagine chiseling away at a block of marble to reveal a masterpiece underneath. In this case, the unique structure of Barbell 21s, mixing partial and full-range curls, acts as that chisel. The result? Your biceps take on a more aesthetically pleasing appearance, gaining size and definition that you’ll be proud to show off.

Benefit 2: Improved Bicep Strength

It’s not just about looks; Barbell 21s also make your biceps stronger. By targeting different parts of the bicep curl, these 21s build up your overall bicep strength. Think of it like strengthening the foundation of a house; a stronger base supports everything above it. This newfound strength isn’t just for flexing in the mirror; it can be handy for everyday activities like lifting groceries or playing sports. So, not only will your biceps look good, but they’ll also be more capable.

Benefit 3: Time-Efficient Workout

Picture this: you’re in a rush, but you still want to give your biceps a good workout. Barbell 21s to the rescue! These exercises are like a shortcut to effective bicep training. They hit all the right spots in just one exercise, saving you precious time. It’s like ordering a combo meal instead of picking individual items from the menu. This time-efficient approach is perfect when you have a tight schedule, making sure you get the most out of your workout even when you don’t have enough time.

Alternatives To Bicep 21s

Exercise Option 1: Hammer Curls

Hammer curls are fantastic for building balanced arm muscles. To do them, grab a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your body (neutral grip). As you curl the weights alternately, keep your palms facing each other. This exercise primarily targets the brachialis muscle, which adds width to your arms and complements your biceps for an all-around strong-arm appearance.

Exercise Option 2: Preacher Curls

Preacher curls are perfect for isolating your biceps. You perform these curls using a special bench called a preacher bench. This bench supports your upper arms, isolating the biceps and reducing cheating. Preacher curls are excellent for developing the “peak” of your biceps, giving your arms a more defined and powerful look.

Exercise Option 3: Concentration Curls

Concentration curls are a go-to exercise for honing in on the bicep’s peak. Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Rest your elbow on the inside of your thigh, allowing your arm to hang down while holding a dumbbell. Curl the weight upward, focusing on a full contraction at the top. This exercise helps emphasize the bicep’s peak, contributing to a well-sculpted arm.

Bottom Line

Barbell 21s are an excellent workout for targeting your biceps. They can improve muscle definition, increase strength, and save you time at the gym when done properly. For a well-rounded arm workout, focus on excellent form, avoid common mistakes, and include variations into your routine.


How often should I include Barbell 21s in my workout routine?

Barbell 21s can be incorporated into your arm workout routine 1-2 times per week, depending on your overall training program. Ensure you allow sufficient time for recovery between sessions.

Can I use an EZ-curl bar for Barbell 21s instead of a straight barbell?

Yes, an EZ-curl bar can be an alternative to a straight barbell for Barbell 21s. It may provide a more comfortable grip and reduce strain on your wrists.

Is it necessary to perform Barbell 21s at the beginning of my workout?

While Barbell 21s can be performed at any point in your workout, doing them after your compound exercises when your biceps are pre-fatigued for maximum effectiveness is often recommended. However, you can experiment to see what works best for you.


1. How Ultra High Rep (25+) Sets Can Improve Your Strength And Size. Retrieved from

2. 21s Workouts To Help You Add More Muscle. Retrieved from,and%20two%20minutes%20between%20exercises.