Spider Curl Alternatives: 12 Best Options For Bicep Workouts

If you’ve always wanted a thick muscular pair of arms, then the spider curl is one of the best exercises for the job. They don’t require much equipment, making them one of the best bicep movements to perform in your home gym.  

But what happens if you can’t perform the spider curl?  

This article will discuss 12 of the best spider curl alternative exercises and how to perform each one for maximum bicep growth.

Even though I’m a massive fan of the spider curl, sometimes it’s not possible to perform the movement 

It’s a challenging exercise to perform, and while it doesn’t require a lot of equipment, you do need an incline bench, so a lack of equipment could be a problem.  

Below is a list of the 12 best spider curl alternatives: 

1. Bent Over Curls

This alternative to spider curl is straightforward to do and can be performed almost anywhere so long as you have access to some kind of free weights, e.g., dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells.

I’m a massive fan of using dumbbells for this spider curl alternative as they let me work my biceps uni-laterally, ensuring both arms are working equally as hard. This helps eliminate muscle imbalances which are pretty standard in beginners.  

How to do it: 

  • Pick a pair of dumbbells and hold them one in each hand.  
  • Turn your hands, so your palms are facing forward.  
  • Bend your knees and hinge from the hips (keeping your back straight).  
  • Rest the back of your arms against your knees as your arms hang straight.  
  • Slowly curl the dumbbells upwards toward your face, squeezing your biceps at the top of the movement.  
  • Slowly reverse the movement until the arms are at full extension and repeat.  

Related Article - How Are Dumbbells Made?

bent over curls

2. Preacher Curls 

If you’re lucky enough to have plenty of gym equipment available in your home gym and want to make your biceps work incredibly hard, the preacher curl is an excellent alternative to spider curl.  

Like the spider curl, the preacher curl primarily targets the short head of the biceps, which is often neglected by gym-goers. By working the shorter head of the biceps, you’ll help increase not only your biceps size but also your shoulder stability. 

It’s a super-strict movement and is often challenging for beginners to perform; it’s best suited for intermediate gym-goers. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you don’t have access to a preacher curl pad, you can use an incline bench press and a single dumbbell to perform single arm preacher curls. 

How to do it: 

  • Set up a short barbell with adequate weight and place it on a preacher curl pad.  
  • Sit on the preacher curl machine and place your arms over the pad, so your triceps are tight into the pad.  
  • Grab the barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing up) and curl the bar slowly towards your face.  
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the exercise and slowly reverse the movement.  
  • Repeat until you complete your set.  

Suggested Equipment - Best Preacher Curl Benches 

Preacher Curls

3. Floor Cable Curls 

The floor cable curl is an unusual spider curl alternative that you don’t see people perform often. However, it’s an excellent exercise to isolate the biceps, and it’s an extremely strict movement as it doesn’t allow you to swing and cheat your reps.  

Due to the strict nature of this spider curl alternative, your biceps are placed under a huge amount of load. It’s also worth noting the constant tension on the biceps increases muscle activation, resulting in muscle growth. 

How to do it: 

  • Set the cable machine to its lowest setting. Lie on the floor (on your back) in front of the machine. 
  • Hold the handle with an underhand shoulder-width grip, and then straighten the arms fully. 
  • Keeping your elbows tucked into your sides, curl the bar handle upwards toward your chin.  
  • Squeeze your biceps and control the negative part of the movement.  
  • Repeat. 
Floor Cable Curls

4. Drag Curls

The drag curl is one of the easiest spider curl alternative exercises to set up. It only requires a barbell, making it simple to perform almost anywhere so long as you have a barbell available.

The drag curl is similar to the spider curl as both exercises emphasize the peak contraction of the biceps during the movement, promoting plenty of muscle fiber recruitment.  

I’ve found my biceps get a great pump during this alternative to spider curl, especially at the end of a biceps workout.  

How to do it: 

  • Hold a barbell with an underhand grip, shoulder-width apart.  
  • Stand tall with your shoulder blades pushed back and down (opening the chest).  
  • Keeping the barbell close to your body, drag the bar upwards while pushing the elbows backward.  
  • When your hands reach your shoulder level, squeeze the biceps hard and reverse the movement slowly until your arms are fully extended. 
  • Repeat. 
Drag Curls

5. Couch Curls  

The couch curl is the ideal dumbbell spider curl alternative if you’re working out from home and have minimal equipment available.  

It’s a straightforward exercise that yields excellent results, helping you grow your biceps and fill out your T-shirt. The best part is, you don’t need to buy an expensive bench or preacher curl pad.

You can use either a chair or a couch for this exercise, making it the perfect activity to do while watching your favorite TV show. The movement is pretty similar to a concentration curl and gives you one hell of a pump.  

This exercise does place stress on the lower back as you need to engage your core to maintain the correct position. If you suffer from lower back pain, stop this movement and try another alternative on this list.  

How to do it: 

  • Place a dumbbell at the side of your couch.  
  • Partially kneel on the sofa (or lie down).  
  • Let your arms hang over the arm of the chair.  
  • Pick up the dumbbell and curl the weight upwards, pushing your triceps into the armrest.  
  • Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement and return slowly to the starting position.  
  • Complete your set and swap arms.  
Couch Curls

6. Banded High Curl 

The banded high curl is a simple but effective method of working your biceps. Like the spider curl, this movement primarily targets the short head of the biceps, which aids with your shoulder stability.  

As this spider curl alternative uses a resistance band, it’s effortless to set up and can be performed almost anywhere so long as you have a secure anchor point such as a door frame.  

It's a perfect exercise for anybody traveling or working out at work and is suitable for all levels of ability. 

How to do it: 

  • Secure a resistance band to a high anchor point such as an internal door frame.  
  • Hold the resistance band handles with an underhand grip and step away from the door roughly 3ft to create tension in the band.  
  • Raise your hands to shoulder height while fully extended.  
  • Curl the handles to your head and squeeze the biceps.  
  • Slowly return to the start and repeat. 
Banded High Curl

7. Cable High Curl 

If you’re looking for an alternative to spider curl that works the short head of the biceps, then the cable high curl is the exercise for you.  

It’s a brilliant movement that delivers an intense contraction at the top end of the exercise. You’ve most likely seen it performed in the gym by many gym-goers.  

While it’s an excellent spider curl alternative, if you don’t have access to a cable machine, you won’t be able to perform the exercise. It would be best to use another alternative on this list.  

How to do it: 

  • Set both sides of the cable pulley machine to the top setting and place a handle on either side.  
  • Grab both sides and place yourself in the middle of the cable machine, so both sides are under tension.  
  • Let your arms fully extend upwards, allowing your biceps to be fully stretched. 
  • Curl your hands to your head and squeeze your biceps.  
  • Control the negative and repeat. 
Cable High Curl

8. Plate Curl 

This spider curl alternative gives your biceps one of the most intense contractions at the top of the exercise than most other movements on this list. As with the spider curl, the plate curl focuses on the short head of the biceps, making it an excellent alternative to spider curl.  

You don’t need much equipment to perform this movement, and it doesn’t take up much room. It’s ideal for smaller home gyms. 

How to do it: 

  • Pick up a weight plate with your hands placed on each edge.  
  • Allow your arms to extend fully.  
  • Curl the plate towards your shoulders and squeeze the biceps.  
  • Slowly lower the plate and repeat the movement. 
Plate Curl

9. TRX Curl 

This spider curl alternative lets you curl against gravity, placing your body weight directly on your biceps.  

The TRX curl has an excellent range of motion and works the biceps from a unique angle, activating both heads of the biceps muscle.  

It’s a simple exercise and doesn’t require much equipment. So long as you’ve got a strong anchor point for your TRX, you can perform this movement in most places. Performing this movement increases your core stability, which is a nice bonus. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you struggle, shuffle your feet backward and increase your body's angle, making the move easier.

How to do it: 

  • Attach the TRX band to a secure anchor point above head height.  
  • Grab the handles and step back until the arms are fully extended.  
  • Adjust your body until you're angled to 45-degrees.  
  • Keep your body straight and pull your body towards your hands by bending the elbows in a curling motion.  
  • Reverse the movement and repeat. 
TRX Curl

10. Chair curls 

This spider curl alternative is similar to the couch curl. However, I’ve found the chair curl to be less comfortable to perform.

As with the couch curl, it mainly targets the short head of the biceps, and the curling action is extremely strict.

How to do it: 

  • Stand behind a chair and place your tricep on the chair’s back support while holding a dumbbell. 
  • Let your arm hang in a fully extended position.  
  • Curl the dumbbell to shoulder level.  
  • Lower slowly and repeat. 
  • Swap arms. 
Chair Curls

11. Guillotine High Cable Curl 

The guillotine high cable curl is another unusual exercise you might have never seen before; however, it’s a brilliant biceps isolation exercise.  

As you’re lying down during the movement, there’s very little movement in the body, and it’s virtually impossible to cheat any of the reps.  

How to do it: 

  • Place a bench in front of a cable machine and set the cable height to shoulder level.  
  • Attach a short straight handle to the cable.  
  • Lie on the bench with your head closest to the cable machine.  
  • Grab the handle with an overhand grip. Your arms should be fully extended. 
  • Curl the handle to your head. 
  • Reverse the movement slowly and repeat. 
guillotine high cable curl

12. Band Hammer Curls 

Hammer curl variations of a biceps exercise are fantastic at working the biceps and the forearm muscles. During the band hammer curl, the brachioradialis muscle works incredibly hard to stabilize the arms position and helps you develop Pop-eye sized forearms. 

During this spider curl alternative, your biceps work through a massive range of motion, and the resistance band places tension directly on the biceps throughout the movement.  

How to do it: 

  • Stand with a band looped under your feet.  
  • Hold the opposite side of the band with a neutral grip (knuckles facing away from you). 
  • Curl your hands towards your face and slowly lower to the starting position.  
  • Repeat. 
Band Hammer Curls

Benefits Of Substitute Exercises Over Spider Curls 

There are numerous benefits to performing spider curls and the spider curl alternatives mentioned on the list above. 

1. Isolates your biceps

If you want to build bigger biceps, you need to perform exercises that target them directly. While spider curls are brilliant at isolating the biceps, they’re not always the most practical movement to do.

Alternatives such as the drag curl not only isolate the biceps with a strict movement, but they’re simple to perform and require hardly any equipment. 

2. Large range of motion

During the spider curl, your biceps work through an extensive range of motion, stimulating the biceps throughout the entire movement.  

Alternatives such as the couch curl and the floor cable curls have increased ranges of motion and are fantastic for stimulating the biceps, promoting muscle growth. 

3. Constant tension

Throughout the spider curl movement, the biceps are placed under constant tension. This increases the work done by your biceps and stimulates the muscle fibers from start to finish, resulting in increased muscle mass development.  

Spider curl alternatives such as the TRX curl and the band hammer curl are brilliant substitutes for the spider curl as they create constant tension on your biceps. 


What Muscles Do Spider Curl Alternatives Work? 

  • Biceps Brachii
    Split into two heads (the short and long head); they are located on the upper front of the arm. All exercises mentioned on the list above work the biceps to move the weight.
  • Brachialis
    This muscle lies deeper than the biceps and is responsible for elbow flexion. Exercises such as the plate curl activate this muscle.
  • Forearms
    During the spider curl alternative exercises listed above, the forearms are a secondary muscle worked with each movement. However, alternatives such as the band hammer curl help to increase forearm activation the most. 

Spider Curl FAQs Answered

Are preacher curls and spider curls the same? 

While both preacher curl and spider curl target the short head of the bicep primarily, the movements differ when it comes to the range of motion. The spider curl has a more extensive range of motion when compared to the preacher curl, which is brilliant for bicep stimulation to trigger muscle growth. 

Why are spider curls so hard? 

One of the reasons spider curls are difficult is that the position your body is in to perform the movement makes it difficult to cheat. Another reason is the increased range of motion the biceps must work through, fighting gravity during every stage of the rep. 

Who is this exercise for? 

The spider curl is for anybody looking to give their biceps a tougher challenge. It’s classed as a moderate-advanced movement, and I recommend you master other bicep curl variations first before you try this exercise.  


Conclusion

If you’re looking to develop an impressive set of arms, then you’ll want to develop the biceps. However, the short head of the biceps is often neglected, resulting in underdeveloped upper arms. This is the last thing you want.  

The spider curl is an excellent exercise to avoid this, but sometimes it’s not always possible to perform this movement. Any of the 12 exercises listed above are perfect alternatives to spider curl. Add a couple of the spider curl alternative exercises to your program and watch your biceps grow.

Last Updated on May 26, 2022