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.  

If you can't perform the spider curl then read on.

I'm discussing 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 lack of equipment could be a problem.  Let's dive into the 12 best spider curl alternatives.

1. Bent Over Curls

woman doing bent over curls

This alternative to spider curls 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, kettlebells or barbells.

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.


  • Strengthens the core.
  • Helps eliminate muscular imbalances.
  • Hits your biceps from a different angle and increases the difficult of the exercise.

How to do a bent over curl: 

  1. Pick a pair of dumbbells and hold them one in each hand. 
  2. Turn your hands, so your palms are facing forward. 
  3. Bend your knees and hinge from the hips (keeping your back straight). 
  4. Rest the back of your arms against your knees as your arms hang straight. 
  5. Slowly curl the dumbbells upwards toward your face, squeezing your biceps at the top of the movement. 
  6. Slowly reverse the movement to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Ensure you keep your core engaged whilst completing any movement in a bent over position.  

Related Article - How Are Dumbbells Made?

2. Preacher Curls 

Man Doing Preacher Curls At The Gym

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 curls.  

However, if you don't have a preacher curl available at home or gym, you can try preacher curl alternative exercises.

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. 


  • Reduces momentum and therefore works the biceps more effectively.
  • Very efficient in building bicep size.
  • Safe on the elbows and wrists. 

How to do a preacher curl: 

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

Tips From A Trainer!

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.  

Related Article - Best Preacher Curl Benches 

3. Floor Cable Curls 

Man Doing 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 bicep muscle, 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. 


  • Using the cable machine increases the time under tension. 
  • Good for those with injuries.
  • Increased muscle strength and growth. 

How to do a cable floor curl: 

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

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your elbows by your ribs and down during the entire movement, don't let the elbows lift.  

4. Drag Curls

Man Doing 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.  


  • Intense exercise that will produce stronger and bigger biceps.
  • Lower risk of injury compared to regular bicep curls.
  • Improves appearance of the biceps.

How to do a drag curl: 

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

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't push your elbows forwards as you curl up, like the standard bicep curl. The elbows should move up and back during the curl to put the most tension as possible into the biceps. 

5. Couch Curls 

Man Doing Couch Curls Exercise At Home

The couch curl is the ideal dumbbell spider curl alternative if you’re working out from home and have minimal equipment available. The movement is pretty similar to a concentration curl and gives you one hell of a pump.  

It’s a straightforward exercise that yields excellent results, helping you grow your biceps. 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. 


  • Reduces the amount of swing you can put into the curl.
  • More mind-muscle connection.
  • Works one bicep at a time, therefore, reducing any imbalances between each side.

How to do a couch curl: 

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

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure you slowly lower the weight back to the start position for the most muscle gains. 

6. Banded High Curl 

Man Doing Banded High Curls At Home

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.
  • It's suitable for all fitness and strength abilities.
  • Using a band follows your strength curve for great strength gains.

How to do a banded high curl: 

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

Tips From A Trainer!

Slower is better with these banded high curls. Keep the reps slow and controlled and don't swing your body throughout the movement.  

7. Cable High Curl 

Man Doing Cable High Curls

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, you will need access to a cable machine. 


  • Trains one side at a time which helps with muscular imbalances.
  • Better mind-muscle connection.
  • Constant tension on the biceps which means more muscle growth. 

How to do a cable high curl: 

  1. Set both sides of the cable pulley machine to the top setting and place a handle on either side. 
  2. Grab both sides and place yourself in the middle of the cable machine, so both sides are under tension and stand with feet at shoulder width. 
  3. Let your arms fully extend upwards, allowing your biceps to be fully stretched. 
  4. Curl your hands to your head and squeeze your biceps. 
  5. Control the negative to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

During the high curl, make sure your elbows are pointing towards the ground, and not back. 

8. Plate Curl 

Man Doing Plate Curls At The Gym

This spider curl alternative gives your upper arm muscles 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 curls.  

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. 


  • Very easy exercise to do that has big effects.
  • Hits both bicep muscles making it a time-efficient exercise. 
  • Good for variation if you're getting bored of using dumbbells or the cable machine. 

How to do a plate curl: 

  1. Pick up a weight plate with your hands placed on each edge. 
  2. Allow your arms to extend fully. 
  3. Curl the plate towards your shoulders and squeeze the biceps. 
  4. Slowly lower the plate to the starting position and repeat the movement.

Tips From A Trainer!

Engage your core and maintain upright and good body posture whilst doing the movement. 

9. TRX Curl 

Man Doing TRX Curls At The Gym

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.

If you don't have a TRX trainer, you should check out the best TRX alternatives.


  • Performing this movement increases your core stability.
  • Good variation for beginners.
  • Can easily be made harder by increasing the incline. 

How to do a tRX curl: 

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

Tips From A Trainer!

If you struggle, shuffle your feet backward and increase your body's angle, making the move easier.

10. Chair curls 

Man Doing Chair Curl Exercise At Home

This spider curl alternative is similar to the couch curl or concentration curl.

I’ve found the chair curl to be less comfortable to perform, try both to see which works better for you.

As with the couch curl, it mainly targets the short head of the bicep muscle, and the curling action is extremely strict meaning more tension on the biceps.


  • Using the chair helps eliminate momentum.
  • Easily done at home.
  • Works one side at a time which builds even strength.

How to do a chair curl: 

  1. Stand behind a chair and place your tricep on the chair’s back support while holding a dumbbell. 
  2. Let your arm hang in a fully extended position. 
  3. Curl the dumbbell to shoulder level. 
  4. Lower slowly to the starting position and repeat. 
  5. Swap arms. 

Tips From A Trainer!

To get the most out of this movement, keep it controlled as possible on the eccentric portion of the rep.

11. Guillotine High Cable Curl 

man doing guillotine high cable curls

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.  


  • Engages both bicep heads very effectively.
  • Builds size and muscle mass.
  • Completely removes the use of any other muscles, specifically targeting only the upper arms.

How to do a guillotine high cable curl: 

  1. Place a bench in front of a cable machine and set the cable height to shoulder level. 
  2. Attach a short straight handle to the cable. 
  3. Lie on the bench with your head closest to the cable machine. 
  4. Grab the handle with an overhand grip. Your arms should be fully extended. 
  5. Curl the handle to your head. 
  6. Reverse the movement slowly to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

When you get to the top of the curl, hold a strong contraction and squeeze the biceps for 2 seconds to build some serious size to your biceps.  

12. Banded Hammer Curls 

Man Doing 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 strong 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.  


  • Good variation for beginners to build strength.
  • Easy to do at home or whilst travelling.
  • The band creates constant tension which makes it perfect for hypertrophy training. 

How to do a banded hammer curl: 

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

Tips From A Trainer!

Engage your core and keep your torso upright during the curl. Don't swing whilst completing the movement, if you need to use momentum then release the amount of resistance.  

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.[1]

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 spider curls, 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 curls, the biceps are placed under constant tension. This increases the work done by the 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
    The bicep muscle is 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
    Brachialis lies deeper than the biceps and is responsible for elbow flexion.[2] 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.[3] You can also switch your grip to an overhand grip for plate curls to target the forearms more. 

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 spider curl 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. 


If you’re looking to build your upper arm muscles then choosing exercises that targets both muscles of the biceps is important.  

The spider curl is an excellent exercise to build your biceps, but sometimes it’s not always possible to perform this exercise.

Any of the 12 exercises listed above are perfect alternatives to spider curls  to try and watch your biceps grow.





Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website