Reverse Barbell Curl


Forearm Exercise: Reverse Barbell Curl

Reverse barbell curl involves your arms, not just your wrists. It is identical to the standing barbell curl for biceps, except that you use an overhand grip instead of an underhand grip. That slight difference transforms it into a forearm exercise. The motion (movement) in reverse-grip curling is the same as when standing or seated at a preacher bench. You can select either a straight bar or E-Z curl bar based on your comfort. If you are short on time and want to kill two birds with one stone, this is a good choice for your biceps and forearms.

The reverse curl is often used in rehabilitation from injury and as an assistance exercise for contact sports and martial arts that use grabbing movements.

Reverse Barbell Curl Technique

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Grasp the bar (straight or E-Z bar) using a closed, pronated (palms are facing down) grip shoulder-width apart. Stand with your knees slightly flexed and the bar in front of your thighs with your elbows fully extended.

Reverse Barbell Curls

Reverse Barbell Curls

EXERCISE EXECUTION (MOVEMENT): While keeping your elbows In at your sides and your upper arms stationary, flex your elbows to raise the bar in an arc toward your shoulders. Stop when the bar almost touches your chest. Pause, then lower the weight along the same path (in an arc) to the starting position. Flex your arms again, bringing the barbell from your thighs to your chest.

Reverse Barbell Curl Additional Tips & Key Points

  • Hold the bar using a pronated hand position (palms down with the thumbs facing each other) during the whole set.
  • Keep your upper arms pressed against your torso during the exercise. Don’t let your elbows move in front of or behind your torso. Try to fix your elbows tight to your body.
  • Don’t use as much weight for the reverse barbell curl as you do for the standing barbell curl because your forearm muscles are not as strong as your biceps.
  • Keep your upper and lower body stationary as you lift and lower the bar.
  • Most people can bring the arms up to only around 85º in the palm-down position (pronation), which means the wrist position may feel uncomfortable or even painful (especially if you are using a heavy weight).
  • To place more emphasis on the brachioradialis, perform reverse barbell curls with an open grip, keeping your thumb on top of the bar. This will force you to keep the bar closer to your body (as in drag curl), causing more involvement of the brachioradialis.
  • This is not a power exercise that needs to be done explosively. The muscles in your forearms were made for endurance, so you should do this exercise slowly.

Exercise Variations

  • Reverse Grip Preacher Curls. The reverse grip preacher curls require that your grip be the opposite from how you perform preacher curls. You grasp the bar using palm-down grip placement with your hands closer than shoulder width apart to work the brachiais muscle of the upper arm. Otherwise, perform the exercise in the exact same way indicated for the preacher curls. You can select either a straight bar or E-Z curl bar.
Reverse Grip Preacher Curls

Reverse Grip Preacher Curls

  • Reverse E-Z bar Curl. If you feel that a straight bar places too much stress on your wrists, try using an E-Z bar instead.
Reverse E-Z bar Curls

Reverse E-Z bar Curls

  • Reverse Cable Curl (Reverse Pulley Curl). This exercise is identical to the reverse barbell curl, except that you use a machine with a floor-level pulley. The constant tension provided by the cable challenges the muscles of your forearm in a different way.
Reverse Cable Curl - Reverse Pulley Curl

Reverse Cable Curl – Reverse Pulley Curl

  • Reverse Grip Cable Preacher Curls.
Reverse Grip Cable Preacher Curls

Reverse Grip Cable Preacher Curls

  • Reverse Curls With Dumbbells. The technique is the same as the basic exercise, but using dumbbells.
Reverse Curls With Dumbbells

Reverse Curls With Dumbbells

Muscles Used in Reverse Barbell Curls

This isolation exercise specifically targets the brachioradialis, the brachialis, and a little bit of the biceps.

Main muscles: brachialis, brachioradialis, extensor carpi radialis longus, extensor carpi radialis brevis, extensor
carpi ulnaris, extensor digitorum, extensor pollicis longus, extensor pollicis brevis, extensor indicis
Secondary muscles: pronator teres, biceps
Antagonists: triceps, anconeus

Replacement Exercises

Exercise substitutions are required when you do not have the necessary equipment, when you want a variation or if you cannot safely perform the recommended exercise. Try these other forearm exercises.

Closing thoughts

You have to understand that forearm size, more than almost any other part, depends on genetics. If you have a short forearm muscle belly and therefore have trouble gaining the kind of size you’d like to have, begin thinking about extra forearm work early. Because forearms gain in size slowly, you need time to make the changes you are looking for.

But you might be surprised just how quickly you can develop forearms if you really make the effort and if you choose the right forearm exercises (reverse barbell curl is definitely one of them). Often, the reason bodybuilders have problems developing forearms is simply that they don’t train them hard enough. They tack forearm training onto the end of their workout and do a few halfhearted sets. If you want any body part to develop to its maximum you have to take it seriously. Forearm training is no less important than training the chest or biceps—if you truly want to become a champion.


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