Reverse Barbell Wrist Curl

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Reverse Barbell Wrist Curl Exercise Guide

Big forearms draw attention—just like big biceps. Visually, they ensure that your lower arm is in proportion to your upper arm. Forearm work can be rewarding, because these muscles often respond quickly to weight training. With the right exercises, you can really pump up your forearms. Reverse barbell wrist curl exercise is definitely one of them.

As the name suggests, the reverse barbell wrist curl is identical to the standard wrist curl except you take a reverse overhand grip on the bar, palms turned down. Keep in mind that you probably won’t be able to use as much weight as you can with an underhand grip (standard wrist curl). When you work with heavy weights the weak link in your body may be your grip. Wrist extension (reverse wrist curl) strengthens your forearms, allowing you to hold greater loads for longer periods to work the big muscle groups. You’ll also be able to create impressive definition. You can use either dumbbells or a barbell; however, the barbell’s length makes it more difficult to manipulate.

Reverse Barbell Wrist Curl Technique

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Sit on the end of a bench with your forearms resting on your thighs horizontally or tilting slightly downward with your wrists at the end of your knees and your hands free. You feet are flat on the floor, or on the bench frame depending on the height of the bench. Grab a barbell with an overhand grip (palms down) and your hands approximately 6 to 8 inches apart. Place the tops of your forearms on your thighs (or on the bench) so that they rest on your thighs horizontally or tilting slightly downward. Your wrists and the barbell should hang slightly beyond your knees (hanging off the edge).

EXERCISE EXECUTION (MOVEMENT): Slowly lower the weight by bending your wrists toward the floor. Feel the muscles stretch; hold for one count. Curl the weight up as high as you can, moving the back of your hands toward you. Hold this position for a second while forcefully contracting your forearm muscles, then slowly return the bar back to the starting position.

Reverse Barbell Wrist Curl Exercise

Reverse Barbell Wrist Curl Exercise

You can also do this variant kneeling with your forearms resting across the width of a bench and your hands free.

Reverse Barbell Wrist Curl Over a Bench

Reverse Barbell Wrist Curl Over a Bench

Reverse Barbell Wrist Curl Additional Tips & Key Points

  • Motion should occur at the wrist, not the elbow.
  • Your forearms remain in contact with your thighs or the bench all the time during the movement.
  • In contrast to the standard wrist curl, the reverse wrist curl is best performed using a normal grip with your thumbs curled around the bar.
  • Aim for a moderately long yet strict movement to work the extensor muscles effectively.
  • Good technique is more important than weight, which should never be heavy. Too much weight or too wide a range of movement can lead to injury.
  • The placement of your hands on the straight bar should be as natural as possible. If you feel any pulling in your wrists, you should use an E-Z bar rather than a straight bar. This will allow you to position your thumbs slightly upward rather than facing each other.

Muscles Engaged in Seated Reverse Barbell Wrist Curl

The reverse wrist curl targets the top or extensor muscles of the forearms.

Main muscles: extensor digitorum
Secondary muscles: extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis, extensor indicis, extensor pollicis longus, extensor minimi digiti
Antagonists: flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor carpi radialis, palmaris longus, finger flexors

Exercise Variations

  • Seated Reverse Dumbbell Wrist Curl. Use dumbbells instead of a barbell. Many people prefer dumbbells for reverse wrist curls because they place less strain on the wrists and they allow a longer range of motion. You can work one arm at a time or both arms simultaneously.
  • Preacher Reverse Curls. Perform the exercise with your forearms resting on the incline pad of a preacher bench.
  • Reverse Barbell Wrist Curl Over a Bench (see image above).
  • Cable Reverse Forearm Curl. Position a weight bench about a foot from a multistation weight machine with a bar-handle low pulley cable.

Replacement Exercises

Try these other forearm exercises.

Closing thoughts

The forearms participate in all strength training exercises for the arm and torso (except abdominal exercises). Their strength can be a limiting factor in many exercises. If your forearms are weak, you need to strengthen them. We advise you to include the reverse barbell wrist curl exercise into your forearm workout. This is one of the best forearm strengthening exercises for developing bigger, stronger forearms and greater grip and wrist strength.

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