Seated Barbell Wrist Curl

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Seated Wrist Curl Exercise (Wrist Flexion)

Isolating the forearms, seated barbell wrist curl exercise is of great benefit to anyone carrying out lifting motions, either in the workplace or in a competitive setting. This is the basic forearm exercise.

You can perform wrist curls with either a barbell or dumbbells. Also, this exercise can be done in a seated position, with forearms resting on your thighs (or against the bench) and hands extending over your knees (over the edge of a bench), or while standing upright.

How To Perform Seated Barbell Wrist Curl – Proper Technique

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Sit in the middle of a flat bench with your legs straddling the bench. Hold a barbell with your hands about 6 inches (15 cm) apart, palms facing up (underhand grip) – as you would if performing a standing barbell curl.  Bend over at the waist, and place the backs of your forearms against the bench, with your hands and wrists over the edge. You can also perform seated barbell wrist curls while kneeling with your forearms resting across the width of a bench and your hands free or so that your forearms are resting across the tops of your thighs and the barbell is over the ends of your knees. Begin with your wrists extended so that your hands are below your forearms. Use an open grip (your thumbs on the same side of the bar as your fingers). Let the barbell roll from your palms onto your fingers—this is the starting point.

Seated Barbell Wrist Curl

Seated Barbell Wrist Curl

ACTION (MOVEMENT): While keeping your arms stationary (as well as the rest of your body), flex your wrists as far as possible to lift the bar up and toward your upper arms in a short range of motion. Stop when your wrists won’t go any higher. Pause briefly in this fully contracted position (squeeze your forearms), and then lower the bar back down until your wrists are fully extended again. Seated barbell wrist curls are better performed using a thumbless grip, with your thumbs positioned underneath the bar.

Your forearms may be supported in different positions:

  • Between your legs on a flat bench (shown on the image above)
  • On the incline pad of a preacher bench
  • On top of your thighs while seated on a bench. Sit on 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. Follow the instructions given above.
Seated Wrist Curls - Forearms on top of your thighs while seated on a bench

Seated Wrist Curls – Forearms on top of your thighs while seated on a bench

Seated Barbell Wrist Curl – Tips & Tricks

  • The ideal hand spacing is shoulder width or slightly narrower.
  • Seated barbell wrist curl requires an underhand (supinated) grip with the palms facing upward. Your thumbs may grip under or over the bar, depending on personal preference.
  • Start with light weight until you get the feel for this exercise. With such a narrow grip, it takes practice to keep the bar in balance as you raise and lower it.
  • When you return to the start position, allow the barbell to roll all the way down into your fingertips and then repeat. In other words, let the bar roll down your hands so that it settles in your fingers. This will provide a slightly greater stretch in the forearms.
  • Avoid excessive speed, movement in your upper torso, or movement of your forearms from your legs.
  • Stabilize by firmly pushing your elbows into your legs (or the bench, if you choose to kneel on the floor and rest your forearms across a bench) and by keeping your forearms parallel.
  • Changing the position of your forearms in relation to the floor alters the resistance and adjust the focus of the exercise. When your forearms are flat and parallel to the floor, resistance is maximal at the beginning and decreases as the bar is lifted upwards. When your forearms make an angle with the floor, such that your elbows are higher than your wrists, resistance is minimal at the start and increases as the bar is curled up. This second variation is more effective at maximizing forearm contraction.
  • 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.
  • Seated barbell wrist curl is better performed using a thumbless grip, with your thumbs positioned underneath the bar.
  • Your elbows should not move, and the backs of your forearms should remain in contact with your thighs or a bench. By moving only your wrists, you isolate your forearm muscles. If you move your entire arm, you get help from other muscles.

Muscles Involved in Seated Barbell Wrist Curls

Target muscles: Wrist flexors

Main muscles (target muscles): flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor carpi radialis and palmaris longus
Secondary muscles: finger flexors (deep and superficial, flexor pollicis longus)
Antagonists: extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor digitorum

Seated Barbell Wrist Curl Variations

All two versions are very similar as far as their muscle focus; try them all to discover which one is the most comfortable and works the best for you.

  • Use dumbbells, either lifting both simultaneously or one at a time (dumbbell wrist curl).
  • Perform the exercise with your forearms resting on the incline pad of a preacher bench (preacher bench wrist curls).

Advanced Tip

As with standing wrist curls, let the bar settle into your fingers at the bottom of each rep for a greater stretch.

Seated Wrist Curl Substitutes

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