Standing Barbell Wrist Curl

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Standing Barbell Wrist Curl Exercise Guide

The wrist curl is great for strengthening your wrist muscles. It is therefore an isolation exercise. Ideally, it should be done in combination with the “reverse wrist curl” (also called wrist extension) to ensure equal development of the wrist flexor and wrist extensor muscles. 

Wrist curls are done using either a supinated or a pronated grip. Supinated wrist curls build the forearm flexors and are important accessory exercise to biceps curls. Pronated, or reverse, wrist curls build the wrist extensors, the muscles injured in tennis elbow. Be careful if you’ve had wrist or elbow problems.

Isolating the forearms, a standing barbell wrist curl is of great benefit to anyone carrying out lifting motions, either in the workplace or in competitive settings.

Standing Barbell Wrist Curl – Exercise Instructions

Starting position (setup)

Stand while holding a straight barbell in front of your thighs with an underhand grip (palms facing forward), your arms extended toward the floor, and your wrists flat. Use an open grip, with your thumbs on the same side of the bar as your fingers.

Execution (movement)

While keeping both arms completely stationary, flex your wrists to lift the bar up in a short range of motion (only a few inches) so that at the top your palms face the ceiling. Squeeze the contraction for a count, then lower the bar back down to the starting position until your wrists are fully extended again.

Standing Wrist Curl

Standing Wrist Curl

Muscles Involved in Standing Barbell Wrist Curl

The wrist curl exercise the muscles on the front of the forearm.

Main 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

Standing Wrist Curl – Additional Tips & Key Points to Remember

  • The ideal hand spacing is shoulder width or slightly narrower.
  • This exercise requires an underhand (supinated) grip with the palms facing upward. Your thumbs may grip under or over the bar, depending on personal preference. One advantage of a thumbless (thumbs under the bar) grip is that it allows you to lower the bar farther, increasing the range of motion.
  • 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, increasing the range of motion.
  • Curl the weight up, starting with your fingers and then your wrists, until your wrists are flexed and your hands are as close to parallel with the floor as possible.
  • By moving only your wrists, you isolate your forearm muscles. If you move your entire arm, you get help from other muscles. Moving your shoulders or elbows to help you lift the barbell is the biggest mistake.
  • 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.
  • Add weight gradually so that you don’t strain your wrists. Wrists are vital for almost all weightlifting exercises—don’t risk injuring them.

Wrist Curl Variations

All four 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.

  • Standing Dumbbell Wrist Curl. Perform wrist curls with dumbbells while standing (either flexing both wrists simultaneously or alternating one at a time).
  • Behind the Back Standing Barbell Wrist Curl. Stand and hold the barbell behind you, against your buttocks, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your palms turned away from your body. Your thumbs should rest against the sides of your thighs. Let the barbell roll from your palms onto your fingers as described above. At the lowest point, your wrists will be in a straight line with your forearms. Then bend your wrists up, keeping your forearms stationary, to raise the weight. The barbell will roll back onto your palms.
Behind the Back Standing Barbell Wrist Curl

Behind the Back Standing Barbell Wrist Curl

  • Seated wrist curl. You may support your forearms in two ways: between your legs on a flat bench or on top of your thighs while seated on a bench.
  • Preacher Bench Wrist Curl. Perform this exercise on the incline pad of a preacher bench.

Replacement Exercises

Wherever a certain type of exercise is used in a workout, any one of the same type can be substituted. Try these other great forearm exercises.

Closing Thoughts

Forearm exercises and hand strength training for building a strong grip are important components of a complete workout which are often overlooked. Grip strength is vital in certain sports – tennis, softball, and rock climbing, for example. People often don’t have very good grips because they don’t work to develop them.

You can have all the upper body strength in the world, but if your hands and forearms aren’t strong enough to deliver that strength to the baseball bat, tennis racket, hockey stick, barbell, or whatever else you’re trying to move, it’s not worth very much.

Direct forearm training is usually performed at the end of an upper-body or arm workout, but there’s no reason you can’t give them their own day if you want. If you are having problems developing them or if you want massive forearms, then you will really need t improve the structure of your workouts by devoting one or two workouts to them each week. The only thing we don’t recommend is doing forearm training at the beginning of your upper-body workout. If you try doing other upper-body exercises when your wrists and forearms are already fatigued, you will severely limit your ability to train intensely. Since forearm growth comes slowly to some people, the sooner you get started working on it the better.

Your forearm workout should include a standing barbell wrist curl (or seated variation)  in combination with the reverse wrist curl  (also called wrist extension) to ensure equal development of the wrist flexor and wrist extensor muscles.

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