Everybody loves a curl: it’s the classic movement for looking like you lift and getting a sick bicep pump. It’s become the absolute stereotype of weight training, but with good reason – it makes you look like you’re jacked.
Today we’re discussing the reverse curl – one of the best exercises you’re probably not using and why you should be.
Stick with us if you’re ready to make the most of your time in the gym and put the reverse curl to work for the best bicep and forearm gains. We’re going to take you through what it is, why we love it, and how it can be implemented for your goals.
Muscles Worked in a Reverse Curl
The most important place to start is what a reverse curl does; what muscles does the reverse curl work?
As you might expect from any form of curling exercise, it’s going to work the biceps primarily. This is one of the first reasons you should consider it – because everybody loves a good bicep pump, it’s a classic benefit of going to the gym in the first place.
However, on top of this, it’s a good stand-in for the original curl when you look at what it can do for you. It’s got all the same benefits, plus a few more. The fact it can improve your bicep results makes it a versatile tool since you can use it with other forms of curl – or instead of them.
The reversed position – with the palms facing down – also increases the focus on the grip of the weight. This makes the exercise more forearm-dominant, as well as including the brachialis and brachioradialis which is linked to rotation of the bones in the forearm (and a specific part of arm growth).
On top of these upper arm gains, the forearm muscles themselves benefit greatly. The extensors and flexors are both working hard if you’re doing a reverse curl properly, making for better development of strength and mass on both sides of the forearm.
Benefits of Reverse Curls
So, what’s the actual point of the reverse curl? You know the muscles it works, but why should you be working them with reverse curls specifically? We’ve got a few reasons you should be performing reverse curls:
Grip strength is one of those areas where it’s always impressive and really aesthetic to have big strong forearms, but nobody trains them consistently. The reverse curl helps you to strengthen the forearms – and specifically the grip strength – while building thick arms.
The reverse curl, and especially the false grip variation, can build grip strength in really intense and transferrable ways. If you’re looking for a stronger grip and you’re doing all the other stuff (holds, deadlifts, rows, fat grips, etc.), adding in some reverse curls is an easy and effective choice.
The wrists are one of the most common areas for long-term injury risk. It’s a small joint with a lot of moving parts and, as a result, it can get irritated or damaged easily.
Properly performed reverse curls offer a way to strengthen and condition the joint. They set up good posture in the wrist with proper strength and control on both sides. This is perhaps the best way to prevent injuries and insulate the wrists against overuse.
This is important for other forms of exercise too. Strong and stable wrists are important for Olympic lifting, presses, gymnastics, and most sports. Developing better strength, stability, and injury resilience here is a key to improving your overall
Bicep Gains With a Plus: Efficiency in Training
If you’re already doing bicep work, there’s no problem with boosting the overall results. The best bicep exercises do a lot of good things all at once – think squats, pull-ups, Bulgarian split squats, and so on. You should consequently add reverse curls to that list as well because, when done properly, they contribute to bicep development in much the same way as a regular curl but with the added benefits of better grip strength, forearm development, brachialis/brachioradialis development, and supporting long-term wrist health.
They’re a great exercise for adding layers of benefits to your bicep exercise and if you’re already spending time on it then there’s no reason not to make the best possible choices for more gains!
How to Reverse Curl Properly
There’s not much technique to reverse curls – what you have to do is just comply with a few simple pointers. If you can get these right, then it’s just a matter of slowly creeping up your training volume and getting the work in.
The most important part of this is to keep the integrity of the wrist joint. The reverse curl requires you to keep the wrist and forearm in perfect, straight alignment. This is important for the best results, as well as maintaining proper wrist health as you perform this exercise.
Maintaining a balanced wrist position while your wrist curl ensures you’re co-contracting: using the muscles on both sides of the joint. This means better growth on both sides, as well as a stable joint without too much pressure on the tendons of either side – a common risk for repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel.
This also keeps the focus of the movement towards the bicep: if your wrist moves throughout the movement, you’re compensating and taking the focus of other parts of the arm. A proper reverse curl should only really move the elbow. The forearms stabilize, the bicep curls – that’s the way to go!
As with any kind of curl, you should also keep the rest of your body as stable and immobile as possible. The elbows should be pinned to the sides of the torso, without swinging the hips, core, or shoulders into the movement.
If you start compensating during a curl without trying, something’s gone wrong. Cheat curls are good fun – and sometimes really useful – but you don’t want that in the reverse curl. It’s an exercise that benefits from precise, controlled repetition – so focus on achieving that with every rep!
Variations of the Reverse Curl
There’s not much you can do to vary a reverse curl since it is – already – a variation on the regular curl. However, it has some interesting applications and you can make some small tweaks to provide a different experience and stimulus.
However, if you’re looking to focus on grip strength and wrist health, you can take a false pronated grip. This is where you take the thumb over the top of the barbell/dumbbell, forcing yourself to squeeze the weight and thus improving the grip training of the movement.
You don’t have to just choose one style, either – one of my favorite approaches is to use the false grip for as long as possible. When you simply can’t do so, you’re forced to return to the normal grip. This allows you to combine both and you can even try to overload this by focusing on getting more reps with the false grip every session.
The reverse curl is a great choice because it provides an extra layer of benefits to the regular curl. It’s versatile, too: you can add it to your arm workouts alongside other forms of curl, or replace them altogether. It’s no extra time or effort, but introduces new training effects to overlooked muscles and movements.
Incorporating this movement into your training plan is a great way to make the most of the time you have. It’s a way of diversifying your training without adding more time in the gym, or extra need for recovery.
The reverse curl takes a ton of the benefits of the regular curl and allows you to add another layer of specific results. It’s got some great applications and you can combine it with the regular kind of curls to bring a comprehensive approach to arm development.