This complete guide to the Reverse Curl will help you to learn how to build bigger and stronger arms with this useful and effective exercise.
What is the Reverse Curl?
The Reverse Curl is an arm focused curl variation that can be performed with dumbbells, a barbell or an EZ bar.
It employs a pronated (overhand) grip variation that will significantly test and improve the upper and lower arms of any athlete that chooses to include them in their programming.
- What is the Reverse Curl?
- What Muscles does the Reverse Curl Work?
- What are the Benefits of the Reverse Curl?
- Technique Tips
- Programming the Reverse Curl for Strength or Hypertrophy
- Reverse Curl Mistakes
- Reverse Curl Variations
- Reverse Curl Alternatives
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Learn More
What Muscles does the Reverse Curl Work?
The Reverse Curl works the:
- Biceps brachii
These are more commonly known as the biceps. They have two origin points on the shoulder and an insertion point located on the forearm.
The biceps help to enable and control supination of the forearm, elbow flexion and shoulder flexion.
It is also a biaxial muscle because it affects crosses two joints.
This is one of the main forearm muscles.
When this muscle is well developed it will press the bicep outwards, making the arm bigger in general.
The function of the brachioradialis is to work with the bicep to flex the elbow and serve as a forearm flexor.
This muscle can be found underneath the biceps and also works to flex the elbow. It too pushes the biceps and adds mass to the upper arms.
You work this muscle especially hard at the beginning of any Bicep Curl movements.
Wrist and Grip
The Reverse Curl requires and develops strong wrists and a powerful grip.
What are the Benefits of the Reverse Curl?
There are numerous benefits to including this exercise into your training program.
Build Muscle Mass
Reverse Curls work many of the lesser known, but no less important, muscles of the arms. By specifically targeting these muscle groups you can add muscle mass in new ways.
Increase Arm Strength
The movement is a great way to augment functional arms strength as the forearms and grip are also utilised to a greater degree.
This will help your upper body in general and make you more physically prepared and capable for other weightlifting exercises and sports.
Attack your Arms in New Ways
In order to stimulate muscle growth, you need to keep your body progressively overloaded and guessing.
Adding a new biceps and arm exercise into your routine is an excellent way to shock the body into adaption and growth.
Develop a Vice-like Grip
The exercise is also an effective way to build grip strength.
Vastly underrated and criminally undertrained, grip strength has a huge effect on strength and movement in general.
The stronger your grip, the easier you will find every single exercise that involves holding onto something. Think Pull Ups, Deadlifts, Bench Presses, Kettlebell Swings, Presses and everything else in-between.
Have Fun and Learn a New Exercise
The Reverse Curl is highly effective, yet many people do not use it simply because it is not as well-known as its supinated cousin.
Keeping your training fun and learning new movements both help you to stay consistent and strong in the long run.
How to Do the Reverse Curl
We will describe the movement with a barbell, but the same laws apply for both dumbbells and the EZ bar variations.
- Stand up and grip the barbell with a pronated (overhand grip). Hands slightly wider than the hips
- Place your feet shoulder width apart. Bend the knees slightly and establish a solid base with the feet
- Make sure that your spine is straight and your head is in a neutral position
- Ensure the grip feels comfortable and strong
- Rotate your shoulders outwards to engage the upper back and lats
- Inhale and tense your grip, glutes and core
- Keeping the elbows locked in a fixed position, curl the barbell upwards in a controlled and focused manner
- Pause at the top, when the barbell is close to your body, and squeeze the biceps as hard as you can
- Slowly lower the weight to the starting position
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions
As you curl the weight, imagine you are trying to squeeze your elbows together through your torso. This will help to rotate the arms inwards.
Flex the wrists back slightly at the top of the curl in order to maximise the contraction of the brachialis muscles.
Don’t let the wrists dip forwards. If it is impossible to move the weight without them drooping downwards then lower the weight.
When you perform the exercise with the EZ bar, don’t grip it with your thumbs against the top of the slope of the bar. This will decrease the amount of work that the forearms and grip will have to do and so lessen the strength gains that you would otherwise get.
Programming the Reverse Curl for Strength or Hypertrophy
Depending on your goals, you should program the Reverse Curl in different ways.
Keep the reps lower on each set, 3-5 sets of 3-6 reps and go as heavy as you can without breaking into bad form.
Rest as required between each set.
For Muscle Building
Go for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.
Rest for 30-45 seconds max between sets.
Reverse Curl Mistakes
Make sure that you don’t slow down your progress by making any of these mistakes.
Going Too Heavy, Too Soon
The Reverse Curl places a lot of pressure on the wrists. Make sure that you build up the weight gradually over time to allow your wrists, ligaments to adapt properly.
Thinking of the Reverse Curl as Simply a Biceps Exercise
The Reverse Curl does develop the biceps, but it also works the entire arm. It should be thought of, when programmed into training plans, not as purely a biceps exercise.
Extending the Wrists Too Much at the Top of The Curl
At the top of the movement, some extension of the wrists will accentuate muscle contraction.
However, you don’t want to let the weight fall backwards and overextend the wrists too much. This can lead to injury. Also, it reduces the overall time under tension which will lead to less strength and hypertrophy gains.
Reverse Curl Variations
These variations will allow you to mix up the training stimulus and keep your body challenged.
Dumbbell Reverse Curl
Hold two dumbbells with a supinated grip. Keep your elbows pinned in place and move slowly and precisely.
The Dumbbell variation is a great way to get used to the exercise and is the least stressful version for the wrists.
EZ Bar Reverse Curl
The EZ bar provides new angles for your arms and wrists. In turn it offers new stimulus and alternative ways to build your body and arms.
This version is easy on the joints and wrists.
Resistance Band Reverse Curls
This movement is an excellent way to get used to the movement. You can easily adjust the bands in order to vary the intensity of the exercise.
Reverse Curl Alternatives
Here are a set of alternatives for when you want to attack your arms in different ways.
Another effective way to work the biceps and forearms at the same time.
Close Body Hammer Curl
This allows you to build a strong mind muscle connection whilst also strengthening your arms and upper body.
Standing Pronated Grip Cable Pulldown
This places the resistance at the other end of the movement. It is a fun choice to pair with Reverse Curls for a great finisher at the end of an arm session.
Pronated Grip Barbell Wrist Curl
This exercise will seriously develop your grip strength and is perfect for building up the specific strength that you will need any pronated grip-based exercises.
Frequently Asked Questions
Got more questions? Scroll through to find the answers.
What does the Reverse Curl Work?
Reverse Curls work most of the muscle groups in the upper and lower arms. They strength the biceps brachii, brachialis, grip, forearms and wrists.
Are Reverse Curls Worth Doing?
Yes, they are worth doing because they offer a unique way to build bicep strength and size whilst also improving the capacity of the wrists and forearms. They are highly functional and build strength in many different ways.
Are Reverse Curls Good for Forearms?
Yes, they are an excellent way to target and improve the forearms. They enhance the forearm extensors and the brachioradialis of the forearms.
Are Hammer Curls or Reverse Curls Better?
Reverse Curls are great for overall arm development and strengthening the wrists.
Hammer Curls allow you to lift more weight, making them better for strength gains.
Both will improve muscle mass in slightly different ways. Both have a place within any decent arm workout.