How to Do Reverse Curls to Build More Forearm Muscle

THE FOREARM MUSCLE, for too many guys, is a neglected afterthought within their upper body training split. Sure, you can tell yourself the muscle gets some benefits from the classic arm standards, like biceps curls, simply due to the need for a good grip—but it’s rare to see someone doing dedicated forearm training with movements like the reverse curl as part of their workout routine.

That’s not the best strategy if you want both functional strength and a balanced physique. A little dedicated forearm training goes a long way, and it doesn’t have to have the same ferocity you would normally apply to your biceps and triceps exercises. That’s where the reverse curl comes in, according to Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

How to Do the Reverse Curl

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart holding the weights with your hands in a pronated (overhand) position. Squeeze your glutes, abs, and shoulder blades to create tension.
  • Lift the weight up, moving only at the elbows. Avoid the inclination to shift your arms forward, keeping your arms “pinned” to your torso.
  • Pause briefly at the top of the movement. Lower back down to the start, controlling the weight and keeping tension in your forearms.

Keep these extra cures from Samuel in mind when you add the reverse curl to your workouts:

Plant and Squeeze

      When setting up for reverse curls, you want to keep a nice and tight frame. To do this, keep your feet planted firmly into the ground, while also focusing on squeezing your glutes, abs, then shoulder blades. This should keep you in a solid position for the entire movement.

      Don’t ‘Flip’ Your Wrists

        Wrist positioning is important when doing reverse curls. Instead of extending your wrists up to start the movement, focus on keeping tension in your wrists to keep a strong, straight position, then only moving at the elbow joint.

        Just Curl Up

        The reverse curl should be performed like any other curl variation, meaning that your focus should be on moving only at the elbow joint. Lift, pause at the top momentarily, then lower in a controlled manner back to start.

        Don’t Swing the Weight

          Same rules as doing biceps curls apply here. Avoid the urge to swing the weight when your forearms begin to fatigue. Stay tight, curl, pause then lower is all you should be doing each rep.

          Keep Your Elbows Back

            The entire reverse curl is based on moving your elbow joint. However, you want to make sure that you’re not shifting your elbows forward to cheat.

            The Benefits of Adding Reverse Curls to Your Workout

            The reverse curl is similar to the traditional biceps curl, with the key difference being in the way you position your hands to hold whatever implement you’re working to lift. You’ll reverse the position of your palms to use a pronated (palms down) grip. There are two main benefits of the reverse curl:

            The Reverse Curl Improves Grip Strength

            You’ll quickly realize the reverse curl is much more challenging for your grip than a standard biceps curl—a tight squeeze is imperative to keep holding onto the bar with the pronated grip. The position may even feel a bit uncomfortable, but will go a long way toward helping boost your endurance by a few reps in other grip-reliant moves like deadlifts or pullups.

            “When I do a standard bicep curl or even a hammer curl, to some extent, I can cradle with my grip. I don’t need to actively squeeze the bar as tightly as possible,” Samuel says. “But once I have that bar flipped over and I’m doing the reverse curl, whether it’s a barbell or dumbbell or anything, if I loosen my grip, the bar is simply going to fall to the ground. That means I need to keep a tighter grip the entire time when I’m curling, so my grip strength is going to get a very good time under tension and constant tension test.”

            The Reverse Curl Attacks Your Brachioradialis Muscles

            Unlike traditional curls, in which your biceps shoulder the brunt of the work, reverse curls attack your brachioradialis, the muscle on the front of your forearm. By using a reverse grip, the biceps are less taxed and more focus is on the brachioradialis.

            Who Should Use the Reverse Curl

            Although most lifters can benefit by creating their own set of Popeye forearms, if you’re pulling a dozen plates on a deadlift or doing other heavy training, your forearms are getting significant work and may not need as much extra training. However, for the rest of us who may not be putting so much heavy lifting in, adding reverse curls to workout routine makes total sense. If you want a well-developed front of your forearm, this is the move for you.

            Which Muscles Are Trained By the Reverse Curl

            • Biceps
            • Brachialis
            • Brachioradialis

            Yes, we said that your biceps aren’t as involved in the reverse curl—but those big guns are still part of the equation. So is the brachialis, another muscle involved in elbow flexion. But the other major role of your biceps, supination, isn’t part of the equation since you’re never rotating your forearm. That puts more focus on the brachioradialis.

            What Gear You Need for the Reverse Curl

            • Dumbbells
            • Barbell
            • EZ Curl Bar

            While any of these implements will work, two of them have downsides. You may find using a barbell may become too restrictive, and dumbbells may cause you to involuntarily begin rotating your palms.

            The EZ-bar, however, allows you to find a more comfortable angle that will keep your palms facing the ground throughout the entire exercise.

              How to Use the Reverse Curl in Your Workout

              There’s no need to go super heavy on the reverse curl. A good starting point would be to use half the weight you would normally use for a biceps curls. Three sets of eight to 12 reps will work will.

              Remember, however, don’t treat the reverse curl as your main move on arms day. Since you’re using lighter weight, it works best as one of the last exercises of your workout.

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