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Flipping the Script: The Power of Reverse Biceps Curl for Arm Strength

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

We’ve all heard of the concentration, hammer, and preacher curl, but what about the Reverse Biceps Curl? Although often overlooked, the reverse curl is fantastic for developing the arms.

It engages the biceps and forearms and helps with wrist stability and grip strength. So, are you ready to add the reverse bicep curl into your training regimen? Here’s everything you need to know. 

Man doing barbell reverse curls
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What Is the Reverse Biceps Curl?

The reverse biceps curl flips the standard biceps curl on its head—instead of gripping the weight with your palms facing up, your palms face the floor. 

The pronated grip of the reverse curl helps target the forearm muscles while developing your biceps and grip strength. It can be performed with cables, dumbbells, barbells, and other weights like other biceps curl variations. 

Muscles Worked

The reverse curl is a variation of the standard bicep curl, meaning it primarily engages the biceps brachii. Reverse curls also engage the brachialis muscle, the primary elbow flexor near the bicep.

The brachioradialis muscle on top of the forearm is also engaged and assists with elbow flexion and arm strength. 

Reverse Curl Benefits

So, why should you incorporate the reverse biceps curl into your workout routine? Is there any advantage compared to standard barbell curls? 

It’s a fantastic movement to incorporate into arm workouts for several reasons, like more grip strength, more muscle activation, and low injury risk.

More Grip Strength

The reverse biceps curl can provide forearm gains, helping you develop bone-crushing grip strength. The movement engages more muscles in the forearm compared to standard arm curls. 

More grip strength can benefit other lifts, like deadlifts, barbell rows, shrugs, and more. Forearm strength is also critical for daily activities, like bringing in groceries or picking things up off the floor.  

Builds the Entire Arm

The biceps are the primary muscle the reverse curl engages, but it also targets the brachialis and brachioradialis. This allows you to hit multiple birds with one stone, helping you develop more muscle mass and thicker arms

More Elbow Strength

Stronger, more stable elbows are one of the most significant advantages of the reverse biceps curl. The movement trains multiple muscles, assisting with elbow flexion, strength, and stability. Stronger elbows will reduce the chance of injury, allowing you to perform better inside and outside the gym. 

Low Injury Risk

Reverse biceps curls have a very low chance of injury. The movement doesn’t place the wrists, elbows, or shoulders in a compromised position. This makes reverse curls easy to learn and more accessible for novices and those with prior injuries. 

How to Do the Reverse Biceps Curl

Like a standard curl, you can use a barbell, EZ bar, cables, or a pair of dumbbells to perform the reverse bicep curl. Each option has advantages, disadvantages, and best-use scenarios. For this article, we’ll cover how to perform the Straight Barbell Reverse Curl. Here’s how: 

Step 1: The Starting Position

Muscles worked in the reverse curl
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To begin, grab a barbell in a weight range, allowing you to perform three sets for 6-12 repetitions. 

Stand upright with an athletic stance. Allow the weight to rest against your thighs, holding it with an overhand grip. Allow your upper arms to sit close to your torso. Your palms should be facing your thighs and knuckles toward the floor. 

Step 2: Curl the Weight

Now, take a deep breath and brace your core. Start the curl by tightening your biceps and bending the elbows. Lift your forearms upward without moving your upper arm muscles. Pause at the top of the curl for 1–3 seconds, squeezing your biceps. 

Step 3: Lower the Weight and Repeat

Slowly lower the weight to return to the starting position. Maintain control without any jerky movements to increase time under tension. Once you reach the starting position, repeat the reverse curl for your desired rep range. 

Sets and Rep Ranges

It’s critical to program optimal sets and rep ranges to get the most out of your bicep training days. Because it’s an isolation move, heavy weights can increase the chance of injury, so managing the weight is a must. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • Standard: Opt for moderate weights you can control for 3 sets of 10–12 reps. 
  • Low Reps, High Weight: Perform 3 sets of 6–8 reps with challenging weights that allow you to maintain proper form.
  • High Reps, Lightweight: Perform 3 sets of 12–15 reps with light weights. This option is suitable for cable machines. 

The last rep of each set should be challenging and push you close to failure. That said, you shouldn’t lose control regardless of the weight you select. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Just like regular curls, there are common mistakes to avoid when performing the reverse bicep curl. Without the proper form, you change the range of motion and place unnecessary stress on the arm muscles.

Here are a few pitfalls to avoid when performing the reverse curl:

Too Much Weight

If more muscle mass is your goal, it might make sense to load heavier weights, right? 

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Excessive weights can increase the chance of injury, especially with isolation movements and variants of curls. 

Too much weight can place unnecessary stress on the wrist and elbow joint. Instead, use moderate weights that you can control using the correct form without any jerky movements. 

Jerky Movements and Momentum

Have you seen people at the gym using their whole body to complete a bicep curl? These are commonly called “cheat curls” and are less effective. Bicep curls require a slow, controlled movement pattern to get the most out of the muscle.

Performing “cheat curls,” where you use momentum from the torso and upper body, use more muscle groups, and take the load of the biceps.

Too much momentum and jerky movements are typically caused by excessive weight on the bar. Besides less effective muscle engagement, it can increase the chance of strain or injury to the wrist joints. 

Person feels arm pain
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Hyperextending the Wrists

The wrist position is vital when performing reverse curls. Bending the wrists places the tendons in a disadvantageous position, increasing the chance of strain or injury. 

Instead, avoid bending your wrists and maintain a neutral position. This will evenly distribute the load instead of placing unnecessary stress on the wrist joints. 

Reverse Curl Variations

The reverse bicep curl doesn’t have as many variations as other exercises, but you can tweak certain aspects to suit your needs. Here are a few variations to consider when planning your next workout: 

Dumbbell Reverse Curl

The Dumbbell Reverse Curl is nearly identical to the straight bar variation, except it’s a unilateral exercise. This means one arm is engaged at a time independent of the opposite side. Unilateral movements can help correct muscle imbalances, as the more muscular arm isn’t taking control. 

Dumbbells also provide the most freedom of movement, which benefits elbow, wrist, and shoulder mobility. Overall, it can be a valuable variation to incorporate to increase volume, address weakness, and improve stability. 

Cable Reverse Curl

The Cable Reverse Curl is another fantastic variation. The cable machine provides constant tension throughout the entire rep range. More tension causes the muscles to work harder, which increases potential muscle gains.

You can also experiment with the various bar attachments, allowing you to fine-tune your training session to suit your fitness goals and body. 

Preacher Reverse Curl

Utilizing the Preacher Reverse Curl provides additional support while allowing you to really isolate the bicep and forearm muscles. Using an EZ-Bar can take further stress off the joints, making it helpful if you have pain or discomfort. 

Reverse Curl Alternatives

If you don’t enjoy the reverse curl or don’t see as many gains as you would like, there are countless alternatives you can turn to. Here are a few of the best reverse curl alternatives to consider: 

Hammer Curls

The Hammer Curl is a staple movement in many bodybuilding training programs. It engages nearly all of the same muscles as the reverse curl, but it uses a different wrist position.

This small change can create a more comfortable position for some lifters, as it places less stress on the wrist joints. Hammer curls can be performed with dumbbells or with a rope attachment on a cable pulley machine. 

Zottman Curl

Zottman Curls provides the best aspects of standard bicep curls with reverse curls. The movement requires you to rotate your wrists throughout the movement, helping you engage the bicep and forearm equally. 

Just like the reverse curl, it’s helpful in engaging the biceps and the forearms at the same time. It’s performed with dumbbells, so it’s another great option if you have limited equipment. 

Wrist Curls

If you liked the reverse curl for its ability to engage the forearms and enhance grip strength, then you should add Wrist Curls to the end of your arm routine. This movement won’t engage the biceps, but it will effectively target the forearms and help you build thicker arms.

Muscular man does concentration curls
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With stronger wrists, all upper body movements will become more accessible, as you’ll have more stability and power. 

What’s the Best Equipment to Use?

Like many other curl variations, you can do reverse curls with numerous free weights, like dumbbells or straight barbells. But which option is best if you want to optimize your workout and muscle gains? 

Straight Barbell

The straight barbell is a suitable option for the reverse curl. However, some lifters notice pain or discomfort when using it. If you have previous injuries to the wrist or elbows, you might notice pain. If you feel any discomfort, you might be better off using the EZ-Bar. 


The EZ-Bar is similar to the straight barbell, except it has an angled shape. It typically weighs less and is easier to maneuver, hence the name. 

The benefit of the angle is multiple grip options. You can adjust your hand position to reduce stress on the wrists, elbows, and forearms. This is an excellent piece of equipment if you have previous injuries or you’re new to lifting. 


Dumbbells are fantastic for bicep curl variations. They place minimal stress on the wrists and joints while allowing you to train each arm independently. Training one arm at a time reduces muscle imbalances while improving strength, stability, and technique.  

Cable Machine

The cable machine is another fine consideration for the reverse curl. The constant time under tension challenges the muscles throughout the entire movement, increasing the potential muscle gains. It can be helpful for high-rep, low-weight sets where the focus is on endurance and muscle hypertrophy. 

How Often Should I Train Biceps?

Mountain-like biceps are the dream of many lifters. Large biceps are a sign of strength and commitment, but how much training is too much?

Generally speaking, 1–2 bicep training sessions per week is recommended. You run the risk of overtraining if you have more than 2–3 sessions per week. The other exercises in your program will also affect how often you should train.

The biceps are engaged as stabilizer muscles in other upper-body workouts, so one session may be adequate, depending on your situation. 

If you do decide to train your biceps or arms twice per week, ensure you take at least one day off between training sessions. This will give your muscles adequate time to recover, reducing the risk of injury or strain. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do Reverse Bicep Curls Work Your Forearms?

Yes, reverse bicep curls train the biceps and brachioradialis muscle on top of the forearm. The movement also engages the brachialis muscle, which is a primary elbow flexor located near the bicep. It’s perfect for strengthening the biceps, forearms, and grip strength. 

Are Reverse Curls Better Than Hammer Curls?

Each option engages similar muscles and has advantages, disadvantages, and best-use cases. The Hammer Curl is better for engaging the bicep, while the Reverse Curl is better for targeting the forearms. If you want bigger forearms, opt for reverse bicep curls. 

Do Reverse Curls Make Forearms Bigger?

Reverse Curls engage the bicep and the brachioradialis muscle located on top of the forearm. When performed regularly, reverse bicep curls can provide you with more muscle mass and stronger, thicker forearm muscles. 

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