Barbell Reverse Curls (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)


Reverse Curls

Reverse Curls are one of the best biceps exercises for not only working the biceps but engaging the forearms as well. This is because using an overhand grip focuses on the wrist extensors versus the more dominant wrist flexors.

Here are instructions on how to do reverse curls, step-by-step, along with what muscles reverse curls work and a few alternatives if you’re unable to do them.


How To Do Reverse Curls


Equipment Needed

  • Barbell
  • Weight Plates

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Stand tall, back straight, head up, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the barbell with both hands, palms down (pronated grip).
  • Start with the bar at arm’s length against the upper thighs.
  • Curl the bar up towards the shoulders until the forearms touch the biceps.
  • Keep upper elbows close to the side.
  • Lower the bar back to starting position using the same path.
  • Continue until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

You’ll most likely need to use less weight than you would normally use for barbell curls. The wrist extensors will be the limiting factor here that will dictate how much weight you’re able to use.

By far the most common mistake with any curl exercise, but perhaps even more so with barbell curls is swinging and rocking in an attempt to lift more weight. If you need to swing the bar, use momentum or generally contort your body to move the weight, it’s too heavy. Lower the weight and use proper form.

How Many Reps?

Barbell Reverse Curls are a supplemental strength exercise for the biceps and forearms. Recommended rep ranges are 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.


Muscles Worked


Reverse Curls Anatomy
Photo Credit (Makatserchyk / shutterstock.com)

Reverse Curls work muscles both in the biceps:

  • Biceps brachii
  • Brachialis
  • Brachioradialis

and in the forearm:

  • Extensor carpi radialis longus
  • Extensor carpi radialis brevis
  • Extensor digitorum
  • Extensor digiti minimi
  • Extensor carpi ulnaris

Reverse Curl Alternatives


If you’re unable to do reverse curls, for whatever reason, here are a few reverse curl alternatives.

Zottman Curls

If you don’t have a barbell, but you do have dumbbells – Zottman Curls are a great alternative to Barbell Reverse Curls. They can also be a good choice if you can only work one arm due to a limitation and/or injury.

The angle that you generally do Zottman Curls also isn’t as drastic as with a bar so most lifters will find them to be a bit more comfortable on the wrist joint.

Band Curls

Band Curls are another good reverse curl alternative if you don’t have access to a barbell. If you have a resistance band, simply stand on the band and curl. One of the easiest exercises to pick up for a beginner.

You can also play the grip on Band Curls – supinated, neutral and pronated – and still do a reverse curl by grabbing the band with an overhand grip.


More Links and Info


Looking for more biceps and triceps exercises? Check out the Arm Farm section of the Horton Barbell Exercise Library. There you’ll find dozens of arm movements to build bigger, stronger arms.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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