Wrist Curls (How To and Alternatives)


Wrist Curls

Wrist Curls are one of the most popular exercises that target the forearms, specifically the wrist flexors.

In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to do Wrist Curls, explain what muscles they work and give you a few alternatives you can try as well.


How To Do Wrist Curls


Equipment Needed

  • Barbell
  • Weight Plates

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a barbell with a supinated grip (palms up) and sit down on a bench.
  • Lay your forearms on the bench (or on your thighs) with your wrists hanging just off the front edge.
  • Allow the wrists to extend forward, dropping the hands and bar toward the ground.
  • Now, flex the wrist flexors and raise the hands as high as possible while keeping the forearms connected to the bench.
  • Slowly lower the hands back to the starting position.
  • Repeat until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

Keep the forearms connected to the bench and isolate the movement to just the wrists. If you find yourself wanting to raise your forearms off the bench then the weight you’re using is most likely too heavy. Lower the weight and concentrate on isolating the forearms.

The wrist flexors already get a good amount of work doing most biceps (and back) exercises that are generally all done with a supinated grip. I would suggest also incorporating Reverse Wrist Curls into your workout program as the wrist extensors are usually much more neglected.


Muscles Worked


Wrist Curls emphasize the wrist flexors of the forearm:

  • Flexor carpi radialis
  • Palmaris longus
  • Flexor digitorum superficialis
  • Flexor digitorum profundus
  • Flexor carpi ulnaris

Wrist Curl Alternatives


If you’re unable to do Reverse Wrist Curls (don’t have a barbell, uncomfortable on your wrists, etc) here are a few alternatives that you may be able to use as a substitute.

Behind the Back Wrist Curls

Behind the Back Wrist Curls are the perfect alternative if you don’t have a bench to lay your forearms on.

Lay a barbell on the rack just below arm’s length. Reach down and grab the bar behind the back and stand tall. Curl the bar up by flexing the forearms and curling the wrists up. Lower back down and repeat.

Reverse Wrist Curl

Reverse Wrist Curl isn’t so much an alternative to Wrist Curls, but more of a complimentary exercise.

As I mentioned earlier, wrist extensors are generally more neglected in workout programs than wrist flexors. So, if you are going to include Wrist Curls in your workout program then I would highly suggest also including Reverse Wrist Curls as well.

They are done basically exactly the same as Wrist Curls. The only difference is you’ll grab the bar with an overhand (pronated) grip instead of an underhand grip. You’ll also probably need to use less weight because the wrist extensors are generally weaker.


More Links and Info


Looking for more exercises to work the biceps, triceps and forearms? Check out the Arm Farm section of our Exercise Library which is dedicated solely to building bigger and 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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