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November 19, 2022 1 Comment
Lifters everywhere love striking the double biceps pose as a way to show off their hard work in the gym. After all, what could be a better gym business card than showcasing the peak and thickness of the mountain on your upper arm?
Whether you are just starting out or are a seasoned lifter, you're likely all too familiar with bicep curls. But are you missing out on a move that can help you progress even more? If you aren't doing reverse curls, then the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
If reverse curls don't have a spot in your routine, not only are you leaving some bicep gains on the table, but you're also missing out on the chance to fix forearm imbalances. Fortunately, we're about to get into the nitty-gritty of the reverse curl, so you can get it into your split quickly.
This post will cover:
The standard barbell biceps curl is a biceps-building exercise performed with the palms facing up. The reverse curl is the same elbow flexion movement, but it is done with the palms facing down.
That small change in hand positioning will help build your arm muscles while helping prevent elbow and forearm injuries.
Now, it's not going to make the list of coolest exercises, and you're certainly not going to use the heaviest of heavy weights for it. But rest assured, reverse bicep curls are a must for any biceps-building program.
We will touch on how to do the curl properly in a bit. For now, let's discuss which muscles this curl variation works.
Okay, so we have established that the reverse curl is a vital exercise you should be doing. To understand why it's important, you need to know the reverse curls muscles worked.
The muscles worked during reverse grip curls include:
The most prominent muscle of the upper arm, the biceps may be small compared to the lats, but it's still very active in pulling motions, like in these bent-over row variations.
The biceps brachii has two heads, a long head and short head, with two origin points on the scapula and one insertion point on the forearm.
It is responsible for several actions, including shoulder flexion, elbow flexion, and forearm supination (when your forearm faces up). It's important to know that it crosses and affects two joints.
Both heads are both active during curling and pulling movements, including the reverse curl.
The biceps brachii typically gets all of the attention, but the brachialis, if built correctly, can help add some serious size to your upper arm.
It is located beneath the biceps and is an elbow flexor that helps with the starting portion of curling exercises. You don’t want to leave this untrained if you wish to have big biceps, as it helps to push the bicep up and build size.
The takeaway here? Don't forget your brachialis exercises!
The strongest and most visible muscle in your forearm, the brachioradialis helps prop up your bicep from underneath. It is a crucial forearm and elbow flexor and is highly activated during the reverse curl's negative lowering phase.
Even though the reverse curl is a biceps curl, the brachioradialis is key to this movement and will help fix any forearm imbalances that may exist.
Right off the bat, it’s essential to clarify that when comparing hammer curls vs bicep curls vs reverse curls, all of these exercises are simply bicep curl variations. Think of them as different tools in your toolbox, each with their own role in sculpting the statuesque piece of art that is your bicep.
This means they all have their place in your arm workout. There is not necessarily one that is so effective that it makes the others obsolete. The right move for you depends on which part of your arm needs more attention, your genetics, and existing imbalances from injuries, sports, and everyday life.
Since they all have their place, it’s important to figure out what each exercise’s main benefit is. Then you can structure your bicep-building program accordingly. We’ve got programming tips coming up shortly, but let’s dive into each curl first.
This is the most common of all the variations. Bicep curls will activate the short head more than the other variations we're discussing.
The short head is responsible for the peak of the muscle so think of it as building the mountain top. The bicep curl provides the most potential for lifting heavier weights, inciting muscle hypertrophy. This is because your hands are strongest in the palms up hands placement.
It can also be a drawback since this will likely imbalance the forearm muscles if you are not evening them out with the appropriate exercises.
In addition, the ability to use more weight during bicep curls leads to a greater chance that you'll start to use more momentum and poor form as your muscles fatigue. The biceps love to feel extreme contractions. This means it's important to leave your ego at the door and control this movement even when you are going heavy.
The hammer curl emphasizes the long head of the biceps, which when properly worked, creates more muscle thickness. It’s the same curling movement as standard bicep curls, except your hands face each other in a neutral grip position (we have a great article that further compares the hammer curl vs. bicep curl if you'd like to learn more).
The hammer curl targets the brachialis and brachioradialis, similar to the reverse curl, but nearly all of the focus is on the long head of the bicep. The hand placement can make it harder to control heavier weights, so like the biceps curl, make sure to give your ego a stern talking to and avoid lifting too heavy.
Hammer curls offer more wrist stability and grip strengthening than the biceps curl, so it is a great functional strength builder. This will have a carryover to simple everyday tasks like carrying groceries or walking your dog as those are usually grip-intensive tasks in which the hand is in a neutral grip position.
Reverse grip curls, the star of this article, strengthen the brachioradialis, making this exercise the best option for fixing forearm imbalances. It also builds muscle in the brachialis, which is a massive contributor to pushing the bicep up and increasing its size.
Any exercise will be limited by its weakest link, and the first one that is likely to fail is your grip. The reverse curl increases your grip and forearm strength, which will directly benefit exercises like deadlifts, chin-ups, pull-ups, rows, and any other pulling movement you can think of.
The bicep reverse curl motion is pretty straightforward, so it’s important to remember that for each variation, there are different implements you can use. Each person’s anatomy and genetics are different, so find the variation that helps you feel the muscle group working the most.
These directions focus on proper form for barbell curls, but if you prefer a different piece of equipment, keep reading because we provide several great variations later on in this article.
The movements remain the same, regardless of which implement you're using, or the workout split you're placing it in.
How to do the Barbell Reverse Curl:
Get the most out of your reverse forearm curl by avoiding these 5 mistakes.
From correcting muscle imbalances to ensuring your biceps look phenomenal in t-shirts, there are plenty of great reasons why your routine needs the reverse curl.
These 4 great variations show you how to make good use of all of your gym equipment.
Whether you prefer barbell reverse curls or the dumbbell variation, just make sure you incorporate reverse curls of some kind!
The reverse EZ bar curl variation is beloved by bodybuilders as it puts less stress on the wrist compared to a fully pronated grip. And with the handles being at an angle, it still offers the benefits of the reverse curl.
However, it makes it easier to keep your elbows at your sides and not overstress your wrists.
Dumbbells always get the nod for allowing you to work one side at a time. Unilateral movements allow you to give each side extra focus, making this exercise amazing for fixing imbalances.
The reverse dumbbell curl is a must for a biceps workout.
The cable allows you to use several different attachments, including the straight bar, single handle, or EZ curl bar.
The tension of the cable provides a serious burn during the lowering portion of this exercise, which is the most crucial part.
Whether you use the EZ bar, straight bar, or dumbbells for preacher reverse curls, its primary benefit is the bench, which prevents the other muscles of the upper body from stepping in.
If you are having trouble maintaining your posture during curls, give the preacher reverse curl a shot.
Remember that the reverse curl is just one piece of the biceps-building puzzle. If you have not been doing reverse wrist curls, try adding them to the end of your bicep routine, aiming for 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.
Remember, at the end of your arm workout, your muscles will already be fatigued. And the reverse curl is already an exercise where form and control are king, so go lighter at first with the goal of utilizing progressive overload over the next few weeks.
If your grip is especially weak or you have wrist problems, the EZ barbell reverse curl is a better option since you do not need such an intense, fully pronated grip.
Speaking of an extra weak grip, if you are lagging behind in this department or have elbow pain from imbalanced forearms, try adding reverse curls to the end of your arm day, as well as your back day, or a back and biceps workout, to help balance out the problem.
If you are a rotational sport athlete, always hold your bag or walk your dog with the same hand, or if one side is clearly weaker than the other, dumbbells are a safe bet to help you fix this issue. Use the dumbbell variation to work one side at a time until the issue is resolved, and you can move on to the EZ bar reverse curl variation.
Try the barbell reverse curl if you don’t have any issues and are a more seasoned lifter. If your wrists are having a tough time with the barbell, check out the other options mentioned above.
Here is a biceps workout highlighting how you can add the reverse curl into your routine. This biceps workout can be incorporated into a full arm day routine, on a pull day when you are finishing off with biceps, or if you are someone who likes contrasting muscle groups, it can be added at the end of a push day.
Looking for a completely different move that will yield the same bicep-building results? These alternatives will do the trick!
Let's answer any lingering reverse curls questions you may have.
Reverse curls are a great exercise to build your forearms. The brachioradialis is a key forearm muscle directly targeted by this exercise.
Absolutely! Imbalanced forearm muscles almost always lead to elbow pain and shoulder issues. The straight barbell reverse curl not only makes your arms look better but also keeps you injury free.
Both heads of the biceps brachii are worked during this exercise, but the main benefit for the biceps is that it builds the brachialis underneath the biceps.
Most people don’t forget bicep curls in their upper body workout, but they often forget about the muscles associated with the reverse curl. Pick the variation that works best for you and your body, and don't forget to do them!
By now, you should see all the hidden benefits of adding this exercise to your training for longevity and injury prevention. Plus, who doesn't want sleeve-busting biceps and Popeye-like forearms?
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