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November 15, 2021 6 min read

Most people’s arm days consist of a couple of the same types of exercises on a rotation. This can lead to lack of variety which can lead to lack of muscle growth.

Reverse barbell curls are a great way to switch things up as they use a barbell instead of the usual dumbbell and they work a variety of upper body muscles.

The movement can be more challenging than your typical arm workouts but everyone needs a little challenge in their lives to keep them going.

What Is a Reverse Barbell Curl?

A reverse barbell curl is a great exercise that as the name states, is a reverse curl. It works multiple muscles in the upper body to help you with both functional, day-to-day tasks as well as improve your strength in the gym. It can be incorporated into your arm day workout whether you are a bodybuilder, fitness junkie, weightlifter or simply if you follow a split body routine.

A reverse barbell curl is typically performed with a straight bar but you can also perform it with an EZ curl bar. An EZ Curl bar may be a great alternative for those of you who lack wrist mobility or experience discomfort while performing straight barbell reverse curls. The bar allows you to hold the bar without placing them in a fully supinated position as well as provides you with a better grip and better balance, but it is completely up to personal preference.

What Muscles Does a Reverse Barbell Curl Target?

Primary Muscles:

Biceps Brachii:
  • Your bicep muscles play a large role in elbow flexion, shoulder flexion and supination of the forearm.
  • The biceps muscle consists of two heads, the long head and the short head. They work hand in hand to move the forearm but they are distinct muscles.
  • The brachialis muscles are located below the biceps muscles. Their function is to flex the elbow especially during curling movements like bicep curls, hammer curls etc. The brachialis muscle also accentuates your bicep muscles as it pushes up against them.

Secondary Muscles:


  • Your brachioradialis plays a large role in pushing your biceps out which will accentuate those upper arm muscles just as you desire. This will make your bicep muscles pop out more so everyone around you will be impressed.

Benefits of Reverse Barbell Curls

1. Decreased Pain In The Elbow

Elbow pain isn't an uncommon complaint and it can be caused by muscle imbalances in the forearm flexors as well as extensors. Your elbow joints are extremely important for mobility and experiencing pain can prevent you from being able to perform both functional tasks and workouts.

By performing reverse barbell curls, you are targeting the forearm muscles (brachialis and brachioradialis) to improve imbalances and overall, decrease pain experienced. It is a win-win situation if you ask us.

2. Improved Overall Grip Strength

The type of grip you have can make or break your success in your strength journey. By improving your grip, you are not only improving your performance in this particular exercise but you are also setting yourself up for success for other grip intensive workouts like pull-ups or deadlifts.

3. Provides Muscle Definition and Growth For Upper Body Muscles

Let's be real. There's no better feeling than taking a look in the mirror and liking what you see. Reverse barbell curls are an intense exercise that really engages those muscles and breaks down those fibers which leaves room for them to grow and build bigger than ever. It improves your overall arm aesthetic which can boost your confidence.

Muscle growth occurs when an individual continuously places higher levels of resistance or weight onto their muscles as the body will work on damaging the impacted muscle fibers by fusing them which overall increases the mass and the size of the muscles.

It is a process that takes time and it looks different for everyone.

When you are trying to build muscle, you must take a multifaceted approach by not only sticking to a regimented workout routine but also by incorporating healthy eating habits that provide your body with the fuel it needs to repair the impacted muscle fibers.

How To Safely and Properly Perform A Reverse Barbell Curl


The reverse barbell curl is not an easy movement so do not get frustrated if you have to start off with a lighter weight at first. You may even want to start off the movement without weight just to make sure you get the hang of the movement. Once you feel comfortable, you can slowly work your way up to a heavier weight.

Performing any exercise without proper form can be detrimental to your goals as well as overall health as it can lead to muscle imbalances. Muscle imbalances can impact you in the long term by leading to pain, limited mobility and synergistic dominance.

Synergistic dominance is when a synergistic muscle overcompensates and works extra hard to make up for a weak or inhibited prime mover. In the case of a reverse barbell curl, if you have weak brachioradialis muscles and you are pushing yourself too hard with the wrong form, your biceps may overcompensate and you put yourself at risk for injury.

  1. Stand up straight and hold a barbell with an overhand, pronated grip at shoulder width apart. If you are feeling discomfort, you may use an EZ bar to decrease pressure on the wrists.
  2. Stand up tall with your chest up and engage your core.
  3. Keep your arms tight and close to the side of your body.
  4. Begin to bring the barbell towards your shoulders. You should feel the contraction in your biceps, brachioradialis and brachialis muscles.
  5. Once you reach the top, pause for a couple of seconds then slowly lower down to return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 for your desired number of reps and sets.

Try to make this movement as fluid as possible. Do not rush the movement as the slower you take the exercise, the more tension you are placing onto those muscle fibers which will encourage growth.

Reverse Barbell Curl Tips

    • Flex Your Wrists Back At The Top Of The Curl: In order to get better contraction of the brachialis muscles, it'd be good to let your wrists flex back at the top of the curl while raising your elbows until they are at a point of pointing directly forward.
    • Attempt To Bring Your Elbows Together: Bringing your elbows together can increase the contraction of the brachialis at the top of the movement.
    • Perform Reverse Barbell Curls At The End Of Your Arm Workout: By doing reverse barbell curls at the end of your arm workout, you are pushing your bicep muscles to the limit in order to stimulate new muscle growth. It's that extra push that you need to encourage muscle gains.

    Effective Reverse Barbell Curl Variations

    If you enjoyed reverse barbell curls but you would like to try something else, keep reading for some other alternatives you can incorporate into your bicep workout routine.

      1. Reverse Curl With EZ Bar


        As mentioned earlier, you can substitute an EZ bar for a straight bar in order to be able to perform the motion without the extra stress on your wrists as well as better activate your bicep muscles.

        You simply will perform the exercise the same way but instead of the straight bar, you will use the EZ bar.

          2. Dumbbell Reverse Curl

            1. Stand up straight with your legs shoulder width apart.
            2. Hold the dumbbells using a pronated grip and take a deep breath while you begin to curl up towards your shoulders.
            3. When your biceps are fully contracted at the top, slowly begin to lower the weight back down to return to the starting position.
            4. Repeat these steps for your desired number of reps and sets.

            3. Preacher Curl

              1. Sit on a preacher bench and make sure the height is adjusted properly in order to allow your underarms to touch the top of the sloped area.
              2. Grab a hold of the bar through the use of an underhand grip with your upper arms resting on the bench in front of you.
              3. Begin to curl the weight up while keeping your upper arms on the bench.
              4. Pause at the top for a couple of seconds then slowly begin to lower to the starting position.
              5. Repeat steps 1-4 for your desired number of repetitions and sets.

              Time to Hit the Barbell

              Reverse barbell curls are a great exercise to incorporate into your training program whether you are an olympic weightlifter, or simply are looking into different movements to incorporate into your weight training routine. It is an effective exercise that specifically targets multiple muscle groups.

              There is no one size fits all exercise and until you try out a variety of exercises, you will not be able to figure out what suits you best. Now, if you are feeling motivated and would like to continue challenging those upper body muscles, check out this article that discusses which bodyweight exercises are best for upper body strength.