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December 05, 2021 8 min read

If you’re a guy who’s hitting the gym regularly, the last thing you want is to look like a T-Rex. Big bicep and triceps are great, but too often the forearm gets neglected.

It turns out there’s a secret weapon–the reverse curl. Proper execution of the reverse curl with an EZ bar is a secret weapon for any guy looking to get jacked forearms from his routine.

Biceps Brachii, Brachioradial, Brachialis muscles

Muscles Targeted

The reverse curl with an EZ bar is a great exercise to target your brachioradialis—the muscle on the anterior (top) part of your forearm, just below your elbow. Secondarily, the reverse grip curl targets muscle groups are the biceps brachii and the brachialis as synergists. For this reason, it is smart to incorporate this immediately before or after your bicep routine.Before we get started, anatomical few definitions and how they relate to this exercise:

  • Biceps Brachii—This is what we traditionally refer to as the “bicep.” When you perform a curl with a supinated grip (palms up), it targets the bicep brachii as the prime mover muscle.
  • Brachialis—The Brachialis is sometimes referred to as the hidden bicep. It is adjacent to the tricep. In this exercise, it will be an important synergist muscle.
  • Brachioradialis—This is the prime mover muscle for the reverse curl. As previously mentioned, it is located on the top of your forearm, just below  and above the elbow.

Why the Reverse Curl?

The most obvious reason you incorporate this exercise into your upper body workout routine is because it helps you look jacked in a T-shirt. Large forearms command respect. It’s a masculine feature that all men want to accentuate, but benefits don’t end with looking like Popeye.For a bigger pump during and after the workout, and a difference you can both see and feel, try the N.O. 7 Nitric Oxide Formula!

Another reason to incorporate the reverse curl into your routine is to reduce risk of injury and muscular imbalances.When you strengthen the muscles, you reduce the strain on your joints and tendons. Developing an established mind-muscle connection with both your forearms and upper arms is a great proactive measure to reduce your risk of injury, whether it be on the job or in the gym. This brachioradialis is the primary muscle responsible for elbow flexion.

An underdeveloped brachioradialis can increase the risk of tennis elbow, a type of tendonitis that occurs in the tendons around the elbow. Tendonitis can sometimes mimic the effects of skeletal pain. Despite what the name suggests, tennis elbow can happen in anyone, especially those who work with their hands. Butchers, construction workers, landscapers, contractors, manufacturing jobs—if this is you, then you need to pay particularly close attention to this article.

If you want to know what this feels like, imagine playing air hockey at an arcade for 2 hours straight and giving every shot you take all of your power and effort, and then waking up the next day. Tennis elbow can be temporary, or it can be a persistent condition.Men and women who want to strengthen forearms and reduce their everyday risk of injury should incorporate the EZ Bar Reverse Curl into their daily routine.

How Does the Reverse Grip EZ Bar Curl Differ From a Bicep Curl?

It’s all about isolation. A pronated, or overhand, grip on the barbell prevents the biceps brachii and brachialis from kicking in and going from being synergists to prime movers. The reverse curl can sometimes feel unnatural when you first execute it, because the body is not used to moving its elbows with the brachioradialis.By eliminating your body’s ability to incorporate the biceps into this routine, it isolates the forearms, leading to greater results and more hypertrophy.

Why The EZ Bar?

You can execute the reverse grip curl with a straight barbell, dumbbells, or a cable machine. In this article, we will focus on reverse curls with the EZ bar curl.The EZ bar curl isn’t just for gym goers who have difficulty executing a barbell curl with a fully pronated grip. While the EZ bar does have some limitations and benefits for bicep curls, it is the preferred modality in bodybuilding for executing the reverse curl.

The EZ bar might feel confining to new users, but it helps you maintain good form, as it trains you not to flare out your arms.The EZ bar is also ideal for those who have wrist tightness, because the handles are at an angle, thereby helping those who have difficulty moving with a complete underhand or overhand grip. The EZ bar is the great equalizer, reducing mobility constraints for those who need it.

The EZ bar can be used for a  variety of exercises, not just the reverse curl!

How to Perform the Reverse Curl

 

You won’t be able to lift nearly as much in a reverse curl (pronated grip) as you will with a traditional bicep curl (supinated grip). A good rule of thumb is to start off with about half of whatever weight you currently curl for your biceps.

Start with a shoulder width apart, pronated grip (palms facing down, knuckles towards face). The bar should be resting on your thighs. On the EZ bar, you will grab onto the downward slopes towards the outside of the bar. If you are using a straight bar, then you’ll simply aim for a shoulder width apart pronated grip.

Pull the bar up slowly towards your chin, hinging at your elbows. It’s important to keep your elbows, back, and core as still as possible. If you can’t do this without rocking your arms and torso back and forth, then you probably have too much weight on the bar. Only the lower half of your arms should be moving.

Squeeze, or flex, at the top, and hold it for a second or two. Exhale as you lift the bar towards you. Inhale on the way down. Make sure your movement is slow and controlled upon descent.

How Many Reps Should You Do?

  • Forstrength-endurance training, aim for 12-20 reps, lifting about 50% of your max.
  • Forhypertrophy training, aim for 8-12 reps, lifting about 70% of your max.
  • Formaximum strength training, aim for 4-8 reps, lifting about 90% of your max.

How Many Sets Should You Do?

  • Forstrength-endurance training, aim for 1-3 sets.
  • Forhypertrophy training, aim for 3-5.
  • For maximum strength training, aim for 4-6 sets.

Reverse Curl Form Tips

  • Get the right grip: The best place to hold the EZ Curl Bar is on the downward slopes, overhand, facing the outside of the barbell. If you ever get stuck on how far out to hold your arms, it’s shoulder width apart.
  • Don’t flare out your elbows: One of the advantages of the EZ bar is that it should prevent you for hyperextending your elbows. Just like the bench press, if you flare your elbows, then you risk synergist muscles from overcompensating, leading to less isolation in the targeted muscle group.
  • Slow down your descent: A slow controlled descent will increase time under tension, leading to more effective sets, and less risk of injury. Let gravity work for you, not the other way around.
  • Watch your breathing: It sounds silly, but remember to breath! You want to exhale on the way up and inhale on the way down. Pay particular attention to your frequency of breath.
  • Control your form by limiting weight: This is obvious, but always remember that if you lift too heavy, you’ll more than likely be sacrificing your form. In this exercise, you will need to actively brace your core and keep your feet firmly planted on the floor. If for some reason you find yourself needing to domore than this tosupport the movement, such as swing your back or flare out your elbows, then you need to lighten the load.
  • Add a recovery aid: Try including our all-inclusive pre/intra/post workout formula ADABOLIC, to help push you past your plateaus and recovery more efficiently. 

Alternative Forearm Exercises

Reverse Cable Curl

 

If you don’t like free weights, cable based forearm exercises are a great alternative to the EZ bar..

  1. Select a weight, about half of what you would normally curl with your biceps. 
  2. Place your back to the machine and walk two steps forward. 
  3. Set the cables to pull from the floor. Grab the cable with a pronated grip (knuckles up) on both hands.
  4. Pull the cables until your knuckles reach above your chest.
  5. Perform 5 sets of 12, with 1 minute rest intervals.

This exercise is a great addition to any forearm superset!

Straight Barbell Reverse Curl

 

If you don’t have an EZ bar available to you, don’t fret. You can still get great results with a straight bar. You’ll just have to pay a little more attention to your elbows.

  1. Choose a barbell with a weight that is half as much as what you would curl with your biceps.
  2. Grab the bar with a two handed, shoulder width pronated (knuckles up) grip.
  3. Pull the bar up past your chest with your elbows pointed directly behind you.
  4. Perform 5 sets of 12, with 1 minute rest intervals.

If your elbows flare out, synergistic dominance can take over. Synergistic dominance occurs when the secondary “synergist” muscle groups take over the brunt of the movement, thereby preventing the isolation of the muscle you’re trying to engage. When synergistic dominance occurs, training becomes simple exercise. The difference between exercise and training is intentionality and targeted growth. Watching your form and lifting appropriate amounts of weight will help prevent synergistic dominance.

Dumbbell Finger Curls


  1. Seated, place the dumbbell over just above your knee, like you would do for a concentric bicep curl
  2. With a supinated grip (palms up), curl the dumbbell towards you.
  3. Perform 4 sets of 15. Alternate arms with minimal intervals in between sets.

Always spot yourself at the wrists if needed. This is generally well tolerated as a high rep exercise. You can also accomplish an equal or better result by doing finger curls with cables! 

Cable Variation

  1. Standing, pull two cables positioned from the floor position, a few steps away from the weights.
  2. Rotate your wrists up and down 10 times, and side to side 10 times. 
  3. For an added challenge, finish the set with 10 final reps of squeezing the handle, pulling on it slightly against the tension of the cable.
  4. Perform 3 sets of 30.

Athletic Benefits of Reverse Curls

Some athletes can benefit extensively from reverse curls. The brachioradialis is responsible for your strength and power for grabbing and pulling. For this reason, it is of particular importance for MMA, Taekwondo, and Jiu-Jitsu fighters. Having strong and developed forearms also has benefits for rock climbers, as it facilitates grip strength, and your ability to pull yourself up. Increased forearm and grip strength will also help your deadlift.

The last thing you need to worry about when you’re attempting a deadlift PR is to worry about whether you can hold onto the barbell.Football quarterbacks can improve their pass. Basketball players can have better ball control while dribbling. Baseball players can get more power with their swings and pitches, and tennis players can benefit from reduced risk of tennis elbow. It can even benefit your golf swing!

The Perfect Exercise for Bigger Forearms

The reverse grip EZ bar curl can help you increase the size and vascularity of your forearms. Simply put, you will look better with your sleeves rolled up!Despite the obvious vanity based motivations associated with forearm training (after all, who doesn’t want to have jacked, forearms?) there are also musculoskeletal benefits to having a strong brachioradialis, brachialis and biceps brachii. 

In other words, having big forearms isn’t just fashionable, it’s functional! With the reverse curl as a regular part of your workout routine, you should experience stronger, more resilient tendons around your elbow and increased power in your swinging, throwing, gripping, and pulling. For men, having strong, vascular forearms is a statement.

It implies strength, power, and confidence. Luckily, we have the EZ bar as a valuable tool in our arsenal. Learning how to isolate this important muscle group is a necessary milestone for any gym goer to cross.