January 12, 2021 10 min read

If you want a thick look you can’t let any part of your body fall by the wayside.

You know not to skip leg day so you don’t look like a weird Thanksgiving turkey, you know to work your triceps alongside your biceps to get a thick even trunk around your upper arms, and you know to strengthen your back alongside your abs to keep your posture looking strong, so why would you neglect your forearms?

Reverse wrist curls will not only round out your forearms, they’ll also give you more stability while you’re lifting weights and strengthen your wrists. So if you’re ready to get serious about your grip strength and beefing up your forearms, then this is the exercise for you.

Why Reverse Wrist Curls?

Your grip strength is dictated by the muscles in your forearms. You’re probably most familiar with the flexors. These are the muscles on the anterior of your forearm. These are the muscles that you feel contracting when you make a fist. Your hands are operated by muscles located outside of them that run the length of your forearm. This is why you’re able to hold onto the heavy weights you’re lifting.

Your forearm muscles are generally quite large in comparison to the fingers they’re operating, allowing you to clamp your hands tight and hold onto whatever it is that you’re grabbing.

They’re powerful, but if you don’t train them you’ll run into a dead-end quickly. When you’re looking to up the amount of weight you can lift one of the bottlenecks you may run into first is your grip strength if you’re not proactive. Training your forearms is one of the best ways to help you level up your overall strength. Your first instinct might be to work on only your flexors, seeing as they’re the muscles that do all of the gripping, but if you’ve been bodybuilding for any amount of time, then you understand that you should never leave any stone unturned.

Your body is infinitely complicated, every single function inside of it is dictated by at least a dozen other functions, and your forearms are no exception. If you want to build your grip strength, then you need to pay attention to both halves of your forearm.

Your wrist extensors are responsible for any wrist action that opens up the angle between your hand and the anterior of your forearm. That means anything that keeps your wrists braced against any weights, any opening of your fingers, and half of the positioning of your hands. Without your extensors, you’d be dropping weights all over your face, and you’d be a miserable rock climber.

Now that you know why it’s important to train your extensors, you should also know what exactly is going on in there. If you’re setting out to put some strain on your muscles, it’s important to know where they are and what they’re doing to avoid injury and maximize your output. 

Your wrist extensors are located along the posterior of your forearm. That’s the area opposite of your palm. They generally originate around your elbow, narrow towards your wrist, and connect to your fingers. Your forearms are separated into six distinct compartments and kept in line by a thick fibrous band called the extensor retinaculum.

Forearm diagram

The first compartment is located on the outside of your arm on the side of the radius. It’s made up of the extensor pollicis brevis and the abductor pollicis longus. The tendons of these muscles are what make up the triangular dimple on the side of your hand between your thumb and your wrist (the anatomical snuffbox). 

Compartment 2 contains the extensor carpi radialis longus and extensor carpi radialis brevis. Those two are used primarily for the extension, and abduction of the hand at the wrist joint. Most of the movement of your wrist happens here. You don’t feel it moving much because this compartment is a little shorter than the other compartments, and it’s tucked underneath the other compartments a good amount.

Compartment 3 operates and keeps the extensor pollicis longus tendon in place. This forms the medial border of the anatomical snuffbox along with the first compartment. 

Compartment 4 is the extensor compartment of the wrist. It transmits the tendons of the extensor digitorum and extensor indicis. This is where most of your finger extension comes from. Compartment 4 connects primarily to your index through ring fingers and attaches a little bit to your pinky as well. 

Compartment 5 contains the extensor digiti minimi tendon, this is another tendon that attaches to your pinky, this works in conjunctions with the sixth compartment of your forearm. It’s way out on the outer edge of your ulna. It’s key to allowing you to move your wrist and pinky out away from the midline of your body with the extensor carpi ulnaris.

The best way to train these muscles is to apply resistance to your extension movements. That means weight in your hands acting like a flexing motion. This is how you end up with the reverse wrist curl. The station position, the way you’re holding the weights, and the movement you’ll be making here are all perfectly tailored to work the six compartments of your posterior forearms.

Reverse Limber Up 

Your wrist flexors don’t usually get a lot of action, and they’re also responsible for a lot of delicate action in your fingers. If you don’t take the time to properly stretch you’re going to regret it in the morning. If you plan on building muscle in your forearms, it’s just as important to ensure those muscles are flexible and well-supplied with blood. Make sure you warm up your forearms before you start your reverse wrist curls and you won’t have to worry about stiff performance or rigid tendons tugging on your tender fingers later on.  

One of the most simple and effective stretches is also the easiest to remember. If you’re stretching your extensors, just apply some gentle force in the opposite direction. A simple wrist extension can be the difference between big forearms and big regrets:

  • Extend your arm out in front of yourself, palms down
  • With your opposite hand, push on the back of your hand, towards the floor
  • Gradually apply more pressure, and hold for a few moments
  • Switch and do the same with your opposite hand

It’s a simple stretch and it won’t take you long, but the peace of mind and increased performance you’ll be able to draw out of your wrists is well worth the brief detour. If you prefer to keep your warm-up active instead of statically stretching your forearms you can opt for a short round of pushups. 

Wrist workout

Reversing Your Wrist Curls

Reverse wrist curls aren’t difficult to pull off well by any stretch of the imagination. Just focus on getting your form right the first time you try them, so you don’t have to worry about fixing it later. You’re working out an intricate part of the body, so the devil’s in the details here.

  • Sit on or kneel next to a bench
  • Stabilize your forearms on either your legs or the bench you’re next to
  • With an overhand grip grab a barbell with a decent amount of weight on it with your hands about shoulder-width apart
  • Allow your wrists  to extend as far down as they can
  • Pull your wrists up through your range of motion
  • Slowly lower your hands back to your starting position

Wrist curls are an excellent supplement to your forearm routine. Building muscle in this often overlooked part of your body is simple. All you really need to do is find a few extra minutes at the end of your routine to slot in a few sets of reverse wrist curls. 

Try to keep them towards the end of your routine. If you wear down your forearm strength before you get to the rest of your routine, then you’ll start needlessly cutting into your performance, which is the exact opposite of your goal when you’re working on your grip strength.

The entire purpose of working out your extensors is to increase the stability of your wrists during your lifts. The stability you will draw out of your forearms after a few weeks of reverse wrist curls will improve your overall weightlifting ability. By allowing your muscles to focus on their primary function instead of compensating for neglected muscle groups, you’ll be able to pull that much more power out of them. 

Tips and Variants 

Stay Relaxed:make sure you’re not clenching the weights too tightly. The majority of your grip strength comes from the anterior of your forearm. That means that by holding the weights at all you’re working against your extensors. If you overdo it, you’ll be limiting your overall range of motion with your extensors. 

Keeping your extensors from contracting and over tightening your tendons while you’re banging out some reverse wrist curls is going to tank the progress you can expect to see. Going through your full range of motion is the best way to get your forearms looking right, so if you want to draw out the most from this exercise, then keep an eye on your grip. 

Work on You Anterior:Getting bigger and stronger forearms is going to ultimately take a two-pronged approach. Your forearms are made up of your flexors and extensors, and you should be working on both halves of your forearms if you want to keep your hands and wrists balanced. Balancing out your forearm workout is great from a practical standpoint and from a looking-swole standpoint. Bigger forearms will come more quickly and naturally if you’re increasing your overall diameter rather than just piling more mass on half of your forearms.

Alternating between your posterior and anterior forearms will also have the benefit of working in rest days for your forearms. You could technically work on your forearms all week if you bounce between wrist curls and reverse wrist curls. Rest days are one of the most important aspects of building muscle, and if you can rest your forearms while still managing to work on your forearms, your grip strength and your muscle mass are going to be absolutely out of this world. 

Switch Up Your Weights:reverse wrists curls are best done with a small barbell, but you can really use any sort of weights you stumble across and get some great results out of the reverse wrist curl. Barbells are great because they allow you to add the most weight to your reverse wrist curls the easiest and they force your hands to move in conjunction with each other throughout the entire exercise. If you want to relieve some pressure from your wrists, then breaking out the EZ curl bar is a good way to go. The curved design will allow you to supinate your wrists a little more naturally.

You can use dumbbells if you want the freedom to rest your wrists in a more natural position. Dumbbells also isolate each of your wrists, preventing them from compensating for each other like a barbell allows them to. If you feel like one of your arms is lagging behind the other, and you want to eliminate that possibility then switching the barbell for a pair of dumbbells is the way to go. 

A cable machine will add tension throughout the entire exercise. This is a great way to up the efficiency of your reverse wrist curls without adding too much weight. You’ll have to be extra vigilant about your grip with the cable machine, though. Since you’ll be so focused on keeping the weights from escaping your grasp, it’s easy to slip into bad habits with the cable machine and totally neuter the increased gains you could potentially get from using a cable machine.

Strive for Supersets:Lowering the amount of weight you’re lifting and going for a much higher number of reps will jack up your endurance. Swapping out a number of sets for one huge superset will train your muscles to prioritize endurance rather than size. Greater endurance in your forearms will allow you to keep at your other exercises for much longer by eliminating the forearm bottleneck that lifters typically run into. Higher endurance in your forearms will result in a more streamlined upper body workout.

Gym Gloves: Your forearms are like marionette strings making your fingers dance. They’re a muscle group that depends on lengthy connections of your tendons making contact and staying in line. Your body keeps them in line with a pair of retinaculum, those are basically just fibrous bands that hold your tendons in line like a rubber band around a bunch of pencils.

A good pair of lifting gloves will add an extra layer of support to your wrists. This will give you even more stability and keep your form from dropping towards the end of your reps.

Use the Bench:When you get ready to do your reverse wrist curls, you have a plethora of options to choose from. You can do them standing, sitting, or kneeling, and you can rest your forearms pretty much anywhere you can find a flat surface. We suggest using the bench. If you’re out at the gym, you don’t really have an excuse not to rest your forearms on a flat bench. The stability of the bench will ease a little tension from your grip, which is important for retaining the full range of motion and getting the most out of your exercise.

Resting your forearms on your lap isn’t the end of the world, but you’re settling for a more narrow platform and compromising your form just a touch.

Take Your Stretches Seriously:Stretching before your workout is going to help you stay limber while you pack on muscle. Your body is resilient and delicate at the same time. If you overdo it on the muscle mass without constantly allowing yourself to loosen up, then your muscles will turn on you. Muscle is naturally dense and powerful. If all you do is make them larger and larger without also making them elastic they’ll start tugging on your fragile connective tissue and yanking things out of place.

Stretching also improves blood flow, keeping your muscles well stocked during your workout. Loosening up your body is one of the best ways to avoid injury while improving your output. 

Wrist

Working in Reverse

Getting shredded is all about pushing yourself to your limits, but if you find your limits aren’t being reached because you’ve found a weak link in your routine, then you’re never going to maximize your gains. You c deadlift all you want, but if your grip strength can’t accommodate the weight you’re truly capable of lifting, then you’re going to stall out fast. Pull-ups are going to feel unobtainable, and your time in the gym will be squandered by one single set of muscles. Reverse wrist curls are important for cultivating a body that’s capable of serving you and getting real results when the chips are down.


x