is the one arm exercise you'll very rarely see
anyone in the gym do? The Reverse Grip Curl, of
course! There are two main reasons it's such a
If you're doing it correctly, you can't use nearly
as much weight as you could with a regular-grip
barbell curl. Many lifters are going to opt for
the exercise that allows them to use heavier weight
with the thought that it'll be more effective
for building up the arms.
The Reverse Curl works a muscle in the arms that
is not particularly visible: the brachialis (located
on the lower aspect of the upper arm, just below
the bicep muscle). Not being visible often translates
into not being important in the eyes of many trainers.
for the lifter in search of bigger arms, the Reverse
Curl is a KEY exercise. Want to know what a well-developed
brachialis muscle does? It push the peak of the
bicep muscle up higher, making for a more dramatic
flex and an overall bigger arm!
if Reverse Curls aren't a part of your arm-training
routine, it's time to take another look at this
neglected exercise. And, of course, I've got tips
to help you make it even MORE effective!
for the link at the end of the article for pictures
of this exercise and the tips in action.
How To Do Reverse Curls:
this exercise, y ou can use either a straight
barbell (e.g. an Olympic bar) or an EZ Curl bar.
Start with about HALF of the weight you would
use for a regular barbell curl for 8 reps - you
may increase it later but it's important to use
a lighter weight to start with to make sure you're
using proper form. This exercise can easily turn
into a "clean" movement with a lot of
momentum if you use too much weight.
a shoulder-width grip on the bar. Instead of gripping
with your hands underneath the bar like a regular
curl, grip on TOP of the bar (this is known as
a pronated grip). If you're using an EZ bar, grip
it on the downward-sloping parts of the bar just
outside of the central straight section.
your elbows close to your sides, knees slightly
bent, and hands gripped tightly onto the bar,
curl it up as you would with a regular curl. Because
you are gripping the top of the bar, the supinated
grip will utilize the brachialis muscle to move
the weight. You'll feel strong tension in your
forearms as well, especially as you come to the
top of the curl.
for a second at the top, then lower slowly. You
should feel the area under your lower biceps swelling
up with blood.
- This is
the start position of the Reverse Grip
- The hands
are in a pronated (palms back) position
on the bar, about shoulder-width apart.
- Curl the
bar up to the top as you would in a regular
barbell curl, keeping your knees slightly
bent and arms at your sides.
the brachilis hard at the top (it will
feel like you're trying to squeeze the
biceps but they won't be activated).
How to Grip
an EZ Curl Bar For Reverse Curls:
- This is
the best position to grip the EZ Curl
Bar for Reverse Curls. Note how the hands
are placed at the BOTTOM of the downward
angle of the bar.
- This ensure
you get the best activation of the brachialis
- This will
still work okay, but it's not as good
as in the picture above.
- When you
grip at the top of the curve, your thumbs
hook under the bar and it takes away some
of the tension that should be going to
the target muscles.
- Stick with
the first method.
Tips and Tricks for Reverse Curls:
1. For an extremely intense "grip drop set,"
try this techinque.
of taking the time to reduce the weight on your
drop sets, you can accomplish the same increased
tension by changing your grip on the bar.
with a very close grip (your hands placed about
3 to 4 inches apart). Do as many reps as you can
with this grip width. The closer grip puts a more
intense contraction on the brachialis - the reason
we don't use it for regular sets is that it will
reduce the amount of weight you can use for the
you've done as many reps as possible with the
very close grip, set the bar down and move your
hands out to a shoulder-width grip. Do as many
reps as you can with that grip. When you've done
as many reps as you can with that width, set the
bar down and move your hands out wider (I like
to use index finger on the smooth guide circle
on the Olympic bar).
grip is similar to what you'd use for a barbell
hang clean and the movement itself on this last
set can incorporate some momentum in order to
keep the bar going. This will completely burn
out your brachialis muscles.
- This is
the first grip you'll take on the bar.
- Note where
the hands are placed - about 4 inches
apart and on the smooth, center section
of the barbell.
- This is
the strictest grip position.
- When you
can't do any more reps with the first
grip, shift your grip over a little wider.
- In this
grip, your hands will be about shoulder-width
apart, just on the area where the bar
becomes textured for gripping.
- When you
can't do anymore reps on the second grip,
shift over wider until your pinkies are
on the smooth markers on the Olympic bar.
- The reverse
curl movement will look like a slow "clean"
- This grip
uses the traps and back to assist with
moving the bar.
2. When you come to the top of the Reverse Curl,
let your wrists flex back
raise your elbows until they are pointing directly
forward. This will look like the arm position
for the front squat. This will provide a more
full contraction of the brachialis muscles.
will look like a 4 part movement: first, the normal
reverse curl, then the elbows raise up and the
hands flop back, then you lower the elbows, then
you lower the bar to the bottom position.
3. When you're doing the Reverse Curl with the
EZ bar, don't grip the bar with your thumbs against
the top of the slope of the bar.
the bar at the BOTTOM of the slope. When you grip
at the top, you will be bracing your thumb against
the center section of the bar, decreasing the
work the forearm and gripping muscles must do
- this work is among the major benefits of the
exercise. By gripping at the bottom of the slope,
you get no bracing effect and you get more tension
on the target muscles.
4. As you do the Reverse Curl, try to bring your
will increase the contraction of the brachialis
at the top of the movement. Try to imagine you
are rotating your arms inward as you are curling
the bar up.
Reverse Grip Barbell Curl is not a glamorous exercise
and it won't turn heads while you're doing it.
What WILL turn heads are the results you get when
you work hard at it!
The Four Part Reverse Curl Movement
This version of
the Reverse Curl adds in an extra movement at
the shoulder to further increase the contraction
on the brachialis muscles. You start with the
full Reverse Curl then, when your hands are at
the top, you raise your elbows until they point
straight forward. Hold for a second, then lower
your elbows, then lower the bar to the bottom
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