The dumbbell reverse wrist curl is a favorite choice for exercise enthusiasts looking to beef up and strengthen their forearm muscles. This exercise targets the top side or brachioradialis muscle that is very underdeveloped for a large majority of exercisers.
It’s a low-impact exercise that most people can do safely and the results are awesome if you’re consistent.
Learn how to do this exercise with tips, variations, and how to effectively include it in your training regime.
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Wrist extensors
- Type: Hypertrophy, strength
- Mechanics: Isolation
- Equipment: Dumbbell
- Difficulty: Beginner
Below are the muscles worked during the dumbbell reverse wrist curl.
The wrist extensors consist of extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB), extensor carpi radialis longus (ECRL), and the extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU).
These muscles work together to facilitate neutral wrist extension movements.
The wrist flexors are also used during this exercise and consist of the flexor carpi radialis, palmaris longus, flexor carpi ulnaris, and pronator teres.
These muscles work together to bend the wrists downward when the palms are face down.
The brachioradialis muscle is located on the top side of the forearm. For most people, this muscle is visibly underdeveloped and sometimes appears non-existent.
It functions to flex the elbow and pronate/supinate the forearm and therefore crosses the elbow joint.
Regular curls, reverse curls, and any pulling or lifting exercise/activity heavily involves this muscle.
How To Do The Dumbbell Reverse Wrist Curl
Here are step-by-step instructions for the basic seated dumbbell reverse wrist curl. We also made sure to include variations below as there are many ways to do this exercise.
- Grab two light dumbbells and sit on a bench.
- Place your bottom of your forearms on your thighs so that your wrists are just hanging over your knees. Your palms should be facing down.
- Raise both wrists upward as far as you can, and pause for a second while contracting your forearm muscles.
- Lower the weight and repeat.
Here’s a video example…
Related: Best Forearm Exercises
Dumbbell reverse wrist curl tips
- You should never use maximum resistance for this exercise. This can cause unnecessary wrist strain and cause issues down the road.
- Choose dumbbells or resistance that will allow you to perform at least 8 full repetitions.
- You can also do this exercise by kneeling down on the floor and resting your forearms over the bench. This way, you don’t have to balance your forearms on top of your thighs which some people don’t like to have to do.
- There are many other variations of this exercise so if the one above does not work for you, we recommend trying other ones too.
- Avoid cheating your reps unless you’re a more advanced exerciser.
4 Variations and Alternatives
Here are three effective variations/alternatives of the dumbbell reverse wrist curl that we highly recommend.
1. Standing Dumbbell Reverse Wrist Curl
You can do the reverse wrist curl from a standing position by holding the dumbbells down in front of your body. This may be advantageous for keeping tension on the forearms at the top of the reverse curl and it may also allow you to lift heavier (although you still never want to go too heavy).
The drawback is that it doesn’t allow you to get as much range of motion compared to if you were doing a seated variation like the one we provided instructions for above.
Doing this exercise with cables also works well.
2. Barbell Reverse Wrist Curl
Many use a fixed barbell to do this exercise. The only downside is that your wrists are in a more fixed position that doesn’t allow them to move freely during the movement.
But, it can allow you to use more weight. So, it’s always good to mix things up and each variation seems to have its advantages.
This variation is done seated and same as the example provided with exercise instructions above.
3. Reverse Cable Wrist Curls
Cables may be better than using dumbbells for the seated or kneeling reverse curl variations. That’s because the cable weight is constantly pulling against your wrists.
When using free weights, it’s easier and more tempting to try and rest at the top, thereby, potentially removing some of the tension from the forearm muscles.
4. Reverse Curl
Doing a full curl works the same muscles plus the ones in the upper arms like the biceps and brachialis. This is great but also has its downside as it does require more effort and if you’ve already trained the muscles of the upper arm, you could cut into your recovery time.
This makes for a great exercise on back or arms day.
How to Incorporate The Dumbbell Reverse Wrist Curl Into Your Training Regime
There’s no perfect way to include this exercise in your training regime. However, we would like to offer some suggestions so that you can maximize your progress.
For example, if you’re doing heavy pulls and curls, we recommend doing your reverse wrist curls after. That’s because you don’t necessarily want to fatigue your forearm muscles which could inhibit your ability to handle maximum weight.
If you’re training lighter then it may not be much of an issue. Not to mention, training the forearms before your other movements could sometimes be an effective strategy.
We’re referring to pre-exhausting the forearms so that when you do pulls or curls, your back, and biceps will be forced to work harder since your forearms are too fatigued to do as much as they usually would.
Learn more about the pre-exhaustion method here.
These are simple and common strategies but how you train always depends on your training goals.
You could also use the dumbbell reverse wrist curl as part of a superset. So for instance you could do regular wrist curls and then immediately do a set of reverse curls.
You could also pair this exercise with biceps curls, triceps exercises, and others too. It doesn’t require much setup and is not as demanding as many other exercises so we think utilizing it in this manner can be beneficial.
Be sure to read our ultimate guide to supersets.
You don’t need more than 2-4 challenging sets of this exercise per workout as it’s a small muscle. But it may be a good idea to do it a couple of times per week and gauge your progress.
Just make sure to not use too much resistance.
As for reps, we recommend a minimum of 8 reps to ensure the weight is not too heavy. Therefore, a moderate to higher rep range is ideal for muscle building.
The dumbbell reverse wrist curl has been used for decades by those looking to slap some muscle on their forearms and increase their wrist strength.
It shouldn’t be your primary forearms builder as most of your development will come from heavy pulls and curls. But if you’d be willing to dedicate a little extra time to isolating your forearms with a reverse curl variation/s, then you’ll no doubt see even more development.