What is the wrist curl?
Wrist curls are isolation exercises for the forearms, specifically targeting the wrist flexor muscles. Wrist curls are performed by holding a barbell or two dumbbells with palms face up and curling the weight upwards using your wrists.
The wrist curl should be combined with the complementary wrist extensor exercise, which works the arm’s opposing muscles, in order to encourage balanced muscle development.
What muscles does the wrist curl use?
During the wrist curl you will use all the major forearm muscles – the flexor carpi radialis, the flexor carpi ulnaris and the palmaris longus. These muscles originate from the humerus (the inside of your elbow) and insert just beyond the wrist.
Flexor and extensor muscles lie on both sides of your forearm. On the top side, the flexor muscles work to flex (contract) your wrist upwards, while the extensor muscles extend your muscles back to move your wrist into a straight position.
Bicep curls are not very effective of developing the forearms because the wrist flexors work only as stabiliser muscles during this isolation exercise. Instead, use wrist curls and reverse wrist curls to target your forearms.
How to perform a wrist curl
Wrist curls can be performed either with both hands holding a barbell or with two hands each holding a dumbbell.
To perform a seated wrist curl, you should sit on a bench with your knees bent and your forearm resting on your thighs or a bench, with your hands hanging off the edge holding dumbbells or a barbell in an underhand grip with palm facing upwards.
Start the lift by slowly curling your wrist upwards while you exhale. The hand should be completely free to move up and down unhindered. Using a steady and controlled motion, you should raise the weight by using the forearm muscles only.
The hand should be raised as far as possible for complete flexion of the forearm. However the forearm itself should remain resting on your thigh or the bench.
Once the highest point of the lift has been reached, hold for a few seconds then lower the weight slowly back down to the starting point.
Standing wrist curls
To perform a standing wrist curl, a barbell should be held behind you in both hands using an overhand grip. You can also use dumbbells holding them by your sides.
Use the same motion as with the seated wrist curl. The range of motion will be smaller because of the angle, but the standing wrist curl does have the advantage of providing a stronger stress on the forearm muscles when they reach their peak contraction.
Reverse wrist curls
The reverse wrist curl or wrist extension is the perfect way to complement the wrist curl. Reverse wrist curls work the opposing muscles in the forearm to create balanced muscle development.
To perform a reverse wrist curl or wrist extension, position yourself in the same way as for a regular wrist curl. Instead of holding the weight with an underhand grip, take hold of the weight in an overhand grip and use the opposite motion to perform the lift.
Drop you wrist down and then lift the weight upwards again using your forearm muscles. Keep a controlled motion throughout the lift and don’t just flop your wrist down.
Each rep of the reverse wrist curl or wrist extension should be performed in a controlled manner to ensure the correct muscles are working and you are not using gravity to help.
You will probably not be able to lift as much weight when performing reverse wrist curls because the muscles on the upper side of the forearm are smaller than those on the lower side of the forearm.