Muscles Targeted: Reverse grip barbell curls primarily target the biceps brachii (2 heads of the biceps) and the brachialis (outside of the bicep). This exercise is also very effective for targeting the muscles of the forearms (brachioradialis) due to the positioning of the hands on the barbell (reverse grip).
Exercise Instructions: Grab a barbell using a secure overhand grip (palms facing down) with your hands positioned about 6-8 inches apart on the bar. Keep your elbows tucked in and close to your sides. Curl the barbell up to the top while keeping your elbows stable and in a fixed position (do not raise and lower your elbows as you lift the weight up and down). Slowly return the barbell back down to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Why This Exercise is Important: A variation of the classic barbell curl, the reverse grip barbell curl technique develops one of the most used muscles in the body, your arms. Aside from looking amazing in a sleeveless top, strong biceps have plenty of real life benefits. It is your link between your upper body and the world. If they are weak, your upper body can’t work to full capacity. You will have a hard time lugging around your briefcase, moving furniture or playing different sports. Strong arms also protect your elbows from injury. If you carry heavy items during the day, your elbows will ache if you have weak biceps. You’re also less likely to get tennis elbow, or inflammation of the elbow joint with strong biceps. In fact, this exercise is often used in rehabilitation from injury and as an assistance exercise for contact sports and martial arts.
Things To Avoid: Lots of people make the mistake of overtraining their biceps so avoid concentrating too much on your arms. Although well-developed guns are awesome, other upper body exercises also hit this smaller muscle group (back training) so you don’t need to do endless sets and reps during your biceps workout.
Form is important when doing reverse grip barbell curls. Use an overhand grip on the bar, with your palms down and your knuckles up. Stand upright, with your feet planted parallel to your hips, and the bar resting across your thighs. Keep your elbows tight against your body. It’s best to do this exercise in front of a mirror so that you can check your form as you go through your reps. Keep your knees relaxed and your posture tall so as to prevent you from swinging your body around.
Aside from checking your technique, make sure that you lift a weight that is not too heavy for you. Otherwise, you might injure your wrists or your back. During the reps, make sure that you stay upright with your shoulders back and chest out. Don’t hunch over or let your shoulders droop. Don’t rock back and forth as you might damage your lower back.
Some people are wary when doing reverse grip barbell curls because they are afraid of injuring their wrists. However, well-developed and strong wrists go a long way. There are many daily activities that require wrist action like typing and moving your mouse around. It also helps to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
Finally, draw power from your biceps. Do not use momentum to raise and lower the bar. Keep your elbows in a fixed position and close to your body. Don’t swing them out wide as you bend your arms to raise the weight. Using momentum by swinging your elbows up and down takes away from the benefits of this exercise and should be avoided.
Reps and Sets: You don’t need to spend a lot of time training your biceps due to the small size of this muscle group. If you want to tone them up and increase strength, do 10-12 reps of 2-3 sets using reverse grip barbell curls. If you want to develop maximum arm strength and size then add a few other biceps exercises to the mix and shoot for a total of 6-8 overall sets for your workout. Train your arm muscles last in your upper body workout, so if you train back and biceps on the same day then make sure to work your back first and then finish with your biceps.
Other Exercises To Use: Train your biceps and triceps equally. Aside from reverse grip barbell curls, try using EZ-bar preacher curls or hammer dumbbell curls to build strength and size in your arms. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps.