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Reverse Grip Barbell Curl: Variations & Videos

Want to learn how to do a reverse grip barbell curl? Of course you do! This is a brilliant exercise to work your biceps so it deserves a space in every arm workout.

Fortunately for you, you’ve come to the right place.

Below, OriGym explains exactly how to do this exercise, complete with a tutorial video, exercise variations, and information on the common mistakes that people make so that you can get this exercise right the first time around!

But first - do you think of yourself as a fitness fanatic? If so, why not take your passion to the next level and start a career in the fitness industry.

Enquire about our range of personal training qualifications, or check out our online course prospectus here.

Also, feel free to download our FREE 16 Week Home Strength Training Programme before jumping in:

How To Do A Reverse Grip Barbell Curl

Set up: You need a barbell to perform this exercise. A standard weight barbell will work well for this exercise (usually 44lbs or 20 kilograms). 

Starting Position:

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  • Stand upright with your feet on the floor, roughly shoulder-width apart. 
  • Keep your back and neck straight, find a fixed spot on the wall if that helps to keep your posture.
  • Now grab the barbell with a reverse grip, so that your palms are facing your body and your fingers are facing downward. 
  • Keep your arms extended in front of you but slightly bent.
  • Avoid locking out at your elbows as this can cause injuries!

Execution:

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  • Once you are comfortably settled in the starting position, it's time to start the movement!
  • Curl the barbel by bending at your elbows.
  • Lift the weight towards your chest until it is inline it with your shoulder 
  • Keep your elbows tucked in and your arms near to your body - this will help to control the barbell as you lift the weight.
  • At the top of the movement, pause of 2-3 seconds.
  • Return the barbell to the starting position by reversing the curl movement. 
  • Repeat those steps for the allocated time.

Reverse Barbell Curl Muscles Worked

Primary Movers: Biceps.

Secondary Muscles: Forearms.

Common Mistakes To Avoid With The Reverse Grip Barbell Curl 

If you haven’t tried this exercise before or you’re completely new to weight training, don’t sweat it, we’re here to help!

Before we get to the benefits of adding the reverse grip barbell curl into your workouts, here are some mistakes that we see a lot, and how you can avoid them.

Locking Your Arms 

This exercise is relatively easy to do and the risk of injury is fairly minimal, but only once you know what you’re doing. Because the exercise looks pretty simple to perform, a lot of people don’t pay full attention to how to execute it properly and end up making the mistake of locking their arms at the bottom of the movement.

Although your arms should be extended out in front of you in the starting position, locking your arms at your elbows is a big no-no.

Doing this will shift an unnecessary amount of stress of the weight onto your shoulders, making the more less effective for your biceps, and potentially causing an injury to your shoulders or your elbows.

To avoid this (and to get the most out of this exercise) keep a slight bend in your elbow throughout the exercise and as you curl the weight, avoid letting your elbows flare out, keeping your arms close to your body the whole time.

Don’t Lift Your Elbows 

One mistake that we see a lot, is people curling the barbell really quickly and immediately returning to the starting position. This is an issue because when doing this, the client will almost always raise their elbows as they curl the barbell.

Raising your elbows makes the movement less effective for the biceps and puts an excessive amount of strain on your elbows.

If you want to get the most out of the reverse grip barbell curl, then you’ll need to make sure that you control the movement. Concentrate on keeping your elbows in a fixed position and just bending them to curl the weight. 

It can also help to create a ‘mind-muscle connection’ with your biceps, really focusing on using your biceps to perform the exercise.

Reverse-Grip Barbell Curl: What Are The Benefits?

Now that you know exactly how to do a reverse grip barbell curl, let's talk about why this exercise deserves a spot in your upper body workout.

We’ve already talked about the reverse grip barbell curl muscles worked, but what does that mean for your exercise goals, and how else can this move benefit your training?

Allow us to explain!

After that, stick with us as we explain how to do our three favourite reverse grip barbell curl variations: the reverse dumbbell curl, the reverse grip ez bar curl, and the reverse grip cable curl!

Bicep Strength & Definition

Even though the reverse grip barbell curl doesn’t require a great deal of weight, it’s still a really effective way to strengthen and define the muscles in your arms, especially your biceps.

This exercise does a great job of isolating the biceps, forcing them to do most of the work when it comes to curling the barbell, meaning a great deal of weight really isn’t needed at all.

Whether you want to target your biceps specifically, or you’re just looking to get bigger arms in general, adding this exercise into your exercise routine will definitely benefit your exercise goals.

Unsure on how else you can build strength and definition in your upper arms? You need to check out OriGym’s full workout plan for getting bigger arms.

Strengthen Your Forearms 

One lesser known benefit of the reverse grip barbell curl is that it's a great exercise to strengthen the muscles in your forearms.

You might not have given much thought to working on your forearms in the past, there are actually a couple of benefits of strengthening these muscles.

Not only are there aesthetic benefits of having big arms overall, but building the strength of your forearms is a really effective way to improve your grip strength.

Good grip strength can then help you to use more weight in other strength training exercises like deadlifts, rows, or the classic clean and press!

Want to know more about how having a better grip strength can improve your training? Check out our blog post where we share the best forearm exercises and why you need to try them!

Prevent Wrist Injuries

Another benefit of choosing a reverse grip barbell curl over similar exercises, is that using the reverse grip can strengthen your wrist joint.

Whilst we doubt this is one of your exercise goals, strengthening this joining can help to reduce the risk of a wrist-related exercise when performing other exercises, especially the likes of a chest press or back squats.

Reverse Grip Barbell Curl Variations

Want to switch up the reverse barbell curl? Here are three variations that you need to try!

How To Do A Reverse Dumbbell Curl 

Want to switch up the reverse barbell curl by grabbing a pair of dumbbells instead? Here is how to perform a reverse grip dumbbell curl. 

Set up: For the reverse dumbbell curl variation, you will need a pair of dumbbells. As this exercise is really effective at isolating the biceps, a fairly light pair of dumbbells will do.

Starting Position:

  • Stand upright with your feet on the floor, roughly shoulder-width apart. 
  • Engage your core to help keep your back straight.
  • Keep your head upright - concentrating on a fixed spot on the wall can help you keep this posture.
  • Now grab the barbell with a reverse grip, so that your palms are facing your body and your fingers are facing downward. 
  • Holding a dumbbell in each hand, position your arms down by your sides, keeping a slight bend in your elbow.
  • Make sure that you are holding the dumbbells with a reverse grip (so that your palms are facing your body).

Execution:

  • Curl the dumbbells towards your chest, bending your elbows to move the weights.
  • Keep your elbows in position and tucked in, keeping your arms close to your body throughout the exercise.
  • Once the dumbbells are at shoulder height, pause for a moment.
  • Reverse the movement to return your starting position. 
  • Repeat those steps for the allocated time.

Reverse Dumbbell Curl Muscles Worked

Primary Movers: Biceps (brachii and brachialis).

Secondary Muscles: Forearms.

Common Mistakes To Avoid With The Reverse Grip Dumbbell Curl 

Keep Your Form

One mistake that a lot of people make when performing a reverse dumbbell curl, is moving their elbows or shoulders to make the move easier.

You might not even realise that you’re doing it, but a lot of people cheat this move by hunching over as they curl the dumbbell, or raising their elbows to take some of the stress off the biceps.

These mistakes are especially often when an individual has one side of their body that is weaker than the other (usually your non-dominant side). 

Because this is a unilateral exercise, you might find that you can perform a reverse grip dumbbell curl with great form with your right arm, but if your left arm is weaker, it can be easy to slip into bad habits that make the exercise easier.

Avoid this at all costs by concentrating on using your bicep to lead the exercise! 

Benefits Of Reverse Grip Dumbbell Curls

Unilateral Exercise

Although we mentioned that the unilateral nature of the reverse dumbbell curl can cause a couple of common mistakes, there are benefits to adding unilateral exercises into your workout routine.

In addition to all of the benefits of the reverse barbell curl above, one of the best things about the reverse dumbbell curl compared to a barbell reverse curl is that it allows you to train both the left and right side of your body equally.

With bilateral exercises (like the barbell variation of this exercise), the dominant side of your body can take on more of the stress of the weight, meaning your non-dominant side is weaker, less defined, and as a result, more prone to injury! 

Unilateral exercises are a great way to correct these kinds of muscle imbalances, improving your overall aesthetic and strengthening both sides of your body equally.

If you enjoy this exercise, you should check out how to do the dumbbell clean and press right here.

How To Do A Reverse Grip EZ Bar Curl

Set up: To do reverse grip ez bar bicep curls, all you need is a EZ bar and plenty of space around you.

Starting Position:

  • Stand upright with your feet on the floor about shoulder-width apart. 
  • Grab the EZ bar with an overhand (reverse) grip, so that your palms are facing your body.
  • Hold the bar so that it sits just in front of your thighs.
  • Avoid locking out your arms by keeping a slight bend in your elbows.

Execution:

  • Start the exercise by curling the EZ bar towards your chest.
  • Keep your elbows still and focus on using your biceps to move the weight.
  • Once the EZ bar is in front of your chest, pause briefly.
  • Return the bar to the starting position and then repeat for your desired amount of reps and sets!

Reverse Grip EZ Bar Curl Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles: Biceps.

Secondary Muscles: Forearms.

Common Mistakes To Avoid With Reverse Grip EZ Bar Bicep Curls 

Perform The Full Exercise

One mistake to look out for when performing a reverse grip EZ bar curl, is cutting corners and making the move easier by not completing the full range of motion.

If you want to get the full benefits of reverse grip standing ez bar curls, make sure that the bar comes up to your chest and back to thigh level for every single rep.

Failing to do the full range of motion will compromise the benefits of doing the exercise in the first place!

Benefits Of A Reverse Grip EZ Bar Curl

Improved Wrist Health & Strength

As we mentioned earlier, the standing reverse barbell curl is a great way to help avoid wrist injury and improve grip strength. 

Thanks to this EZ bar variation, those benefits are even more significant!

Using the EZ bar for this exercise puts your wrists in the strongest and most stable position possible, protecting your wrist joints whilst strengthening them, too!

Once we're done here, check out the best kettlebell exercises for working your arms here.

Reverse Grip Cable Curl

Set up: Find the cable machine and attach the bar to the lower pulley cable. Choose a weight that allows you to perform every rep with proper form.

Starting Position:

  • Stand facing the cable machine with your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Grab the bar with an overhand grip and hold it in front of your thighs.
  • Place your hands on the bar so that they are shoulderwidth apart.

Execution: 

  • To execute the reverse grip cable curl, start to curl the bar upto your chest.
  • Use your biceps to lead the movement and keep your elbows still and tucked in to your sides.
  • Once the bar is just in front of your chest, pause briefly.
  • Slowly return the bar to the starting position in a controlled manner.

Reverse Grip Cable Curl Muscles Worked

Primary Movers: Biceps.

Secondary Muscles: Forearms.

Common Mistakes To Avoid With The Reverse Grip Cable Curl  

Find The Right Weight

When performing the reverse grip cable curl, a lot of people make the mistake of trying to use too much weight. Just like the barbell and dumbbell variations, you really don’t need to use a lot of weight for this exercise to be effective.

Using too much weight can be counterproductive as you will find yourself moving your elbows to compensate, or leaning back to curl the bar, which will then take the stress off your biceps. Find a weight that challenges you but make sure that you can still execute every rep with perfect form.

Benefits Of The Reverse Grip Cable Curl  

Cable VS Free-Weight

In addition to the benefits of this exercise for working your biceps, building strength, and improving your grip strength, there are benefits unique to this cable machine variation.

The most significant benefit that this exercise has over the reverse grip barbell curl is that using the cable machine over free weights puts a lot less stress on your elbow and shoulder joints, which reduces your likelihood of getting injured.

Before You Go!

We hope that you enjoyed trying out the reverse barblell curl and the variations.

These are all brilliant exercises, so you will definitely see the results for yourself if you add any of these exercises into your regular arm workout!

Before you go - why not start an exciting new career in the world of health and fitness. Enquire about one of our REPs accredited personal training courses or download our FREE course prospectus.

Written by Abbie Watkins

Fitness Content Executive, OriGym

Join Abbie on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Holding an MA Marketing Communications and Branding as well as a BSc Psychology from the University of Liverpool, Abbie’s experience encompasses the retail, hospitality and fitness industries. Since joining OriGym, she has become a qualified Personal Trainer and gone on to complete a specialist qualification in advanced Sports Nutrition. Abbie’s main focuses cover staying up to speed with YouTube fitness influencers, identifying successful and innovative content formats. She has contributed to various publications, including the Daily Express. Beyond OriGym, she describes herself as a ‘work-hard, play-hard’ type going on scenic runs and upbeat exercise classes, and often found on the front row of a Saturday morning spin class. 

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