Wrist Curls Exercise Guide

How to Do Wrist Curls & Growth Hack for Stubborn Forearms

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: August 13, 2023

Forearms are like the calves of the arms and can lag behind bicep and tricep development. Neglecting direct forearm training can make matters worse, but wrist curls can help strengthen and build your forearms.

This article will show you how to perform wrist curls effectively, including bonus tips and variations to expedite the growth of your forearms.

Barbell Wrist Curls

What Are Wrist Curls?

If you want to enhance your grip strength and forearm muscles, the wrist curl is an effective strength training exercise you should consider incorporating into your routine. By performing this exercise, you can expect to see improvements in both the size and strength of your forearm muscles.

Wrist Curls Muscles Worked

Wrist flexion and wrist extension are two essential movements of the wrist joint. Wrist flexion refers to the movement of the palm toward the inner part of the forearm, while wrist extension refers to the movement of the back of the hand toward the outer part of the forearm.

The figure below illustrates wrist flexion and extension.

Wrist Curl Flexion and Extension

The wrist curl exercise involves multiple wrist flexor muscles located in the anterior compartment of the forearm, such as the flexor carpus radialis, carpus ulnaris, and palmaris longus.

Conversely, reverse wrist curls work several wrist extensor muscles in the posterior forearm, like the extensor carpi radialis longus, radialis brevis, and carpi ulnaris.

In the image below, you can see the muscles worked during palm-up wrist curls highlighted in red.

Cable Pullover Muscles Worked

Wrist Curls Benefits & Limitations

Wrist flexion and extension movements are essential for daily activities, such as typing, writing, and playing sports. They are also crucial for preventing injuries and maintaining grip strength.

Regular stretching and strengthening exercises for the wrist can help improve flexibility and range of motion and reduce the risk of developing common wrist conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.

However, it’s important not to overdo the training load or frequency with wrist curls to ensure you don’t cause pain or overtraining injuries.


  • Strengthens wrist and forearm muscles.
  • Improves grip strength.
  • Maintains flexibility and range of motion.


  • Must use caution not to overtrain.

How to Do Barbell Wrist Curls

In this section, I’ll walk you through how to set up and perform the barbell wrist curl exercise using a flat bench. There are a few other methods and variations, which I will explain later.

Barbell Wrist Curls Setup

First, grab the barbell with an underhand grip and your pinkies touching the center knurling. If your bar doesn’t have a center knurl, your hands should be about 4 inches apart.

Next, sit down so the tops of your forearms rest lengthwise on the bench and your wrists hang over the edge. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your arms should be bent about 90 degrees and remain at that angle.

Start with your wrist fully extended where the bar is closest to the floor, and you feel a stretch in your forearms, as pictured below.

Barbell Wrist Curls Setup

Barbell Wrist Curls Execution

From the starting position, curl the bar up towards your shoulders as far as possible by contracting your forearm flexor muscles. Hold for a brief pause in the contracted position.

Slowly lower the barbell back to the extended position where you feel a stretch in your forearms. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Aim for 10-15 repetitions per set with 3-4 sets for strengthening and building your forearms.

Here are the basic steps to perform the barbell wrist curls exercise:

  1. Grab the bar with an underhand grip, hands about 4″ apart.
  2. Sit with your lower arms supported on a bench and your wrists hanging over the edge.
  3. Curl the bar up using your forearms while keeping your upper arms still.
  4. Slowly lower the bar until your wrists are fully extended.
  5. Repeat for 10-15 reps.

Barbell Wrist Curls Video Demonstration

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Wrist Curls Form

The description and video above should give you a great starting point for performing wrist curls effectively. But here are some additional tips to help you master perfect form.

  • Range of Motion – Try to execute the wrist curl exercise through the full range of flexion and extension. This will give you the best strengthening and growth results.
  • Tempo – To maximize the effectiveness of wrist curls, perform it slowly and with control, avoiding the use of momentum to initiate the movement. This technique will allow you to feel the exercise more intensely in your forearm flexors.
  • Loading – Use a weight that you can handle for 10-15 repetitions with perfect form. Do not go so heavy that you feel like you’re straining your wrists.
Barbell Wrist Curls Starting Position
Barbell Wrist Curls Contracted Position

Wrist Curls Growth Hack

When it comes to building forearm muscles, some people find it more challenging than other muscles. I am one of those people, so I experimented with different techniques to amplify the exercise.

One such method is occlusion training, which involves wrapping a tourniquet around the limbs to restrict blood flow and increase muscle fiber recruitment. There is ample evidence that this process can achieve more activation with less loading.

To use occlusion training with wrist curls, wrap a band snugly around the smallest part of your elbow. Then perform wrist curls with lighter weight for 15-30 reps and short rests between sets.

When you remove the bands, your forearms will be pumped with blood and nutrients, which can lead to more gains in the long run. Check out the YouTube video below to see how it works.

Barbell Wrist Curls Variations

The wrist curl variation covered so far involves sitting lengthwise on a bench with your forearms hanging off one end. But there are other variations you can do to work the forearms with or without a bench.

Barbell Wrist Curls on Thighs

You can perform wrist curls while seated on a bench or chair with forearms resting on thighs. This variation is more comfortable, with your body upright and your arms farther apart.

However, the legs provide less stability and can be shaky, especially when using heavier weights.

Barbell Wrist Curls on Thighs

Cross Bench Barbell Wrist Curls

Cross-bench wrist curls involve kneeling on the floor with your forearms resting perpendicular to a flat bench. Again, this position enables you to use a wider grip than the lengthwise variation while also providing adequate stability.

Barbell Wrist Curls Across Bench

Behind the Back Wrist Curls

For those who don’t have access to a flat bench, you can also perform barbell wrist curls in the standing position. For this variation, hold the barbell at arm’s length behind your back with an overhand grip about shoulder-width apart.

Then curl the bar up towards your butt using only your forearm muscles and keeping the rest of your arm stationary. The upright position results in more tension on the forearms in the contracted position compared to the horizontal variations.

Barbell Wrist Curls Behind Back

Barbell Reverse Wrist Curls

Reverse wrist curls target the wrist extensors by curling the weight up and back towards the top of your forearms with an overhand grip. This exercise is usually done with your forearms resting on a flat bench.

Reverse Wrist Curls

Barbell Wrist Curl Alternatives

If you lack a barbell for wrist curls, various alternative exercises can effectively target your forearms.

Dumbbell Wrist Curls

Dumbbell wrist curls can be performed in the same manner as the barbell version. The main difference is that each wrist must work independently, which can stimulate the forearm muscles differently.

Cable Wrist Curls

Cable wrist curls are another option that can be performed with both hands or one hand at a time. The advantage of cables is that they provide more constant tension throughout the range of motion compared to free weights.

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More Exercises & Workouts

Wrist curls are an effective exercise for strengthening and building forearm muscles and grip. But they are only a niche exercise in an overall bodybuilding and strength program.

So here are some additional articles that should help you design your ultimate workout routine.

Resistance Band Exercises for Arms & Forearms

Barbell Calf Raises for Stubborn Calves

Incline Hammer Curls for Biceps & Forearms

21 Cable Arm Exercises for Biceps, Triceps, & Forearms

How to Improve Deadlift Grip Strength

Quick Abs, Calves, and Forearms Workout

Based on the information provided, you have a solid foundation for achieving your goals of building stronger forearms. If you found this article helpful, I believe you may also find these additional resources to be valuable.

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By |August 13, 2023|Workouts|Comments Off on Simple Wrist Curls Technique for Bigger Forearms Fast
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