How to Do Reverse Curls: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Also Known As: Reverse arm curl, reverse curl

Targets: Biceps and forearms

Equipment Needed: Barbell, dumbbells, or EZ curl bar

Level: Intermediate

The reverse biceps curl is a variation of the standard biceps curl except, instead of gripping the weight with the palms up, your palms are facing down. Adding this exercise to your current routine can help build stronger, more toned arms.

How to Do a Reverse Curl

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Stand up with your back straight, shoulders back, and chest lifted. Grip a set of dumbbells with your palms facing down (pronated grip) and rest the weights on the front of your thighs.

  1. Exhale and bend your elbows to lift the weights toward your shoulders.
  2. Lift the weights until you feel a complete biceps contraction.
  3. Lower the dumbbells to the starting position slowly and with control, inhaling as you go.

The upper arms remain relatively stationary during this exercise.

Benefits of Reverse Curls

The primary muscles targeted during the reverse curl are the biceps brachii and brachialis. The brachialis is not a readily visible muscle, as it’s hidden under the biceps. It provides a structural bridge between the upper arm bone and forearm and is the prime mover during elbow flexion.

Adding this exercise to your workout can increase your ability to lift heavier weight during standard biceps curls and correct muscle imbalance between flexor and extensor muscles. Using a pronated grip promotes greater muscle activation than other grip options.

The reverse biceps curl is sometimes used during the rehabilitation of biceps injuries, though not until roughly three months post-injury. In everyday life, this exercise can make activities such as picking up a vacuum easier to manage.

Other Variations of Reverse Curls

The reverse biceps curl can be performed in a variety of ways to accommodate your fitness level and lifting preference.

Wall-Assisted Reverse Curl

If you have trouble maintaining good form, stand against a wall to perform the reverse curl. This simple change-up will help you get the most from this exercise and allow for more effective lifts.

Reverse Curl With EZ Bar

Perform the exercise using an EZ curl bar for wrist comfort during the exercise. This variation also works to better activate the biceps muscles, allowing you to develop strength and exercise confidence.

Reverse Barbell Curl

If you don't feel comfortable using dumbbells, give a barbell a try. The steps and movements are the same. Using a barbell to do your reverse biceps curls works the same muscle groups, providing the same benefits.

Cable Reverse Biceps Curl

You can also perform this exercise using a cable station with a bar attachment. Simply attach the bar to the lowest pulley and you’re ready to go. (Don't forget to use a pronated grip with your palms facing down.)

Prone Incline Reverse Curl

Try a prone incline reverse curl to provide a challenging angle during this exercise. To do it, lie face down on an incline bench and do reverse curls in this position. This can be performed with a barbell, EZ curl bar, or dumbbells.

Preacher Reverse Curl

The use of a preacher chair offers support and challenges the peak contraction of the biceps and brachialis muscles. Place the back of your upper arms against the bench and extend your lower arms. Hold a barbell with a pronated grip and pull it toward the shoulders before lowering it down again.

If your wrists feel uncomfortable, try this exercise using an EZ curl bar and find the angle that works best for you.

Common Mistakes

The following are common mistakes to avoid during the reverse curl.

Too Much Weight

The standard bicep curl may allow for heavy lifts, but this is not the case for reverse curls. The goal is not to blast the biceps but, instead, to develop the hidden muscle under the biceps.

Using too much weight increases the risk of muscle and wrist injury. This is easily corrected by reducing the resistance to the appropriate level.

The quality of contraction always trumps the amount of weight being lifted. Consider reverse bicep curls a bonus exercise to enhance those heavier lifts.

Using Momentum

Performing this exercise requires your upper arms to remain stationary as you bend at the elbows to lift the dumbbells up. Your hips and low back should also remain stable.

Using momentum is a big indicator that the weight is too heavy. It places you at risk for potential shoulder and low back injury. Be aware of proper weight resistance and body mechanics at all times during this exercise.

Extending Wrists

It may feel natural to extend the wrists during elbow flexion, but doing so causes unnecessary stress on the wrist joint and extensor muscles. Maintain straight wrists throughout the full range of motion for effective and proper execution of the reverse biceps curl.

Safety and Precautions

If you have an injury to your biceps, elbow, or wrist, you may want to avoid this exercise. Alternatively, you can ask your doctor or physical therapist whether the reverse curl is safe given your specific condition.

If you experience pain or discomfort that doesn’t feel right during the reverse curl, discontinue the exercise. Start with a weight that you can lift 8 to 12 times with proper form. Work up to two to three sets of 8 to 12 reps.

If you are new to this exercise or weight training, in general, it may be a good idea to enlist the guidance of a qualified personal trainer both to learn proper form and to decide how many sets and reps are right for you.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mistry PN, Rajguru J, Dave MR. An anatomical insight into the morphology of the brachialis muscle and its clinical implications. Intern J Anatomy Radiol Surg. 2021;10(2):AO16-AO20.

  2. Kleiber T, Kunz L, Disselhorst-Klug C. Muscular coordination of biceps brachii and brachioradialis in elbow flexion with respect to hand position. Front Physiol. 2015;6:215. doi:10.3389/fphys.2015.00215

  3. Logan C, Shahien A, Haber D, Foster Z, Farrington A, Provencher M. Rehabilitation following distal biceps repair. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2019;14(2):308-17.

  4. Marcolin G, Panizzolo F, Petrone N, et al. Differences in electromyographic activity of biceps brachii and brachioradialis while performing three variants of curl. PeerJ. 2018;6:e5165. doi:10.7717/peerj.5165

By Darla Leal
Darla Leal is a Master Fitness Trainer, freelance writer, and the creator of Stay Healthy Fitness, where she embraces a "fit-over-55" lifestyle.