What is a Wrist Curl?

Dan Cavallari

A wrist curl is an exercise that strengthens the forearms as well as other wrist flexor muscles, and it can be performed several ways. It is a difficult exercise that should be performed with a spotter nearby if possible, especially if the person executing the wrist curl exercises is new to the exercise. Many professionals encourage lifters to perform the wrist curl in conjunction with reverse wrist curls to ensure equal development of the other muscles in the wrists and forearms. To do the exercises, a lifter will need either a barbell with variable weights or one or two dumbbells.

Wrist curls strengthen the muscles of the forearms.
Wrist curls strengthen the muscles of the forearms.

To do the exercise with a barbell, the lifter will need to sit on a weight lifting bench or other sturdy structure with the barbell at his feet. The appropriate amount of weight should already be on the bar; if the lifter is unsure of how much weight to use, he should start with a small amount of weight and work up from there, rather than risk injuring muscles when performing a wrist curl with too much weight. With his feet spread apart at about hip width, the lifter can reach down and grasp the barbell with his palms facing upward, then rest his forearms on his thighs with the wrists dangling off the knees.

Almost any type of light hand weight can be used for a wrist workout.
Almost any type of light hand weight can be used for a wrist workout.

Once in position, the lifter will allow the weight of the barbell to drop the wrists, then he will use the wrist flexor muscles to curl the bar upward until the palms are horizontal to the ground. Once the motion is complete, the lifter can allow the weight to drop again, thereby completing one wrist curl. Most lifters will do several repetitions, up to 15 or 20 at a time, before resting and then repeating the process. The exercise can be done as part of a larger workout that strengthens other muscles in the arms and upper body as well.

A variation of the wrist curl with a barbell can be done with dumbbells instead. Dumbbells are held one hand at a time rather than in both hands, but the exercise is performed in the same manner as the wrist curl using a barbell. The lifter can perform the curls with a dumbbell one hand at a time or two hands at a time; he may also choose to alternate curls in each hand, curling once with the left hand, then once with the right, and so on.

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