Photo credits- Biceps photo created by yanalya – www.freepik.com
Wrist curl is one of the most popular exercises to train the forearms. Many of you might have seen people in the gym performing writs curls either on a machine or with barbells or dumbbells. Wrist curl is a great exercise for your forearms. But they are not the only exercises out there. You can do many other exercises to target the forearms.
It is always better that we perform exercises that are more functional and athletic. The forearm is a muscle that has more slow-twitch muscle fibers which means that we should do more reps when we train forearms.
In this article, I have shared some of the best alternatives to wrist curl which are more functional and are even better than wrist curls. All these exercises will help you in building an enormous grip strength which will help you in bigger compound lifts like deadlifts, pullups, etc. But before looking at the alternatives, let’s first talk about which muscles are engaged during wrist curl.
Muscles Worked During Wrist Curl
The wrist curl targets the forearm flexor muscles which include flexor carpi radialis, the flexor carpi ulnaris, the flexor digitorum superficialis, the palmaris longus, and the pronator teres.
You can target these muscles by many other exercises other than wrist curl. You can also target forearm muscles by replacing a normal bar with a wide grip bar whenever you do any exercise. When you hold a wide grip, it activates the forearm muscles more compared to the narrow grip. Now let’s see some of the best alternative options here.
Wrist Curl Alternatives
1. Dead Hang
Dead hang is a great exercise to improve your grip strength. Many compound exercises like pull-ups and chin-ups require you to have good grip strength. So dead hang will help you in improving the strength of your forearms and help you in many pulling exercises.
The dead hand is a better alternative to wrist curls as it is more functional and targets the forearm and many other stabilizers muscles. Overall is a great option to increase forearm strength.
Targeted muscles– forearms
How to do
1. Hang on a straight bar with both hands gripped at about shoulder-width apart.
2. Bring your body stable without any movement. Hold the bar tight with your hands.
3. Stay in that position for about 30-60 seconds depending upon your strength.
Try to do a dead hang at the end of the workout. If you do this at the beginning, your forearms will get exhausted and you will not be able to do other main exercises properly. So just finish off the workout with a dead hang instead of starting with it.
2. Reverse Grip Curls
Reverse grip is a great alternative to the wrist curl. Here, your brachioradialis muscles also get targeted which is one of the major contributors to making your arms look bigger.
Along with that, it also targets the wrist flexor and extensor muscles and will help you in building bigger forearms.
Equipment Required- barbell and plates
Targeted Muscles- brachialis and brachioradialis
How to do
1. Hold a barbell with an overhand grip at shoulder-width apart.
2. Stand straight while keeping your shoulders retracted and start curling the bar up. Breath out on the way up.
3. Stop until the bar reaches the neck level and then slowly bring the bar down, back towards the starting position.
4. Repeat the movement at a prescribed number of reps.
Recommended Reps- 10-12
Here, your back should be stable and tight. Make sure that you are not overarching your lower back as it can create some lower back problems. Your core should be engaged throughout the movement to keep your body stable and upright. If reverse curls are not comfortable for you, you can try other alternatives which I have shared in this article.
3. Zottman Curl
Zottman curl is another great exercise you can do in place of wrist curls. This exercise will not only target the forearms but also the biceps. You can do this in your bicep workout to target both the forearm and biceps together.
Equipment Required- dumbbells
How to do
1. Grab two pairs of dumbbells and stand at a shoulder-width stance. Keep your arm straight to the side.
2. Start the exercise by curling the weights up by keeping your shoulders retracted and body straight.
3. Stop at the top when the biceps are completely contracted. From there, rotate your wrist such that the palms are facing forward.
4. Now slowly bring the dumbbells down and return to the starting position.
Recommended Reps- 10-12
If you haven’t done this exercise before, then start with a moderate weight. After a few weeks, you can start going heavy on this.
This exercise will be a little harder for those who have good wrist mobility. So if you feel any pain in your joints, then stop it and go light or do another exercise.
4. Reverse Preacher Curl
If you are not comfortable in holding the straight bar while performing reverse curl. Then you can do a reverse curl with an EZ bar. Here, I am talking about the preacher reverse curl which makes the normal reverse curls more challenging.
If you don’t have a preacher set up, then do this exercise just by standing straight and performing reverse curl with the EZ bar.
This is an amazing exercise for your forearms and biceps. You can also go heavier on this compared to a wrist curl.
Equipment Required- EZ bar and preacher curl machine
How to do
1. Sit on a preacher machine seat. Hold The EZ bar from the position where the bar has a downward curve. The grip should be pronated.
2. Sit upright with your back straight and chest touching on the pad. This will be your starting position.
3. Start the exercise by curling the bar up while squeezing your biceps. Stop at the top when the bar reaches neck level.
4. Squeeze your biceps at the top and then slowly lower the bar down. Bring it to the starting position and then repeat.
You can do this exercise on a cable machine by placing the preacher machine in front of the cables and using an EZ bar.
5. Neutral Grip Pull-Ups
This is one of the best strengthening exercises for your biceps and forearms. Pull-ups are compound movements and performing it at a neutral grip puts additional tension on the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles.
Neutral grip pullups will help you in improving your grip strength. As the is done to target the brachialis and the forearm muscle, this is the perfect alternative option for you.
Equipment Required- Pull up bar
Targeted muscles- biceps brachii, lats, brachialis, and brachioradialis
How to do
1. Grab a pull-up bar with a neutral grip and hang straight with your abs engaged. This will be your starting position.
2. Start by pulling your body up with the help of your arms by keeping your chest up and shoulders retracted.
3. Move up and bring your head up above the bar and stop there for a second.
4. Squeeze your biceps and lats at the top and slowly bring your body down to the starting position.
Recommended Reps- 6-10 ( depending upon your strength)
You can add the intensity of the exercise by putting in extra weights. Just roll a belt over the waist and attach it with a plate and then perform the movement. But make sure that you can do at least 6-8 reps of those to get proper results.
6. Rack Landmine Reverse Curls
This is a unique way to perform a reverse curl. It is a unilateral movement where you can focus on each side of your forearm separately. So if one side is weaker than the other then you should do unilateral movements like this.
If reverse curls are difficult for you or you don’t have good wrist mobility to perform reverse curl properly, then you should try this alternative. Here, you can also rotate your hands at the top which makes it easy to do.
Equipment Required- barbell
Targeted muscles- brachialis and brachioradialis
How to do
1. Place a barbell on a squat rack and hold the barbell with an overhand grip.
2. Stand at the side of the rack with your hands facing down and this will be your starting position.
3. With one end of the barbell resting on the rack, lift the other side of the barbell and bring it towards shoulder height.
4. Contract your biceps and forearms fully at the top and then slowly bring the barbell back to the starting position.
Recommended Reps- 10-12 reps
To get continuous gains and to avoid a plateau, you must have some variations in your workout program. This is a different way to hit the brachialis and is a good way to shock the muscle from the new stimulus you provide with this kind of exercise.
7. Farmers Walk
You might have seen strong powerlifters and people competing in strong man competitions doing farmers carry a lot. Most of these athletes have very strong forearms and bigger traps. One of the major contributors is the heavy farmers carry they do.
Farmer’s walk is a great exercise in increasing the grip strength and making your traps look bigger. You should start doing it if you are looking for strength.
How to do
1. Bend down by keeping your chest up and moving your hips back.
2. Pick a heavy dumbbell or a farmer’s carry bar with both hands. Now push with your legs and stand up while keeping your back flat.
3. Now start walking by taking smaller steps. Try to move fast while keeping your back straight.
4. Keep your shoulders pinched back and look straight as you move. Keep the dumbbells close to the side.
Recommended sets- 2-3
If you haven’t done this before, then start with moderate weights and try to practice with -3 rounds. Then gradually increase the weights.
You don’t need to go fast if you cannot balance the motion. Make sure to first learn how to walk with weights in your hands. Afterward, you can increase the weights and speed accordingly.
8. Battle Rope
Battle rope can also be used as a great forearm exercise. It targets your shoulder, arms, core, and forearms in a very effective way. It is good for athletes and people looking to improve their muscular endurance.
How to do
1. Stand with both feet at about shoulder-width apart. Noe bends down while moving your hips back and holding each end of the rope. Stand at a half squat position and this will be your starting position.
2. Now start the exercise by moving the ropes up and down with your hands. You can either do it with alternating hands or with both hands at one time.
3. Move the rope as fast as possible while keeping your back flat and chest up.
You can do many different variations of battle rope.
How To Add Alternative Exercises In A Workout Program
As we discussed the alternatives, now you might have this question of how to add these alternatives to a workout program. The answer to this is that you must not add all of these alternatives to your workout. You just need to select 1 or 2 of them and replace that with the wrist curl.
So for example, if you were doing wrist curls for a few months and now you want to replace it with an alternative. So what you can do is you can add reverse curls or dead hang in a place of wrist curls.
Do that for 3-4 weeks and see the results you are getting. If you are getting stronger and your strength is improving, then you should continue with the exercise and try to add more weights or resistance.
After a few months, your body will hit a plateau and it will stop showing results. That’s the time when you should add some new alternatives or change the angle or position of the exercise. This way, your body will start producing better results and will make you avoid a plateau.
You can do so many different exercises to target a particular muscle. The forearm is just like any other muscle group and you should design a workout program in such a way that you can target these muscles efficiently without spending too much time in it. Most of these alternative exercises discussed above not only targets the forearm but many other muscles. So with one exercise, you are able to work multiple muscles which is great.
Choosing the right exercise according to your goals and level of fitness is complex. Some exercises might be working well for your friend, but might not work for you. So it is important to understand your goals and the current level of fitness before designing a workout program. Even the sequence of the exercises might be different according to what you are looking to accomplish.
If you found this blog helpful, then do share it with your friends or share it on social media so that we can reach more people and can grow our website. Also, if you know of any other alternative exercises, then do share that with us in the comment section below.
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Roshan Pillai is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer with more than 6 years of experience in lifting weights and guiding people to get fit. He has worked as a personal trainer in gyms and is the owner and editor of fitnessproworkout.com. He is passionate about fitness and helping people to get in shape.