The dumbbell reverse wrist curl is a rather uncommon form of the reverse wrist curl, oftentimes performed in the hopes of strengthening the various smaller muscles located along the forearm, the majority of which possess a distal attachment point at the elbow.
Added to athletic training programs or, in rare instances, physical rehabilitation routines, the dumbbell reverse wrist curl is primarily used as an isolation exercise after the heavier and more intense compound exercises have already been completed, with the dumbbell reverse wrist curl acting as a “finisher” for the forearms.
The dumbbell reverse wrist curl is an open kinetic chain isolation exercise primarily involving the extension of the wrist joints utilizing the various smaller muscles that make up the forearms. Extremely easy to perform and with minimal equipment requirements, the dumbbell reverse wrist curl is suitable for a variety of individuals aiming to train their forearms.
However, certain drawbacks are involved in performing the dumbbell reverse wrist curl, especially in untrained exercisers or members of the population with a history of wrist injuries, bone integrity related diseases or individuals of older age.
In order to reduce the risk of injury, especially involving individuals with the above risk factors, it is vital to perform the exercise with proper form using a minimal amount of weight. Consulting a medical professional or athletic coach prior to performing the dumbbell reverse wrist curl is also advisable.
Unlike other isolation exercises that require heavy gym machinery normally difficult to store in a home, the dumbbell reverse wrist curl only requires an evenly weighted pair of dumbbells or even just a single dumbbell, as well as a flat surface to sit on.
Ideally, dumbbells of adjustable weight are the best type of dumbbell to use, especially for newbie exercisers that have not yet performed a dumbbell reverse wrist curl, allowing them to reduce the weight as needed.
Prior to performing the dumbbell reverse wrist curl, it is important to first choose a suitable weight so as to reduce the chance of injury, as the tendons and bones in the wrist and forearms can be quite fragile if strained at the wrong angle.
Once the proper amount of resistance has been selected, the exerciser must then sit on a flat surface or bench with their knees extended forwards and their hands gripping the dumbbells or dumbbell in a reverse grip with the palms facing downwards.
The arms of the exerciser must be resting on their legs in such a way that the wrists are hanging off the knees by several inches, allowing them to pronate and supinate freely as needed. The dumbbells must be hanging from the hands without causing any sort of muscular activation in the forearms, which will be considered the exerciser’s resting position.
Slowly, the exerciser will then raise the dumbbells upwards by drawing their hands backwards so the palms are now facing forwards or in the direction of their feet.
It is important to ensure that only the forearm muscles are being activated in this exercise by firmly holding the exerciser’s arms in place, keeping their elbows in contact with their thighs so as to prevent any unconscious movement.
The exerciser must hold this wrist position for a moment before allowing the dumbbells to make a controlled descent back into the resting position, completing one repetition of dumbbell reverse wrist curls.
While the dumbbell reverse wrist curl can be a detrimental exercise when performed with the wrong form or an inappropriate amount of weight, there are certain benefits it can provide the exerciser if the movement is completed properly.
As always, it is best to consult a physician or athletic coach prior to performing any sort of weighted strenuous exercise.
Like the majority of weighted resistance exercises, the dumbbell reverse wrist curl can provide a myriad of beneficial health effects to the exerciser, ranging from an increase in bone density to hormonal changes that extend human lifespan and facilitate clear thinking.
Primarily, the dumbbell reverse wrist curl aids in the production of anabolic hormones by activating hormonal pathways related to the repair and propagation of bodily tissues, though this effect is admittedly quite low impact in comparison to other exercises with more intense training stimuli.
By addition, the dumbbell reverse wrist curl may aid in improving the flexibility of the wrist joints, especially in the case of flexion and extension of the hand, as the tendons will become reinforced over time from the repetitive strain they undergo during this exercise.
Possibly the largest category of beneficial effects from dumbbell reverse wrist curls, the athletic benefits of this exercise are quite numerous, especially if combined with other forearm intensive exercises such as farmers walks or unequipped deadlifts.
Dumbbell reverse wrist curls are capable of inducing significant hypertrophy in the muscles located along the forearm, such as the radialis brevis, extensor digitorum muscles, the brachioradialis as well as the various flexor muscles atop the radius and ulna.
Additionally, the direct neuromuscular recruitment involved in performing the dumbbell reverse wrist curl may aid in subsequent neuromuscular recruitment during other forms of exercise that involve the forearms and wrists.
While this particular form of wrist curls are relatively uncommon in physical rehabilitation programs, it is occasionally used if wrist flexion must be avoided or if wrist extension is an area of weakness for the patient, such as in the case of neurological damage induced paralysis or in stroke patients with reduced movement in the left arm.
Physical therapists may also prescribe an unweighted form of the dumbbell reverse wrist curl in order to improve the flexibility of the wrist joint and finger joints, as the extra stress of the dumbbell may exacerbate whatever flexibility problems the patient has.
The dumbbell reverse wrist curl, being primarily an isolation exercise, only activates the forearms for the most part. The muscles composing the forearms are numerous and rather small in comparison to other muscle groups, and as such work together in order to facilitate movement of the fingers and wrist in a bundle-like fashion.
Among these muscles are the flexor carpi muscles, the brachioradialis, the palmaris longus, the pronator muscles, the flexor digitorum muscles and the supinator muscle, all of which contribute to the movement of the dumbbell reverse wrist curl in some way, be it stabilization, direct movement or simple flexibility.
It is important not to move the arm, torso or legs while performing this exercise, as any sort of “cheating” of the repetition may reduce the intended training stimuli accrued during the repetition.
The dumbbell reverse wrist curl is in fact one of the less common wrist curl variations, with such exercises as the barbell reverse wrist curl, E-Z bar reverse wrist curl and the band-assisted reverse wrist curl all being performed by exercisers instead of the dumbbell reverse wrist curl.
However, much like the dumbbell reverse wrist curl, each of these variations comes with their own unique drawbacks and benefits, and as such it is best to stick with whichever exercise your physical therapist or athletic coach has prescribed to you unless otherwise instructed.
The dumbbell reverse wrist curl, or any sort of wrist curl in general, is not in fact a bad exercise, and provides a variety of benefits and efficient training stimuli to the forearms of the exerciser.
However, despite its light weight, the dumbbell reverse wrist curl is capable of causing significant pain and injury if performed incorrectly, such as in the case of utilizing the entirety of the arm in order to lift the dumbbell, essentially defeating the purpose of the exercise.
This risk is furthered by the use of an improper level of weight, which will place strain on the small bones of the wrist and the relatively thin tendons connected to it, of which may also force the exerciser to perform a lower volume of repetitions, even further increasing the risk of injury.
The dumbbell reverse wrist curl is no doubt an excellent supplementation for the training of the muscles located in and around the wrist, though there are certain alternatives that are both safer and more efficient, the risk involved in performing the dumbbell reverse wrist curl can be minimized through the use of proper form and a reasonable amount of weight.
As such, it is best to add dumbbell reverse wrist curls to the end of a workout after the heavier compound exercises have been completed and the forearms have been somewhat warmed up beforehand.
1. Stiggins, Chuck Head Strength and Conditioning Coach; Allsen, Phil Exercise Methods Notebook #20, National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal: August 1985 - Volume 7 - Issue 4 - p 79-79
2. Beringer, C.R., Mansouri, M., Fisher, L.E. et al. The effect of wrist posture on extrinsic finger muscle activity during single joint movements. Sci Rep 10, 8377 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-65167-x
3. G.J. Loren, S.D. Shoemaker, T.J. Burkholder, M.D. Jacobson, J. Fridén, R.L. Lieber, Human wrist motors: Biomechanical design and application to tendon transfers, Journal of Biomechanics, Volume 29, Issue 3, 1996, Pages 331-342, ISSN 0021-9290, https://doi.org/10.1016/0021-9290(95)00055-0.