Reverse curls are the best and most underrated exercise for biceps strength and size, says David Otey, personal training manager at Equinox Sports Club New York.
Like most biceps exercises, traditional and hammer curls work the brachii, which lies close to the surface. “Because it’s a smaller muscle, it fatigues more quickly and people feel the burn after a few reps,” Otey explains.
When you flip your grip for a reverse curl, the brachii remains at rest. Instead, the move works grip strength, the larger brachialis muscle in the upper arm, and the brachioradialis in the forearm. Training these two muscles bulks up the arm and improves your performance in any exercise requiring elbow flexion, like chin-ups and push-ups, Otey says.
In addition to regular curls, add reverse curls to your routine twice a week. Until you build up grip strength, Otey recommends lifting a lighter load than you’d use for the traditional exercise.
To do it, hold one dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs, hands at shoulder-width, palms facing you. Curl the weight up toward your shoulders, hold for 1 to 2 seconds, then return to start for one rep. (If you can’t pause at the top, grab a lighter weight, Otey notes.) Aim for 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps.