The Overhand Bicep Curl 101 | Master The Reverse Curl Today!

By
Mike Kenler
October 7, 2021

The Overhand Bicep Curl

Also known as the reverse curl, the overhand bicep curl is one of the best variations of the standard supinated bicep curl

If you want to target your biceps and forearms at the same time to build total arm strength, overhand bicep curls are for you. 

Muscles Worked By The Overhand Bicep Curl

Primary Muscle Groups:

Reverse curls primarily work the biceps and the brachialis. 

The biceps brachii is the scientific name for the most prominent muscle in the front of your upper arm. 

The bicep muscle is comprised of two “heads:” a long head and a short head. Both heads work together as a cohesive unit during lifting and pulling motions.

Lying beneath the biceps brachii is the brachialis, which also aids in elbow flexion. Training the brachialis can add serious mass to your upper arms.

Secondary Muscle Groups:

Overhand bicep curls secondarily target your brachioradialis, which is the strongest and most visible muscle in your forearm.

Reverse curls also work smaller muscles in your forearms, as well as your abs and back muscles, which activate to stabilize your body during the curling motion.

Overhand Bicep Curl Benefits

1. Strength And Size Gains

The reverse curl specifically activates the two largest muscles in the front of your upper arms: the biceps and the brachialis. 

Therefore, consistent training that incorporates the overhand bicep curl is guaranteed to increase the strength and size of your arms. 

Improving your arm strength will boost your performance in other exercises at the gym such as the barbell row and the lat pulldown, as well as improve your performance in sports and other day-to-day activities.

2. Improved Grip Strength

Another major benefit of the overhand bicep curl is improved grip strength. The overhand grip of the reverse curl reduces your leverage over the weight.

As a result, muscles in your fingers, wrists and forearms are forced to compensate to control the weight, thereby increasing your grip strength. 

A stronger grip can help improve your performance in a variety of other exercises such as the deadlift, pull ups, and many more. 

3. Improved Aesthetics

Let’s face it — nearly everyone wants to have better looking arms. Depending on your goals, you can use the overhand bicep curl to develop bigger, more toned, or more defined arms.

This exercise is simple to learn and can help you improve the appearance of your arms in no time. 

How To Do Overhand Bicep Curls 

Equipment:

For this exercise, you will need a barbell and some weights (see variations for other options). 

Setup:

a) Grab a barbell with your hands roughly shoulder width apart and your palms facing towards you.

b) Assume a sturdy standing position with your back straight. 

Action:

a) Contract your biceps to curl the barbell upwards. 

b) Squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the rep and slowly return to the starting position.

c) Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps. 

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Recommendation:

If you are new to the overhand bicep curl, choose a light weight to begin and complete 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps. 

If you are comfortable with the form, load on some more weight and stick to the 6-8 rep range for 3-4 sets. 

Overhand Bicep Curl Mistakes

1. Flexing Your Wrists 

The most common overhand bicep curl mistake is flexing your wrists as you curl upwards. Many people flex their wrists to compensate for the overhand grip. 

In reality, this flexed position places added stress on your wrists and it doesn’t help build any muscle. Instead, focus on keeping your wrists in a neutral position. 

2. Using Momentum

Far too often, I see people swinging their arms and using momentum to lift the weight up during reverse curls. Usually, this happens because they try to lift too much weight.

You may not be able to curl as much weight as you usually do during underhand curling motions—and that’s okay!

The fix is simple: choose a lighter weight and focus on perfecting your form. Being mindful while lifting lighter weight will actually increase your gains and reduce your chances of injury. 

3. Rushing The Motion

Another common overhand bicep curl mistake is rushing the motion.

In other words, people explode through the concentric portion of the curl and then they let the weight fall quickly during the eccentric portion of the motion. 

This mistake is stealing major gains from your bicep training! Instead of rushing through the motion, curl the weight in a slow, controlled fashion. 

Not only is this safer, but it will increase your time under tension and maximize the benefits of the reverse curls.

Overhand Bicep Curl Variations

1. 1-Arm Kettlebell Overhand Bicep Curl

The overhand bicep curl can also be performed unilaterally to correct muscle imbalances and increase your mind-muscle connection.

Grab a kettlebell with an overhand grip and perform the curl with the same form as the standard reverse curl. 

Repeat and feel free to switch arms!

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2. Resistance Band Overhand Bicep Curl

The resistance band reverse curl variation is unique in that the resistance increases as you curl upwards. Therefore, your muscles work the hardest at the top of each rep.

Begin by grabbing both handles with your palms facing towards you. Then, complete the reverse curl slowly and mindfully with the same form as the barbell overhand bicep curl. 

Repeat!

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3. Alternative Overhand Bicep Curls

There are plenty of other variations to the overhand bicep curl. Dumbbell reverse curls may be the most popular, but you can use any form of resistance you like.

Try a straight bar on a pulley system, a 45 pound plate, or a couple of heavy books. Feel free to get creative!

Overhand Bicep Curl Alternatives

If you enjoyed the reverse curl, check out these alternative exercises to improve your arm training:

1. Reverse Zottman Curl

Grab a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing towards you. Assume a standing position with your feet roughly hip width apart. 

Keeping your back straight, contract your biceps to curl the dumbbells upwards. Squeeze your biceps hard at the top and twist your hands so that your palms away from you.

Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position and twist your hands so that your palms are facing towards you again.

Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps.

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2. Cross Arm Landmine Concentration Curl

Secure the barbell in a landmine attachment, a corner, or however you can stabilize the end of one side of the bar on the ground in front of you.

Assume a standing position perpendicular to the barbell with your feet in a comfortable stance. Grasp the barbell with your left hand and your palm facing upwards.

Contract your left bicep to curl the barbell upwards and across your body. Squeeze your bicep hard at the top of the rep and slowly return to the starting position.

Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps and be sure to switch arms.

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3. Dumbbell Hammer Curl

Grab a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing each other. Assume a sturdy standing position with your back straight. 

Engage your core and contract your brachialis to curl the dumbbells upwards. Squeeze your brachialis hard at the top of the rep and slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position.

Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps. 

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Looking For An Intense Bicep Workout?

Follow along to this 5-minute barbell bicep workout!

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Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies