The Critical Body logo

Extensor carpi radialis brevis exercises to build muscle strength

Strengthen your extensor carpi radialis brevis with these proven exercises.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 2nd March 2021
Illustration showing the extensor carpi radialis brevis anatomy

One thing’s for sure, there are so many different forearm muscles in the human body that it can be hard to keep track of them all. And that’s coming from someone who’s heavily into anatomy and physiology.

Of course, you don’t need to remember all the names (unless it's for a college exam or for your job). However, if you want to build functional strength, then you need to strengthen the various muscles of your lower arm, which are particularly important because many insert into the hands.

The extensor carpi radialis brevis is no exception. I’ll show you the most effective exercises for this extensor muscle. And if you want more info on the other superficial forearm extensors, then you can read the other articles in the series, which I’ve linked just below.

Extensor carpi radialis brevis anatomy recap

A small but thick muscle that extends and abducts the wrist, the extensor carpi radialis brevis responds well to all exercises that target the posterior compartment of the forearm. [1]

Also, because the extensor carpi radialis brevis helps us to make fists, it’s a very important muscle for everyday activities like holding a dog leash or gripping a stair rail.

The extensor carpi radialis brevis is a crucial muscle because it helps us hold onto important objects in our day-to-day lives.

I’ve taken into account both of these (gripping/finger flexion and wrist extension) when picking exercises for your extensor carpi radialis brevis.

Extensor carpi radialis brevis exercises

Since any exercise that works the posterior compartment of the forearm naturally works the extensor carpi radialis brevis and the 6 other superficial forearm extensors, we’re literally spoilt for choice when it comes to creating a workout routine.

However, some exercises are much more joint-friendly than others, which is why I’ve paid particular attention to the equipment and technique that I recommend.

1. Reverse curl (EZ bar)

Barbell exercises certainly strengthen your muscles—there’s no denying that. However, unless you’ve been gifted with iron wrists, barbell-based arm exercises can quickly leave you feeling more pained than pumped.

Enter than EZ bar (also known as the easy curl bar).

Thanks to the curved handles, the EZ bar reverse curl offers the same benefits as the barbell version but without the associated wrist pain because it places your wrists in a more neutral position. It’s also a great addition to any brachioradialis workout. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Grab an EZ bar with a shoulder-width grip and rest it on your thighs.
  2. With good posture, curl the bar upwards by flexing your upper arms.
  3. Raise the bar until you exceed a 90-degree angle and feel an intense forearm contraction.
  4. Lower the bar under control until your elbows are almost fully extended.
  5. Repeat for sets of 10-15 reps (the extensor carpi radialis brevis loves high reps)

2. Wrist curl (reverse)

Once again, doing this exercise with a barbell can lead to more problems than its worth. Therefore, I prefer to use the EZ bar where possible.

  1. Grab an empty barbell (you don’t need much weight for this exercise) with an overhand grip.
  2. Place your forearms on a bench and let your hands hang off the edge.
  3. Slowly lower the bar down until you feel a stretch in your forearms, and then bring it back up by contracting your forearm extensors.
  4. Use a light weight and stick to high reps—the extensors are slow twitch.

3. Loaded carries

Since the extensor carpi radialis brevis assists with gripping, it’s equally important to utilize exercises where you’re forced to clasp your hands and hold weighted objects. [2]

In practice, this usually means walking with dumbbells or doing timed holds with a barbell. But you could also get the same benefits (and even score some brownie points, fellas) by carrying the shopping bags instead.

The main thing to remember is to hold the object with the palms of your hands rather than in your fingertips. Why?

Loaded carries certainly work the extensor carpi radialis brevis. Yet, they also train your legs, core, and back muscles.

Because letting a weight rest in your fingertips doesn’t challenge the extensor carpi radialis brevis very much—it’s just resting there.

Instead, grip the object firmly and hold on for around 30 seconds. You can increase the duration once your grip becomes stronger.

Related exercise guides

Is it necessary to work the extensor carpi radialis brevis directly?

Because the forearm extensors are so intertwined, it’s not possible to completely isolate specific muscles.

Of course, you can emphasize different areas, which is what we’re doing here. But like I say, complete isolation isn't possible, nor is it desirable. After all, when you pick up a coffee mug or grab the TV remote, you don’t do it with just your extensor carpi radialis brevis; you do it with all of your forearm muscles.

The verdict on all the extensor carpi radialis brevis exercises

There’s no doubt about it, the extensor carpi radialis brevis is a key muscle of the lower arms, and it’s crucial to keep it strong and healthy.

And while learning about the anatomy is certainly interesting, there’s no need for special exercises because general forearm training (and indeed most manual labor) works this muscle very well.

As such, my parting piece of advice is this: Focus on exercises that train forearm extension (or do curls with your palms down) and which don’t irritate your wrists. Do that, and you’ll be golden.

References

  1. Vasković, J. (2020, October 29). Extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle. Kenhub. https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/extensor-carpi-radialis-brevis-muscle
  2. Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis. (n.d.). Physiopedia. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Extensor_Carpi_Radialis_Brevis
Liam Brown
Liam Brown has been coaching clients as a personal trainer for more than 12 years. Raised by his athlete mother and physiotherapist father, he understands the critical importance of learning the proper technique for both avoiding injury and building muscle.
chevron-upmenu-circlecross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram