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Prone wrist curls tutorial and training tips

Learn the correct technique and discover the 4 underrated benefits.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 27th May 2021
A man doing prone wrist curls

We use our lower arm muscles in our everyday lives to perform a wide variety of tasks, whether it be lifting heavy furniture or simply picking up that delicious mug of coffee. Yet, people rarely perform direct resistance training for their forearms, which can lead to muscle weakness due to aging and inactivity.

This guide will show you how to workout forearms with prone wrist curls. It’s a great training drill that you can perform to work both the top and underside of your forearms. And, if you have a dumbbell and a spare few minutes, you don’t even need to go to the gym to do it.

Related post: kettlebell workout for forearms

How to do prone wrist curls

Overhead view of a man doing prone wrist curls
  1. Sit in a chair or on the edge of a weight bench with 2 dumbbells in the palms of your hands.
  2. Rest the top of your forearms on your knees (or a bench) and let your hands hang off the edge.
  3. Lower the weights towards the ground by bending your wrists.
  4. Descend until you feel a good forearm stretch, and then bring the dumbbells back up by flexing your wrists.
  5. Squeeze your forearms and repeat the motion for 2-4 sets of 10-15 reps.

Also, be sure to work the other side of your forearms, which is known as the extensors. The movement is virtually the same. The only difference is that this time you’re holding the dumbbells with an overhand grip, which means that you’ll need to use slightly less weight or perform fewer reps because the extensors are comparatively weaker than the flexors.

Benefits of prone wrist curls

Prone wrist curls make for an excellent dumbbell forearm workout because you can do them just about anywhere. But there are other useful benefits that you might not have considered before.

Convenience

A man performing prone wrist curls over his knees
You just need dumbbells and a seat

We don’t always feel like training our forearms at the end of a long back, arm, or leg workout. As such, many of us skip these crucial lower arm exercises altogether.

Sure, we could go back to the gym in the evening or on a separate day to do some forearm curls, but that’s not exactly convenient.

Yet with prone wrist curls, you literally just need a dumbbell and a few spare minutes, and then you’re golden. You can even do the drill at work if you like.

Other exercises like the reverse barbell wrist curl over a bench are effective, but they require more equipment and are often quite difficult to setup.

But with the prone forearm curl, you simply rest your arm on your knee and start doing your reps. Gaining strength couldn’t be easier, so it’s great if the lower arms are a weak point for you.

Improved lower arm strength

A man's muscular forearm holding onto a dumbbell

Many lifters think that compound movements like deadlifts and rows provide enough forearm stimulation for their lower arms. And while this might be true if you’re pulling big numbers off the floor on a weekly basis, most strength trainees in this day and age have very poor forearm development.

So unless you want your lower arms to be out of proportion with the rest of your physique, it’s a good idea to do some prone wrist curls to improve their muscle mass and strength.

This newfound strength will also carry over nicely to your everyday life by making tasks that involve lifting feel much more manageable. This might not sound like a big deal if you’re a bodybuilder, but trust me, as you get older, you’ll appreciate all those prone wrist curl reps that you did in your youth. [1]

And if you’re already getting on in age, then it doesn’t matter; you can still strengthen your forearms so that they’re more functional. You don’t need to have muscles like a weight lifter's to have a functional body.

Reduced injury risk

A man with wrist pain at the gym

Developing forearms that are strong can help to protect against injuries because they’ll naturally become more resistant to muscle strains now that they’re used to handling tension. [2]

Improved compound lift performance

Powerlifting gripping a barbell in preperation for the deadlift

Years ago, lifting straps weren’t a thing. But now, it seems like everyone is relying on them for virtually all of their sets.

And while I can understand using straps for max effort sets, their increasing usage does point to a decreasing lack of grip strength among the lifting population.

To combat this, perform standing forearm curls or prone wrist curls so that your forearms don’t fatigue too early during compound lifts. People often think that they have weak traps, lats, etc., but in reality, it’s their forearms that are letting them down.

Prone wrist curl alternatives

If you have access to more equipment, then check out the alternatives to prone wrist curls that you can do to add variety to your training program.

Seated barbell wrist curl

A man performing seated barbell forearm curls

The seated barbell wrist curl is exactly like the prone forearm curl, except that we’ve substituted the dumbbells for a barbell. The advantage is that you can work your forearms twice as quickly now that you’re training both of them simultaneously.

The downside is that your dominant arm is more likely to take over, which could result in muscle imbalances if you don’t keep a watchful eye on your technique.

Reverse forearm curls

A man doing a reverse dumbbell wrist curl

Reverse forearm curls work your wrist extensors and help to create balanced lower arms. I mentioned this briefly in the tutorial at the start, but I can't stress how vital it is to train your extensors.

The forearm flexors already get hammed in every kind of bicep curl, so you definitely need to do a standing reverse forearm curl or something if you want to improve your overall lower arm strength and function, not to mention aesthetics.

Cable wrist curls

You’ll most likely need to go to a gym to perform cable wrist curls. The benefit, however, is that cables provide constant tension, which usually results in a better forearm pump than free weight drills.

Also, you don’t need to waste your workout time loading weights onto a bar or waiting for dumbbells to become available when you use cables.

Read more: tennis forearm workout

The verdict on prone wrist curls: Effective or not?

Prone wrist curls are a very beneficial forearm drill because they completely isolate the target muscles to make sure that they get enough tension to grow bigger and stronger.

The prone wrist curl is also a great exercise because you can easily superset it with the reverse variation to save time.

Best of all, you can do the exercises with minimal equipment and from virtually anywhere in the world. All you need is a dumbbell and a chair. So in this respect, it’s ideal if you prefer to train at home or don’t want to buy expensive gym equipment.

References

  1. Shechtman, O., Mann, W. C., Justiss, M. D., & Tomita, M. (2004). Grip Strength in the Frail Elderly. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 83(11), 819–826. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.phm.0000143398.00788.4e
  2. Lauersen, J. B., Bertelsen, D. M., & Andersen, L. B. (2013). The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(11), 871–877. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2013-092538
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.
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