Are wrist curls bad for your joints and connective tissue?
The forearms are one of those notoriously difficult muscles to train and add significant size; like calves. If you’re not blessed with Thor’s forelimb genetics, developing those suckers is an uphill battle. Another reason for decreased development of your forearms is that you are training them ineffectively and also with the wrong exercises.
Are wrist curls bad? Wrist curls are the number one to go exercise when it comes to building big forearms, but are they really good as they ought be.
The forearms are made up of two main muscle groups, the wrist extensors and the wrist flexors. Wrist extensors are the muscles running along the top of your forearm. The flexors are the muscles running along the underside of the forearms.
Based on the names of these muscles I am sure you can guess the primary function of each of these muscles; They are meant to extend and flex the wrist joint, that’s where the wrist curl comes in play. Yes, the wrist curl is effective in building the forearms due to the primary functions involved that is – flexion and extension of the forearm muscles. However, the problem why the wrist curl is considered a bad exercise is because of the wrist joint.
It’s all in the wrist
The wrist joint serves as a limiting factor for the forearm muscles to be executed properly, the wrist joint gets fatigued before the forearm because of how small it is.
Our bodies are not designed to perform heavy resistance training through flexion or extension of the wrist. So, the wrist is being put in a compromised position when performing wrist curls and this is a disaster for injury.
Other things that make wrist curls bad and risky?
Wrist curls are not an inherently bad exercise. But many people, even those who have been in the gym for a while, still make some of these fatal mistakes. That’s why they hurt.
We all know wrist curls is an isolation exercise So the last thing you want to do is add weight by swinging your arms back and forth to bring the other muscles into the equation.
You should aim to control each rep with only your forearms. When you’re lifting a lot of the weight with the wrist curl, don’t let your lower arms come off the bench as this can defeat the purpose of this isolation exercise.
Only doing partial reps
Partial reps are a good way to spice up your workout but doing them for the wrong reasons especially when it comes to the forearms due to the short range of motion can hinder and slow down muscle growth due to the small range.
So, by making it even smaller, you are taking away potential muscle growth, and for what? A quick ego boosts?
Hardly worth it if you ask me.
Also, partial reps get a bad rap in the weight lifting game where by gymbros use it to try put a show stacking huge amount of weight and only going through a small range of motion than your forearms can realistically handle on their own which can lead to injuries.
This damage can lead to injury if you don’t nip it in the bud because the connective tissue in your lower arms isn’t up to handle the constant beating caused by ego lifting.
Using only barbells
Barbells are not inherently bad. But when compared to other equipment they put more stress on the wrist joints. You can reduce this side effect to an extent by using Ez Bar.
However, if you want to stay injury-free for as long as possible, you may want to look into training methods and equipment that are more adaptable.
Although, not getting access to dedicated forearm curl machine might not be easy. Still, these machines are great training centers for getting a safe workout because the bar is already in the right position.
Not warming up
Many lifters do forearm exercises at the end of an arm, back or leg workout. This often makes them feel that they do not need to warm up. And while it’s true that the forearms are highly active during back and bicep training, you need to get used to the specific lifting motion that is unique to the forearm curl.
Also, don’t train too close to failure because you obviously want your muscles to be good and fresh for your working set.
Always strive to improve by add weight slowly to the bar or increase the reps but you should not force it. If your form suffers as you move the weight, you’re probably not ready to increase the resistance yet.
Remember, you can achieve progressive overload by adding additional sets and reps. That’s what I do most of the time because I know that the forearms, especially the extensors, have limited growth and power capacity compared to other major muscle groups.
Using low reps
Since we use our lower arms all the time in our everyday lives, the muscles naturally are slow twitch muscles. As such, they respond best to high rep.
But even for fast-twitch muscle fibers, you still want to use higher reps because the ROM is so small. Plus, if you use fewer reps, you won’t get enough time under tension to encourage meaningful muscle growth.
So, shoot for sets of 10+ reps most of the time. You can even go up to 20-30 reps to really pump up your forearms. After all, muscles primarily respond to tension, and the lower arms are no exception.
Do this instead
To avoid wrist strain, and really build up some big forearms, prevent wrist curls. Instead, you should focus on gripping exercises as this completely take the wrist joint out of the equation an allow you to fully stimulate the wrist flexors and extensors with enough resistance.
With that said, here are some great gripping exercises to help you improve your grip strength and build those forearms.
1) Heavy Farmer’s Walk
This is one of the best exercises for building some thick powerful forearms, and it’s also one of the simplest to perform.
To do a farmer’s walk, simply grab a pair of heavy dumbbells, hold them as tight as you can, and then go for a walk using fast, short steps.
You can measure your progress in this exercise by either the distance you walk holding the weight, or the amount of time you can walk with the weight. Just keep in mind, you want to use as heavy a weight as you can go for about 30-60 seconds at a time.
2) Pull-up Bar Hang
With this exercise, simply grab a pull-up bar, hold it as tight as you can, and hang on for as long as you can.
With this exercise, you should aim to maintain your grip for about 30-60 seconds at a time. If you are able to maintain your body weight for more than 60 seconds, you can begin to add weight for continued strengthening and progress.
3) Lat Pulldown Hold
This exercise is very similar to the pull-up bar hang, but the weight is a little easier to control and adjust, so it’s another great exercise to apply to stretch your lats and build some killer forearms.
Set your weight significantly higher than you would normally for a lat pulldown, set yourself in place and do a pull-up like hang; Hold that bar tight and hold for about 30-60 seconds. Over time, aim to increase the weight and you’ll start to see some big improvements in your grip and forearm size.
How can you make wrist curls safer?
First and foremost, use proper form. This alone can keep you injury free and in the zone of muscle growth for many years. Also, stick to high reps. Due to the short range of motion involved, performing a high number of reps can give you a better pump.
Lastly, don’t be overly eager to increase weight. You can always encourage more muscle growth by adding reps, sets and training close to muscle failure, an exercise that recruits additional motor units.
Conclusion: Are Wrist Curls Bad?
The bottom line is, if you want to build bigger forearms, stop the wrist curls before you end up in braces. Shift your focus more to gripping exercises as they are very effective in stimulating the flexors and the extensors for some big forearm growth.
With some patience, persistence, and constantly overloading those mofos, you’ll start to see your forearm getting some real growth.