Have you felt a low achy pain in your elbow as you’ve started warming up for climbing? Maybe the evening after climbing, your elbow is in lots of sharp pain? If either or both of these sound like something you have experienced, then you may have experienced what’s known as climber’s elbow.
While climber’s elbow is painful, it is also pretty simple to avoid. You can find all sorts of different exercises to help minimize the condition by building up the muscles that get hurt. You can also find ways to change or adapt your climbing to mitigate the problem altogether. One of the more popular workouts is reverse wrist curls, and we’re here to answer your questions about this move.
What are Reverse Wrist Curls?
Reverse wrist curls are a great way to work out the extensors in your forearms and wrists and an excellent movement to add to your routine to increase your wrists’ stability. This simple exercise only needs a seat or bench for you to rest your arms on and some sort of weight. While you could use a dumbbell, you can also make do with a household item such as a can of beans or a water bottle.
What Muscles Do Reverse Wrist Curls Work?
Reverse wrist curls are a great form of forearm antagonist training. They help improve your ability to do movements like a pull-up, and they help improve your grip strength. The reverse wrist curl muscles worked are primarily your extensor muscles. Conventional training routines often neglect the muscles in your wrist, so focusing on these small muscles can help stabilize you during climbing.
The flexor muscles of your forearms and upper wrist area are the muscles that we generally tend to think of when we talk about grip strength, as these are the muscles that allow you to form a fist and dictate how clenched that fist is. The challenge with only working your flexor muscles is that you neglect the extensor muscles. Your extensor muscles are the muscles that allow your wrist to hold a position where it is tilted back towards your body, away from your palm, and keep pressure while in that position.
Since this movement is essential to climbing, it makes sense to focus on your extensor muscles and flexor muscles. Reverse wrist curls are an excellent way to fit in a good extensor move in your workout routine.
Can Reverse Wrist Curls Help with Climber’s Elbow?
Do reverse wrist curls work forearms or elbows? At this point, you might be confused by why a forearm exercise could help an elbow issue. The short answer is that it doesn’t help directly with climber’s elbow, but the long answer is much different.
When healing from climbers elbow, the first thing you’ll want to do is rest. We know it’s hard, but resting is the best way to let your body start to heal on its own. Take some time away from climbing and give your body the break it needs and deserves.
The next step is to start rehabbing the muscles and building up a better balance of muscles in your forearms, elbows, and wrists. While climber’s elbow might be a pain in the elbow, it is caused by your body trending towards unnatural body positions to compensate for an imbalance of muscles. Reverse wrist curls are a great rehab tool to make sure that you recover from climbers elbow with a better balance of muscles to help prevent it from happening again.
You can also use reverse wrist curls to help prevent climber’s elbow in the first place. A lot of climbers use reverse wrist curls a few times a week as a part of their training routine. If you are trying to differentiate between reverse wrist curls vs. wrist curls, this is the time when it matters. A lot of movements work the muscles used in wrist curls, so they tend not to be as effective in maintaining balance in a climber’s forearm as reverse wrist curls are.
How To Do Reverse Wrist Curls?
To do a reverse wrist curl, you will want to sit on the floor with your arms resting on the seat or bench in front of you.
Pick up your weight and slowly move your wrist bringing the weight down towards the ground and then back up towards you, going through your full range of motion.
Make sure your palms are facing down toward the ground; otherwise, you’ll be doing regular wrist curls, not reverse wrist curls.
Make sure you are working slowly and not rushing. Rushing through reverse wrist curls increases the probability of getting hurt and minimizes the reverse wrist curl benefits you will see.
Make sure you are moving only your wrist and keeping your forearms still. Otherwise, you’ll just be working out your forearms, not your wrist.
Check out this video from a professional trainer walking you through the motion before you attempt it.
3 Common Mistakes
These are the top three most common mistakes to avoid when doing reverse wrist curls:
1. Using too much weight.
The biggest common mistake of reverse wrist curls is using too much weight, especially when you are starting out. Using too much weight will increase your likelihood of injury and decrease your likelihood of seeing any benefits from your reverse wrist curls.
2. Going too fast
If the movements you are doing are fast, you won’twon’t be able to build up the same resistance in the muscles as you would if you were going slow. Make sure you move slowly and methodically while doing your reverse wrist curls to minimize the chance of injury and maximize your benefits.
3. Doing them too early in your workout.
Doing reverse wrist curls too early in your workout can potentially cut your workout short. An exercise that works something small but essential, like your wrist extensor muscles, should be left to the end so as not to tire out those muscles and impede the rest of your workout.
The main safety precautions with reverse wrist curls are the same as with any weight-based workout. If you work out too much or too fast or with too much weight, you are at a much higher risk to hurt yourself. Your goal with any workout should be to improve your muscles in whatever way you want while minimizing the risk of you getting hurt.
If you are unfamiliar with weighted workouts or are feeling at all unsure, please reach out to a professional for help. Most gyms will have a trainer who can answer your questions. An exercise like reverse wrist curls, which are common outside of the climbing world as well, can also be helped by a trainer at a conventional gym, not just at a climbing gym.
3 Benefits of Reverse Wrist Curls for Climber’s Elbow
There are lots of potential benefits of doing reverse wrist curls, but these are our favorites:
1. Increase your muscle balance
Making sure that all of your muscles are balanced with one another is essential to your success in climbing. If you only work on your triceps, the rest of your muscles will lose muscle tone, and your health and climbing will suffer as a result. The same goes for your forearms and wrists. Making sure that you work all of your muscles will help ensure balance in your body.
2. Minimize your chances of getting climbers elbow later on
Regardless of if you are trying to prevent yourself from getting climbers elbow later on in life or if you are using reverse wrist curls to recover from climbers elbow, the exercise will help minimize the chance of you developing it later on. Preventing an injury in the first place is always best, and reverse wrist curls are a great way to help prevent climber’s elbow.
3. Help improve your grip strength to maintain proper anatomical form while climbing.
Climbers elbow happens when you push your forearms and wrists into an unnatural position as your body gets tired while climbing. This, in turn, forces your elbow to chicken wing out and puts strain on the ligaments, muscles, and tendons inside your elbow. Keeping a good balance of muscles and having good grip strength are both critical to keeping your body in good anatomical alignment while climbing.
Wrapping Things Up: Are Reverse Wrist Curls Effective for Climber’s Elbow?
Reverse wrist curls are just one exercise, but they are an excellent one to include in your workout! Do reverse wrist curls work forearm muscles? Not really, but are they excellent for your overall muscle balance in your wrists and forearms? Absolutely! Including this simple movement in your workout routine can help you heal from the climber’s elbow and minimize your risk of getting climber’s elbow in the first place.