When people in my gym ask me what I think the best arm exercises are, they rarely mention that they are interested in developing their wrists. Wrists don’t look like much in the mirror, and it’s hard to drape a stringy little tank top over them. If I do see someone working their wrists, it is performing ez bar wrist curls, typically at low volume, low weight, but according to their faces, high agony. I have nothing against the wrist curl as an arm exercise, but as a grip strength enthusiast I no longer believe it is the best wrist developer, whether size or strength is the goal.
So today I would like to offer a couple of alternatives, or additions, that will benefit anyone’s wrist strength and overall arm power.
But what’s wrong with the curl?
Take a look at this video.
There is nothing wrong with this movement, but it is not going to build a lot of strength, unless the lifter consistently adds weight, reps, and increases the density of their wrist workouts. This movement just doesn’t occur in the wild very often. Everyone likes to trot out the example of “What if you had to lift a bus off of your child?” You would not do it by moving your wrist through two inches of motion, I know that much.
I have had more luck developing stronger arms by performing movements that work the wrist, yes, but also recruit the entire arm for the exercise. Take the plate curl for example. This is just the biceps curl pattern performed with a weight plate. The thumb is wrapped around the lip on one side, with the four fingers splayed out on the other side of the plate. Now perform the curl without allowing your wrist to flop.
It works the wrist, the biceps, and more. If you want to do it for a pump, you can get a pump. If you want to use it to work towards a greater one rep max in the curl, you can do that. It also strengthens the fingers and thumb.
Dynamic versus static
Bear in mind that I am no grip champion and my forearms aren’t going to win any physique awards. But, I have sustained a steady increased in both the strength of my wrists and forearms and their size over the last two years. Also, I have a much stronger grip than I used to. The primary reason is that I train my wrists statically–locked into position and moved against resistance–instead of dynamically. The dynamic movement has its place, but will never yield the highest possible strength gains, in this librarian’s opinion.
And if you’re not up for taking weight training advice from a librarian, I’ll understand! But if you’re in the mood to experiment I would give this a try. Lock your wrist into place and move it in as many different directions as you can come up with. Use plates, sledgehammers, kettlebells, dumbbells, cinder-blocks, etc. You’re only limited by your own creativity.