When I was an impressionable lad who wanted nothing more than giant, veined forearms, and who spent most of his time reading Muscle & Fitness magazine instead of lifting, I did a lot of barbell wrist curls. I think it’s a fine movement for hypertrophy of the arms. My focus changed when I decided I wanted to get stronger instead of merely looking better. And it was a nice surprise to find that getting stronger often led to muscle gains, but the reverse was not always true.
So, strengthening the wrists. Is the barbell wrist curl the best way to do it? Until I ran into the plate curl, courtesy of Adam T. Glass, I would have said yes. Why? Because it was the only forearm or wrist builder I had ever seen, thanks to the magazines.
You can work up to some impressive weight in the movement, a la this video.
But I’ve found that in terms of strength gains–for overall arm strength–training the wrist in a static position (moving it against weight)–does more for me than moving it dynamically through the small range of motion shown in the video above. Again, strength training is my passion, and I put it ahead of bulging muscles. But take a look at this video of Adam plate curling an insane 45 pounds.
The weight is not what’s the most impressive, it’s the diameter of the 45 pound plate and the poor leverage being shown. This has to be felt to be believed. I can curl a 35 pound plate, but it took me a long time to work up to. This 45 is pretty serious business.
Plate curls build the forearms, strengthen the wrists, and give you everything a bicep curl does, except that you can’t load them as heavy, of course. Not yet, anyway!
So if you’re looking to add something to your repertoire, you like grip training, or you’re into feats of strength, plate curls are my personal preference over barbell wrist curls. Do what works. Do what’s fun!
PS: if you’d like to see more of what Adam can do, his Grip and Rip 2.1 DVD is fantastic.