Tag Archives: Curl – Reverse Grip

The Reverse Grip Curl Controversy

By Al Myers

I was recently visiting with Hall of Famer Scott Schmidt.  We had a nice phone visit the other day talking about this years National Championships amongst other things.  One thing we talked about was the Reverse Grip Curl. This has always been one of Scott’s favorite USAWA lifts, and one he has done many times with many records. He mentioned to me that he had once done in strict style, 143 pounds, in the Reverse Curl but it’s not listed in the USAWA Record List.

Well, he was correct (this record is now listed though as I cross checked old meet results and verified it), and I have some explaining to do!

The Reverse Curl has always had controversy surrounding it in the USAWA.  Most of this resulted from old written rules that weren’t clear and lifters doing the lift in different fashions, under different assumed rules.  Some were doing the Reverse Curl very strict while others were doing it with some backbend. Others were doing it like the Cheat Curl with big dips and bar swings.  Results of all these variations were entered into the Record List under one lift name.  Obviously the “cheaters” had higher record numbers which wasn’t fair to the lifters doing it strict style.  However, lots of lifters really liked the “Cheat Style” and this resulted in a new lift in the USAWA, the Curl – Cheat, Reverse Grip.  It has been a popular lift and has been in several competitions (including the 2012 and 2015 National Championships).  This lift was passed as a new lift in  2010. So now there are two official Reverse Grip Curls – the Curl Cheat Reverse Grip and the Curl Reverse Grip.

The difference in rules for the Reverse Grip Curl is that the Cheat version utilizes the rules of the Cheat Curl while the strict version uses the rules of the Rectangular Fix.  This creates a big difference in the amount of weight that can be lifted!  I won’t go over the other details of these rules as you can look them up in the USAWA Rulebook.

Now back to the Record List.  When I took over as Records Chairman I noticed that this was a problem as many of the record lifts in the Curl Reverse Grip were obviously (and many I witnessed first hand) done with the Cheat technique.  Since there was no way I could break this down and determine “which was which” I grouped all of them into the Curl-Cheat, Reverse Grip and started a new listing for Curl – Reverse Grip.  I figured even if it had been done “strict style” it would conform to the rules for the Cheat Style.  However, I knew several of the older records where done with the Strict Style but just not specifically which ones.

So if anyone has done a STRICT Reverse Grip Curl in the past and it is not recorded in the Record List properly please let me know so I can get it fixed and give you the credit you deserve.  I will need meet result verification and one witness to support the record to make this change.

I have changed the name  of the Curl – Reverse Grip in the Record List to Curl – Strict, Reverse Grip and this will be done in the next Rule Book edition as well.   I hope this will help better clarify the differences between these two lifts in the future.

But I have to mention Scott again!  Scott’s big STRICT Reverse Grip Curl at Art’s Birthday Bash in 1998 is the TOPS in the USAWA Record List.  That day he lifted 65 Kilograms (143 pounds) in the 115KG class.

Curl – Reverse Grip

by Al Myers

One of the lifts that will be contested at Nationals this month, as well as at the IAWA World Championships in October, will be the Reverse Grip Curl.  However, I want to point out that at each of these meets this lift will be done in a completely different fashion!!  The reason for this is that the USAWA rules for the Reverse Grip Curl are completely different than the IAWA rules!  This makes this lift  “one of many” all round lifts in which for some reason the rules have been written differently for the USAWA than the IAWA – thus causing problems when one of these lifts is selected for an IAWA competition because USAWA lifters have been doing it differently.  Add in the issue that it completely makes World record keeping for these lifts impossible!!!


D8. Curl – Reverse Grip

The rules of the Curl – Cheat apply with this exception. The grip on the bar must be a reverse grip, with the palms of the hands facing down or towards the lifter.

D7.  Curl – Cheat

The bar begins on the platform, and at the lifter’s discretion, is picked up with a grip that has the palms of the hands facing up or away from the lifter. Feet placement and hand spacing is optional, but must remain the same throughout the lift.  The heels may rise during the lift. Once the lifter is upright in a standing position with the arms and legs straight, the bar on the thighs hanging at arms’ length, an official will give a command to curl. The knees must remain locked and the legs straight during the lift. The lifter is permitted to bend at the waist, sway the body, or drop the shoulders to gain momentum of the bar. The bar may be lowered prior to the beginning of the curl, including lowering the bar below the knees. The bar must be curled from arms’ length to touching the upper chest or neck in one motion. Any downward movement of the bar during the curl is a disqualification. Once the bar is motionless, and the lifter is upright, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar returns to the platform under control by the lifter.



The rules of performance for the rectangular fix apply, except that once the curled bar reaches the midway point, it does not stop fixed, but continues in one movement, until the bar is at the top of the sternum / neck configuration.


The barbell should be held at arms length, resting across the lifters thighs with the legs and body upright and erect. With a hand grip spacing of no more than shoulder width, and with the knuckles facing the front, the referee will signal to start the lift. With the upper arms remaining held in contact with the torso, the lower forearms will raise, holding the bar firm (not sagging at the wrist) until they are at right angles to the body and parallel to the floor. No raising of the heels and toes, or swaying of the body is allowed. When the bar is held fixed and motionless in the finished position, the referee will signal to replace the bar.

Causes for Failure:
1. Starting the lift prior to the referees signal.
2. Failure to hold the bar in the fixed, finished position, forearms at right angles to the body and parallel to the floor, until the referees completion signal.
3. Any movement of the feet or swaying of the body during the lift.
4. Failing to keep the legs and torso braced, upright and erect during the lift.
5. Failure to keep the upper arms in contact with the torso throughout, or allowing wrists to sag.

As you can see from reading these two rule descriptions for the Reverse Grip Curl (or Curl – Reverse Grip if you are using USAWA lingo, or Reverse Curl if you are using the IAWA-UK name), this is obviously two completely different lifts!  The USAWA version follows the rules of the Cheat Curl while the IAWA(UK) version follows the rules of the Rectangular Fix.  The ONLY THING that is in common is that a reverse grip must be used.  Other than that, the USAWA version is as different as “night and day” from the IAWA(UK) version.   I wouldn’t even consider this the same lift. 

I’m writing this blog today so hopefully any lifter planning on competing at Nationals will know that the USAWA Rule will be followed there, as well as any lifter planning on competing at Worlds will know that the IAWA rule will be followed at that meet.  I have been to enough IAWA meets in the past where I was “surprised” by rule differences that I was not aware of previously, and I don’t want anyone else to be in this situation with the Reverse Grip Curl at either of these meets!