Can you grow bigger and stronger forearms? You bet.
The forearm muscles often don’t get near as much attention as the biceps or triceps on the upper arm. But for well-toned arms, you want to work them too. What’s more, forearm workouts can improve your grip and have other notable benefits.
So, what are the best forearm workouts? Read on to find out the best forearm workouts without weights and with weights. But first, let’s start with the basics.
In This Article:
What Are My Forearms Exactly?
Your forearms are the part of your arm between the wrist and the elbow, including the ulna and radius bones. In other words, the lower half of your arm.
The bones of the forearm form a rotational joint at the elbow that enables you to turn your palm up or down. This movement is possible because of the dozen or so muscles in your forearms, which also initiate hand movements.
Blood vessels, nerves, and tendons traverse the forearms, supporting the functioning of the muscles and the other tissues.
Benefits of Training Forearms
Training your forearm muscles does more than toning your arms. The key benefit is a stronger grip, which can make your life better in and outside of the gym. Let’s take a closer look at the advantages of doing forearm exercises.
- Improve grip strength. A strong grip is useful not only when lifting a barbell or holding dumbbells but during countless everyday activities, from opening jars to carrying heavy bags.
- May improve longevity. A 2018 study found a link between a strong grip and longevity. A strong grip can be a sign of good health. It can predict a better outcome in the face of cardiovascular disease or cancer.
- Enhance your performance at the gym. Rows and deadlift variations are only two examples of exercises that require a strong grip. Better grip strength will enable you to do more reps with these exercises.
- May reduce your injury risk. Whether at home or the gym, strong forearms and the strong grip that comes with them can help keep you healthy. For example, a weaker grip is associated with a higher risk of falls in older adults.
- Helps you develop other muscles. Forearm exercises tend to work other muscle groups at the same time.
The forearms consist of 19 muscles grouped into intrinsic and extrinsic muscles. While the extrinsic muscles flex and extend the fingers, the intrinsic ones move the forearm.
The forearm muscles include:
- the pronator teres and the pronator quadratus, which turn the palm down
- the palmaris longus and the flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, which flex the wrist
- the flexor retinaculum, which helps move the hands and fingers
- the extensor carpi radialis and ulnaris muscles, which extend the hand
Do you have to remember all these forearm muscles to do forearm workouts? Not really. We’ll show you in a bit the best forearm workouts with and without weights.
But first, let’s take a closer look at what the forearm muscles do.
What Forearm Muscles Do
The forearm muscles move the elbow, forearm, wrist, and fingers. They enable you to raise the back of your hand, bend your palm inward, and rotate the palm up and down. Forearm muscles also determine grip strength.
By abducting and extending the wrist and flexing the hand, fingers, and elbow, the forearm muscles play a key role in everyday movements.
We’re talking about muscles that are not only useful at the gym but that you can count on every day. Forearm muscles may not usually get as much press as the biceps or triceps. But without them, your arms and hands wouldn’t be the powerful and efficient tools that they are.
Best Forearm Exercises
Having strong forearms is important, that much is clear. So, what are the best forearm workouts you can do? Whether you’ve done forearm exercises before or are just getting started, our selection of exercises has you covered.
Important: Start with a comfortable weight to avoid injury. Also, make sure to rest a minute or so in between sets.
Unlike standard curls, which work your biceps, reverse curls target your forearm muscles. More specifically, the reverse curl exercises mainly work your brachioradialis, one of the biggest forearm muscles.
Doing this exercise is an effective way to grow bigger forearms. To get started, you need an easy bar or barbell. You can also use dumbbells.
1. Stand with your feet apart, under your shoulders.
2. Grip the bar with an overhand grip and thumbs tucked next to your fingers.
3. Curl the bar in front of your chest, as far as your elbow would bend. Ensure your elbows stay tucked in.
4. Lower the weight to the initial position with a controlled movement.
5. Start with 12 reps and 2 to 3 sets.
Next up is one of the best forearm workouts for men and women who want to develop toned forearms and improve grip strength. The wrist roller exercise can give your forearm flexors and extensors a serious burn.
For it, you’ll need a wrist roller, a device made of a bar with a cord to which a weight is attached.
1. Add a manageable weight to the roller, such as a 5-pound plate.
2. Hold the wrist roller with the knuckles toward you and stand with your feet apart at hip-width.
3. Bring the roller to the height of your shoulder with a slow rise.
4. Begin rolling the weight with one wrist.
5. Continue to roll the weight with the other wrist.
6. Alternate wrists in this way until the weight is up.
7. Carry the movement in reverse to bring the weight down, alternating wrists again.
8. Do 10 to 12 reps. One set is enough to begin with until you build strength.
Dumbbell wrist curl
Now here’s one of the most popular forearm workouts with dumbbells. The dumbbell wrist curl is a good exercise for beginners as you can start with light weights. With this exercise, you’ll be working your arms one at a time.
1. Sit on a bench or chair, holding a dumbbell in one hand with the palm facing up.
2. Place your other arm on your thigh with the palm up.
3. Curl the weight up using the movement in your wrist.
4. Lower the weight toward the ground for as long as you feel a comfortable stretch and your wrist is fully extended.
5. Repeat the movement for a total of 15 reps per set. Then switch to the other arm. Do up to 2 sets.
Tip: For an exercise that works both your biceps and your forearms, try hammer curls.
Plate pinch hold
Ask a fitness coach, “What are good forearm workouts with weights?” and you’re going to hear about plate pinch holds. You can do this exercise alongside other home forearm workouts, provided you have two 5 to 10-pound wide-rimmed plates at home.
1. Grab the weights and place them together.
2. Grip the plates with your fingers. Hold them well to prevent them from slipping.
3. Lift the plates carefully from the ground and hold them for several seconds. If you start to feel you may drop them soon, bend your knees and lower the plates on the floor with a controlled movement.
4. Repeat 10 times and then switch to the other arm.
5. Do 2 sets, to begin with.
Caution: Don’t hold the plates for longer than it’s safe, or they may slip from your hands and risk causing injury to your legs or feet.
Already familiar with pull-ups? Towel pull-ups significantly increase the challenge. They’re one of the toughest forearm workouts without weights. They also activate just about every muscle in your upper body. It can also be included as part of shoulder workouts for men and women.
For this exercise, you need a pull-up bar in addition to the towel. So, how do you do it?
1. Hang a towel over the pull-up bar.
2. Grip one end of the towel in each hand.
3. Let yourself hang from the towel, bringing your legs up.
4. Pull yourself up so that your chin goes above your hands.
5. Do 6 to 12 reps if you can.
If you can’t pull yourself up, don’t feel bad about it. Keep hanging from the towel for as long as you can. This alone will work your grip.
Fat grip deadlift
Fat grips are what they sound like: they increase the diameter of the barbell to up the challenge on your grip. By doing so, they work your forearms more than a standard grip would.
For this exercise, you need a barbell to which you apply thick grips. Place the grips at the same width as for a normal deadlift. Make sure the opening faces up.
1. Start with your feet at shoulder width. Your toes should be on the other side of the bar.
2. Bend your knees and lean forward, engaging your core.
3. Grab the bar with an overhand grip.
4. Stand up tall, pushing your feet into the floor and pulling the weight.
5. At the top of the movement, squeeze your abs and glutes.
6. Bring the barbell back to the floor, bending your knees and keeping the bar close to complete a rep.
7. Start with 6 reps and 2–3 sets.
Tip: For a simpler variation of this exercise, use a kettlebell.
Bottoms-up kettlebell carry
Next on our list is an exercise that is simple while remaining challenging enough to give your forearm muscles a good workout. This exercise can also strengthen your shoulder joint and help improve your posture and stability.
The only piece of equipment you need to do it is a kettlebell. You may find it easier to do it outdoors or in a large room.
1. Stand straight, holding a kettlebell in one hand.
2. Lift the weight in front of your shoulder up to your chin height. Ensure the bottom of the weight is facing the ceiling and the horn is sitting in your palm.
3. Grip the weight tight and walk slowly with your elbow bent at 90 degrees for as long as you feel comfortable. In a narrow space, you can do laps.
4. Lower the weight gently and switch hands.
5. Repeat 3 to 5 times with each hand.
The farmer’s walk strengthens your whole body, including your forearm muscles. You can count on it as one of the simplest and most effective forearm dumbbell workouts for beginners. You can also do it with kettlebells – you need two.
1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms should be straight down your sides.
2. Engage your core.
3. Walk to a set point or do laps, keeping your posture straight.
4. Keep on going until your grip begins to fail.
5. Place the weights carefully on the floor before they slip.
6. Do up to 3 sets.
Before you start trying the forearm workouts above, here are some things to remember:
- Start with low weights and handle them carefully to avoid slips and accidents.
- Integrate forearm exercises into your weekly strength training to see results.
- Pay attention to your grip – it’s often what makes all the difference.
- Invest in quality weights like kettlebells, dumbbells, and barbells to do the best home forearm workouts.
- Don’t do forearm workouts if you have elbow, wrist, or hand pain or any other injury that affects your arms or grip.
For best results, plan your forearm workouts and keep putting in the work! Bigger forearms are inevitable.
- Wilschut ED, Rotmans JI, Bos EJ, et al. – Supervised preoperative forearm exercise to increase blood vessel diameter in patients requiring an arteriovenous access for hemodialysis: rationale and design of the PINCH trial. The Journal of Vascular Access. 2018;19(1):84-88. doi:10.5301/jva.5000826
- Roger Menta DC – The Effectiveness of Exercise for the Management of Musculoskeletal Disorders (2015) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0161475415000640
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- Walsh, J.H., Bilsborough, W., Maiorana, A., Best, M., O’Driscoll, G.J., Taylor, R.R. and Green, D.J., 2003. Exercise training improves conduit vessel function in patients with coronary artery disease. Journal of Applied Physiology, 95(1), pp.20-25.
- Van Beekvelt, M.C., Shoemaker, J.K., Tschakovsky, M.E., Hopman, M.T. and Hughson, R.L., 2001. Blood flow and muscle oxygen uptake at the onset and end of moderate and heavy dynamic forearm exercise. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 280(6), pp.R1741-R1747.