Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: February 2, 2021

One thing many amateur gym-goers get wrong is how they split their time and effort for certain body parts.

The result for arms can be huge biceps with mediocre forearm muscles that look out of proportion.

But doing targeted forearm workouts isn’t just about how you look.

With added grip strength, you’ll make many other exercises easier and more effective.

So our team got together to create a list of exercises that you can easily add to your routine to get some more defined forearms.

Anatomy Of The Forearm

what are forearms

Before we jump into building up some grip strength, let me introduce you to your forearm muscles.

You’ll find two main muscle groups in your forearms, and understanding how they work and what they do, will help you choose the right exercises.

There are the wrist flexors and the wrist extensor muscles.

If you look at your arm with the palm facing you, the forearm flexors [1] are the muscles that are also facing you, i.e., they run along the inside of your arm.

There are several muscles here, and they work to flex your wrist to bring your hand towards you.

The extensors are the muscles that are on the opposite of your forearm [2], and they work to extend your wrist in the other direction to move your hand away from you. They also help to flex your elbow joint.

My inner nerd would probably go on and cover the many individual muscles in detail, but I’ll save you from a lecture.

“When you have weak or underdeveloped forearms or wrists, those muscles may be the first group to tire out when you're doing something like pull-ups or rows. That means you'll never seriously tax the actual pulling muscles during the workout because your forearms give out too quickly.” - Guy Armstrong, Writer at ScientificAmerican.com.

Our Top Forearm Exercises

man and his arms

Here are 8 exercises you can plan into your routines to better target your forearms.

1. Dumbbell Wrist Curl

The wrist curl is one of my favorite forearm exercises, and you want to approach this in a controlled and slow way.

Sit down on a bench with a reasonably heavy dumbbell in your hand. Rest your forearm on your thigh with your palm facing up and gripping the dumbbell.

Your wrist should be just slightly beyond your knee to allow it a full range of motion.

From here, curl your wrist as far up as possible and then slowly let it down again.

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2. Dumbbell Wrist Extension

man doing wrist extension

This one is going to go in the opposite direction of the wrist curl, so it’s ideal for planning the two together.

Sit on a bench and rest your forearm on your thigh with palms facing down.

Make sure you place your wrist beyond your knee to give yourself more range of motion, and then start to lift the dumbbell by extending your wrist joint.

You might find that this one is a bit harder on your wrists, so try a lower weight to start with.

Other types of exercises:

3. Farmer’s Walk

This is a good one to train your whole upper body, and you’ll want to find those heavy dumbbells to make it count.

Carefully lift up the weights, and while holding a dumbbell in each hand, walk in a straight line for 15 yards.

You’ll feel the strain from your shoulders down, and it’s a good compound exercise to build up forearm strength.

4. Hammer Curl

man doing hammer curls

The hammer curl is an easy way to spice up your regular biceps curl.

The starting position is standing tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and holding a dumbbell in each hand.

Face your palms towards your body, and without rotating your arms, slowly pull up each dumbbell until it reaches your chest.

Essentially, you’re holding the dumbbell like a hammer to better engage your hands and forearms.

5. Reverse Biceps Curl

For this forearm workout, you’ll ideally need an EZ bar with a decent size weight plate at each end. Grab onto the bar with your palms facing down and about shoulder-width apart.

Don’t grip it close to the middle, as this tends to create some unnecessary strain on your elbows.

Tuck your elbows and upper arms tight to your torso, and you don’t want them to move as part of this exercise.

Slowly curl the bar up and down at a steady pace.

6. Chin-Ups

man doing chin ups

You’ll need some sort of a pull-up bar, either one that attaches to your door frame or a free-standing one.

Grasp onto the bar with an overhand grip, palms facing you and about hip-width apart.

Now, pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar and then slowly lower back to the starting position.

Exercises like this are great to target more than one muscle group.

7. Towel Grip Pull-Ups

This is the toughest forearm exercise and even better for forearm growth than the regular chin-up.

Loop two towels over the pull-up bar and slightly twist them. Grip onto one in each hand with your hands about shoulder-width apart.

Pull yourself up as far as you can and repeat the move for maximum reps.

Other types of exercises:

8. Cable Curl

man doing cable curls

You’ll need a cable or full Smith machine to do these and set the cables to the lowest position.

Hold onto the handle with a straight arm, step forward to get some tension, and slowly start to bend your elbow.

Your upper arm should be tight against your body and not move.

This will also engage your back and shoulder blades for more upper body strength.

Are You Going To Try These Forearm Exercises?

I’m not suggesting that you do all these forearm workouts on one day, but rather pick a few and rotate them on your arm days.

Even if you just add the wrist curls to your existing routine, you should see a change in your forearms within a couple of months.

Don’t forget to let us know how they work out for you.


References:

  1. https://teachmeanatomy.info/upper-limb/muscles/anterior-forearm
  2. https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/the-superficial-extensors-of-the-forearm

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