8 Best Forearm Exercises To Add To Your Workout Routine

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: January 30, 2024
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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.

Quick Summary

  • The best exercises for training forearms include dumbbell wrist curls, dumbbell wrist extensions, farmer walks, hammer curls, reverse bicep curls, reverse bicep curls, chin-ups, towel grip pull-ups, and cable curls.
  • Strengthening the forearms can stabilize your wrist and elbow joints, enhance grip strength, and prevent overuse injuries.
  • According to a study from ScienceDirect, strengthening the flexor pronator (a muscle in the forearm) is crucial for elbow stability and protection.
  • To effectively incorporate forearm strength training into your routine for injury prevention, I recommend focusing on exercises that target both the forearm flexor and extensor muscles.

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 are the muscles that are also facing you, i.e., they run along the inside of your arm [1].

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, 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 [2].

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.

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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.

Here's how you do this exercise with good form:

  1. 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.
  2. Your wrist should be just slightly beyond your knee to allow it a full range of motion.
  3. From here, curl your wrist as far up as possible and then slowly let it down again.
  4. Repeat for reps.
youtube

2. Dumbbell Wrist Extension

Dumbbell-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.

Here's how you do this exercise with good form:

  1. Sit on a bench and rest your forearm on your thigh with palms facing down.
  2. 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.
  3. Repeat for reps.

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

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

I recommend this exercise to my beginner, intermediate, and advanced clients.

Here's how you do this exercise with good form:

  1. Lift up two dumbells of equal weight so that the ends of the dumbbells point in front and behind you.
  2. With a firm grip on the weights, walk 30 seconds for a distance.
  3. That's one set.

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

4. Hammer Curl

Hammer Curl

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

Here's how you do this exercise with good form:

  1. The starting position is standing tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Face your palms towards your body, and without rotating your arms, slowly pull up each dumbbell until it reaches your chest.
  3. Repeat for reps.

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

Also Read: Farmer's Carry Workout

5. Reverse Biceps Curl

Reverse Biceps CurlFor this forearm workout, you’ll ideally need an EZ bar with a decent-sized 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.

Here's how you do this exercise with good form:

  1. Tuck your elbows and upper arms tight to your torso, and you don’t want them to move as part of this exercise.
  2. Slowly curl the bar up and down at a steady pace.

6. Chin-Ups

chin-up

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

Here's how you do this exercise with good form:

  1. Grasp onto the bar with an overhand grip, palms facing you and about hip-width apart.
  2. Now, pull yourself up without swinging your legs until your chin is above the bar, and then slowly lower back to the starting position.
  3. Repeat for reps.

I always tell my clients that there is no replacement for the chin-up or pull-up.

7. Towel Grip Pull-Ups

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

Here's how you do this exercise with good form:

  1. Loop two towels over the pull-up bar and slightly twist them.
  2. Grip one in each hand with your hands about shoulder-width apart.
  3. Pull yourself up as far as you can and repeat the move for maximum reps.

Other types of exercises:

8. Cable Curl

Cable Curl

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

Here's how you do this exercise with good form:

  1. Hold onto the handle with a straight arm, step forward to get some tension, and slowly start to bend your elbows upward.
  2. 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.
  3. Repeat for reps

Maximizing Injury Prevention Through Forearm Strength Training

I highlight to all my clients that the importance of forearm strength extends far beyond aesthetic appeal; it plays a crucial role in injury prevention.

The forearms are not just show muscles; they are pivotal in maintaining wrist and elbow stability, which is essential for both everyday activities and athletic performance.

Here's how forearm strength training can be a game-changer in reducing the risk of injuries.

  • Enhanced wrist stability and support: The muscles in the forearms are directly linked to the wrists, and strengthening them enhances the support and stability of the wrist joints.
  • Elbow joint protection: According to a study from ScienceDirect, strengthening the flexor pronator (a muscle in the forearm) is crucial for elbow stability and protection [3].
  • Improved load distribution: When lifting weights, well-developed forearms can take some of the burden off your shoulders and back, reducing the likelihood of strain injuries in these areas.
  • Enhanced grip strength and endurance: Enhanced grip strength, a direct benefit of forearm training, means better control over movement and equipment, which significantly lowers the risk of accidents and related injuries.
  • Preventing overuse injuries: Athletes or individuals who perform repetitive motions can develop chronic issues due to the overuse of certain muscle groups. By strengthening the forearm muscles, the strain on these overused muscles is reduced, thereby preventing conditions like tendinitis.

Incorporating Forearm Training for Injury Prevention

To effectively incorporate forearm strength training into your routine for injury prevention, I recommend focusing on exercises that target both the forearm flexor and extensor muscles.

Include a mix of static holds, wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, and grip exercises. Remember, the goal is not just to build muscle but to enhance functional strength and endurance.


References:

  1. https://teachmeanatomy.info/upper-limb/muscles/anterior-forearm/
  2. https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/the-superficial-extensors-of-the-forearm
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468602619300543
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