​​8 Best Forearm Dumbbell Exercises (Build Strength & Mass)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 27, 2024
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The forearm is made up of nineteen muscles, and neglecting them can be detrimental and result in a noticeable lack of strength.

While these are unavoidably involved to an extent when you’re training your arms, it is best to properly isolate your forearms two to three times per week.

My team and I have spent several weeks researching to develop a list of the best forearm workouts that only require dumbbells.

Let’s get started.

Quick Summary

  • It is essential to train your forearm muscles to have a stronger grip, which makes you lift, carry, and hold better during workouts.
  • Grip strength can be linked to cognitive function and may be used to identify health issues before other symptoms become noticeable.
  • A Research Gate study suggests that individuals with higher grip strength have a decreased risk of severe diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
  • In my opinion, incorporating forearm exercises with dumbbells is a game-changer for overall strength and stability in workouts.

8 Best Forearm Dumbbell Exercises

A man performing forearm dumbbell exercises

1. Dumbbell Farmer’s Carry

The Dumbbell Farmer's Carry is my personal favorite. Picture this: you're carrying those dumbbells, feeling the burn, and working not only your forearms but your entire body. And the best part? You're the stabilizer, ensuring those weights don't take a tumble.

To perform farmer’s carry, you must:

  • Select the appropriate weight for your fitness level - hold two dumbbells of equal weight in each hand.
  • Stand upright with both arms extended down your side, slightly bent at the elbow, and gripping both dumbbells securely.
  • Begin walking at a slow, steady pace with long strides, keeping your back straight and looking forward as you move while maintaining a strong grip on the weights.

2. Dumbbell Reverse Curl

I found the dumbbell reverse curl is a hidden gem when it comes to forearm training. Whether you're a dedicated weightlifter or an athlete aiming to boost forearm strength, this exercise is a must-try.

This exercise is easy to perform, all you have to do is:

  • Stand straight, your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Hold the weights with palms facing downwards, elbows close to your sides, and arms fully extended.
  • Lift the weights toward your chest, flexing the biceps as you curl back up. Focus on controlling the dumbbell during this phase for maximum benefit; maintain a neutral spine position throughout the movement.
  • Slowly release tension from your biceps when you reach the top of the rep as you return to starting position.

“Reverse dumbbell curls work your forearms and your biceps. While you won’t be able to use heavy weights for this exercise, it’s still an effective upper and lower arm builder. Use a thumbless “suicide” grip to increase forearm activation during reverse curls.”

- Patrick Dale, Fitness Expert

3. Dumbbell Hammer Curls

Lifting dumbbell with hammer curl technique

Dumbbell hammer curls are great biceps exercises. I've personally found them super effective. They aren't just about bulking up those biceps; they're also giving your forearms a serious workout.

To successfully perform the exercise, you must:

  • Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart and hold two dumbbells by your side with your palms facing inwards.
  • Curl both dumbbells up to shoulder height, and hold for a brief moment.
  • Slowly lower back down. Ensure your elbows stay tucked against your sides throughout the motion to maintain good form and prevent injury.

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4. Dumbbell Finger Curls Behind the Back

Here's a move that's a bit underrated but works wonders – Dumbbell Finger Curls Behind the Back. I've added this to my upper body routine, and let me tell you, it's not just about strong forearms; it's about sculpting those upper arms and getting those toned arms we all crave.

To perform dumbbell finger curls behind the back, you should:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold two dumbbells in each hand with an overhand grip.
  • Bend the elbows until your forearm’s parallel with the floor while keeping the back straight and core engaged, ensuring your palms face up towards the ceiling.
  • Curl both forearms inward as far as possible, stopping at a 90-degree angle before slowly returning them to their starting position – ensuring full control over the movement of the dumbbells for maximum effectiveness.

5. Dumbbell Finger Curls

Doing dumbbell finger curls

Dumbbell finger curls are another exercise to incorporate into your forearm dumbbell workouts.

They will help you strengthen the wrist flexors, prevent injury, and increase grip strength.

This forearm exercise requires that you:

  • Hold dumbbells in your hands with your palms facing away from you.
  • Then, stand with your body straight and feet hip-width apart.
  • Bend forwards at the waist, keeping your back straight and knees slightly bent so your arm is extended back towards the ground behind you. Make sure that the knuckles of your hands are pointing forward before beginning the curl.
  • Inhale as you slowly curl the weights up in an arc toward the ceiling.
  • Move only at the wrists during this movement and exhale as you return to starting position.
  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions or until you begin to feel a burn in your fingers, then alternate arms before taking a break.

6. Dumbbell Reverse Concentration Curls

The dumbbell reverse concentration curl is a great isolation exercise you should include in your upper arms workout to target the brachioradialis, a forearm muscle located in the lateral form.

To get the benefits out of this forearm workout, you must:

  • Stand up with your shoulder blades together, retract, and hold one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Keep your palms facing inwards and bring both of your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend forward at the hips slightly without rounding your lower back, and maintain a slight bend in the elbow as you curl both dumbbells towards shoulder height.
  • Feel each muscle contraction at the shoulder, relax after each rep, and repeat as desired.

7. Bench Wrist Curls

Forearm resting on a bench while doing wrist curls

Wrist Curls are a must-do to build sturdy wrist extensor muscles and get those muscular forearms ready for daily tasks and weightlifting. If you've got weak wrists, just take some precautions to avoid any strains or nerve-related issues.

To perform bench wrist curls, you must:

  • Find a bench with a metal barbell or slotted dumbbells that rest on top of it.
  • Sit at the end of the bench, grasping the weight firmly in each hand and letting your forearms drape over the edge of the seat.
  • Keeping your elbows locked into position, flex your wrists upwards, curling the weights.
  • Slowly lower them back to their starting point. Aim to increase the number of reps as you progress so that you can fully benefit from this strengthening exercise.

8. Pushup to Row

Pushup to row is a great exercise you should incorporate into your training to increase forearm and biceps hypertrophy.

To perform this forearm workout, you must:

  • Get to the plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor and your feet wider than shoulder-width apart while keeping your body in a straight line.
  • Bring your body towards the ground by bending the elbows and press yourself back up until your arms are extended. Keep the core engaged throughout this exercise.
  • Drive one elbow up towards the ceiling as you reach towards that hand with the opposite arm creating an ‘arrow’ shape with your body once you’ve reached the top of the pushup position.
  • Lower yourself back down until both hands touch the ground before repeating on the other side.

Why is it Important to Train Your Forearms?

Showing arm muscles with veins

It is important to train your forearms because forearm strength is essential to movements that necessitate strong wrists, hands, and grip strength.

Forearms can help you lift heavier and perform deadlifts and pullups, therefore improve your bone density.

Forearm workouts will also enhance your stability and wrist flexibility.

A study published on Research Gate has revealed that individuals with higher grip strength tend to decrease the risk for severe diseases like cancer and heart disease [1].

In addition to physical performance, hand grip strength was linked to cognitive health.

According to Harvard Health, grip strength is associated with visual memory, reaction time, number memory, and prospective memory in the general population [2].

Progressive Overload Strategies for Forearm Training

The progressive overload concept involves gradually increasing the resistance or intensity of your exercises over time to stimulate muscle growth and strength development.

Here are some progressive overload strategies to consider for your forearm workouts:

  • Increase weight: I you're performing dumbbell wrist curls, start with a manageable weight and then, as you get stronger, progressively move up to heavier dumbbells. This continuous challenge to your muscles will promote growth.
  • Adjust repetitions and sets: Manipulating the number of repetitions and sets in your forearm workouts can also contribute to progressive overload. Start with a specific rep and set range, and as you become more proficient, increase either the number of repetitions or sets.
  • Vary grips and hand positions: When performing hammer curls, you can alternate between a neutral grip and a supinated grip (palms facing upward) to target different forearm muscles. This variation challenges your muscles in new ways and prevents plateaus.
  • Slow eccentric movements: Focusing on the eccentric phase (the lowering phase) of an exercise can also aid in progressive overload. Slow down the lowering of the weight during exercises like reverse curls, emphasizing control.

How to Workout Forearms With Dumbbells?

To work out forearms with dumbbells, my advice is to save them for later in your upper body workout.

You don’t want to start your training with forearm exercises and then move to deadlifts to realize you cannot even hold the barbell at your normal load.

Regarding the recommended frequency, you should include 10-20 weekly sets per muscle group to get the best results. 

As per rep ranges, low reps increase strength, while higher ones target endurance. Varying your rep ranges can have an impressive impact to create a balanced fitness routine.

FAQs

What is the Primary Function of the Forearm?

The primary function of the forearm is to allow the extension and complex movement of your fingers, wrists, thumbs, and arms.

Can You Build Forearms With Dumbbells?

Yes, you can build forearms with dumbbells, as they allow unilateral training and great movement variability.


References: 

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325022242_
  2. https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/grip-strength-say-mental-health/
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Connor Sellers holds a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Rutgers University He is an author and personal trainer with the mission to inspire people to relentlessly pursue their fitness and lifestyle goals. He mantra is that staying fit has an overall positive effect on one’s body, mind, and spirit.
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James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
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