Beginner's Guide to the Best Forearm Exercises

Authored by Jordan Smith

Beginner's Guide to the Best Forearm Exercises

If you're aiming for muscle growth and want to lift heavier, but struggle every time you attempt to go up in weight, your grip strength may be to blame. Did you know that adding dedicated forearm exercises to your routine can help improve both grip strength and build strong forearms?

Here, we'll break down what exactly the forearm is, what forearm workouts you should be adding to your exercise routine and the benefits of a great forearm exercise.

Where is the Forearm Located?

The forearm—the lower arm—consists of two parallel bones between the elbow and wrist that connect those joints. The two bones are the radius laterally and the ulna medially. There are 20 muscles contained between the anterior (muscles that engage flexion) and posterior (muscles that engage in extension) parts of the forearm [1].

What do the Forearm Muscles Do?

One job of this muscle group is to be the prime wrist and finger flexors. The forearm muscles also with wrist flexion and elbow flexion. The forearms are essential for elbow and wrist movements as well as grip strength. The flexor carpi radialis muscle works to flex and adduct (move toward the midline of the body) the hand. The flexor carpi ulnaris and extensor carpi ulnaris muscles work to adduct the hand at the wrist. [2]

Any exercise you do that involves gripping and pulling, think any upper-body move with dumbbells or barbells, pull-ups and rows, is dependent on a strong grip. In day-to-day life, grip strength will make things like opening jars and boosting your basketball, golf, or tennis game. Studies have even found that grip strength may correlate to healthy aging and mobility. [3]

What Are the Benefits of Forearm Training?

Strong forearms are key for grip strength, which translates to upper body strength. Since your forearms are integral to pushing and pulling movements including the row, farmer’s carry, kettlebell swings, pull-ups and more, the stronger your forearms, the more you’ll be able to lift during your workout.

All this to say, forearm strength leads to more gains and the ability to lift heavy weights. Having strong forearm muscles carries over into real life function as well—you’ll be able to more easily carry and lift items.  If you want more muscular forearms, read on for forearm exercises.

The Best Forearm Exercises to Include in Your Workout Routine

Most exercises aren’t going to target forearms specifically, but will work multiple muscle groups. However, there are many exercises you can add to your forearm workout routine that build stronger forearms. For moves below that require a barbell, you can use a thicker bar to help build grip and muscle strength.

Dumbbell Wrist Extension

Why it works: Wrist curls are one move that isolates the forearm muscle group and helps improve forearm growth, plus grip and wrist strength.

How to do it: Holding a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip, rest your elbows on a bench with palms facing down and dumbbells hanging freely with wrists in a neutral position. Slowly extend the wrists into flexion to move the dumbbells toward the floor. Pause briefly, then contract your forearm extensor muscles to bring your wrists toward you and return to starting position.

Dumbbell Wrist Flexion

Why it works: Wrist curls are one move that isolates the forearm muscle group and helps improve forearm growth, plus grip and wrist strength.

How to do it: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, rest your elbows on a bench with palms facing up and wrist extensor muscles in a neutral grip. Slowly extend the wrists to move the dumbbells toward the floor. Pause briefly, then contract your forearm flexor muscles to bring your wrists toward you and return to starting position.

Reverse Biceps Curl

Why it works: As this exercise builds forearm strength, it will allow you to lift heavier in other workouts, thus helping to increase muscle mass.

How to do it: Standing with feet hip width apart, hold a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip or a barbell with a shoulder width grip and palms facing down. Keeping hands in a straight line with upper arms, lift the bar toward your shoulders, keeping shoulder blades retracted and core tight, bending elbows (keep elbows tucked close to your sides). Pause, then slowly lower to return to starting position.

Farmer’s Carry

Why it works: This move increases your grip strength and builds forearm muscles by working the forearms, wrists, hands shoulders and back. Bonus: this strength and conditioning move works your entire body.

How to do it: Hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing down. With arms straight at your sides at your sides, ensure a tight grip. Keep shoulders engaged, stand tall, and walk a predetermined distance. Turn around and walk back to return to starting position. Repeat.

Standing Barbell Reverse Curls

Why it works: The barbell reverse curl targets the muscles on the top of your forearm as well as biceps and brachialis (elbow flexor). This forearm exercise also can help improve shoulder stability. It can be done with a traditional barbell or an EZ-bar, which can provide less stress on the wrist joints and activate upper arm muscles.

How to do it: Grip a barbell with hands shoulder width apart and palms facing down, keeping shoulders engaged and chest lifted, bend elbows to slowly curl the weight toward your shoulders. Once you feel your biceps contract, pause at the top, then slowly lower to return to starting position. Be sure to maintain good posture throughout the move.

Note: you won't be able to lift the same amount you would with a normal barbell curl.

Kettlebell Upside Down Carry

Why it works: While this move requires upper-body strength, this is a great move to add to your forearm workouts, you get a little more bang for your buck— it's a good one for firing up your core.

How to do it: Start with the horns of the kettlebell in your left hand, with the bell facing up. Lift your arm up so that your elbow is bent in a 90-degree angle, keeping wrist straight. Keep shoulders engaged, stand tall, and walk a predetermined distance. Turn around and walk back to return to starting position. Repeat.

Pull-Up Bar Hang

Why it works: Sometimes known as a dead hang, the pull up bar hang works the upper back, shoulders, core, forearms and hand and wrist flexors. This move helps to build grip strength and also is a good upper-body stretch.

How to do it: Grip a stable overhead bar with palms facing forward. Start standing on a bench or step—don't jump into the move. With straight arms, step your feet off the bench, and keeping spine straight, hang for 10–15 seconds. Slowly step back onto the bench to return to starting position. Rest and repeat. (As you get better at the move, you can hold for more time.)

Hammer Curl

Why it works: Adding the hammer curl to your forearm workout can help build biceps and more muscular forearms. Plus, holding the dumbbells steady works your wrist and finger flexors.

How to do it: Hold one dumbbell in each hand with palms parallel. Keeping the upper arm stabilized and elbows tucked into your sides, flex at the elbow to bring dumbbells to shoulders. Pause then lower to return to starting position.

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Beginner's Guide to the Best Forearm Exercises

Beginner's Guide to the Best Forearm Exercises

If you're aiming for muscle growth and want to lift heavier, but struggle every time you attempt to go up in weight, your grip strength may be to blame. Did you know that adding dedicated forearm exercises to your routine can help improve both grip strength and build strong forearms?

Here, we'll break down what exactly the forearm is, what forearm workouts you should be adding to your exercise routine and the benefits of a great forearm exercise.

Where is the Forearm Located?

The forearm—the lower arm—consists of two parallel bones between the elbow and wrist that connect those joints. The two bones are the radius laterally and the ulna medially. There are 20 muscles contained between the anterior (muscles that engage flexion) and posterior (muscles that engage in extension) parts of the forearm [1].

What do the Forearm Muscles Do?

One job of this muscle group is to be the prime wrist and finger flexors. The forearm muscles also with wrist flexion and elbow flexion. The forearms are essential for elbow and wrist movements as well as grip strength. The flexor carpi radialis muscle works to flex and adduct (move toward the midline of the body) the hand. The flexor carpi ulnaris and extensor carpi ulnaris muscles work to adduct the hand at the wrist. [2]

Any exercise you do that involves gripping and pulling, think any upper-body move with dumbbells or barbells, pull-ups and rows, is dependent on a strong grip. In day-to-day life, grip strength will make things like opening jars and boosting your basketball, golf, or tennis game. Studies have even found that grip strength may correlate to healthy aging and mobility. [3]

What Are the Benefits of Forearm Training?

Strong forearms are key for grip strength, which translates to upper body strength. Since your forearms are integral to pushing and pulling movements including the row, farmer’s carry, kettlebell swings, pull-ups and more, the stronger your forearms, the more you’ll be able to lift during your workout.

All this to say, forearm strength leads to more gains and the ability to lift heavy weights. Having strong forearm muscles carries over into real life function as well—you’ll be able to more easily carry and lift items.  If you want more muscular forearms, read on for forearm exercises.

The Best Forearm Exercises to Include in Your Workout Routine

Most exercises aren’t going to target forearms specifically, but will work multiple muscle groups. However, there are many exercises you can add to your forearm workout routine that build stronger forearms. For moves below that require a barbell, you can use a thicker bar to help build grip and muscle strength.

Dumbbell Wrist Extension

Why it works: Wrist curls are one move that isolates the forearm muscle group and helps improve forearm growth, plus grip and wrist strength.

How to do it: Holding a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip, rest your elbows on a bench with palms facing down and dumbbells hanging freely with wrists in a neutral position. Slowly extend the wrists into flexion to move the dumbbells toward the floor. Pause briefly, then contract your forearm extensor muscles to bring your wrists toward you and return to starting position.

Dumbbell Wrist Flexion

Why it works: Wrist curls are one move that isolates the forearm muscle group and helps improve forearm growth, plus grip and wrist strength.

How to do it: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, rest your elbows on a bench with palms facing up and wrist extensor muscles in a neutral grip. Slowly extend the wrists to move the dumbbells toward the floor. Pause briefly, then contract your forearm flexor muscles to bring your wrists toward you and return to starting position.

Reverse Biceps Curl

Why it works: As this exercise builds forearm strength, it will allow you to lift heavier in other workouts, thus helping to increase muscle mass.

How to do it: Standing with feet hip width apart, hold a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip or a barbell with a shoulder width grip and palms facing down. Keeping hands in a straight line with upper arms, lift the bar toward your shoulders, keeping shoulder blades retracted and core tight, bending elbows (keep elbows tucked close to your sides). Pause, then slowly lower to return to starting position.

Farmer’s Carry

Why it works: This move increases your grip strength and builds forearm muscles by working the forearms, wrists, hands shoulders and back. Bonus: this strength and conditioning move works your entire body.

How to do it: Hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing down. With arms straight at your sides at your sides, ensure a tight grip. Keep shoulders engaged, stand tall, and walk a predetermined distance. Turn around and walk back to return to starting position. Repeat.

Standing Barbell Reverse Curls

Why it works: The barbell reverse curl targets the muscles on the top of your forearm as well as biceps and brachialis (elbow flexor). This forearm exercise also can help improve shoulder stability. It can be done with a traditional barbell or an EZ-bar, which can provide less stress on the wrist joints and activate upper arm muscles.

How to do it: Grip a barbell with hands shoulder width apart and palms facing down, keeping shoulders engaged and chest lifted, bend elbows to slowly curl the weight toward your shoulders. Once you feel your biceps contract, pause at the top, then slowly lower to return to starting position. Be sure to maintain good posture throughout the move.

Note: you won't be able to lift the same amount you would with a normal barbell curl.

Kettlebell Upside Down Carry

Why it works: While this move requires upper-body strength, this is a great move to add to your forearm workouts, you get a little more bang for your buck— it's a good one for firing up your core.

How to do it: Start with the horns of the kettlebell in your left hand, with the bell facing up. Lift your arm up so that your elbow is bent in a 90-degree angle, keeping wrist straight. Keep shoulders engaged, stand tall, and walk a predetermined distance. Turn around and walk back to return to starting position. Repeat.

Pull-Up Bar Hang

Why it works: Sometimes known as a dead hang, the pull up bar hang works the upper back, shoulders, core, forearms and hand and wrist flexors. This move helps to build grip strength and also is a good upper-body stretch.

How to do it: Grip a stable overhead bar with palms facing forward. Start standing on a bench or step—don't jump into the move. With straight arms, step your feet off the bench, and keeping spine straight, hang for 10–15 seconds. Slowly step back onto the bench to return to starting position. Rest and repeat. (As you get better at the move, you can hold for more time.)

Hammer Curl

Why it works: Adding the hammer curl to your forearm workout can help build biceps and more muscular forearms. Plus, holding the dumbbells steady works your wrist and finger flexors.

How to do it: Hold one dumbbell in each hand with palms parallel. Keeping the upper arm stabilized and elbows tucked into your sides, flex at the elbow to bring dumbbells to shoulders. Pause then lower to return to starting position.

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