During an arm workout, it’s typically the bicep and triceps that get all the love. While it’s certainly beneficial to move through sets of
bicep curls and tricep dips, adding some forearm exercises to the mix will work wonders for your arm strength.
Even though you don’t think about them very often, the
forearm muscles are involved in countless movements, says Sandra Gail Frayna, PT, a physical therapist and founder of Hudson Premier Physical Therapy & Sports. From everyday things like carrying bags and opening jars to activities like tennis, rock climbing, and weight lifting, your forearm muscles are what help you grip and grab, she tells Bustle.
Forearm strength also helps protect against injuries like
tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome by providing more muscular support, says certified personal trainer Rob Wagener. When you do some good forearm workouts, you’re effectively strengthening several different muscles, including the forearm pronators, supinators, wrist flexors, and wrist extensors.
“These muscles control forearm rotation in addition to actions like the flexion and extension of the wrist, finger, and forearm,” Frayna explains. “Although the forearm muscles are not typically the main focus of exercises, neglecting them can result in
imbalances and weakness that can affect the strength and functionality of the entire upper body.” In that case, if you’re looking for a good forearm workout, here are 11 forearm-strengthening exercises trainers recommend adding to your fitness routine. 1 Farmer’s Carry
Wagener recommends this classic arm exercise to improve your forearm muscles, grip strength, and stability.
- Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in each hand.
- Let the weights hang at your sides.
- Walk forward at a steady pace.
- Engage your core to keep your body upright. (No leaning to one side.)
- Engage your forearm muscles and grip.
- Walk for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Repeat 3 to 4 sets.
2 Wrist Curls Lalitha McSorley, PT, a physical therapist and personal trainer at Brentwood Physio, suggests giving wrist curls a try.
- Sit on a bench with your forearms resting on your lap, palms facing up.
- Hold a light weight in each hand.
- Slowly lower the weights towards the ground, bending only at your wrists.
- Curl them back up towards your body.
- Repeat for 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps.
3 Reverse Wrist Curls
To work the muscles on the other side of your forearm, McSorley suggests trying a reverse wrist curl.
- Sit on a bench with your forearms resting on your lap, palms facing down.
- Hold a light weight in each hand.
- Slowly lift the weight towards the sky, bending only at the wrists.
- Lower it back down towards the ground.
- Aim for 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps.
4 Towel Pull-Ups
Holding onto the unsteady, squishy surface of a towel challenges your grip strength.
- Hang a thick towel over a pull-up bar.
- Grip either end of the towel instead of the bar.
- Engage your arms, core, and back.
Do a pull-up.
- Aim for 3 sets of as many reps as possible.
5 Pull-Up Bar Hang
A simple pull-up bar hang will work your forearms, finger flexors, and wrist flexors, says
Marshall Weber, CPT, a personal trainer and owner of Jack City Fitness.
- Stand under a pull-up bar.
- Reach up and grab the bar with an overhand grip.
- Hang with straight arms for as long as you can.
- Do 3 sets.
6 Reverse Barbell Curls Michael Hamlin, NSCA, CSCS, a personal trainer and founder of Everflex Fitness, says this movement trains the forearm muscles called the brachioradialis.
- Hold a barbell with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
- Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms fully extended, hanging at your sides.
- Slowly lift the barbell towards your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your body.
- Pause for a moment, then slowly lower the barbell back down to the starting position.
- Do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
7 Plate Pinches
To do this exercise you quite literally just pinch a weight plate, Hamlin says.
- Hold one or two weight plates with just your fingers, pinching them together.
- Hold the weights at your sides with your arms straight.
- Hold for as long as you can, aiming for at least 30 seconds.
- Repeat for 3 to 5 sets.
8 Barbell Deadlifts
deadlift is a great exercise for your glutes as well as your forearms. “When you lift heavy enough with deadlifts you will get a forearm workout no matter what you do,” Hamlin tells Bustle. “True strength will be developed with forearms without you having to think about it.”
- Stand behind a barbell with your feet hip-width apart.
- Bend your knees and lower your hips to grip the barbell with both hands, palms facing down and shoulder-width apart.
- Straighten your legs to lift the barbell off the ground, keeping your back straight and your core engaged.
- Lift the bar until you're standing upright with your shoulders back and your knees locked out.
- Lower the barbell back down to the ground, keeping your back straight and your core engaged.
- Do 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
9 Stress Ball Squeezes
“You could do this exercise multiple times a week while you watch TV and it will barely feel like you’re doing anything,” says personal trainer
David Mason. “The benefit is a slow strengthening of your forearm, fingers, and wrist.”
- Hold a stress ball or tennis ball.
- Repeatedly squeeze and release the ball.
- Mix up the rhythm and try to hold your grip for longer each time before releasing.
- Repeat multiple times a day.
10 Wall Push-Ups
If you don’t like the idea of regular push-ups, try wall push-ups. “By leaning towards the wall rather than pushing up from the floor, you are reducing the load and taking some of the strain away from weaker muscles or joints,” Mason says. The angle also targets your forearm muscles in a different way.
- Stand an arm’s length away from the wall.
- Put your hands on the wall at shoulder level.
- Slowly bend your elbows to lower your body towards the wall.
- Keep your back straight.
- Gently push back out to straighten your elbows.
- Do 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps.
11 Dumbbell Static Holds
Ryan Ernsbarger, CPT is a fan of this straightforward exercise. Instead of training until muscle failure or fatigue, you want to brush up against failure, meaning you should set the weights down just before you need to. “Over the four sets, your time may decrease, but over many weeks the weight held and time held should increase overall,” he says.
- Pick up a heavy dumbbell in each hand.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the weights by your sides.
- Put the weights down right when you feel like you could only hold them for another 5 seconds.
- Do 4 sets.
Lung, BE. (2022). Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Forearm Brachioradialis Muscle. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526110/. Mitchell, B. (2022). Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Forearm Muscles. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536975/ Sources: Sandra Gail Frayna, PT, physical therapist, founder of Hudson Premier Physical Therapy & Sports Rob Wagener, CPT, certified personal trainer Lalitha McSorley, PT, physical therapist, personal trainer at Brentwood Physio Marshall Weber, CPT, trainer, owner of Jack City Fitness Michael Hamlin, NSCA, CSCS, personal trainer, founder of Everflex Fitness David Mason, personal trainer Ryan Ernsbarger, CPT, certified personal trainer
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