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October 09, 2020 11 min read

Too many weightlifters only come by forearm growth and increased grip strength incidentally. If you do enough chest presses and deadlifts, your grip is sure to improve but what many people fail to realize is that other exercises can be used to target the specific muscles in the forearm to boost their size and greatly improve their overall function. 

The muscles in the forearm are incredibly important. Movement of the elbow, wrist, hand, and fingers depends on strong and connected forearm muscles. Anytime you need to pick something up to hold, carry, or move it, you’re using your forearms.

The interaction between the forearm muscles, wrist flexors, elbow, and shoulder joint is critical for almost all upper body movement except that performed by the hip flexors and posterior chain. Since neck motion is tied closely to the shoulder muscle, even that relies on high-performing forearm muscles in many ways. 

Forearm anatomy is fairly intricate. The brachialis is the muscle primarily responsible for elbow flexion and is helped by the brachioradialis, another smaller muscle near the elbow which also flexes the forearm and helps with pronation and supination, fancy terms for turning the forearm clockwise and counterclockwise, respectively. To work these muscles and your other forearm flexors, isolation exercises and compound exercises can be used.

Many bicep workouts also build muscle in the forearm but they can be altered to more specifically target wrist and grip strength. Doing so can be doubly advantageous because your arm’s range of motion will expand and you’ll be better at compound upper-body exercises. 

It might be helpful to think of your elbow, forearm, and wrist as a single unit when preparing a forearm exercise routine. Rotating your wrist without moving your elbow is difficult and outright impossible to do without using the muscles in your forearm.

Building up your forearm strength will not only facilitate movement but also help complete load-bearing tasks. That means better lifting and more grip strength on a barbell during a bench press or kettlebells and dumbbells during a HIIT workout. 

The best forearm exercises are simple to execute and they’ll have the blood vessels in your forearm pumping so much blood they’ll be visible from a mile away. If you want to increase your overall forearm size, use some of the exercises in this guide throughout your normal fitness routine. Make sure to use variants that target the extensor muscles on the underside of the forearm as well as the wrist flexors and brachioradialis on the top. 

As with any other strenuous physical activity, safety is key to preventing injury during forearm exercises. Luckily, there are plenty of warm-up exercises you can do to prime your arm and shoulder muscles before you get to the real muscle busters. 

If you’re feeling adventurous, some of these forearm exercises can be combined with lower body workouts.

For example, you could perform a wrist curl or hammer curls while you do lunges. Whatever way you can manage it, add these forearm exercises to your regular workout routine. Pair it with the Ultimate Pump Stack and you’ll have bulging forearms and bone-crushing grip strength in no time. 

Forearm Anatomy & Function

We’ve already mentioned the major muscles in the forearm and talked a little about what they do. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how they function to better understand why the following forearm exercises are so effective. 

The brachioradialis works with the biceps and brachialis to move the arm at the elbow. When your palms are facing the ground, the brachioradialis exerts a ton of power. Without sufficient forearm strength, you might feel your brachioradialis straining after holding an object aloft for long periods. Most people don’t realize it, but even typing at a computer calls your brachioradialis into action. If you use a wrist support, your forearms are supporting the weight and movement of your wrist and fingers. 

Your wrist flexors are incredibly important for every kind of wrist movement. That can be from side to side, up and down, or rotating. The wrist flexors are also a very common site for injury and chronic conditions like tendonitis that can cause significant wrist pain. Stretching your wrist flexors regularly can help prevent such conditions and exercising them even more. 

Finally, we have the extensor muscles. Without the extensor muscle, your body wouldn’t be able to extend the fingers. The extensor muscles also help the wrist flexors with wrist supination and abduction. Place one hand on the opposite forearm while curling and uncurling the fingers of the opposite side and you’ll be able to feel the extensor muscles at work.

A man doing wrist curls.

Forearm Stretches & Warm-Up Exercises

Before you get started turning your forearms into diesel engines and building up enough grip strength to crush rocks into dust, take our PRE workout and try out a few of these simple stretches and warm-ups to prime your forearm muscles.

Wrist Curls

Getting your wrists limber is more important during a warm-up since your forearm muscles are more than likely already primed from everyday movements like typing on the computer and holding objects. While wrist curls can be done with heavy weight on a dumbbell, you can also do smaller wrist curls with basically any object to get your wrist flexor muscles ready. 

To perform this isolation exercise and loosen up those wrist flexors, sit down with a lightweight object in one hand. Place the elbow of the arm you’re warming up on the knee of the same side of your body. Slowly lift your wrist toward the underside of your arm and return it to the starting position. Take care to keep this movement fluid, even, and slow to prime your wrist flexors most effectively. You can also attempt reverse wrist curls for some variation of movement.

Palm Presses

This warm-up also doubles as a great shoulder stretch. You can do it standing up or sitting down, which makes it very handy as a stretch to do at your desk. The starting position only requires you to press your open palms together in the center of your chest. Alternate exerting pressure with one hand and then the other. This should only cause your hands to bend backward at the wrist. 

Make sure you aren’t moving your fingers and concentrate on keeping your hands in place on your body’s centerline. You can also move your hands from one side of the body to the other, taking care to leave your forearms level. 

Overhead Palm Press

For an even better stretch, stay in the starting position for palm presses as described above. Rather than exerting pressure with your hands or moving side to side, move your hands up above your head until you’re mimicking a diver’s position. Then, move them back as if you were trying to touch your shoulder blades. 

While this stretch is principally for the shoulders and biceps, it will still help prime your muscles for shoulder exercises because those muscles will play a part.

Wrist Rotations

With both arms straight out in front of you, slowly move both wrists clockwise 5 - 10 times and then counterclockwise the same number of times. This warm-up wrist exercise is so simple you can use it throughout the day to keep your wrists flexible. You also use it to fill in the rest periods of the more challenging forearm exercises to come. 

Stress Balls & Rubber Bands

Since these shoulder exercises are also going to build your grip strength, it’s important to wake your fingers up. A common stress ball is a great tool to accomplish this task. Just take it in your hand and squeeze for a while. You can also use rubber bands on the outside of your fingers to create resistance. Place your thumb between the second and third fingers to make a beak shape. Wrap a rubber band around your fingers and slowly open and close your hand. 

The 5 Best Forearm Exercises for Increased Muscle Size & Grip Strength

These forearm exercises are going to build huge forearms which in turn lead to greatly increased grip strength. Get a great forearm workout with a few or all of these exercises, or throw them into your existing upper arm routine. 

1. Barbell Curls

Also referred to as biceps curls, this is a simple exercise that nonetheless makes for a great forearm workout, especially if you alternate between traditional barbell curls and the reverse variation using an overhand grip. 

Many people are familiar with barbell curls as an isolation exercise for the biceps, but it also works the important muscles in the forearm. To get into the starting position, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart while holding the barbell in both hands. You can use the overhand grip (palms facing the ground) if you want an extra challenge, just be prepared to lift much less weight. 

Bring the barbell up to your chest by bending your elbows and then move back to the starting position. You can probably do up to 20 reps per set depending on whether you’re using heavy weight or not. Try a reverse curl if you’re feeling adventurous.

Barbell Curl Variations

One of the most famous variations on the barbell curl is called the hammer curl. The main difference between a hammer curl and a traditional barbell curl is that you generally use a dumbbell in each hand rather than a barbell. This gives you more freedom of movement. 

Grip the dumbbells with your wrists facing each other and then repeat the same chestward movement of a barbell curl. If you want to make sure you aren’t inadvertently using your posterior chain or the momentum of your body to lift the weights. You can also use a preacher curl rack if there’s one available. 

You can also use a resistance band to do a resistance curl. Simply place one side of the band under your feet and use both arms to lift the other side in the same curling motion you used for barbell curls. This forearm exercise is not only great for people without access to weights, but also for keeping your forearms and biceps facing constant resistance.

Many weightlifters also swear by a variation of this shoulder exercise called the Zottman Curl. This move is also done with two dumbbells, one in each hand. Use a thumbless grip and curl them as you would in the traditional barbell curl. Hold them at the highest position and then rotate your forearm so that your palms are facing the ground, then bring the dumbbells back down.

2. Cable Rows

You can do this move seated in front of a cable pulley machine. It’s a great exercise for pumping up the muscle groups in your forearm and back. If you do a lot of pressing exercises with a barbell, cable rows can help make sure you have the back muscles needed to avoid injury. Pair them with Adabolic for maximum muscle recovery.

To get into the starting position, take a seat at the cable pulley machine. Set the pin in the lowest weight plate and brace yourself with your feet. Neutralize your spine, keep your back straight, and engage your core. Take the V-grip and pull. Squeeze your lats and shoulders to hold the position once you have the grips at your torso, then return to the starting position. 

Cable Row Variations

If you want to change things up a bit, try the one-armed cable row. You can do all your sets on one side and then switch to the other or you can alternate between the left and right hand. You’ll have to find an attachment that you can hold in one hand as opposed to the V-grip which requires both hands to pull. If you do decide to try alternating, make sure your trunk isn’t rotating throughout the motion of the exercise. 

For those who don’t have access to a cable pulley machine, you can also do rows with a barbell. Essentially you get into a similar starting position as you would for a deadlift, with a shoulder-width grip on the bar, and mimic the motion of a cable pulley machine with the barbell. 

3. Pull-Ups & Chin-Ups

A classic exercise we’re all familiar with from our earliest days of physical activity, pull-ups, and chin-ups are some of the most effective ways to use your bodyweight to build stronger forearms. They also work your back muscles, traps, thoracic erector spinae, biceps, and triceps

You don’t necessarily need a pull-up bar for these forearm exercises. We’ve all seen fitness enthusiasts get a workout by doing pull-ups on a door frame, but you can also use any other elevated bar as long as it’s sturdy enough to support your body weight. 

The proper form for a pull-up or chin-up is hotly contested. Here are the steps you should take for a perfect pull-up:

  • Take a shoulder-width grip on the pull-up bar with your palms facing away from you.
  • If you’re too tall, bend both legs at the knee. It’s always better to find a pull-up bar that suits your height, though. 
  • Pull through your forearms and upper arm muscles as if you were trying to push your elbows to the ground. Lift your body weight until your head is above the pull-up bar.
  • Lower yourself back to the starting position without putting your feet back on the ground. 
  • Make sure you lead with your chest and get your elbows to 45° with your eyes looking straight ahead. Your back should be as straight as it is naturally but not rigid. 
  • Try out Hyperade to help your muscles recover and boost your endurance during a pull-up session.

Pull-Up Variations

Chin-ups are a kind of variation on the pull-up. The different grip makes it easier to lift with more arm muscle, but the pull-up as described above will give you a better forearm workout. 

The weighted pull-up is the best way to make this exercise even more challenging. If you find your body weight to be too easy to lift after a certain point, hold additional weight with your feet as you execute the pull-up. To blast your forearms, do a towel pull-up by tossing a towel over the pull-up bar and using that to lift yourself. Make sure you have a tight grip on the towel, though.

A man doing deadlifts.

4. Deadlifts

For serious weightlifters, nothing beats the deadlift. It’s a compound exercise that will work just about every muscle group in your body including the forearms and wrists. If you’re including these forearm exercises in a larger workout routine, the deadlift is a great way to get  Shredded-AF and progress toward all your gain goals at once. 

Deadlifts are deceptively simple. The starting position requires you to stand over the barbell so that it’s about halfway over your feet. Stand with your feet apart and get a shoulder-width grip on the barbell. Pull enough for your muscles to engage and listen for the barbell to lock into the upper side of the weights. 

Inhale and push the ground away. Make sure you’re lifting with your legs and arms and not your posterior chain. Lift the barbell to your knees and then keep going until you’re standing up straight. Return to the starting position by reversing the movement or just drop the barbell if the gym rules allow it. 

Deadlift Variations

The farmer’s walk is the most common deadlift variation. To do a farmer’s walk, you just take a few steps once you have the barbell at the top position in the deadlift. You can also do this move using a tractor tire if there’s one available. Just stand in the middle, lift the tire until you’re in a standing position, and take a few steps. 

5. Plate Pinch

The plate pinch is a great exercise to build strong forearms and powerful grip strength. All you need to do is take a weight plate in your left and right hand and lift them. Of course, if you prefer you can also take one weight plate and press it between both hands. That won’t quite build grip strength the way a plate pinch with two weight plates will, though. 

Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and lower yourself while keeping your back straight. Pick up the weight plates in each hand, making sure to get a solid grip on them. Stand up straight and then you can slowly lift the plates to hip-level and back down. 

Plate Pinch Variations

You can move your arms in any way you want once you have the weight plates in hand. Try moving your arms out until your body is T-shaped, for example, or move them out in front of you. If there’s enough room around you, you can also gently swing your arms and still get a great forearm workout and improve your grip strength. 

Forearms Like Blades of Steel

Too many weightlifters only workout their forearms in the course of doing other exercises that target the biceps, triceps, and other muscle groups in the upper body. This can cause issues if those other exercises don’t increase grip strength or wrist flexion. If you want Popeye-sized forearms, though, you’ll have to use some of these isolation and compound forearm exercises. 

The good news is these forearm exercises are the perfect preparation for other press exercises with a barbell or EZ-bar. Once you have solid grip strength built up, all the other exercises used to sculpt muscles in the upper body will be easier. These forearm exercises and muscle building supplements will get you the ripped body you want.