When you’re training grip intensive exercises like chin-ups, deadlifts, bent-over rows, or carry variations, you will often feel your forearms burning. It’s usually the first muscle group to fatigue, so grip strength is often a weak point for lifters. When ripping a 500-pound deadlift off of the ground, it’s almost always your grip, not your lats, that gives out first.
Of course, you can throw a bandage on the issue and wear lifting straps (which truly are a great tool). But for max strength, you’ll also want to focus on building forearm strength.
Below, you’ll get the details on the best forearm exercises and deep dive into how to do this training — including how to make your forearms grow.
Best Forearm Exercises
- Barbell Reverse Biceps Curl
- Wrist Roller
- Behind-the-Back Barbell Wrist Curl
- Plate Pinch
- Towel Pull-Up
- Fat Grip Biceps Curl
- Three-Way Chin-Up Hold
- Trap Bar Deadlift to Carry
- Hammer Curl
- Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Carry
- Zottman Curl
- Farmer’s Carry
- Crab Walk
- EZ-Bar Reverse Curl
- Reverse Curl 21
- Bar Hang
Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.
Barbell Reverse Biceps Curl
The simple act of changing your grip on the barbell curl will help you build size and strength on the neglected part of the forearm. Reverse curls train the smaller forearm extensors (brachioradialis, pronator teres) and brachialis — a muscle underneath the biceps that will help make your biceps look bigger when you flex.
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Strength imbalances between the forearm extensors and flexors may lead to sore elbows, so it pays to train the forearm extensors from an injury-prevention standpoint, too.
How to Do the Barbell Reverse Biceps Curl
- Select a weight that’s lighter than what you would use for regular barbell curls, gripping the barbell with your knuckles facing you.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding with your arms by your sides. Move your shoulders back and down.
- Keeping your elbows tucked to your side, slowly curl the barbell up slightly above 90 degrees.
- Reverse the move slowly to the starting position and repeat.
Coach’s Tip: It’s okay to flare your elbows a little bit if the movement pathway feels more natural for your limb length. Just make sure that the curl is being initiated by your biceps and supported primarily by your forearms.
Sets and Reps: Do three to four sets of 15 to 20 reps.
Benefits of the Barbell Reverse Biceps Curl
- This exercise improves forearm extensor strength.
- You’ll bolster the size and strength of both your forearm and biceps muscles.
- The barbell reverse biceps curl builds grip strength from a different angle.
This is a great forearm exercise because it builds size, strength, and endurance simultaneously. The wrist roller trains both forearm flexors and extensors (deltoids and rotator cuffs isometrically), and the pump and burn are incredible while using only light resistance.
The wrist roller is one of the best exercises for developing forearms, and it is a vital piece of equipment in any gym. The downside is, if your gym doesn’t have one, then you’re out of luck.
How to Use the Wrist Roller
- Start with a 2.5, five, or 10-pound weight plate.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding the wrist roller with knuckles facing towards you.
- Slowly perform a front raise to bring the roller to shoulder height.
- Roll the weight up, alternating hands until the weight is fully wound, and then slowly reverse the movement.
Coach’s Tip: Use less weight than you think you can handle at first. The key is to move slowly and be in complete control of the movement.
Sets and Reps: Perform three to four sets of 15 to 20 reps.
Benefits of the Wrist Roller
- This move strengthens both your forearm extensors and flexors.
- The thick grip of the wrist roller helps to improve grip strength.
- You’ll be paying special attention to your wrists and forearms, which are generally not the primary movers.
Behind-the-Back Barbell Wrist Curl
The behind-the-back wrist curl targets your forearm flexors and improves your finger strength. Both are important for grip strength and improving your ability to grip it and rip it. A major advantage of this variation, as opposed to other options, is adding load in increments.
Start on the lighter side with higher reps, but don’t be afraid to add weight to strengthen your forearms further.
How to Do the Behind-the-Back-Barbell Wrist Curl
- Set up a barbell on a power rack around knee level and stand facing away from it. If you don’t have a rack or partner, balancing the barbell on a bench is an option.
- Bend down and grab the barbell with a shoulder-width grip, stand up straight, and engage your glutes.
- Let the barbell roll down to your fingertips, then curl the barbell back up and flex your forearms.
- Pause for a second in that flexed position before returning to the starting position.
Coach’s Tip: Move as slowly as possible, letting the barbell drop down into your fingers as much as you can.
Sets and Reps: Perform two to three sets of 20 to 25 reps.
Benefits of the Behind-the-Back Barbell Wrist Curl
- This exercise isolates your forearm flexors with a load higher than other wrist curl variations.
- You’ll have the ability to add incremental load.
- This move improves finger and grip strength.
Your fingers are incredibly strong — strong enough for some people to climb mountains while supporting their entire weight with a few fingertips. While a lot of grip exercises use a crush grip, the plate pinch trains the pinch grip, getting the fingers, thumbs, and forearms strong.
[Read More: The Best Grip Strengtheners On the Market]
This is a great exercise for football players and wrestlers to improve their sport-specific grip strength, and it’ll translate well for powerlifters and strongman athletes, too.
How to Do the Plate Pinch
- Hold a 25 or 45-pound bumper plate with your fingers, keeping your arms by your side, and hold for time.
- Alternatively, hold two or more 10-pound plates, smooth side out, and hold for time.
Coach’s Tip: Make sure you have your chest up and shoulders down to maintain good posture. For added difficulty, walk while pinching the plates.
Sets and Reps: Perform three to four sets to near failure.
Benefits of the Plate Pinch
- This move improves finger and thumb strength.
- The plate pinch builds endurance and strength in your forearm muscles.
- This exercise has direct carryover to sport-specific grip strength for football players, climbers, and wrestlers, as well as strongman athletes and even CrossFitters.
When regular pull-ups become easier, the simple act of adding a towel will make this exercise tougher because it’s harder to grip a towel than a bar.
This version focuses on the forearms because of the neutral grip and the difficulty of holding and pulling up on the towel, which builds forearm strength and size while strengthening your back and biceps.
How to Do the Towel Pull-Up
- You can use a single towel or two towels to do this. The single towel trains your forearms more, while the two-towel pull-up focuses more on your lats.
- Hold the towel midway up, using a firm grip.
- Perform pull-ups, keeping your shoulders down and chest up until you feel your grip failing.
Coach’s Tip: If you can’t manage full pull-ups with a towel grip, build up to it by hanging from the towels until you approach failure.
Reps and Sets: Perform three to four sets to near failure.
Benefits of the Towel Pull-Up
- This move improves the size and strength of your forearms.
- The neutral grip is easier on your shoulders.
- You’ll train your gripping strength like with most pulling movements and crushing grip strength due to the act of squeezing the towel.
Fat Grip Biceps Curl
The fat grip biceps curl makes the dumbbells harder to grip by increasing their diameter, forcing your forearms and biceps to work harder. This trains the forearms in two ways, by engaging your hands through gripping and your forearm by flexing.
You have the benefit of either using a supinated grip, hammer curl grip, or reverse grip, depending on your goals. If you need to increase grip strength and get some huge forearms and biceps, this one is for you.
How to Do the Fat Grip Biceps Curl
- Wrap towels or fat grips around a pair of dumbbells.
- Grip the handles using either a supinated, hammer, or reverse curl grip.
- Curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders until you feel a squeeze in your biceps.
- Pause for a second and return to the starting position.
Coach’s Tip: Focus on expanding the grasp of your fingers as much as possible, feeling the contraction in your forearms.
Sets and Reps: Perform three to four sets of 15 to 20 reps.
Benefits of the Fat Grip Biceps Curl
- This move strengthens the forearms by challenging your grip with a wider-than-usual implement.
- Using a fat grip will make it feel easier to lift when you go back to a regular grip.
- The fat grip biceps curl will increase grip strength, which has a direct carryover to other lifts that require grip strength.
Three-Way Chin-Up Hold
The three-way chin-up hold strengthens your grip in three different positions. It also helps you improve your strength and performance with regular chin-ups. The isometric holds in each position test your forearm and grip strength by increasing your time under tension for potential forearm hypertrophy benefits.
This exercise is a true test of will, and doing it will build physical and mental toughness.
How to Do the Three-Way Chin-Up Hold
- Either use a box to elevate yourself or jump up.
- Grab the bar and get to the top lockout position.
- Hold for 10 or more seconds.
- Slowly lower to just above a 90-degree elbow position and hold for 10 or more seconds.
- Lower until your elbows are slightly flexed. Hold for 10 or more seconds.
- Slowly lower yourself down to a dead hang position and finish.
Coach’s Tip: If holding all three positions is too much for you, start by performing one position per rep, alternating between them until you can perform them consecutively.
Set and Reps: Perform three to four sets of one rep. One rep contains a hold at all three positions.
Benefits of the Three-Way Chin-Up Hold
- You’ll build bigger and stronger forearms, biceps, and back in three different positions.
- This move improves your chin-up performance, especially if you’re suffering from elbow or shoulder discomfort.
- The three-way chin-up hold builds functional grip strength in multiple positions, which carries over well into rock climbing.
Trap Bar Deadlift to Carry
Deadlifts strengthen your posterior chain and improve your ability to produce force and power. The carry portion can train your shoulder stability, core strength, and grip strength. It can also add some beef to your forearms.
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Put them together to produce both muscle and pain. Trap bar carries not only tear up your grip but also allow you to use more weight for better forearm strength and hypertrophy.
How to Do the Trap Bar Deadlift to Carry
- Perform a trap bar deadlift to pick the weight up and perform three to five reps.
- On the last rep, remain upright.
- Walk at a slow, deliberate pace because this extends your time under tension.
- Keep your chest up and shoulders down to maintain good posture.
- When your grip starts to give, stop and lower the weight with control.
Coach’s Tip: Don’t rush through the initial deadlifts. The more controlled your movements, the more time you’ll have under tension. That’s ultimately what you want for your forearms.
Sets and Reps: Perform three to four sets of four to five deadlift reps plus a controlled walk to near failure.
Benefits of the Trap Bar Deadlift to Carry
- Dumbbells limit your weight, but not so with the trap bar. You have a much higher loading potential to further your grip and conditioning gains.
- This move strengthens shoulder stability and helps improve posture.
- You’ll build both physical and mental toughness.
Yes, another biceps curl made the list — but for good reason. The neutral grip of the hammer curl variation is friendlier on your elbows and shoulders than other curl variations. Plus, the neutral grip leads to extra recruitment of the forearm muscles and the important but neglected muscle the brachioradialis.
This muscle stabilizes the elbow joint during rapid flexion and extension — which is handy if you throw for a living or recreation. Because the neutral grip is a stronger lifting position, you’ll potentially lift more weight than other curl variations.
How to Do the Hammer Curl
- Hold the dumbbells by your side with your wrists neutral.
- Keep your chest up and shoulders down.
- Maintain neutral wrists and curl until the dumbbells are near your anterior deltoid.
- Pause for a second, then slowly lower down to the starting position. Reset and repeat.
Coach’s Tip: Once you get the hang of this movement, try to load up heavier than you do with conventional dumbbell curls.
Sets and Reps: Do three to four sets of 15 to 20 reps.
Benefits of the Hammer Curl
- This move trains the important and often neglected muscle the brachioradialis.
- A neutral grip is a strong position that is often easier on your elbows and shoulder.
- You can curl more weight for added strength and muscle.
Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Carry
Holding a kettlebell bottoms-up is simple but not easy. The bottoms-up kettlebell carry will challenge your grip and forearm strength. You’ll flip the kettlebell upside down so the heavy portion sits above the handle and the horn sits on the meat of your hand.
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This forces you to recruit additional muscle fibers and motor units to control the unstable load. Bottoms-up carries can improve your posture, lateral stability, grip, and forearm strength while strengthening the entire shoulder joint.
How to Do the Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Carry
- Facing a clear walking path, stand up straight and hold a kettlebell in one hand.
- Curl the kettlebell in front of your shoulder to chin height. Make sure the horn is sitting in the meat of your hand — the bottom of the bell should be facing the ceiling.
- Keep your wrist in neutral and your elbow bent at 90 degrees.
- Grip tight and walk slowly for the specified distance.
- Lower the weight and switch hands. Reset and repeat.
Coach’s Tip: Keep your shoulder packed down even as you’re holding the bell overhead. Try to keep both shoulders on an even level.
Sets and Reps: Perform three to four sets of 30 to 40-second walks per side.
Benefits of the Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Carry
- You’ll use less load because of the additional muscular tension needed to hold the bottoms-up kettlebell. You can focus more closely on form with less load.
- This move improves forearm and grip strength due to the instability of the bottoms-up kettlebell.
- The bottoms-up kettlebell carry will strengthen lateral stability and improve posture and gait.
The Zottman curl is like a dumbbell curl but with a literal twist. You’ll do a regularly-scheduled curl with your palms facing up on the concentric portion of the lift.
Then, during the eccentric — lowering — component of the curl, you’ll rotate your hands so that your palms are facing down. This rotation transforms the latter half of the lift into a reverse curl. Slow it down for extra time under tension, which will light up your forearms.
How to Do the Zottman Curl
- Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Slowly curl the bells up with your palms facing you.
- At the top of the curl, rotate your palms until they’re facing down.
- Slowly lower the weights to the bottom position of the curl.
- Rotate again so that your palms are facing up. Repeat for reps.
Coach’s Tip: Take your time during these rotations. Move slowly and focus on achieving your full range of motion.
Sets and Reps: Perform three to four sets of 15 to 20 reps.
Benefits of the Zottman Curl
- This move targets both your biceps and your forearms by adding a rotational element to dumbbell curls.
- Since you’ll be placing your palms down during the eccentric phase, you’re adding a forearm-focused element to your curls.
- Incorporating a dynamic rotation into your curls can help train your wrist stability.
The beauty of the farmer’s carry is that you can load up pretty much as heavy as you can handle with good form. As long as you can keep it in your grasp and maintain your posture and stride, high weights are very fair game.
Another forearm-boosting factor of this move? You can perform farmer’s carries with pretty much any equipment you’d like. Kettlebells, dumbbells with a fat grip, specialized farmer’s walk handles, barbells, sandbags… the list goes on. The more deliberate variety you’re giving your forearms, the better.
How to Do the Farmer’s Carry
- Grip the implement of your choice.
- Stand tall with your hands on either side of your body.
- Keep your shoulders back and down and brace your core.
- Walk with a steady stride for the prescribed time or distance. Rest and repeat.
Coach’s Tip: Keep your gaze steady, looking straight ahead at the ground a few feet out in front of you.
Sets and Reps: Perform three to four sets of 30 to 40-second carries.
Benefits of the Farmer’s Carry
- You can load up a tremendous amount of weight during the farmer’s carry, which dramatically increases the stress on your forearms.
- Farmer’s carries rack up a lot of time under tension, which is great for building muscle.
- This move is scalable to be performed with various weights and implements, making it very accessible for lifters at multiple levels.
The chin-up is an all-purpose strength and muscle-builder — especially when you want to develop those forearms. If you focus only on moves that isolate your forearms as much as possible, you might stimulate growth. But you need those full-body moves to build a solid foundation.
Adding chin-ups to your forearm-building routine ensures that you are developing an underlying base of strength and stability in your arms. Yes, your grip will be scorched — but you’ll also reap the full-body benefits, too.
How to Do the Chin-Up
- Grab a pull-up or chin-up bar with your palms facing toward your body. Keep your hands a little closer than shoulder-width apart.
- Brace your core, pull your shoulders back and down, and initiate the pull with your upper back.
- Pull until your chin clears the bar.
- Slowly lower down to the starting position. Repeat.
Coach’s Tip: Imagine driving your elbows down into your front pockets during the pull.
Sets and Reps: Perform two to four sets of as many reps as possible (AMRAP).
Benefits of the Chin-Up
- This compound move will tax your entire body, building your core, upper back, and biceps along with your forearms.
- Chin-ups are an excellent way to make sure your forearms are functionally strong, not just jacked.
- Because this is a bodyweight-only movement that just requires a pull-up bar, you can perform these pretty much anywhere.
The crab walk might look a little out of place in a room full of beefy folks pumping iron. But this bodyweight move can, indeed, help get you shredded. You’ll be in a full bridge position, but scuttling around — yes, like a crab — so your forearms will need to up their stability game to support you.
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Crab walks also help you open up your chest — a welcome relief amid so much benching. You might look a little ridiculous, but your hips and shoulder mobility will thank you for this move. Your forearms will, too.
How to Do the Crab Walk
- Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your feet planted in front of you.
- Place your hands on the ground roughly underneath your shoulders. Press down into your hands and feet. Raise your glutes off the ground. Establish stability in this position.
- “Walk” with your right hand and left foot moving simultaneously. You can move in any direction you desire. Just keep your rep/step count even between sides and directions.
Coach’s Tip: Keep your steps short, only moving a few inches at a time.
Sets and Reps: Do these “walks” for time, performing three to four sets of 30 to 50 seconds. Make sure to switch directions halfway through each set, or keep your sets even.
Benefits of the Crab Walk
- This bodyweight move will help boost your core strength and forearm strength in one fell swoop.
- Your shoulder and hip mobility will get a nice increase from practicing this walk.
- The crab walk helps improve your kinesthetic awareness and coordination, which can translate nicely into complex barbell lifts.
EZ-Bar Reverse Curl
Using a curl bar, or an EZ bar, to perform reverse curls is an excellent way to challenge your forearms. But, this version might be easier on your wrists than the barbell version. You can grip the curl bar in a way that may feel more natural for your wrists’ alignment.
The less pressure your wrists are under, the heavier you may be able to lift. In this way, you might be more comfortable doing heavier reverse curls with this bar than with a barbell. This means you’ll be overloading your forearms even more with less potential wrist stress.
How to Do the EZ-Bar Reverse Curl
- Grip an EZ bar or curl bar with your palms facing down and away from you.
- Slowly curl the bar.
- Squeeze your biceps at the top of the curl.
- Slowly lower the bar back to starting position. Repeat for reps.
Coach’s Tip: Keep your shoulders pinned back and down as much as possible during this movement to isolate your biceps and increase emphasis on your forearms.
Sets and Reps: Perform two to three sets of 15 to 20 reps.
Benefits of the EZ-Bar Reverse Curl
- You’ll target your forearms with the position of this curl.
- The shape of the EZ or curl bar creates a more wrist-friendly atmosphere for many lifters than the barbell version.
- Because of the potentially reduced wrist strain, many lifters can load up heavier with this lift than with a barbell or dumbbells.
Reverse Curl 21
You’ve done your fair share of reverse curls, and you do your best to move slowly and in control of your eccentric. But there’s nothing quite like a solid set of 21s to get the blood pumping — and test your mental capacity to keep pushing.
The 21s workout method involves splitting each set of 21 total reps into seven smaller segments (with no break in between). Each of the three segments of seven reps will take you through a different range of motion. The first two will be partial ranges of motion and the last seven will be your full range of motion. This one will burn out your muscles, so save it for your last exercise.
How to Do the Reverse Curl 21
- Grasp a barbell with a reverse grip, with your knuckles facing down and away from your body. You can also perform this move and method with an EZ bar or dumbbells.
- Perform seven reverse curls from starting position to a 90-degree position, with your elbows at 90 degrees with your upper arms.
- Immediately switch your range of motion, moving from the 90-degree position as your bottom range to the top of the reverse curl. Perform seven reps.
- Without rest, do seven more reps, this time with a full range of motion (from the bottom position through the top of a reverse curl). That’s one “rep.”
Coach’s Tip: Try not to let the weight slip above or below the prescribed ranges of motion, aiming to keep your arms as steady as possible.
Sets and Reps: Perform three to four sets of one “rep” (i.e., 21 total reps).
Benefits of the Reverse Curl 21
- This move maximizes your time under tension in a big way.
- You’ll force your muscles to fight gravity and momentum by using a partial range of motion for 14 of your 21 reps.
- Using the 21s method with reverse curls burns out your forearms.
You don’t need all that much technical skill for this one — but it’ll build a lot of physical and mental grit, for sure. To perform a bar hang, you’ll hop up to a pull-up bar, and hang. No, it’s not quite that simple. You’ll want to keep your shoulders back and down and your core engaged to make sure you’re maximizing the full-body benefits and functionality of this move.
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You don’t need to keep a reverse hold on the bar to do this one. A regular grip will do just fine. The idea is that you’re going to stay hanging on the bar as long as you can. Your forearms will be a principal part of helping you stay on because this is all about grip strength.
How to Do the Bar Hang
- Use a step or jump up to grab onto the bar.
- Keep your shoulders back and down and make sure your core is engaged.
- Hold onto the bar for as long as you can.
Coach’s Tip: Don’t hold your breath while you’re engaged in your hold. Try to keep breathing steadily, out to all sides of your core.
Sets and Reps: Perform three to four sets of holds to failure.
Benefits of the Bar Hang
- You’ll build your full-body endurance while holding up your body weight, which can translate into pull-ups and even muscle-ups.
- The bar hang provides tremendous time under (a lot of) tension to your forearms, which will be hugely responsible for holding you up.
- Your grip strength will be seriously challenged, which means great things for your forearm development.
Your forearms aren’t the biggest muscle group out there, but you’ll still want to activate and warm them up before you dive into the intensity of forearm training. Before each set where you’re going to go heavy, perform one or two ramp-up sets with less weight. This will prepare your muscles for the potentially heavier loads you’ll use in your working sets.
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But before you even get to your ramp-up sets, make sure your wrists are ready to go. By preparing your joints for activity, you’ll be setting your forearms up for greater health and success.
Try this quick forearm warm-up:
- Wrist Roll: 1-2 x 20 per side
- Reverse Wrist Roll: 1-2 x 20 per side
- Wrist Wave: 1-2 x 15 per side
- Wrist Prayer: 1-2 x 15-20
- Single Finger Touch: 1-2 x 5 touches per finger
How to Train Your Forearms
Along with the calves, the forearms are a muscle group that tends to give athletes a tremendous amount of grief. They can be stubborn and resistant to growth, which is why a lot of athletes — from powerlifters to physique competitors — often spend so much energy trying to build bigger forearms and a stronger grip.
Whether you’re chasing aesthetics, a more powerful grip, or both, here are some broad guidelines for challenging your forearms.
Forearm Exercise Selection
The good news about forearm workout is that most people are pretty much always doing it. Any exercise where you’re gripping an implement with your hands is going to funnel through your forearms.
Unfortunately, that’s also a huge reason that they’re so resistant to growth. Your muscle fibers are accustomed to heavy workloads because they assist with pretty much everything. So, be extra choosy when it comes to targeting your forearms specifically.
After your main lifts of the day, get in your forearm work by adding any of the exercises above. Depending on your training split, you might want to integrate some of these movements into pull days or days where you’re targeting your biceps.
Select forearm exercises that are going to help you with your other training goals. For example, if you’re trying to get better at pull-ups, opt for bar hangs and chin-ups. When you’re also looking to boost your biceps size, go for hammer curls and reverse curls. All aspects of your training can complement each other: aim to do that here.
Forearm Sets and Reps
The forearms typically respond well to higher training volumes. Generally speaking, you’ll want to take your rep count upwards of 15 reps. If you’re performing exercises that are based on time or carrying objects for distance, approach failure with each set to maximize your time under tension.
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With each rep, also perform slow eccentrics (lowering portions). The more time you take in the eccentric phase of a lift, the more helpful muscle damage you stand to do — and the better your muscles can build back, making your forearms stronger and potentially bigger.
Forearm Training Tips
Forearm training is a territory that many lifters don’t necessarily know how to approach. As with your core and calves, general compound lifts do involve your forearms and make them stronger. This is especially true of moves like deadlifts and bench presses.
That said, targeted forearm training can be a great asset to your program. But how can you most effectively integrate specific training for such a small muscle group? Check out these factors to consider when you want to pay special attention to your forearms.
Emphasize the Eccentric
Using tempo training to increase your time under tension during forearm training is an effective way to stimulate forearm growth. Move especially slowly during the eccentric phase of your forearm exercises — this can help increase muscle growth.
Maximizing time under tension is especially important for stubborn muscles that don’t seem to want to grow, like calves and forearms. Count long and slow during the eccentric (lowering) portion of your lifts, and do your best to pause for at least a second during full contraction. Don’t forget to breathe the entire time.
The more time your forearms are spending under tension — particularly in the eccentric (lowering) portion of your lifts — the better you’re setting yourself up for building forearms that The Rock himself would respect.
High Rep Range
Your forearms benefit from a lot of stimulation. Much like your core, your forearms are casually — but crucially — involved in most lifts in some capacity. To target your forearms specifically for strength and growth, try performing high-rep sets that are designed to take you to fatigue.
That high rep range allows you to rely more on your forearms as your surrounding muscles fatigue and tap out a little.
Forearm Training Frequency
If you’re holding weights in any way, you’re using your forearms in each workout. But your forearm size or strength might not match that. Either way, if forearm training is a high priority of yours, you may want to integrate forearm-specific training into your program.
Consider stringing together a series of forearm exercises into one big grip-fatiguing session per week. Program this session after your big lifts of the day.
Remember that targeting your forearms in a specific session will likely leave you sore and give you a temporary dip in grip strength performance. So, you probably want to avoid a big forearm session before deadlift day. Instead, you may want to slide these exercises in to finish off your deadlift day so that your grip can recover all at once.
Benefits of Training Your Forearms
Even if you do want massive forearms, there are other important benefits of directly training your forearms besides vanity. Because improving forearm strength improves grip strength, and this has significant health and performance benefits.
Improved Quality of Life
Grip strength was not only inversely associated with all-cause mortality—every 5-kilogram decrement in grip strength was associated with a 17 percent risk increase in mortality. (1)
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A reduction in grip strength (if not trained) is associated with an eightfold risk of developing muscular disability among older adults. Poor grip strength has also been associated with adverse weight gain among women and mortality among men. (2)
Increased Functional Fitness
Strong forearms are the key to having a good grip, not only for grip-intensive exercises like the deadlift and row variations but for your daily activities, too. You use your grip strength to open pickle jars and doors, hold drinks, and carry the groceries in from the car. Plus, they’re handy for picking up heavy stuff from the floor.
Grip strength can be a limiting factor with grip-intensive exercises such as rows, chin-ups, and deadlift variations. When you improve grip strength, you can do more reps with the same weight or more weight period. After all, you are only as strong as your weakest link.
Anatomy of the Forearms
The forearms have many small muscles with varying fiber types, but most forearm muscles are slow-twitch dominant, meaning they are difficult to add size and strength. Understanding the forearms’ form and function is important in obtaining strong and muscular forearms. Here’s a breakdown of the major forearm muscles.
Extensor Capri Radialis Brevis
This muscle is on the thumb side on the back of the forearm, which originates on the posterior lateral humerus and inserts on the third finger. It’s a strong wrist extensor and is involved in wrist hyperextension.
Extensor Capri Radialis Longus
This long muscle on the back of the forearm extends and radially flexes the wrist. It originates on the lateral epicondyle of the humerus and inserts on the base of your second finger.
Extensor Carpi Ulnaris
This is a muscle on the ulnar (little pinkie) side on the back of the forearm, which originates on the lateral humerus and inserts on the little pinkie. Its functions are wrist extension and wrist hyperextension.
Flexor Carpi Radialis
Here, you have a superficial muscle on the thumb and the palm side of the wrist. It flexes the wrist and originates on the medial humerus, and inserts on the second and third fingers on the palm side.
Flexor Carpi Ulnaris
This superficial muscle on the ulna (little pinkie) side originates from two places, the medial humerus and the back of the ulna bone. It inserts on the base of the fifth finger and flexes the wrist to the little pinkie side.
Flexor Digitorum Superficialis
This is the largest muscle of the superficial anterior forearm muscles and originates in three places — the medial humerus and the ulnar and radial bone heads. Then, it splits into four tendons, inserting on each of the four fingers. Its functions are finger and wrist flexion.
A long narrow muscle that originates on the lateral humerus on inserts on the radial side of the wrist. This muscle is a strong elbow flexor and forearm supinator.
This muscle crosses the elbow and forearm and originates in two places, the medial humerus, and the ulna bone. It inserts on the middle lateral surface of the radius and is a strong forearm pronator, and is involved in elbow flexion.
More Training Content
Your goal may be to grow big forearms. Or, you might want to make sure they’re not the weakest link in your one-rep max. Either way, if you want bulging forearms, choose your exercises wisely.
Make sure you’re dedicating some training specifically to just your grip. Don’t be afraid to go heavy. Take your time in the eccentric phases to build some eye-popping forearms and crushing grip strength.
- Leong, D.P., et al. Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. The Lancet 386, 266-273 (2015).
- Mark D Peterson. et al Low Normalized Grip Strength is a Biomarker for Cardiometabolic Disease and Physical Disabilities Among U.S. and Chinese Adults. Multicenter Study J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci2017 Oct 12;72(11):1525-1531. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glx031.
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