The Best Forearm Workouts for Strength, Muscle, Endurance, and Bodybuilders

Don’t shortchange your progress in the gym by forgetting all-too important forearm work. 

Forearms exude muscle and strength. A pair of sinewy, muscular forearms lets others know that yes, you do lift bro. And while too many lifters neglect this vital component of their physique, we’re here to ensure you don’t skip this potential weak link and instead unleash a strategic and effective plan to build real muscle.

Either neglected until the end of an arm workout for a few feeble sets or forgotten altogether, forearm training enables you to show off more of your arms in a t-shirt. It also serves a functional purpose by aiding and supporting other lifts, cutting out the weak link, and improving strength gains.

Man performing dumbbell hammer curl

From a firmer grip to more effective pulling movements such as rows, deadlifts, and pull-ups to better support during direct arm training, your forearms serve a vital role in your overall physique.

Below, we take a closer look at how to build better forearms, whether your goal is strength, muscle, endurance, or for rounding out that bodybuilding physique.

Best Forearm Workouts 

Best Forearm Workout for Strength

Possibly the best reason to train forearms is to increase their strength. A robust set of forearms complete with better grip strength can facilitate other lifts. Think of deadlifts, for example. Weak forearms will prevent you from grasping the bar tightly throughout the lift thus ending the set prematurely.

Yes, deadlifts themselves will build forearm strength, but if you’re the type who needs to improve lower arm development, then they become a weak link of the chain. Weak forearms may prevent further strength gains by hindering your ability to pull heavy

The Workout

When it comes to training for strength, the adage of heavy loads and low reps still apply to forearms (though this doesn’t mean you should exclude other set and rep schemes for your forearm training.)

If the goal is to improve your grip strength, you should specifically add some heavy static grip work along with traditional movements. Try the forearm workout below after any upper body workout. Start with two workouts per week and then work your way up to three and possibly four if forearm development is a top priority. Note: Rest one minute between each superset.

  • Behind-the-Back Barbell Forearm Curl: 3 x 6-8
  • Superset with
  • EZ-Bar Reverse Curl: 3 x 6-8 reps
  • Plate Pinch: 3 x 30 seconds

Not sure what a superset is? Check out BarBend’s guide on superset training.

Best Forearm Workout for Muscle

If you’re reading this article, then there’s probably a good chance you’re pining for Popeye-sized forearms. Yes or yes? The desire for stronger forearms is a noble cause, but strength doesn’t always equal muscle, and it’s more muscle mass that can help set your physique apart.

Whether you want more balance in your arm development or to carry around a couple of cannons for onlookers, every lifter craves more muscle. 

The Workout 

If more prominent and muscular forearms are on the docket, volume and isolation are in order. More volume, reps, and shorter rest periods will generate higher muscle fiber recruitment and fatigue your forearms to stimulate more growth.

Note: Rest one minute between each superset.

  • Seated Reverse Forearm Curl: 4 x 10-15
  • Superset with
  • Seated Forearm Curl: 4 x 10-15
  • Behind-the-Back Forearm Curl: 4 x 10-15
  • Reverse EZ-Bar Curl: 4 x 10-15

Best Forearm Workout for Endurance

Concerning forearm training, endurance refers to your ability to sustain a strong grip for an extended period. Competitive strongmen, who perform long-distance, heavy farmer’s walks, and CrossFitters, who grip pull-up bars for minutes at a time, need elite forearm endurance.

Suppose your program calls for more nontraditional and alternate modes of training that require a full spectrum of exercises and techniques. In that case, you’ll benefit from some improved muscular endurance in your forearms. 

The Workout

Isolation work isn’t fancy (and it certainly doesn’t feel great), but if you’re looking to bolster your forearm endurance, then it should have a place in your program. Some lifters complain of their grips just fatiguing too much or simply giving out. 

Note: Rest one minute between each superset.

  • Standing Dumbbell Forearm Curl: 4 x 30 reps
  • Plate Pinch: 4 x 30 seconds
  • Dumbbell Farmer’s Hold: 3 x failure*

*Record your time for reach set and aim to beat those times, at least on one set, each week. 

Best Forearm Workout for Bodybuilders

Bodybuilding is a sport of symmetry, balance, and muscle. The forearms are an integral part of that equation. But what is the difference between building forearms for muscle versus a bodybuilding program?

The workout below isn’t necessarily different in the end goal, but it can be when it comes to structuring and where to place your forearm work. Since bodybuilders are trying to optimize their training time and avoid any detrimental training overlap, placing forearm training is more critical. 

The Workout

Below is a sample plan designed to complement a bodybuilder’s arm training and utilize as much hypertrophic training as possible. Furthermore, it won’t fatigue you so much to hinder any other lifts.

Note: Rest one minute between each superset.

  • Dumbbell Hammer Curl: 3 x 10-12
  • Seated Reverse Curl: 3 x 10-12
  • Standing EZ-Bar Reverse Curl: 3 x 10-12
  • Seated Forearm Curl: 3 x 10-12

Anatomy of the Forearm

The forearm is made of a myriad of muscles that articulate and stabilize the lower arm and hands. These muscles act as shock absorbers for many of the body’s movements by grasping and cushioning loads. Their role is vital to full body tension and performance, so it’s prudent to dissect at least some of the basic anatomy of the forearm.

Muscular forearm gripping a dumbbell
Roman J Royce/Shutterstock

The forearm comprises many muscles that function in several finite and articulate movements. Still, the one primary muscle of interest is the brachioradialis which is responsible for the rotation of the forearm and flexion of the wrist. Focusing on this specific area will elicit more significant gains in muscle and strength and create a synergistic effect for overall forearm development. 

Benefits of Forearm Workouts

The forearms may be one of the most overlooked muscles in one’s training program right after the calves. After all, they’re worked plenty in almost every upper body exercise in existence. Still, directly training your forearms yields worthwhile benefits.

Improved Performance in Other lifts

Your forearm muscles facilitate your ability to grip, and you need to grip — intensely — to pull off reps of the deadlift, rows, curls, and pull-ups. Most exercises challenge your grip to some extent, and if you can’t grip it and rip it, then chances are you’re not allowing yourself to grow to your fullest ability.

You’ll Look More Balanced

Aesthetically speaking, muscular development of the forearms balances out a physique. What’s the use of huge upper arms and a barrel chest with a couple of twigs for forearms? Proper forearm training will round out the entire arm, helping you look more complete. 

Real-World Application

Here’s a benefit of forearm training that isn’t at the forefront of your mind: You use them all the time. You use your forearms to muscle open pickle jars, haul groceries from your driveway to your kitchen (in one trip, of course), and grip a golf club. That’s not to say you need direct forearm training to excel in any of these activities, but know that your forearms are a vital part of your life. 

How to Program Forearm Workouts

Although we’ve listed a few programs above for the respective goals, there are some hard and fast rules to follow when programming your arm workouts. 

For Strength

When training for gains in strength programming, forearm training is more nuanced than other goals. You don’t need to cause a weak link by killing forearms and attempting a big lift the next day. A good rule of thumb is to train forearms after the bigger upper body lifts or the very next day. Give your arms plenty of time for rest and recovery. Over time you’ll have built up a tolerance for more direct work. 

For More Muscle

Although hypertrophy training is more about fatigue, time under tension, and volume with moderate loads, it still behooves you to think at least a little about where to place forearm training.

Since you’ll be doing a good bit of isolation work along with assistance from biceps on some lifts, it’s best to schedule your forearm training at the end of an arm day or back day

For Endurance

Typically, the goal of more endurance for forearms is that of cross-training types. The sequence isn’t that big of a priority when it comes to lifters who are more interested in overall fitness and dabble in most of the other variables of resistance training. Another tactic would be to pepper a set or two of forearm training throughout an established circuit for variety. 

For Bodybuilders

Much like the goal of building muscle, bodybuilders should most likely follow suit by positioning their forearm training at the end of an arm day or after back training. Although fatigue is the name of the game and pure strength gains aren’t the ultimate goal, you’ll still need to possess a pair of fresh forearm strength for other lifts. 

More Training Tips

Forearm training may not be sexy or fun, but consider it necessary — especially if you want a crushing grip or all-around impressive arms. Formulating an effective forearm program takes a little planning and know-how. But most importantly, you need to look at our forearms just like any other body part and give them the attention they deserve.

Here are some more articles from BarBend on training and programming:

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