Forearms are one of the most neglected body parts when it comes to training. Many people focus on their biceps, triceps, chest and back, but forget about their forearms. This is a big mistake, because forearms are not only important for aesthetic reasons, but also for functional and health reasons.
Forearms are involved in almost every upper body movement, from lifting weights to opening jars. They help you grip and hold objects, stabilize your wrists and elbows, and transfer force from your arms to your hands. Having strong forearms can improve your performance in sports and daily activities, as well as prevent injuries and pain in your wrists, elbows and shoulders.
In this article, you will learn about the anatomy of the forearms, what each of the important muscles do, and how to train them effectively with 10 of the best forearm exercises. You will also learn how to incorporate these exercises into your routine, how often to train your forearms, and what equipment you need.
The forearms consist of two long bones: the radius and the ulna. The radius is located on the thumb side of the forearm, while the ulna is on the pinky side. These two bones are connected by an interosseous membrane, which allows them to rotate around each other. This rotation is called pronation (turning the palm down) and supination (turning the palm up).
The forearms also contain many muscles (19 in total) that can be divided into two groups: flexors and extensors. The flexors are located on the anterior (front) side of the forearm, while the extensors are on the posterior (back) side. The flexors are responsible for bending (flexing) the wrist and fingers, while the extensors are responsible for straightening (extending) them.
Here are some of the muscles on the anterior side.
The forearms contain the following muscles:
Each muscle has a very specific and differing job to do. It is a very complicated muscle group and it has to be, when you think about it, your wrist and forearm allows you to twist, and pull things in in multiple directions.
Now that you know the anatomy and function of the forearms, let’s look at some of the best exercises to train them effectively. These exercises will target both the flexors and extensors of the forearms, as well as the pronators and supinators. You can do these exercises with dumbbells, barbells, cables, or your own bodyweight.
This exercise targets the extensors of the forearms. To do it, sit on a bench and hold an EZ-bar with an overhand grip, resting your forearms on your thighs. Curl your wrists up as high as you can, then lower them back down. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
You can adapt this by trying it with a barbell or dumbbells. Here is a video showing good form:
This exercise targets the flexors of the forearms. It is probably the best forearm exercise you can do for strong, functional arms with great grip.
To do it, sit on a bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand with an underhand grip, resting your forearms on your thighs. Curl your wrists up as high as you can, then lower them back down. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
To make them even more effective, start by opening your hands in a controlled, slow manner, rolling the weight down onto your fingertips, before rolling the weight back up into your fist and curling it.
Again you can adapt these and do them with barbells or dumbbells. If you are using enough weight, these will give you a strong burn in your forearm, you will really feel them working.
Here is a video to show you what good form looks like. Keep in mind this video does not include the rolling of the weight down to the fingers that I just described. I would save this for once you have been training forearms for at least a month or so.
This exercise targets the extensors of the forearms. To do it, sit on a bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip, resting your forearms on your thighs. Curl your wrists down as far as you can, then raise them back up as far as you can. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
This exercise is more effective if you hold the dumbbell with the little finger side of your hand as close as possible to the plates, leaving a gap on the thumbside – this pushes more weight onto one side and targets the muscle in a much more effective way.
The video below shows how to do this exercise using a bench instead of your thigh:
This exercise targets both the flexors and extensors of the forearms, as well as the brachioradialis. To do it, stand up and hold a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip (palms facing each other), letting them hang by your sides. Curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders, keeping your palms facing each other. Lower them back down and repeat for the desired number of reps.
Make sure you avoid swinging your whole body to lift the weight as this will not help you at all.
Check out this video explaining good form. (Not as good at spelling though… its a hammer curl not a HUMMER CURL)
This exercise targets both the flexors and extensors of the forearms, as well as the grip strength. To do it, stand up and hold a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand by your sides. Walk for a certain distance or time, keeping your shoulders back and your core tight. Avoid dropping or swinging the weights.
This exercise targets both the flexors and extensors of the forearms, as well as the grip strength and the latissimus dorsi (back muscles). To do it, hang a towel over a pull-up bar and grab one end with each hand. Pull yourself up until your chin is as high as possible, making sure you don’t hit your head on the bar, and then lower yourself back down. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Here is a great video showing good form
This exercise targets both the flexors and pronators of the forearms, as well as the biceps. To do it, stand in front of a low pulley machine and grab the handle with an underhand grip behind your back. Curl your arm up toward your shoulder, keeping your elbow close to your body. Pause for a second, then lower your arm back down. Repeat for the desired number of reps, then switch sides.
Here is a video from D.R Jim Stoppani explaining good form for this exercise:
Plate pinch targets both the flexors and extensors of the forearms, as well as the grip strength and the finger muscles. To do it, grab 2 heavy bumper plates with your thumb and fingers, pinching it between them. Hold it for a set time or until failure, keeping your arm straight and your posture upright. For an additional challenge, walk while pinching the plate.
Aim for as long as possible with this exercise, it is probably best to do this one at the end of your workout as it will fatigue your fingers and grip strength, making it difficult to continue. I personally have a love hate relationship with this exercise. Although it is one of the best forearm exercises, when done for a long time, you really feel the burn.
Take a look at this video to visualise how a plate pinch is done:
Bar hangs target both the flexors and extensors of the forearms, as well as the grip strength and the latissimus dorsi (back muscles). To do it, jump and hang on a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart and your arms fully extended. Hang for as long as you can, or until failure
You can use these exercises to create a forearm workout that suits your goals and preferences. Here are some tips on how to do that:
My name is Gary and I run All About The Gains.
I am a qualified PT and have been training for 17 years. I have been involved in lots of disciplines from bodybuilding to boxing, functional training to kettlebells, running, Jiu Jitsu and H.I.I.T. I am currently a member of GB top team - an M.M.A gym in south London.
I have spent the last 15 years extensively researching topics on diet and supplements, muscle building, exercise and biomechanics and I write these articles so that the normal person can understand the topic, without having to visit 10+ sites. Each article I write is researched with reference to properly conducted studies. I link to all of these studies so that you can look into it yourself if needed.