12 Forearm Exercises To Build Strength

You probably don’t spend as much time training muscles in your forearms as often as muscle groups like your triceps, biceps, and chest muscles, but your forearms are your gateway to functional strength. A significant amount of the carrying strength you have comes from your forearms. 

Your forearms link your hands with your upper arm, and your body is only as strong as your weakest link. Muscular forearms increase your resistance control and your ability to lift heavy objects. Strong forearms improve your ability to perform many everyday tasks like carrying a heavy bag of groceries or performing exercises like deadlifts

Well-defined forearms are a clear sign of functional men that separates strong people from gym junkies. It’s also one of the first things people notice about your appearance next to your head. Most of your muscles are covered with clothes as you go about your daily activities, but your forearms are typically on display for the world to see. 


Twelve Best Exercises To Build Strength And Definition In Your Forearms

Your forearm is the region of your arm between your wrists and elbow. It’s made up of two long bones: the ulna and the radius. These two bones connect to form the radioulnar joint. Both bones are covered with the interosseous membrane.

Several small groups of muscles make up the muscles in the forearms, like the pronators, supinators, and brachioradialis. The posterior of the forearm houses the hand extensors, fed by the radial nerve, while the anterior of the forearm contains finger and wrist flexors fed by the median nerve. 

The key to building big, muscular forearms is performing various exercises so you hit each of the small muscle groups in it. Here are 12 forearm exercises that will give you forearms that are almost as impressive as Popeye’s. We’ll add some bodyweight exercises so you can give your forearms a thorough workout even if you don’t have access to any equipment. 


1) Reverse Curl

You’re probably already familiar with the barbell curl that mainly targets your bicep. The standard curl also engages your forearms, but to a lesser extent than the reverse curl. The reverse curl is one of the most effective exercises you can perform to build strength in your forearms and increase blood flow. It also gives your biceps a good workout. Don’t let your ego get the best of you if you’re new to reverse curls. Start with light weights until you’ve mastered the proper form for the exercise. 

Here’s what it looks like:

  • Grab a barbell with an overhand grip, with your palms facing downward. Keep your hands about shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your elbows close to your torso as you slowly curl the bar toward you, just like you would when performing conventional curls.
  • Squeeze when the bar reaches your shoulders before lowering it back down. Aim for 10 to 12 reps and about three sets.


2) Farmer’s Walk

The farmer’s walk is one of the most basic forearm exercises, and it also targets most of the muscles in your body. It’s an excellent exercise for building functional strength all over your body, including your forearms. It’s an exercise most of us have performed unintentionally, for example, when carrying grocery bags in both hands. 

Here’s how to perform a farmer’s walk:

  • Get into the starting position, standing upright with your feet about shoulder-width apart. You should have a heavy dumbbell on both sides of your body. Don’t worry if you don’t have two dumbbells of the same weight. Lifting unequal weights during the exercise forces your obliques and other stabilizer muscles to work harder. Just make sure both sides of your body spend the same amount of time carrying each weight.
  • Bend at the knees to grab both weights as if you were performing a deadlift and stand up straight.
  • Tighten your glutes and core, roll your shoulders back, and walk in a straight line while holding on to the weights. About 10 to 15 steps are fine if you’re new to the exercise.
  • Drop the weights when you’ve covered the selected distance and turn around. This puts the weights on the opposite side of your body (vital if you’re using uneven weights).
  • Pick up the weights and walk back to the starting position. Aim for about ten sets when performing farmer’s walks.


3) Dumbbell Wrist Flexion

This is one of the more straightforward exercises on our list, and it isolates muscles in your forearm. This is one of the exercises that should be part of your forearm routine. It targets the wrist flexors and strengthens them, leading to a firmer grip. 

Here’s how to perform the exercise:

  • Get into the starting position, sitting on the edge of an exercise bench or chair while holding a dumbbell in one hand.
  • Place the forearm of the hand holding the weight on the thigh of the same side. The back of your wrist should be resting on your kneecap.
  • Slowly lower the weight as much as possible while maintaining a tight grip. While keeping your arm on your thigh, curl the weight towards your bicep.
  • Slowly lower the weight to complete a rep. Perform as many reps as you can, then switch sides. Make sure you complete the same number of reps on your other side.


4) EZ-Bar Preacher Curl

You’ve probably already done bicep curls using the EZ-bar, but preacher curls make the exercise engage more of your forearm muscles. The exercise forces you to contract your elbow, which engages the primary muscles in the forearms, building muscle mass in the areas. 

Here’s how to perform the exercise:

  • Get into position sitting on a preacher bench and grab an EZ-curl bar.
  • Keep your hands shoulder-width apart and keep your arms extended.
  • Contract your biceps to bring the bar towards your shoulders. Pause at the top before lowering the bar back to the starting position to complete a rep. Aim for eight to ten reps.


5) Dumbbell Wrist Extension

This exercise is the reverse of the dumbbell wrist flexion. It engages your wrist extensor muscles, building muscle mass and strength in your forearms. However, it should be noted that this exercise only targets and works one muscle group, so it should be one of a handful of wrist exercises you perform to ensure the different small muscles in your wrists are all getting a good workout. 

Here’s how to perform the exercise:

  • Get into the starting position seated on the edge of a bench with a dumbbell in your right arm.
  • Keep the forearm of the arm holding the weight on your right thigh, with your palm facing down and your wrist on your kneecap.
  • While focusing on isolating the arm, curl the dumbbell towards your upper arm as far as you can go. Slowly return the dumbbell to the starting position to complete a rep.
  • Perform as many reps as you can on one side, then switch over to your other side and perform the same number of reps.


6) Hammer Curl

The hammer curl is primarily a bicep exercise but also engages muscles in your forearms as you contract your biceps. It’s actually one of the most effective exercises you can perform for your forearms, and it should be part of your forearm routine. 

Here’s what the exercise looks like:

  • Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each of your arms while your arms are extended straight down the side of your body. Your palms should be facing your torso.
  • Raise one of the arms until your forearm is vertical and your thumb is facing your shoulder. Slowly lower the arm to the starting position and perform the same movement with your other arm to complete a rep.
  • Aim for about three sets of ten to twelve reps.


7) Zottman Curl

The Zottman curl is a compound exercise that targets multiple muscles in your forearm. Here’s what the exercise looks like:

  • Get into the starting position with a dumbbell in each hand and your palms facing your sides.
  • Curl the dumbbells towards your shoulders while keeping your upper arms next to your torso.
  • Rotate your wrists at the top of the movement, so your palms are now facing your biceps.
  • Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position to complete a rep. Aim for about ten to twelve reps.


8) Chin-Ups

Chin-ups primarily target your back muscles and biceps, but they also give your forearms a thorough workout. The exercise mainly targets the flexor muscles in your forearm, helping to build mass and strength.

Here’s what the exercise looks like:

  • Grab a pull-up bar with an underhand grip, meaning your palms are facing you. Keep your arms a little more than shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be off the ground when you grab the bar.
  • Tighten your abs and pull yourself towards the bar by bringing your shoulder muscles together and contracting your biceps.
  • Keep pulling until your chin is over the bar, and pause for a second. Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position to complete a rep. Perform three sets of four to eight reps.

Use a resistance band or pull-up machine to make the exercise more manageable if you find it too challenging to perform four chin-ups. 


9) Behind-The-Back Cable Curl

The behind-the-back cable curl promotes blood flow by contracting the brachioradialis muscles. The mechanics of the exercise shares some similarities with conventional curls, but the exercise prioritizes elbow contraction, which leads to greater involvement of muscles in the forearm. 

Here’s what the exercise looks like:

  • Grab a D-handle and attach it to a cable machine’s bottom pulley.
  • Grab the handle with your left hand and take a giant step forward. There shouldn’t be any tension on the cable, and your arms should be slightly drawn behind your body.
  • Curl the handle without letting your elbow point forward. Return to the starting position to complete a rep and aim for eight to ten reps before switching hands.


10) Pull-Up Bar Hang

Here’s a simple exercise that engages muscles in your forearms and core. It helps to build strong finger and wrist flexors, and the only equipment you need to perform it is a pull-up bar. 

Here’s what the exercise looks like:

  • Stand underneath a pull-up bar and grab it with an overhand grip. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart with your palms facing away from you.
  • Raise your legs off the ground and hang on the bar with your arms straight for about 30 seconds. Keep your ankles crossed behind you to balance your weight evenly on both arms.
  • Aim for five sets of 30 or more seconds handing on the bar.


11) Towel Pull-Up Bar Hang

This exercise is almost identical to the pull-up bar hang, but this variation of the exercise allows you to target your wrist adductors as well. To perform the exercise:

  • Drape two towels of appropriate size on a pull-up bar. Keep the towels shoulder-width apart.
  • Reach up and grab each towel with a tight grip using the hand closest to it.
  • Tighten your core and lift your feet off the floor, so your hands are now holding most of your weight. Cross your feet behind you to keep your weight balanced on both sides.
  • Hang on to the bar for 30 seconds or as long as possible. Aim for five sets.


12) Crab Walk

While crab walks might feel awkward at first if you’re new to the exercise, it is excellent for building mass in your forearms since it targets multiple muscles. 

Here’s how to perform the exercise:

  • Sit on the ground, with both palms on the ground. Your elbows should be close to your body, and your feet should be flat on the floor. Your fingers should be pointing perpendicular to your body.
  • Bridge your hips off the ground, so your hands and feet are supporting your entire body weight.
  • Take ten steps forward, walking on your hands and feet, then take ten steps backward. Try to move as fast as you can, and aim for three sets.


You may also like:

Strengthen Your Hamstrings With These 7 Exercises

More in Exercises & Workouts

Also On Evolve