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How To Get Bigger Forearms

When it comes to arm training, most exercisers focus almost exclusively on their biceps and triceps, all but ignoring their lower arms or forearms. This is a mistake. The reality is that your forearms are probably on show more than your upper arms, so it makes sense to put plenty of time and effort into training them.

In addition, big, strong forearms are essential for a firmer grip. If you want to deadlift, row, curl, or even press heavy weights, well-developed forearms will help. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and if your grip fails before the muscles you are trying to train, your results will suffer.

So, while the forearms are important and deserve your attention, a lot of lifters not only ignore this crucial muscle group, they actually do something that will make their forearms smaller and weaker; they use lifting straps.

Lifting straps create more friction between your hands and the bar or handle you are using, reinforcing your grip. Your forearms are like any other muscle – the less you use them, the weaker they’ll become. Some people go one step further and use wrist hooks, which negate the need to grip the bar at all.

In this article, we reveal how to get bigger forearms and increase your grip strength.

12 Exercises to Build Bigger Forearms

Use these tried and tested exercises to build bigger forearms and an unbreakable grip like a bodybuilder. Train your forearms at the end of your workout. Exhausting them before you hit your back or biceps will undermine your training performance.

1. Wrist Curls

Wrist curls are a classic forearm exercise that targets the underside of your forearms – the forearm flexors.

Wrist curls exerciseYou can do this move with a barbell or dumbbells.

How to do it:

  1. Sit astride a flat exercise bench. Lean forward and place your forearms on the bench, so your palms face upward. Hold a barbell or dumbbells.
  2. Extend your wrists and lower the weights down toward the floor. Unroll your fingers and lower the bar a little further.
  3. Close your hands and then curl them upward, keeping your lower arms on the bench the entire time.

2. Reverse Wrist Curls

As their name suggests, this is the opposite of exercise #1. In this move, you work the muscles on the tops of your forearms – the forearm extenders. These muscles are not as strong as the forearm flexors, so use a little less weight. Do this exercise with a barbell or dumbbells as preferred.

How to do it:

  1. Sit astride a flat exercise bench. Lean forward and place your forearms on the bench, so your palms face downward. Hold a barbell or dumbbells.
  2. Flex your wrists and lower the weights down toward the floor.
  3. Extend your wrists and lift the weight back up. Make sure you keep your forearms on the bench throughout.

3. Reverse Barbell Curls

This exercise looks like a biceps exercise, but it’s also a very effective forearm builder. It’s useful for those times when you want to work your upper and lower arms simultaneously.

Reverse barbell curlsHow to do it:

  1. Hold a barbell with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart for balance. Brace your abs and tuck your upper arms into your ribs.
  2. Bend your elbows and lift the bar up toward your shoulders.
  3. Lower the bar back down to arms’ length and repeat.
  4. You can also do this exercise using dumbbells or on a preacher curl bench.

4. Hammer Curls

Like exercise #3, this exercise works your biceps and your forearms at the same time. It’s so-called because it looks like you are hammering in a nail when you do this exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Brace your core. Turn your wrists, so your hands are facing your legs.
  2. Without turning your wrists, bend your arms and curl the weights up to your shoulders.
  3. Lower the weights to arms’ length and repeat.
  4. You can do this exercise with both arms simultaneously or using an alternating arm action.

5. Plate Pinch

This is an old-school forearm and grip exercise.

Plate pinchAll you need to do it is a couple of equally sized weight plates, so it’s ideal for home workouts.

How to do it:

  1. Place two weight plates back to back, e.g., two 10-pounders. Grip the plates so your fingers are on one side of the plates and your thumb is on the other. Squeeze the plates together as hard as you can.
  2. Lift the plates and then hold them until you feel that your grip is starting to fail.
  3. Put the plates down, swap hands, and repeat.

6. Farmer’s Walk

The farmer’s walk is a traditional test of grip and forearm strength that often features in strongman competitions. The good news is that you don’t need a pair of anvils to do this exercise and can use a heavy dumbbell or two instead.

How to do it:

  1. Lift and hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing your legs. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back.
  2. Go for a walk around your training area, continuing until you feel your grip starting to fail.
  3. Set the weights down, rest a moment, and then repeat.
  4. You can do this exercise with two dumbbells or just one. The one dumbbell farmer’s walk is also a great core exercise.

7. Dead Hang

This exercise is a popular grip and forearm exercise with climbers.

Dead hangIt’s also an excellent way to decompress your spine, especially after exercises like squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses, that put a lot of compressive force through your vertebral column.

How to do it:

  1. Hold and hang from a pull-up bar using an overhand, shoulder-width grip.
  2. Keep your arms straight and try to maintain your grip for as long as you can.

8. Deadlift Hold

If your grip lets you down during deadlifts, this is the exercise for you. Not only will it make your forearms bigger, but it will also increase your functional grip strength. Do a deadlift hold at the end of your last few sets of regular deadlifts.

How to do it:

  1. Place your barbell on the floor and stand with your toes beneath it, feet hip-width apart. Squat down and hold the bar using an overhand grip. Drop your hips, lift your chest, brace your abs, and pull your shoulders down and back.
  2. Without rounding your lower back or bending your elbows, drive your feet into the floor and stand up straight.
  3. Once upright, hold the bar for as long as possible, only putting it down when you feel your grip is starting to fail.

9. Tennis Ball Squeeze

You don’t need to go to the gym to work on your forearm size and strength – you can do it at home too.

All you need is a tennis ball or something similar. Do this exercise during ad breaks while you watch TV.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a tennis ball in the palm of your hand and close your fingers around it.
  2. Squeeze the ball as hard as you can for a few seconds and then release.
  3. Continue gripping and relaxing until you feel your hands starting to tire.
  4. Try to do the same number of reps on each hand.

10. Hand Gripper

There are lots of different types of hand grippers, but most as made from a V-shaped spring. This is another forearm builder you can do anywhere.

Hand gripperWhen buying a hand gripper, remember that your forearms and grip are only going to get stronger, so choose one you find hard to close.

How to do it:

  1. Hold the gripper, so the open part of the spring is facing down toward your little finger.
  2. Squeeze the gripper closed, hold for a few seconds, and then release.
  3. Continue squeezing and relaxing until you feel your hands starting to tire.
  4. Try to do the same number of reps on each hand.

11. Hex Dumbbell Hold

If you have access to hex-shaped dumbbells, you can use them to build bigger forearms and an unbreakable grip.

This exercise does not work with round dumbbells.

How to do it:

  1. Stand your hex dumbbell upright. Spread your fingers and grip the top of the hexagonal weight plate.
  2. Squeezing as hard as you can, lift the weight up and hold it for as long as you can.
  3. Set the weight down as you feel your grip starting to fail.
  4. Switch hands and repeat.

12. Finger Extensions

Most forearm and grip exercises focus on closing your fingers and hands. However, there are muscles that open your hands too, and they also contribute to forearm size and strength.

Finger extensionsThis exercise targets your finger and forearm extensors.

How to do it:

  1. With your fingers straight, bring your fingers and thumbs together. Wrap a small rubber band around your fingertips.
  2. Open your fingers against the resistance offered by the band.
  3. Close your fingers and repeat.

FAQ

Got a question about forearm training? We’ve got the answers!

Q: Are Forearms Hard To Build?

A: While some people find it hard to build bigger forearms, it comes very easy to others. The answer depends on your genetics and your body type. Ultimately, you’ll need to discover this for yourself by training your forearms and monitoring your progress.

Q: How Often Should I Train My Forearms?

A: Your forearms are just another muscle group, so there is no need to train them too frequently. After all, muscles only grow between workouts while you rest. As such, you should train your forearms 2-3 times a week on non-consecutive days, e.g., Monday and Thursday, or Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Q: Can I Use Chalk For Forearm Training?

A: Chalk can be very useful for forearm training because it helps dry up excess sweat so your hands won’t be slippery. With drier hands, you should be able to pump out more reps or use more weight, resulting in a better workout. So, yes – using chalk for forearm training is a VERY good idea!

Q: My Forearms Feel Tight; How Can I Stretch Them?

A: Tight forearms can affect your elbows and your wrists, so it’s important to stretch them from time to time. One of the easiest forearm stretches is the prayer stretch.

Place your palms together in front of your chest, so your fingers are pointing upward. Make sure your thumbs are touching your chest. Pressing your palms inward, push your hands down toward your abdomen, feeling the stretch in your forearms as you do so.

Hold this position for 30-60 seconds, and then relax.

 Bottom Line

The biceps are probably the most famous muscle in the human body. In fact, ask almost anyone to name a muscle, and they’ll probably show you their biceps. And yet, the forearm muscles are every bit as important and deserve your time and attention.

Well-developed forearms can be very eye-catching, especially when you’re wearing a shirt that covers your upper arms. They also give off an aura of strength and power. Big forearms are impressive!

However, training your forearms isn’t just about aesthetics; it will also improve your grip strength. Your grip plays a vital part in almost every exercise you perform, and stronger hands mean you’ll be able to train hard and heavier, getting even better results from your workouts.

Like any muscle, your forearms will only get bigger and stronger if you train them. Choose 2-3 exercises from the list above and work them hard a couple of times a week. Remember to hit your forearms AFTER you’ve completed the rest of your workout. Training your lower arms before back or biceps exercises could impede your performance.

While we can’t say how big your forearms will get, if you train them hard, heavy, and often, there is every chance that you’ll soon make Popeye green with envy!

Patrick

Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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