Your forearms contain a lot of muscles that you use in many workouts and in life in general. An important use of your forearms is for your grip strength. You use your grip every day for many different uses besides at the gym for holding heavy weights. Carrying bags and opening jars are just a few examples; although they don’t seem too important or consequential compared to carrying dumbbells. It’s also important for lifting weights to have strong forearms to help prevent injury. Here are 10 workouts for building bigger forearms and strengthening your grip.
1. Barbell Wrist Curls
A wrist curl is a very common workout to build up your forearms. For this workout, you’ll take a barbell and lay your forearms over a bench while you kneel next to it. You’ll use an underhand grip, palms facing up, and curl the barbell up as far as you can without your forearms leaving the bench. Then, you’ll let the barbell roll back down to the tip of your fingers. This helps activate all the muscles in your forearms and hands to help build up your grip strength and muscles in your forearms. This is not an exercise that requires a lot of weight, and if you’re not doing it correctly because you’re using too heavy a weight then you’ll be wasting your time. Use the correct weight for you and slowly work up to higher weight as you get stronger. Try to do four sets of 30 repetitions for this workout!
2. Barbell Reverse Wrist Curls
This workout for your forearms is similar to the regular wrist curls as before but it’ll be slightly more difficult. You’ll begin the same way, kneeling next to a bench with your forearms lying across it holding the barbell. This setup is just an easy way to sit and keep your forearms down so you don’t use them too much. You can also use a wrist-curl machine if available or just sit on a bench with your forearms lying across your legs if you’d like. This time you’ll grip the barbell with an overhand monkey grip so your thumbs will be over the barbell and your palms facing down. With your thumbs over the barbell you’ll focus more on using your other fingers to curl the bar. Curl up as far as you can go then slowly back to the starting position. This grip helps to target your forearms better but it will be harder so you’ll probably have to use slightly less weight. Try to do three sets with 15 repetitions each.
3. Behind the Back Cable Wrist Curls
This workout is similar to the previous barbell wrist curls but this time you’ll be utilizing a cable machine. Cables can be really helpful in maintaining constant tension on your grip & forearms to give you a great workout. Stand in front of a cable machine, facing away from it, with a small-sized bar attachment and the cable at the ground level. You’ll curl the bar and hold at the top of the movement for a few seconds then go back down slowly. Start out with low weight on this one to get used to the tension, motion, and form. Try starting with three sets for 12 repetitions each and see how it feels. If you need to do fewer repetitions then that’s fine just stay consistent between your sets.
4. Farmer’s Walk
This is a relatively straightforward exercise that’ll be great for strengthening your grip and building bigger forearms! Simply put, you’ll grab a pair of dumbbells and walk around until you can’t hold the weights anymore. Try for a one minute walk as a repetition per set, and go for two sets in your workout. In terms of weight, you’ll need to try the exercise to see what you can carry for the minute-long walk. The goal is to be barely hanging on to the weight by the time the minute is up so that you know you’re working your forearms fully. A variation of this exercise is to pinch two weight plates together and use the strength of your fingers pinching together to keep them from sliding off each other. If you want more difficulty you could also do some lunges while walking with dumbbells/plates to get a good “leg-day” workout in as well.
5. Reverse Grip Barbell Curls
This workout is for your forearms and your biceps as well. You’ll be standing and then grip a barbell similar to the previous exercise in an overhand grip, so your palms will be facing towards you/or downward. Make sure to keep your elbows as close as possible to your sides and curl the barbell up to the top of your chest. The important part is keeping your elbows close to your sides to activate your forearms as much as possible during the curl. Go for slow reps to really control and then squeeze your forearms and biceps near the top of the movement. Try for three sets with 12 repetitions per set and start with a lower weight to get used to the form.
6. Towel Pull-ups
Towel pull-ups make a great workout for your biceps and your forearms. Take note this is a difficult exercise so don’t be embarrassed to start with just a few reps at the beginning. Another pretty straightforward workout, you’ll take two towels and throw them over a pull-up bar. You’ll grip the towels and do your pull-ups making sure to keep your chest up and shoulders down. By using towels you’ll really concentrate and work your forearm muscles for a really strong grip as you crush the towels to pull yourself up. If it’s too difficult you can build up to it by using one towel for one hand and your other hand will be on the pull-up bar then alternate hands.
7. Plate Curls
This is another workout that works both your biceps and your forearms. Doing a bicep curl with a plate as opposed to dumbbells will focus more on your grip strength during the exercise. You’ll be using your strength between pinched fingers more instead of mainly relying on your palms when you curl the weight plate; which will activate the muscles in your forearms much more than when using dumbbells or a barbell. Start with about five to six sets with four to eight repetitions each set, if it’s too easy then use a heavier plate!
8. Fat Grip (Dumbbell Rows)
The important part of this exercise, the “fat grip,” can be applied to many different workouts. A thicker bar, or “fat grip”, is good for building bigger forearms because it forces you to squeeze harder to hold the same amount of weight. You can buy a fat grip accessory to put on dumbells or barbells or if you want to save the money you can wrap a small towel around it as well. The dumbbell row is an example exercise you can use a fat grip for. You hold and pull up a dumbbell to your side while kneeling over a bench. With a bigger grip over the weight, you’ll be utilizing your forearm muscles and strengthening your grip.
9. Plate Tosses
Plate tosses are a great workout for building bigger forearms, however, if not done correctly could be dangerous. You want to use a bumper plate for the inevitable drops that will occur as you begin to try this workout. Hold the bumper plate out in front of you about waist-high, then drop the plate and reach down to catch it by its end. Repeat with the same hand for about 10 repetitions then switch hands. Overall try to do about three sets for a solid forearms workout. This is an exercise probably better left to be done outside so you don’t crush anyone’s feet or your own for that matter. But if done correctly this can be a great way to strengthen your grip and build big forearms!
10. Grip Crushers
This last forearms workout doesn’t need to be done at the gym. Get yourself a grip crusher and you can work your forearms at work, home, or anywhere you want. There are many different kinds out there so find one that’s in your budget and works for you to give you a good workout. They’re simple to use just squeeze the handles until they touch and slowly let it back out. You can warm up with easy resistance and, if adjustable, you can increase the tension to get a real workout for your forearms and grip. Find a resistance level tough enough for you that you can only fully close it between five and 10 times. If you can do more and it’s too easy then try a harder grip!
What are your favorite workouts for your forearms? Share them in the comments below!
Featured Image Source: Photo by Frame Kings on Unsplash
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I have a passion for helping others and see journalism as a great way to reach and impact many people. Born in Texas but raised in the San Francisco Bay Area! Then with a short detour in Boulder, Colorado to get my bachelor's in Journalism with a minor in political science. I'm a determined, motivated individual striving to make a difference in this world. I have hopes to play a role in the continued development of journalism and in maximizing efforts to inform and inspire the public. Check out my articles on Society19!