Articles

The Six Best Exercises To Build Bigger Forearms

Written by Gustavo Ramos

June 1, 2019

Final edit forearm overlay

A quick guide to the major forearm muscles using my arm

These six exercises are the missing pieces in your arm routine.

The forearms are often a secondary thought when striving for bigger arms or training for strength, leaving them lagging behind.

Training your forearms right can push your arm growth to new heights and you’ll be struggling to roll up your sleeves past your wrists.

With strong forearms, you’ll never have to worry about your grip limiting you on your lifts. You’ll also have greater wrist stability.

With forearms strong enough to keep your wrist neutral during an exercise like the bench press you’ll lift more weight and keep your wrists pain free.

The Forearm, It’s all in the wrist

To understand forearm training we need to understand all the ways the wrist moves in space and which major muscles are used to create these movements.

To visualize the movements, stand up and bring your forearm up until it’s parallel to the ground with your hand open and your palm facing the ground.

This will be the starting position.

Hold your arm in this position, and only move your wrist or hand as explained below.

Move your hand so that your palm now faces forward, like signaling someone to “stop”. This is wrist extension.

Now, move your hand in the opposite direction so the back of your hand faces forward and you can see your palm. This is wrist flexion.

Now, return to the starting position.

Move your hand inwards so that the thumb scrunches towards the forearm. This is radial flexion. 

Move your hand outwards so that the pinky scrunches towards the forearm. This is ulnar flexion.

Rotate your palm so it’s now facing up. This motion is supination.

Rotate your palm from facing up to facing back down to our start position. This motion is pronation.

To train the forearms effectively we have to challenge all these movements in some way.

Challenge All Muscle Groups

Additionally, the main forearm muscle groups I’ll refer to in this article are your wrist flexors, wrist extensors, and brachioradialis.

The wrist flexors (on the bottom of your forearm) mainly perform wrist flexion, and also aid in gripping your fingers closed.

The wrist extensors (on top of your forearm) mainly perform wrist extension, and also aid in opening your fingers.

The brachioradialis helps bend the elbow towards you, much like your biceps. It also extends the wrist like the wrist extensors.

Your main focus is to challenge these three muscle groups every forearm workout to maximize your forearm growth and strength.

Below are the 6 best exercises to target all of these muscle groups. Perform all 6 to maximize your forearm growth.

1. Zottman Curls

These curls were first popularized by an old-time strongman who had the forearms to back it up.

This curl variation is excellent for challenging the forearms and teaching them to work hard in conjunction with the biceps.

Start with dumbbells tight in your hands and by your side with your palms facing forward. Curl up until you reach the top of the lift.

Pause at the top—this is where the forearms come in.

While at the top rotate your wrists (pronate) until your palms are facing down. Keep strong wrists and a tight grip on the dumbbells. If your wrists have gone limp, you’ve lost the forearm engagement.

Lower the dumbbells back down, slowly, while keeping the palms facing down.

Finish the rep, rotate your wrists back to palms forward, and repeat.

You will be using your biceps during this curl but don’t think for a second that your forearms will catch a break.

When done properly these curls will leave your forearm extensors and brachioradialis quivering.

Good luck twisting door handles tomorrow.

 

 

2. EZ bar Reverse curls

This curl is a staple in all of my arm routines.

The EZ bar allows the wrists to be pronated enough to hit the forearms hard, but not strain the wrist joint.

This curl variation allows for constant tension on the brachioradialis.

Start by gripping the outer bend of the bar with your palms down. This grip should place your palms at an angle with your thumbs higher than your pinkies.

Keep your elbows locked into your sides and your shoulders down & back. Curl upwards with a tight grip on the bar. Pause for a second at the top.

Check your wrists. Again, if your wrists are limp, your forearms aren’t growing.

Lower the bar slowly focusing on squeezing the bar hard the whole way down.

If you’re not gripping the bar until your knuckles turn white, you’re leaving forearm gains on the table.

This exercise can be loaded the most out of the 6 exercises.

Load it up, but do it properly. Your forearms will thank you.

 

 

3. EZ bar forearm extension

This exercise takes some concepts from the reverse curl but allocates the tension to the forearm extensors.

To hit the forearm extensors hard and obtain a glorious pump we have to move at the wrist.

The extensors have to go from a stretched position to a flexed position to create as much muscle damage and subsequent growth as possible.

Grab the EZ curl bar the same way as the reverse curl–palms down, with your thumbs a little higher than your pinkies. Bring the bar up until your elbow is bent at 90 degrees and your forearm is parallel to the ground.

Now it gets hard.

Lower your palms until you’ve achieved full limp-wrists. Your knuckles should be pointing mostly towards the ground. Your forearm extensors are relaxed here.

Now raise your palms up until your knuckles are pointing at the ceiling. With a tight grip contract your extensors as hard as possible while keeping the forearm locked in place.

Lower your wrists back to the starting position. This is one rep.

Go for higher reps (15-20 reps) on this exercise and enjoy the pump.

 

 

 

4. Kettlebell Hammer Curls

This exercise will give your standard hammer curl a run for its money.

Grab a light kettlebell, lighter than your usual hammer curl weight.

Begin with the kettlebells by your side, palms facing your hips (neutral position), and grip the handles tight.

Start the curl and perform slowly throughout. You should notice the difference immediately.

The offset weight of the kettlebell is going to load the forearms to a greater degree than a dumbbell. Your wrists have to work overtime to keep alignment and not allow the end of the kettlebell to pull your hands down.

 

 

 

5. Wrist Curls

This one is simple but necessary. You want your wrist flexors strong to keep your wrists from bending back in anything you do.

Start seated with your forearm over your thigh and your palm facing up. Lower your palm until your wrist is fully limp. Your knuckle should be pointing mostly towards the ground. Your forearm flexors are relaxed here.

Now raise your palms up until your knuckles are pointing forward. With a tight grip contract your flexors as hard as possible while keeping the forearm locked in place.

Lower your palm slowly back to the start position.

Keep the weight light with this one and perform them slowly.

 

 

6. Hand Gripper

You can’t have big forearms without a strong grip to back them up. That’s where the gripper comes in.

If you don’t already have a gripper I recommend investing in a captains of crush gripper. Start with either the "sport" or "trainer" gripper.

Once you have a gripper that you can perform 10-15 reps with, grab some chalk and get to work.

First you need to "set" the gripper. Place the gripper in your hand so your fingertips are pressing into one end and use your opposite hand to push the other end into the center of your palm.

Once your gripper is “set” in place squeeze your fingers and close the gripper until the two ends click together.

Be sure to watch the video below for this one.

If your gripper doesn’t click on every rep, it’s not fully closed. Re-watch the video below and reset the gripper.

 

 

Bonus: Use a thicker grip

If you want to maximally torch your forearms I recommend using thicker grips during regular curl exercises.

The fat gripz are an excellent training tool if you want to continue to challenge your forearms during arm work.

The thicker grip doesn’t allow your thumb to overlap your fingers creating greater stress on the forearms to keep the weight from slipping out of your hand.

What you’ll notice most with the thicker grip is the use of your outer fingers and especially your pinky in gripping the bar hard.

Soreness will move to the pinky-side of your forearm flexors when using thicker grips.

Train your forearms, hard.

Your guns will thank you.

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