ForearmsFrequently Asked Questions
What's the anatomy of forearms?
Before we jump into the details of how you can strengthen your forearm, let’s talk about its anatomy for a second. Learning biological facts about the forearm isn’t exactly thrilling, but it will help you to understand why you need to do what you need to do later on.
The antebrachium or forearm is the “lower” part of our entire arm, covering the area from our wrist to our elbow. It has a total of 20 muscles, which are divided into the anterior and posterior compartments.
The muscles in the anterior group—three deep muscles, one intermediate, and four superficial muscles—are made up of flexors (Flexor carpi radialis and Flexor carpi ulnaris) and Pronator teres, as well as the Palmaris longus.
On the other hand, the muscles in the posterior group—seven superficial and five deep muscles—are composed mostly of extensors and supinators. The brachioradialis is the muscle that travels from the arm to the wrist, crossing your elbows, and helps in elbow flexion.
Our forearm muscles work together so we can rotate our wrists, type with our fingers, pull and push door handles, lift kids and heavy furniture, carry grocery bags, and hold barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells. That’s a lot of essential activities that can suffer if your forearms aren’t strong enough, if you ask me. That’s why I said I find it silly that so many gym junkies don’t train their forearms!
Here’s the main takeaway for this section: the strength of your forearm muscles will dictate the strength of your grip. The stronger your grip, the more powerful lifts you can do at the gym, and the more functional you will be everywhere else.
What are the best forearm exercises?
Now that we have gone over the muscles of the forearm, let’s dive into the exercises that will develop and make them stronger.
1. Forearm squeeze
It’s best to use a hand gripper tool for this exercise, but if you can’t get your hands on one, you may use any other object that you can squeeze like a thick towel, sock or stress ball. The movement may look simple, but don’t underestimate its effects. This is one of the best forearm exercises there is!
To do the forearm squeeze, hold the item securely in your hands then flex your fingers to squeeze it tight. Hold that squeezing position for five seconds then loosen your fingers and grip for five seconds. Repeat the squeezing and resting movement for 15 minutes. For best results, do this exercise for a maximum of three times per day.
2. Farmer’s walks
Whether you do this exercise with weight plates, dumbbells or kettlebells, you can expect it to strengthen your wrist and finger flexors over time. This compound exercise will also train you for your next retail therapy and prepare your hands and arms for carrying heaps of grocery and shopping bags.
Just grab a pair of hand-held weights (weight plates, dumbbells, or kettlebells) and hold one on each hand. Your palms must be facing towards your body.
Stand with your feet placed hip-width apart and keep your spine in a neutral position. Brace your core and walk in a straight line towards the opposite end of the gym. When you get to the end, rest for a few seconds, then repeat.
3. Dumbbell wrist extension
Do this exercise if you want to increase the strength and size of the extensor muscles in your wrist.
Here’s how to do it: sit on the end of a flat bench or chair. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and rest your right forearm on your right thigh. Keep your palm facing down. Your right wrist should be on top of your right kneecap. This is your starting position.
Curl the dumbbell up towards your bicep without removing your forearm from your thigh. Keep a tight grip on the dumbbell at all times. Hold this curled up position for five seconds, then slowly lower it back to the starting position. Do the same for your left hand. Repeat and make sure you do the same number of reps for both wrists!
4. Dumbbell wrist flexion
This exercise is the opposite of the dumbbell wrist extension but the benefits are the same: stronger wrist flexors and grip.
The steps are the same as with the dumbbell wrist extension. They only differ in the direction of the movement. Once you are seated on the end of a bench or chair, hold a dumbbell in your right hand but keep your palm facing up. Rest your forearm on your right thigh. The back of your right hand must be resting on top of your right kneecap.
Keep a tight grip on the dumbbell while you lower it as far as you can. Then, curl it up towards your bicep, hold for five seconds, then lower it back to the starting position. Execute these movements without lifting your forearm from your thigh. Do the same for your left hand.
5. Plate Pulls
If the shoulder shrug was designed for the shoulders, then the plate pull is its counterpart for the forearms. The most important thing to remember when you’re doing this exercise is to not let your shoulders do the work!
To do plate pulls, put yourself in a standing position and keep your spine neutral. Hold a weight plate with both hands and bend your elbows as you pull the weight plate upwards following an imaginary straight line. Stop when the edge of the plate is almost touching your chin, then slowly straighten your arms as you lower the plate back to its original position.
What equipment should I use for training my forearms?
The right forearm exercise equipment makes strengthening those 20 muscles in your forearms so much easier. If you’re not sure what to buy, don’t worry. I’ll take you through what’s out there and what you can’t do without.
1. Handgrip strengthener
This small and handy tool is essential for any serious trainer or weightlifter. It is affordable, portable, beginner-friendly, and very effective in building up the size of your forearms and the strength of your grip.
Whether you choose the traditional fixed weight or adjustable kind, dumbbells will help you get the most out of your forearm training with their full range of motion and compact size. They’re a must for exercises such as the dumbbell wrist extension and flexion I shared with you earlier and can also be used for farmer’s walks.
3. Weight plates
A must for farmer’s walks and plate pulls. Get a high-quality set, preferably those with easy grips, to help you hold the plates more comfortably and aid you in completing your set.
4. Pull-up bar
Pull-ups are another compound exercise that targets your forearms and increases your grip strength. You can hold the bar itself or use a towel for an extra-challenging pull-ups.. Either way, investing in a pull-up bar is a good idea if you’re really serious about strengthening your grip.
5. Cable machine
All hail the cable machine! This one is really going to improve the size and strength of your forearms. You will use this machine for doing the forearm pull and behind-the-back cable curl exercises, which are both great at targeting your forearm muscles. It comes with different weight stacks, attachments and adjustable cables.
What should I not do when I'm training my forearms?
If you know what not to do when you’re working out your forearms, you’re one step closer to avoiding injury and actually getting the results you want!
1. Don’t prioritise one forearm over another.
If you’re training one forearm more than the other (i.e., doing more reps for your right forearm than the left), you’ll get muscle imbalance and disproportionate forearms. Not a pretty sight. The most effective way to prevent these from happening is to make sure you do the equal number of reps for both forearms for all your forearm exercises.
2. Don’t push yourself to injury.
There is a limit to how hard you can push your body before you get injured. You might not want to admit this, but it’s true. So don’t be like those blokes whose egos are far bigger than their biceps. Don’t train your forearms so hard that you will end up with sore forearms for the next days or weeks. Get a feel for that all-important line between hard work and real pain (the real pain tends to indicate that injury is already here or near) and listen to your body.
3. Don’t forget to adjust the resistance to your training level.
Another ego check. Don’t grab the heaviest weight plate for your plate pulls or farmer’s walk if you’re just a beginner-level trainer. Instead of impressing the ladies, you’ll just be spending more bucks for your rehab and treatment. It’s better to start with a light weight or a weight you’re comfortable with and progress to heavier weights once your forearms are stronger. The same principle applies if you’re using a cable machine. Don’t stack all the weight plates and proceed to doing forearm pulls or behind-the-back cable curls. Nothing’s more funny (and pathetic) than the sight of someone struggling to lift a weight everybody else in the gym knows he just can’t yet. If you don’t know how to adjust the resistance of the cable machine to your strength level, ask the help of another trainer or any gym staff.
4. Don’t stick to the same forearm routine.
Don’t do the same forearm exercises for months on end. That’s just not going to get you very far. Yes, you’ll see some gains, but eventually, your body will get used to it and you’ll probably just start getting really bored. Do your research and add some variety to your forearm workout by incorporating new exercises every month.
5. Don’t forget your wrist wraps.
Since many forearm exercises are meant to strengthen your grip, you’ll want to make sure that your grip won’t give out early on during your workout. That’s where wrist wraps come in. These handy accessories will support your grip and help you complete your last set, especially when your grip is about to fail you.
6. Don’t do your forearm exercises before working on your other major muscle groups.
Reserve your forearm exercises for the last part of your workout. On arm day, train your biceps and triceps first, then work on your forearms last. On back day, do your traps and lats exercises first, then train your forearms after. Why? Most of the exercises for these major muscle groups require a strong grip. You need to make sure your forearms still have the energy to do them. If you start your workout with forearms, you’ll find it more difficult to do your bicep curls, overhead triceps extensions, dumbbell shrugs and lat pulldowns because your forearm muscles have already been fatigued early on.
How to Grow Forearms with Dumbbells?
Growing forearms with dumbbells are super simple: Reverse Dumbbell Curls and Hammer Curls. Google these two movements – there’s plenty of tutorials to teach you how to perform these correct. We even have some demos on our YouTube Page!
In terms of sets and reps, follow the standard hypertrophy recommendation of 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps during your workout. Whether you do this exercise at the beginning, middle or end of your workout depends on your current training split and goals. You would do these end the end of a Pull Day, or at the beginning of an Arm Day if Biceps are your weak point.
Do Strong Forearms help Bench Press?
Strong forearms muscles can help on the Bench Press. While the forearm muscles won’t be used through a full range of motion (such as during a Reverse Curl), they will help to stabilise the wrist when holding the loaded barbell. A strong and stable wrist helps generate strong and stable elbows and shoulder. All of which can help you push the most weight possible in your next Bench session.
It’s worth noting that Wrist Curls, Reverse Curls, Hammer curls etc won’t necessarily translate to strong wrists in the bench press. This is because the movements are very different. In a curl, we move the weight dynamically from Point A to Point B, but in the Bench press, the forearm muscles are working statically (isometrically) to keep the bar in the same position. This means that to get strong forearms and wrists for the bench press, you are better off doing more Bench Press, and getting strong with that movement. Instead of doing lots of curls.
Can I train Forearms every day?
You can train forearms every day! However, the type of training you do will determine whether you SHOULD train them every day. In general, the forearms adapt very quickly to exercise, simply because we use them every day to grab things, push things, pull things etc. This is the same reason why it’s hard to grow your calves because they are used to carrying our bodyweight all day, every day.
If you are doing basic, light strength training movements for the forearms, such as light Farmers Carries, hanging from a Pullup Bar etc, and you slowly build up your volume (how much training you do at once/over the week), you should be able to train the forearms every day.
However, if you are doing high rep hypertrophy-focused workouts, for example 3 x 8-12 reverse dumbbell curls, or even exercises like heavy trap bar deadlifts without straps, it may be wise to rest a few days in between forearm training sessions. You need to let the forearms grow and recover … just the same as any other muscle!
Does CBUM train Forearms?
Yes, CBum (Chris Bumstead) DOES train forearms! While he may not include exercises like wrist curls or wrist extensions very often, he does have a dedicated Arm Day in his training. CBum’s arm day includes movements like EZ Bar Curls, Hammer Curls, Incline Hammer Curls and Forearm Curls.
During the off-season, whenever Chris performs heavy deadlifts, these would be training his forearms, as well. Any time you grip, you are working your forearms! Exercises like Pull-ups and Bent over-rows are also great for forearms – and Chris does a lot of them! To find a sample CBum workout, the best place to look is his YouTube Page. Just google “Chris Bumstead Arm Day YouTube”, and you’ll find what you’re looking for in no time.
Does training Forearms increase Vascularity?
Not necessarily. While training your forearms can increase blood flow to the area – therefore ‘pumping’ them up. Vascularity has more to do with how LEAN you are! Everyone has veins, but if they are covered by a layer of fat, you don’t see them!
So, if you want more vascular forearms, or if you’ve been training your forearms and still can’t see your arm veins, you might want to think about going on a mini cut. See if losing a little bit of weight, and see if that helps them appear more vascular – which it should. Other recommendations to increase vascularity would be to drink more water (improves blood flow) and eat more salt (improves blood flow). Training your forearms, especially with gripping exercises such as heavy farmers walks, or pullups will all get your veins bulging in all the right places.