What are the best forearm workouts? We have five surefire ways to supercharge your lower arm training. Most weight-trainers skip forearm work, often because they think they’ll grow merely from holding the weights during curls. They may be true for pro bodybuilders blessed with superior DNA, but most of us aren’t that lucky. What’s more, your forearms (along with your neck) are your most visible muscle group, supplying the readiest evidence of your iron-willed toil. They’re also among your largest in terms of muscles, for if we count muscles from hand to elbow the tally totals 20.
Get ready to expand your lower arms with the five best forearm workouts.
BEST FOREARM WORKOUT #1: SUPERSET & PRE-EXHAUST
Like your upper arms, your lower arms have two sides with different functions. Biceps are the antagonists of triceps, and down below it’s the forearm flexors (inside when your arms at your side) and forearm extensors (outside when your arms are at your side). And on your upper forearms is the brachioradialis, which has a function (elbow flexion; i.e. curling) more in line with your biceps. Just as pairing bi’s and tri’s makes a great superset, pairing flexors and extensors does, too. And train both sides first to pre-exhaust before hitting brachioradialis with some palms-up (reverse) or palms-parallel (hammer) curls.
SUPERSET & PRE-EXHAUST FOREARM ROUTINE
Reverse Wrist Curl — 4 x 12-15 reps
↕️ superset with
Wrist Curl — 4 x 12-15 reps
Reverse or Hammer Curl — 4 x 12-15 reps
BEST FOREARM WORKOUT #2: 100-REP
Forearms tend to respond well to occasional doses of very high reps. One shocking way to do this is to use a weight for wrist curls with which you’ll reach failure at around 25-40 reps. Do as many reps as you can, set the bar down for 10 seconds and then start wrist curling again. Repeat this rest-pause pattern until you reach a total of 100 reps. Include a similar mega rest-pause set of reverse curls in the same workout. This is a fast but effective workout, great for those who think they don’t have time to work forearms.
100-REP FOREARM ROUTINE
Wrist Curl — 1-2 x 100 reps
Reverse Curl — 1 x 100 reps
BEST FOREARM WORKOUT #3: STATIC HOLD
In one sense, static holds—during which the resistance does not move—are the opposite of 100-rep sets. After all, you’re resisting the completion of a single rep as opposed to doing many reps. When it comes to the pain, however, both are endurance tests won by withstanding the agony as long as possible. Let’s go over three good exercises for “no-rep” forearm training.
✸ Dumbbell Wrist Contractions While seated with your arms straight down and palms facing your sides, grasp a heavy dumbbell (a weight you could normally wrist curl for 5-10 reps) in each hand. Curl your palms up towards your inner forearms and hold the contraction for as long as possible.
✸ Reverse Dumbbell Wrist Contractions This is the same as the previous exercise, except with lighter dumbbells and you raise the back or your hands towards your outer forearms and hold for as long as possible. Resist the urge to let your hands drop even slightly.
✸ Plate pinches Grasp two barbell plates between your thumb and fingers so that the plates’ flat sides face out. With your arm straight down at your side, pinch the plates as long as possible. If you can hold them for 90 seconds, increase the resistance on the next set. Alternate hands or work both hands simultaneously.
STATIC HOLD FOREARM ROUTINE
Dumbbell Wrist Contraction — 2 static holds
Reverse Dumbbell Wrist Contraction — 2 static holds
Plate Pinch — 2 static holds
BEST FOREARM WORKOUT #4: GIANT SETS
Due primarily to the short range of motion of your wrists, you probably think of forearms as small and simple muscle groups. In fact, each forearm contains 20 separate muscles and, due to the complexity of the human hand, they have a greater variety of functions than any other muscle group. This makes them excellent candidates for compound sets. A giant set can stress most, if not all, of the 20 muscles. Choose 3-5 diverse exercises, such as the three in our sample routine.
GIANT SET FOREARM ROUTINE
These three exercises are performed one after another without resting for three rotations. Rest for two minutes between rotations.
Reverse Wrist Curl — 3 x 12-15 reps
↕️ giant set with
Wrist Curl — 3 x 12-15 reps
↕️ giant set with
Barbell Reverse Curl — 3 x 10-12 reps
BEST FOREARM WORKOUT #5: UNIQUE LIFTS
Though the forearms are complex, many trainers do only barbell wrist curls. Even those who regularly do more thorough routines seldom do more than wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, and reverse or hammer curls. Just as there is a great deal of diversity in the 20 forearm muscles, there is a wide variety of effective forearm exercises. Replace a stale exercise in your current routine with one of our fresh alternatives, or try our unique lifts routine of four forearm forgers.
✸ Hammer Wrist Curls Grasp a light dumbbell and rest your forearm on a flat bench with your hand off the end and your thumb facing up and pinkie facing down. Pull your thumb towards the side of your wrist as far as possible. When you lower the dumbbell, let your pinkie go as far as possible towards the other side of your wrist. If you’re strong enough, you can also do this with both hands simultaneously while holding a 25-pound or 35-pound plate by its sides.
✸ Reverse Preacher Curls Performed with a barbell, dumbbell(s), cable, or machine, reverse curls on a bench lock your arms in place to prevent cheating. They work the meaty brachioradialis at the top outer area of the forearms, as well as the brachialis and biceps or the upper arms.
✸ Cable Wrist Curls Wrist curls are short movements, and with a barbell or dumbbell they’re even shorter because gravity’s pull is only maximized when your palm is parallel to your forearm. The best way to lengthen the time under max stress is to do a cable wrist curl, because then the vertical weight stack will fight gravity from the start to finish of each rep. You can do these with an underhand or overhand grip, using a straight bar, and easily superset the two by simply moving the pin in the stack.
✸ Wrist Rolls Some gyms have a wrist rolling machine or apparatus. If yours doesn’t, you can make an apparatus by tying a rope to a short handle or bar (such as a section of broom handle) and tying the other end to a weight plate. While keeping your forearms steady and parallel to the floor, roll the handle (thus wrapping the rope around the bar and lifting the weight) by alternately pulling one hand towards its forearm and then the other. Palms down works your flexors; palms up works your extensors.
UNIQUE LIFT FOREARM ROUTINE
Cable Wrist Curl — 3 x 12-15 reps
Hammer Wrist Curl — 3 x 12-15 reps
Palms-down Wrist Roll — 2 roll ups
Reverse Cable Preacher Curl — 2 x 10-12 reps
It’s not enough to merely train forearms on a regular basis. If you only pitch in a few low-intensity wrist curls at the end of your arm workout, then you may as well skip it. Focus as much on your forearm routine as you do your chest routine. Use progressively greater weights and shock complacent muscles with some of our five fresh strategies, and your forearms will grow, regardless of your genetics.
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