Building bigger biceps and triceps is the goal of pretty much every man in the gym, but what about the forearms? A neglected area but one that significantly contributes to having a muscular looking arm. In this article we will take a look at the best forearm workout, and what that might entail.
There are two ways to train the forearms, directly or indirectly. A direct forearm exercise would be something like a dumbbell wrist extension, an exercise that specifically focuses on the forearms and nothing else. Then you have exercises such as the dumbbell hammer curl, that target the biceps but have been adapted to add some focus onto the forearm muscles.
Finally, there are exercises that do not focus on the forearms at all but happen to indirectly work them. A barbell shrug is designed to work the trap muscles in your upper back but holding onto the barbell will work the forearm muscles.
Forearm specific exercises can be time consuming, and don’t represent good value for your time spent in the gym. But exercises that have been adapted to work the forearms (such as the hammer curl mentioned before) are a great addition to your training program. Exercises that indirectly target the forearms are usually great exercises that should be in your program anyway (bench press, shoulder press, shrugs etc).
In this section, we will identify some of the best forearm exercises out there. None of them are forearm specific, but many of them can be adapted to emphasise the forearm contribution.
What we will cover is
This is a superb exercise for your traps, your shoulders, but also for your forearms. In fact, some would state that the farmer’s walk is the best forearm exercise out there. It simulates the challenge of walking from the car to your front door with all of your shopping bags in each hand. But uses dumbbells instead. Check out our guide on how to do a farmers walk to find out how to perform it perfectly.
The shrug is an amazing exercise for the traps, but like the farmer’s walk places a lot of emphasis on your forearms. Either the dumbbell or barbell version will work your forearms, and a mix of the two is a great way to spice up your training program.
Rack pulls are an amazing deadlift variation, one that allows you to lift heavier than you normally could. Obviously, this places more strain on your forearms, allowing you to really work them. Check out our ultimate guide to rack pulls to learn more.
Anyone who has deadlifted will know just how much emphasis is placed on the forearms. A weak grip is one of the biggest sticking points for many new lifters. Which is why so many lifters use straps to “tie” their hands to the barbell. Avoiding this will eventually lead to stronger forearms and a better lift.
The hammer curl is an amazing bicep curl variation that is seriously underrated. It is performed exactly the same as a regular standing dumbbell bicep curl, but instead of holding the dumbbells with a palm-up grip, you hold them like you would a hammer. This places much more emphasis on your forearms, and is still an amazing bicep exercise.
This is a very indirect forearm exercise, with much more emphasis on the pecs, deltoids, and triceps. But look at anyone who benches heavy, and you will see a serious set of forearms. That’s because the bench press requires a very strong grip to keep the bar (or dumbbells) steady and smooth throughout the movement. Check out our bench press beginner’s guide to get your technique perfect.
The shoulder press is on this list for the exact same reason as the bench press, it requires you to grip the bar or dumbbell very tightly, and therefore provides your forearms with an amazing workout. There are many shoulder press variations out there, but they all hit your forearms.
The best forearm workout is a full-body workout that involves the exercises mentioned above. You may want to split them up into two separate workouts and add in a bunch of non-forearm exercises so that you’re not too fatigued during it. We’ve put an (f) next to any exercise that targets the forearms, just to give you an idea.