Author: James O’Sullivan • Fact checked by: Gainful Registered Dietitians • Aug. 3, 2022
A truly well-rounded fitness routine means that we’re giving all of our muscles their due when we exercise.
One of the most exciting parts about hitting our exercise goals is seeing how we keep moving forward. The more we progress, the more opportunities we have to see our hard work in action — and squash fitness goals we may not have considered before.
It’s essential that we give more attention to muscles we may not have focused on before. Your forearms, for example, are a key muscle that could help you transform your workout.
Let’s explore some of the best workouts you can do to build muscle on your forearms, why strong forearms are so important, and how you can optimize your arm workout with the best forearm exercises.
Stronger forearms can translate to significant benefits elsewhere on your fitness journey.
As you may have experienced already, your forearms may be one of the first areas to fatigue when you’re working out. When your forearms get tired, the other muscles targeted in a given exercise don’t have the opportunity to get the workout they need.
In short, if your forearms don't build up as you progress in your fitness journey, they are going to limit your workout potential.
Your grip strength is a particularly important aspect of your forearm strength. It’s the grip strength in your forearms that helps allow you to sustain certain exercises — working out your arms with dumbbell curls or working your core with hanging leg lifts for example.
Building muscle in your forearms isn’t just for your forearms, you’re potentially helping yourself accomplish other activities that require extra fortitude.
To help you unlock your potential with other exercises, here are some workouts that can help build muscle and increase your forearm strength.
If you’re looking for a dead-set targeted workout for your forearm muscles, it’s hard to do better than wrist rollers. Equipment requirements for this exercise include a selection of weights, a durable cord to run through the center of the weights, and a small bar around which the weighted cord is wrapped.
Grab hold of the bar and hold it just above your pelvis. Keep a hip-width stance with a neutral spine stance so you don’t strain your back.
From this starting position, roll up the weighted cord. By rolling the bar with one hand to the other until the weights are pulled all the way up, you’ll feel a strong burn right in your forearms.
Do this exercise anywhere from one to three times in a given session to get your forearm a solid workout.
Plate pinches are another great workout that targets forearms specifically. All the equipment you’ll need to do plate pinches are two plates at a weight level that you feel comfortable with — don’t risk injury by using weight equipment you aren’t ready for.
To do a weight plate pinch, grab a firm hold of the plates in a shoulder-width stance with your shoulders low and your arms hanging down by your sides. Hold the plates as firmly as you can using just your fingertip.
The workout of plate pinches is a matter of how long you can hold this position. You’ll find that in a short time you’ll feel the burn in your forearms as you struggle to retain your grip on the plates with just your fingers.
As you progress, hold the plates for longer periods of time. When you feel like you’ve really progressed, try upping the weight of the plates you use in the exercise.
These dumbbell exercises will get your forearms nice and strong.
Take hold of dumbbells at a weight level that suits your experience level.
Keep your arms at your sides with your elbows just in front of your hips. Make sure that you are holding the dumbbells so that the weights are facing vertically instead of horizontally like you might during a standard curl.
From this starting position, bring the weights up in a curl until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
Slowly return back to the starting position and feel the tension in your forearms.
Try for 12 reps per set with a weight level you feel comfortable with.
One of the most simple and accessible ways you can get into forearm training is by doing push ups.
By altering how you do your push ups, you can increase the level of strain you give to your forearms and upper arms, optimizing this exercise so that it really targets those muscles in your arm. One way to target your forearms with push ups is by using your fingertips alone.
If that is too intense, start off from the standard plank position you would normally do for a push up and rest on your knees.
No matter how you decide to do your push ups, they remain a great way to improve your body strength, since they also work out your chest, arms, and core.
12 to 15 repetitions per set is a great place to start, with plenty of room for improvement.
Like push ups, pull ups don’t just target your forearms, but other muscle groups in your upper body as well. All the same, they’re a great way to ensure that you’re getting a comprehensive workout that targets your forearms.
To do a pull up, all you need is a pull up bar. You can use equipment at the gym or an at-home set up between a door frame in your home.
What makes pull ups better for your forearms than chin ups is the position of your hands on the bar. Proper pull up form has your knuckles facing toward you on the bar—chin ups are the other way.
Pull ups can be difficult if you’re just starting out. Even just three reps in a set is a commendable goal early on. Do as many as you can manage to fit in your workout routine.
Another pull up bar exercise that targets your forearms are dead hangs.
This may be a little easier to do than pull ups, especially if you’re just starting out. Plus, they target your forearms in a focused way as opposed to the more holistic pull up.
To do dead hangs, grab hold of the pull up bar with your hands set slightly wider than your shoulders — the more experienced you get with dead hangs, the further out you can place them
Hold this position with your feet off the ground for up to 10 seconds. As you improve, try to hold the position for longer periods of time to help build bigger forearms.
The Farmer’s Carry or farmer’s walk is a simple forearm exercise that is great for beginners just starting out with their forearm workouts.
All you need to do a Farmer’s Carry is a set of dumbbells or kettlebells at a weight level that suits your experience level. Bodybuilding types can go all out.
Squat down and take hold of the weights and stand back up slowly so as not to injure your back. Hold your arms, with the light or heavy dumbbells in hand, in a relaxed position — your shoulders low and your arms flat against your sides.
Now, take moderate steps forwards while holding your arms in the starting position. As you walk, you’ll feel the resistance of the heavy weights in your forearms.
This is a great exercise for beginners because it’s fairly simple and has a relatively low risk of injury if you are using lighter weights. Take as many steps as you need until you start to feel the burn in your forearms.
Increase your step count or weight level as you build muscle in your forearms.
Kettlebell swings are a great workout for the muscles in your core and upper body, including your forearms.
This exercise will train you for better grip strength due to the weight of the kettlebell and the resistance against the gravity going against it during the swing.
Be sure to be mindful that you’re not overexerting your back during this exercise. You’re really targeting your core and arm muscles here. If done without proper form, kettlebell swings could wear out your back.
To do a proper kettlebell swing, take a slight squatting position with your legs in a wide stance.
Grabbing the kettlebell grip with your knuckles facing outward, lift it up until it reaches just below your shoulder level. Let the resistance carry your arms back down and let the kettlebell swing between your legs, activating your core while leaning on your heels so you don’t fall backward.
Bring back to the starting position and repeat 10 to 12 times per set.
Deadlifts put your grip strength front and center, giving you an opportunity to build muscle on your forearms.
Proper form with deadlifts is essential, so make sure that you understand exactly what you need to do and work with a weight that you’re comfortable with. The equipment you need to deadlift is just a barbell, plate weights, and any safety harnesses or gear that will make you feel more comfortable.
Take a stance where your feet extend just beyond the width of your hips. Bend down into a squatting position until they are touching the bar, then grab hold of it.
From this position, flatten your back and point your behind outwards. Bring the barbell upwards towards your knees. Stand up until you are fully upright, with your shoulders lowered and your arms at your side, and hold for up to 3 seconds.
Squat back down with the barbell following your legs along the way.
For a less intensive forearm exercise that doesn’t require equipment, there’s the crab walk.
To do a crab walk, sit on the floor with your legs extended outwards and your hands planted behind you. Lift your rear into the air so that you’re supporting yourself with your arms and legs. Arch your back higher if you want to put more weight on your forearms.
Walk backward with your hands leading the way. Instead of walking on your palms, use your fingertips if you want to get even more forearm exercise.
Do the crab walk for about 20 steps or until you start feeling too much strain in your forearms.
The forearm grip is another simple exercise that will target your forearms with laser focus. The only equipment you need to do a forearm grip is a forearm gripper.
Take hold of the forearm gripper, with the handle pressed firmly against the palm of your hand and the tips of your fingers. Pull your fingertips into your palm and slowly fight against the resistance as you bring your hand back into starting position.
Do anywhere from 15 to 20 reps per set, depending on the tension level of your gripping. As your forearm muscles grow, do more reps or increase the tension level of your gripper.
Doing the workout is only part of the process when it comes to effectively building muscle mass. When it comes to building muscle in your forearms, doing these exercises consistently can help get you there over a long enough period of time.
But if you really want to optimize your muscle growth, what you do when you’re not exercising also determines how effectively you build up your strength in your forearms.
Here’s how you can ensure that you’re doing everything you can to promote effective muscle growth.
Far and away one of the most important ways you can promote muscle is by incorporating higher levels of protein in your diet.
Protein is a critical nutrient for the growth and development of muscles in the body. Research continues to corroborate findings that higher-protein diets can help us grow more muscle, more effectively.
In addition to helping you build more muscle mass while exercising consistently, higher protein diets can also help you preserve the muscle you’ve built up even when you aren’t exercising as much — on top of preventing age-related muscle loss.
While it’s clear that protein is a fundamental part of building muscle, finding the amount you need to build the optimal amount of muscle may not be so obvious.
As a general rule, the daily recommended amount of protein amounts to .08 grams of protein for every kilogram of your body weight.
However, there are many factors that can alter the amount of protein you ought to consume — one of the most significant being your activity level.
Depending on your activity level, you may need up to twice as much protein as your base daily recommended value. You may need to increase your protein intake if you are doing strength training exercises to build up your muscle mass.
There are plenty of resources, including your healthcare provider and Gainful Registered Dietitian, where you can learn more about the optimal protein levels you should be consuming based on your body mass and activity level. Protein calculators can help people find the right amount they need.
There are many different sources of protein out there but not all of them are equal.
To ensure you’re supplying your body with the protein content it needs, try to include more complete proteins. Complete proteins are proteins that contain all nine essential amino acids the body needs.
Essential amino acids are so important to include in our diet because the body cannot produce them on its own.
Finding the right protein sources can be daunting. There are so many different options out there that it can be difficult to determine which best suits your needs. And when you need to prepare and cook many of these protein-rich meals in order to help try to set yourself up for muscle-building success, the work piles on.
That’s why some people believe that using supplemental protein powders are so effective: they contain significant amounts of protein and are extremely simple to incorporate into your diet. These powders dissolve in water or milk easily.
When you’re getting a blend that is specifically designed based on your activity levels and body weight, you can help ensure that you’re equipping yourself with the exact protein intake you need to thrive.
Consider Gainful’s Personalized Protein Blend. You’re getting complete and quality protein types: from vegetarian-based sources like organic pea protein and organic brown rice protein, to proteins from whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate.
Doing these exercises may be the first step to stronger forearm muscles.
Consuming more protein can build on your hard work.
As you progress on your fitness journey, learning how to properly optimize your workout by planning how and when you exercise could help make for consistent, sustainable muscle growth.
The general consensus is that you should work out a given muscle or muscle group — like your forearms — at least twice a week. That means at least two times a week you’re giving a targeted focus on your forearms in a full session.
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