April 23, 2024
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10 Best Exercises For Bigger Forearms and Serious Grip Strength

We’ve curated a selection of the best movements, workouts, tips and techniques to help you supersize those forearms while building a vice-like grip

Disproportionally large, Popeye-esque forearms may not be the first thing on your gym wish list, but there’s no denying that a strong and capable looking set of forearms, protruding from a set of rolled up sleeves has long been an archetypical image of rugged manliness. There’s also no denying the importance of grip strength — one of the primary functions of the forearm. In fact, studies have shown that having a stronger grip is correlated with some seriously important fitness and health markers with research suggesting that men with weaker grip are at a higher risk of certain diseases, from diabetes to high blood pressure, to heart attacks and strokes.
Fret not though, we’ve curated a selection of the best movements, workouts, tips and techniques to help you supersize those forearms while building a vice-like grip.

Anatomy of The Forearm

The forearm can be divided into two main compartments: the anterior compartment, which creates flexion, and the posterior compartment, the muscles that mainly facilitate with extension.
However, unlike muscle-groups such as the biceps and triceps, which can be pretty quickly labelled and their usages defined, the forearms are extremely complex as they facilitate a litany of complex tasks, especially those involving the wrists and hands. Your forearms are absolutely pivotal in most of your fine motor-skills allowing you to perform tasks such as writing, typing, painting and using your phone. It’s safe to say, then, there’s a lot more to them than just helping you to grip heavy barbells.

  • Flexor Carpi Radialis: It helps you bend your wrist upward and sideways, making your hand move towards your thumb side.
  • Flexor Carpi Ulnaris: This muscle lets you bend your wrist downward and towards your pinky side.
  • Palmaris Longus: It tightens the palm of your hand and helps with wrist bending.
  • Flexor Digitorum Superficialis: It helps you bend your fingers in the middle joints.
  • Flexor Digitorum Profundus: This muscle helps you bend your fingers at the tips.
  • Extensor Carpi Radialis Longus: It assists in bending your wrist backward and sideways, moving your hand away from your thumb side.
  • Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis: This muscle helps you bend your wrist backward and towards your thumb side.
  • Extensor Carpi Ulnaris: It helps you bend your wrist backward and towards your pinky side.
  • Extensor Digitorum: This muscle straightens your fingers at the big knuckles.
  • Extensor Digiti Minimi: It assists in straightening your pinky finger.
  • Brachioradialis: It helps you bend your elbow and turn your palm down.

Top 10 Exercises For Bigger Forearms

If your training regimen already includes movements such as pull-ups, deadlifts, rows and carries, you’re already well on your way to thickening those forearms. But if you’re looking to add a little bit of extra oomph to get those veins popping when you roll up your sleeves, we’ve got the 10 best exercises for bigger forearms that you can – and should – add to your arsenal.

Whether you train with basic kit at home, in a fully-equipped gym, or even just your own bodyweight, we’ve got a solution to assist you in upgrading the gun show. Let’s get to grips with them.

1) Wrist curls

Why: Wrist curls are the first port of call for most people when it comes to beefing up those forearms. Think of them like bicep curls, for your wrists. You can perform wrist curls with pretty much any piece of equipment you can get your hands on, but traditionally you’ll see them executed using a barbell or dumbbells. Performing this movement both ways by turning your hands around allows you to work the forearms through both flexion and extension.
Form check: Set yourself up holding a barbell in both hands, or gripping a dumbbell in each hand, with your forearms laying flat across a bench or on your thighs – your hands hanging loose over the edge, palms facing upwards. Allow your wrists to stretch all of the way back (A) before curling the weight all of the way back up until your palms are facing you (B). Slowly lower and repeat. Once you complete your reps, flip the weights — and your forearms — so that your palms are facing the opposite way and repeat.

2) Zottman Curls

Why: Working both the biceps and the forearms synergistically, the Zottman curl puts a literal twist on forearm training by working them through a number of their functions while isometrically flexing and extending.
Form check: Stand tall holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing upwards (A). With minimal momentum and keeping your upper arms tight to your body, curl both dumbbells upwards, until your pinky fingers are near your shoulders (B). Squeeze here and rotate your wrists, lowering the dumbbells with palms facing the opposite way. Rotate your wrists back at the bottom and repeat.

3) Kettlebell Swings

Why: Performing high rep kettlebell swings challenges your grip and forearms by subjecting them to some serious ‘time under tension’. To boot, a kettlebell handle is usually considerably thicker than a barbell or dumbbell. Sets of 20+ swings won’t just build your hamstrings, glutes and back, they’ll also help you to achieve that death grip.

How: With a kettlebell between your legs, hinge at your hips, swinging the weight backward, high between your thighs (A). Drive your hips forward to explosively blast it up to eye level (B). Let the momentum return you back into the hinge position and straight into rep two. Keep your torso flat and knees soft throughout.

4) Farmer’s Carries

Why: This one should be obvious, but picking up something seriously heavy with each hand and going for a stroll builds unparalleled grip and forearm strength.
How: Stand tall with your weights (A). Let your arms hang freely at your sides, take a deep breath into your core, lock your shoulder blades down and back and begin a fast, deliberate march (B).

5) Plate Pinch

Why: You may not be able to handle the same load as you could with the farmer’s carry, but a plate pinch hold or walk hits the parts of your forearms responsible for the strength of your fingers. It may not sound sexy, but if you want total forearm development (or to master the Vulcan neck pinch) these are a necessity.
How: Simply grip the the thickest, heaviest plates you have available between your fingers and thumb and take them for a walk, or opt for a hold. Alternatively you can attempt to pinch grip two plates at a time, crushing them together like a vice.

6) Meadows Row

Why: Although the meadows row is a compound back movement, it forces you to grip the thick, rolling end of the barbell, majorly challenging your forearms in the process.
How: Stand sideways at the end of your bar, hinge down with a flat back and grip the bar with one hand (A). Keeping your core tight and torso as steady as possible, draw your elbow back, behind your body, pulling the bar towards your hips. Pause here (B), then slowly lower the weight to the floor before repeating. After five reps turn your body 180 degrees, switch hands and repeat on the other side.

7) Reverse Grip Barbell Curl

Why: Flipping the script on the regular barbell curl by simply reversing your grip forces your forearms to work overtime to support your wrists. Bigger biceps, bigger forearms – a clear front runner in the arms race.
How: Stand tall with a barbell hanging at your waist, hands shoulder width apart, palms facing downwards (A). Keep your torso still and upper arms pinned to your sides as you curl the bar upwards towards your chin (B). Squeeze here and slowly lower the bar under control until your arms are straight. Repeat.

8) Towel Grip Pull-ups

Why: By wrapping a towel around your pull-up bar and gripping either hand you up the demands on your forearms, ensuring fresh growth isn’t far behind. Throwing in the towel never looked so good.
How: Hang a towel over a pull-up up bar, grip it in both hands and hang with straight arms. (A) Pull yourself up by flexing the elbows while pinching your shoulder blades together. When your chin passes your fists, (B) pause before lowering to the starting position. Repeat, alternating the side your head moves to with each rep.

9) Towel Grip Curls

Why: The extra strain of gripping the towel versus a specially designed handle means your forearms take a serious pasting here.
How: Pass a towel through the handle of a kettlebell and grip either end with your arms hanging directly in front of your body. Keeping your elbows tight to your ribs and avoiding any momentum from your body, curl the kettlebell upwards, turning your hands out as you do so until your palms are facing you (A). Squeeze here before slowly lowering your arms. Repeat.

10) Weighted Pull-Ups and Hangs

Why: Adding a bit of extra weight to your pull-ups or chin-ups, or simply hanging from a bar with some extra load attached challenges your grip, cliffhanger style. It may or may not save your life one day, but it will definitely blow up your forearms.
How: Strap a weight plate or dumbbell to yourself, grab a pull-up bar with an overhand or neutral grip.. Lift your feet from the ground and hang freely (A). Pull yourself up by flexing your elbows and pulling your shoulder blades down and back. Think of driving your elbows down into your pockets. When your chin passes the bar, pause (B) before lowering slowly to the starting position. Try to avoid excessive swinging.

Quick Tips and Gym Swaps To Supersize Your Forearms

  • Invest in a set of ‘fat grips’. Specialist rubber grips that wrap around your dumbbells and barbell massively ups the challenge on your grip and forearms
  • Towels. Don’t have room in your kit bag for grips? Your gym towel will work just as well. Wrap it over the bar for pull-ups, pass them through kettlebells for curls and rows or just wrap them around a barbell to thicken the grip.
  • Using metal handles and attachments on the cable machines in the gym? Switch them out for the rope attachments to challenge your grip strength.

How To Train Your Forearms at Home

If you don’t have extra time to commit in the gym but want to try and thicken up those forearms, try out some of these DIY training ideas that you can tackle at home.

Rice gripping

Fill a bowl with rice. Put one or both hands into the bowl and grab a handful of rice. Squeeze your fists as hard as possible, until the majority of the rice has run through your fingers or out of your hands. Re-grip and repeat. Just wash it afterwards, yeah?

Book Pinching

Grab two or more large books, the heavier the better. Hold them, pinched together, at your sides. Squeeze them as hard as possible until your forearms give out, then repeat on the other side.

Door Hangers

Open a (sturdy) door in your house and grip it between your fingers and thumb at around waist height. Next, squat down and lean back until your arm is straight and your bodyweight is pulling against your grip. Hold here for as long as possible before switching arms. Bro tip: put a pillow just behind to protect your bum against inevitable grip failure.

Doorway Towel Rows

This hack will have you strengthening your forearms as well as blowing up your back and biceps from the ‘safety’ of your own home, using just a towel and sturdy door.

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