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Complete Exercises for Strengthening Forearms and Wrists

Updated on September 14, 2016

Forearm exercises help to complement a full-body workout and are an important component of bodybuilding and sculpting all of your different muscle groups. Well-proportioned arms do not simply include biceps and triceps, but forearms too. Even if your goal is to tone rather than build muscle, these exercises will still help to achieve that goal by adding more definition and firmness to your arms. Many sports, such as climbing, golf, martial arts, and baseball also require a good amount of forearm and wrist strength and endurance.

Wrist Curls for Forearms

The most basic exercise is the wrist curl. These can be done with dumbbells, as pictured, or with a barbell. Position your arm so that your forearm is supported, either on your knees, gym bench, or some other apparatus that can comfortably support your arms during the exercise. The support will help to keep your arms immobile so that you only move your wrist and work your forearm muscles during the exercise. Begin with light weight so that you do not injure your wrists. I like to begin with my palms down for “reverse” wrist curls since they are more difficult. Simply begin by holding the dumbbells (or barbell) with your palms down and wrist bent down. Then, bend your wrist upward as far as you can to work the muscles on the top of your arms. Lower the weight as far as you can, and then repeat.

Then, you will want to work the other side of your forearm. This time, begin with your palms facing up. Lower the dumbbells (or barbell) as far as you can, and then curl your wrist upward as far as possible. Continue lowering the weight and curling in one smooth motion, moving only your forearms and wrists.

To strengthen the top of the forearm, curl upward with palm down.
To strengthen the top of the forearm, curl upward with palm down. | Source
To strengthen the inside of the forearm, curl upward, palm up.
To strengthen the inside of the forearm, curl upward, palm up. | Source

Cable Wrist Curls for Forearms

My personal favorite forearm exercise is to perform wrist curls with a straight cable bar, as shown in the photo. Most gyms have a straight bar that will rotate in your hands as you curl your wrists, which is easier on your grip than stationary cable bar attachments. Position the attachment close to the floor, then simply proceed as you would with a barbell or dumbbells, only hold the bar at an upward angle (with your elbows pointing down) since you will not have any arm support. Your elbows should be down by your waist with your hands at chest-height. While trying to keep your arms locked into position, hold the bar with your palms facing down and curl your wrists upward to exercise the top of your forearms. Repeat while holding the bar with your palms facing up to exercise the inside of your forearms. The cable tends to challenge the forearms muscles a little more evenly in all positions of the curl.

A straight cable bar attachment.
A straight cable bar attachment. | Source
Position the attachment close to the floor.
Position the attachment close to the floor. | Source

Forearm Twists (or Wrist Rotations)

For this exercise, you definitely want to start with very light weight so that you do not injure your wrists. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, begin with a neutral position as shown in step #1. Keeping your elbows bent and forearms parallel to the ground, proceed by twisting your wrists outward (with palms facing up), and then inward (so that you end up with your palms facing down). Try not to move your arms in and out too much during the exercise. At first, however, you may need to move your elbows away from the body a little bit on the inward rotation until you develop more flexibility in your wrists. Continue twisting in one smooth motion, rotating out and in, out and in, without stopping until your forearms are burning. Go slowly at first to get your wrists used to the movement.

Step #1: Neutral Position with Elbows Bent

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Step #2: Rotate Wrists Outward

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Step #3: Rotate Wrists Inward. Continue Repeating 2 and 3 in One Smooth Motion.

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Reverse Bicep Curls (Overhand Grip)

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EZ Bars

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Dumbbell Curls and Reverse Dumbbell Curls

For working your forearms and biceps at the same time, try these types of curls. Reverse bicep curls will also hit the top of your forearms. For better wrist comfort, use an EZ Bar as shown in the photos. For your inside and outer forearm muscles, incorporate hammer curls and rotating dumbbell curls. The videos below show how each is done and explain how each work the forearm (the first was created by Muscleologist featuring Mr. Olympia himself, Phil Heath, and the second was created by Rebecca Blankfield):

Phil Health Doing Hammer Curls

Rotating Bicep Curl By Rebecca Blankfield

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