Forearm strength is often overlooked as most of us are busy attacking the largest muscles of the upper body with advanced lifting, pushing and pulling moves. But the truth is, there’s nothing sadder than a big, muscular guy who’s obviously clocked in thousands of hours of gym training, yet has zero grip strength to show for it.
Objectively, your grip power will depend on whether or not you regularly target your forearms with the required strength-building arsenal. And if you don’t, this might be the right time to get a grip.
Forearms are crucial to upper body strength
Forearm muscles are the ones crossing your hands, wrists and elbows. While not as glamorous as their upper body counterparts, these muscles are essential for numerous tasks that we execute in daily life, from carrying a box and opening a jar to playing the guitar or a game of basketball.
Weight training utilizes forearm muscles to help move load in lots of staple exercises, such as pull-ups, rows, deadlifts and bicep curls. If your forearm strength is lacking, though, you won’t be able to perform those exercises at full capacity and harness all of their benefits. Your forearms or wrists will be the first group to become exhausted when you’re doing a complex movement, so you’ll have a weak link compromising your entire progress.
But the stronger your forearms, the less likely is your grip to fatigue prematurely, and the more you will able to lift in overhead presses, kettlebell swings and deadlifts, resulting in better gains. Heavy lifting will undoubtedly improve your grip, but that might not be enough, so it’s best to isolate the offenders and target them directly, preferably at the end of your upper body workout.
The best 6 forearm exercises
Here are six highly effective forearm exercises that can really help you develop grip strength and improve your upper body power in and out of the training session!
The farmer walk is one of the most effective and beneficial workouts there is, attacking the upper back, lats, traps, forearms, quads, hams and glutes at the same time. But where this exercise truly shines is improving grip strength by making upper body muscles to work in unison to avoid dropping the weights throughout the movement.
To do it, stand firmly with hip width apart, holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in. Maintaining a straight spine and a tight core, walk in a straight line for a set number of steps or until the time runs out. Rest shortly and repeat.
Dumbbell wrist flexion
This move hits your wrist flexors – the small muscles which make hand movements possible – and directly develops their strength, which then translates into better grip strength.
To do it, sit on the edge of a bench or a chair holding a dumbbell in your right hand, and place your right forearm on your right tight, palm up, with the wrist lying on the top of your kneecap.
Using only the hand, slowly lower the dumbbell as far as possible, maintaining a firm grim all throughout. Curl the dumbbell up toward your bicep, while avoiding to lift your arm off the thigh. Slowly lower the dumbbell back. Repeat this until the muscles are properly fatigued, then switch sides and perform an equal number of reps on each side.
Dumbbell wrist extension
This is a great exercise that works both forearms independently, helping you achieve balanced development. The result will be improved wrist and grip strength, as well as boost compound lift strength.
To do it, sit on the edge of a bench or a chair holding a dumbbell in your right hand, and place your right forearm on your right thigh, palm down, with your wrist on top of the kneecap.
Curl the dumbbell up as far as possible towards your bicep, without lifting your arm off your thigh. Maintain a firm grip throughout the entire movement. Slowly lower the dumbbell back. Repeat this until the muscles are properly fatigued, then switch sides and perform an equal number of reps on each side.
Dumbbell reverse curl
The reverse curl will enable you to activate two essential forearm muscles – the brachioradialis and pronator teres, but also the brachialis as an assisting muscle that helps create elbow flexion. Besides increased grip strength, the benefits of doing reverse curls regularly include bicep growth.
To do it, stand firmly with your feet hip width apart while holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing behind and arms by your sides. Keeping the elbows tucked, slowly curl the weights up just above 90 degrees. Reverse the move to return to the original position, and repeat.
Pull-up bar hang
Regularly performing any kind of hang will do wonders for you performance in overhead exercises such as pull-ups, chin-ups and presses, and all of their variations, while building strength and endurance in your wrist and finger flexors.
To do it, grab a pull-up bar with a shoulder-width grip, palms facing forward. Hang at arm’s length for 30 seconds with your arms straight. Rest for a moment, then repeat.
Towel pull-up hang
Considered to be more difficult than standard pull-ups, towel pull-ups include gripping a towel to do the exercise, which heavily targets the forearm muscles and pushes them to grow stronger and thicker and perform better at different grip angles.
To do it, drape two small towels over a pull-up bar. Reach up and grab a towel in each hand with a tight grip, with arms shoulder-width apart. Pull yourself up by contracting your core and lift your feet off the floor, and hang from the bar for as long as you can. Rest for a moment and repeat.