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Fact checked by Tyler DiGiovanni, BSBMFACT CHECKED
Updated On: January 05, 2024
Forearms rarely get enough training attention. But considering they're crucial for performing heavy lifts like deadlifts, pull ups, rows, and presses, neglecting your forearms is a huge muscle-building mistake.
And while compound moves do work the forearms, including forearm-specific exercises in your routines can significantly improve your training. Think about it: The stronger your forearms are, the better your grip. And the better your grip, the more ability you have to hold heavy weights, meaning you'll likely see improvements with other lifts.
If you're now onboard with forearm training but unsure what to do, you've come to the right place! I'm about to go over the 7 best dumbbell forearm exercises to build muscle, in addition to training tips, and the benefits of forearm training.
Table of Contents:
While there are plenty of dumbbell forearm exercises to choose from to improve your grip strength, utilizing the ones that activate all (or most) of your forearm muscles simultaneously is the smartest training approach.
The best dumbbell forearm exercises are:
These moves will prevent you from spending an hour on forearm training alone. Let's go over how to perform each.
My favorite dumbbell forearm exercise is also called the Farmer's Walk, working the forearms in an isometric hold. And it still activates the majority of the forearm muscles.
If you've ever watched Strongman or followed a strongman workout plan, you'll have seen those monster athletes carry absurd amounts of weight on this exercise. While you don't have to get to that, you should be training heavy so you can carry all of your groceries in one trip from the car!
While light weights and long distances could work for endurance, it's best to prioritize maximal strength and heavy weights for this exercise.
How to do the Farmer’s Carry:
The reverse wrist curl is a great way to add some humility to your dumbbell biceps exercises, especially if you haven't directly trained your forearms before.
Try to keep your elbows tucked in as much as possible because they'll want to flare out to compensate for the difficulty. This exercise tests your isometric strength and endurance for extension and pronation as the dumbbells work with gravity.
How to do the Reverse Curl:
When it comes to hammer curls vs. bicep curls, hammer curls have a leg up on bicep curls as they activate both the upper arms and forearms at the same time. This exercise can also be done with greater weights than reverse curls, which makes it a better choice for those with strong biceps and weak forearms.
In fact, hammer curls mitigate imbalances between biceps and forearm muscles and create an effective exercise for both muscle groups. Ensure that when you curl the weight up, you bring it up to the center of your chest instead of directly in front of your body. This is easier on your shoulders and allows for more weight to be lifted.
Again, this is another isometric movement for the forearms that focuses on grip strength and endurance rather than flexion or extension. A bicep workout that also works the lower arm muscles? Sign us up!
How to do the Hammer Curl:
This exercise doesn't have a flashy name, but it's one of the best forearm exercises. You'll have to use a lighter weight as the start of the movement requires finger strength more than total grip strength. It will work on the contraction of your grip strength and flexion of your forearm if you utilize the bonus at the peak of the finger curl.
How to do Dumbbell Finger Curls Behind the Back:
Much like the behind-the-back version, these finger curls work the contraction of your grip strength and can work the flexion of your forearm as well, making it a great forearm exercise. And because your wrists are fully extended at the start, you can utilize a full range of motion.
How to do Dumbbell Finger Curls:
If it's difficult to keep your elbows tucked and hands pronated during standing reverse curls, these concentration curls can mitigate the issue. Working one arm at a time allows that much more focus on each forearm to improve the results from training.
Reverse wrist curls work on isometric strength and endurance to fight against flexion and supination.
How to do Reverse Concentration Curls:
This movement hits an in-between angle of your forearms that other exercises can't. With this move, your grip determines how your muscles work. If you do this movement with a pronated grip, it becomes a palms down wrist curl that works extension.
If you do this with a supinated grip (palms facing upward), it will work flexion. If you hold a neutral grip with palms facing each other, it will work a different plane between flexion and extension, creating a novel training stimulus to enhance results. This is a great exercise to work into your back and biceps workout.
How to do Bench Wrist Curls:
Bonus Move: To hit a forearm angle that's neglected by all other dumbbell forearm exercises, including bench wrist curls, lay down on your back. Keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees and your palms facing each other in a neutral grip. With light dumbbells, press the weights upward, away from your head. Then lower them back down. The range of motion in this exercise and your strength will be low.
Want to skip the anatomy lesson? Keep scrolling to learn how to include forearm exercises in your workouts!
The major thing to know about your forearm muscles is that they help your hands move up and down and rotate. You can perform two of these movements at once. Roll your hand in a circle, and you'll notice you move between flexion (bending your wrist) and extension (straightening your wrist) and pronation (palms down) and supination (palms up).
When performing forearm exercises, the forearm muscles can be split into the anterior (front) and posterior (rear) regions due to the respective muscles' similar functions.
A few helpful tips for programming forearm exercises include:
When incorporating forearm exercises into your routine, remember that the forearms respond better to a higher frequency and a variety of rep ranges. When programming forearm exercises, here are a few guidelines:
An example of how to include forearm training in a four-day split is to perform four sets of forearm exercises at the end of each of your four weekly workouts. Using this pyramid fashion hits all muscle fiber types in a workout and exhausts the forearms enough to cause growth and strength gains. It doesn't have to be complicated!
If you're looking for an entire program to follow along with, here's a great workout you can add to the end of a routine.
Why add forearm exercises to your workout? Because forearm strength is crucial to many movements that we take for granted in everyday life.
In fact, strong forearms are important because:
Let's dig into each of these in more detail.
Having strong forearms typically means having strong wrists, hands, and grip strength, which are not only crucial for completing almost all daily tasks (like lugging those grocery bags to the kitchen), but it is also essential for lifting heavier weights in the gym.
This leads us to…
In basic strength training, it's commonly accepted that your lifts are only as strong as their weakest link. Forearms can limit many exercises, like deadlifts, pullups, bent-over rows, and more. If you can lift more weight using lifting straps, it's easy to decipher that your forearms limit your potential on that lift!
Even when your forearms aren't directly activated during an exercise, they can serve the purposes of concurrent activation potentiation, which is a fancy term for primary muscle groups performing better when non-active muscle groups are also contracted. In fact, research shows that concurrent potentiation activation can help improve sports performance1.
Strength training has the amazing ability to improve bone density, so direct forearm training will improve the surrounding bones and joints.
It's interesting to note that research shows that those with higher grip strength tend to lower all-cause mortality and risk for severe diseases like heart disease and cancer2. Better bone health improves the potential for heavy lifts, building muscle mass, increased athletic performance, and correlation to better longevity. Forearm strength is quite important!
You can learn even more about the importance of building your forearm muscles in our guide: How To Get Bigger Forearms.
Dumbbells are great for building big and strong forearms. Three benefits of forearm dumbbell exercises are:
Don't neglect forearm training by assuming they are trained enough during heavy lifts that focus on other muscle groups. Utilizing the exercises in this guide and including them properly in your programming, as suggested, will help improve your grip strength and crossover to many other lifts.
They will also help the aesthetics of your forearms, which is always a good thing. So try out a few of these exercises and incorporate the ones you respond best to regularly to reap the benefits of dumbbell forearm exercises!
Plus, your rolled up sleeves will look significantly more impressive when you're rocking massive, muscular forearms.
Looking for more moves for your forearms? Check out the 10 Best Exercises to Build Crazy Powerful Forearms!
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