When most guys think about building big arms, it’s the biceps and triceps that come to mind. If you’re neglecting your forearms, though, then you are leaving a whole lot of arm size on the table and setting yourself up for an odd-looking physique at best.
At worst, you’ll compromise your overall strength, which can lead to less mass on those showy bis and tris in the long run.
To help you avoid that fate, here are the 5 best exercises to build strong forearms to keep you balanced and gaining all over.
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Wrist curls work the forearm flexors on the underside of your lower arms.
To perform this move, sit on a bench grasping a barbell with a close, underhand grip. Lean forward so that the backs of your forearms are in contact with the bench and your hands (and the bar) are hanging over the edge.
Now, slowly bend your wrists backwards toward the floor until you feel a stretch in your flexors, then slowly and smoothly flex your forearms to “curl” the weight back toward the ceiling and your face. Pause for a moment in the fully contracted position, and then reverse the movement.
Reverse Wrist Curls
As the name implies, this movement is intended to hit the extensors on the top of your forearms, as opposed to regular wrist curls, which hit the flexors.
The reverse wrist curl is performed nearly the same as wrist curls, except you begin with your palms down rather than up. From the beginning position with your hands over the edge of the bench, lower the weight toward the floor, then flex your extensors to raise the barbell. Return to the starting position and continue with more reps.
Hammer curls target the brachialis under your biceps and the brachioradialis, the meaty muscle on the thumb side of your forearm. To perform hammers, stand with a pair of dumbbells hanging at your side using a neutral DB position — they should run from your front to your back, rather than side-to-side. Bring the dumbbells up as you would for a normal curl, but keep the the dumbbells in a vertical position throughout so that one end of each DB ends up near your shoulder on each side.
Like hammer curls, reverse curls hit your brachialis and brachioradialis, with added stress for your extensors.
To perform revers curls, stand up and take an overhand, shoulder-width grip on a barbell. Keeping your elbows in contact with your sides, curl the weight up toward your chin and then smoothly reverse the movement to the starting point.
An important aspect of forearm development that is often overlooked is grip strength. You WILL develop more gripping power by performing the movements above, but you may want to consider including specific grip enhancers from time to time, particularly if your grip is a weak point.
You have several options here, including single-hand crushers, plate pinches, or even just squeezing a handful of rocks as hard as you can for a few seconds and then releasing before performing more of these “reps.”
Whichever of these you choose, if any, remember to move slowly and smoothly, and to add resistance when possible.
Training strong forearms may not be as glamorous as pumping up your biceps and triceps, but it’s a necessary labor if you want to build a big, complete physique.
Try these moves to balance your arms AND improve your grip strength. All you have to lose are your skinny arms and weak lifts!