15 exercises to make your forearms bigger and stronger
Build Popeye-sized arms and take your strength in every lift to a new level.
If you want to get strong and add a ton of mass, you need to build powerful forearms. Your forearm workouts might seem like they have nothing to do with your leg workouts or back workouts, but having stronger forearms also allow you to build a stronger grip, which is essential to almost every pushing and pulling workout. Stronger forearms mean you’ll be able to squeeze your weights harder, engage more muscles, and generate more force in every move.
Over time, stronger forearms will allow you to increase your ability to lift more and generate a more powerful force as you perform each exercise. If you’ve seen your gains plateau and you feel like your not progressing with your fitness goals you may need an extra boost. And that boost comes from paying more attention to other factors.
There’s no doubt that forearms have lost its appeal since the days of Popeye. The forearm has made way for other body parts such as the strong muscular back, shoulder, or even calves. But to build those area up to their peak you’ll need to increase your overall strength and muscle mass.
Here, we give you the best exercises to add to your forearm workouts to not only build massive forearms but also increase your grip strength. For all these exercises, try adding chalk for extra activation.
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The farmer’s carry is an essential exercise to build a vice-like grip and powerful forearms. It also develops a stronger core and improves your shoulder stability.
Grab a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand, stand tall, and start walking. Keep your abs braced, your chest tall and your shoulders pulled back at all times.
To use this as a warmup drill to stimulate total-body stability, do 2-3 sets for 20 yards. Or save it until the end as a brutal finisher and carry the weights as far as you can for 10 minutes.
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Trap Bar Carry
A trap bar carry lets you to carry much more weight than a farmer’s carry, which increases your forearm strength and total-body stability.
Load a trap bar with a heavy weight, stand inside, lift it up, and start walking. Stay as tall as you can and keep your abs tight and your shoulders pulled back.
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We know that pull-ups build a strong grip and thick arms. Gripping a towel instead of the bar, however, skyrockets the work on your forearms—now, you have to crush the towels just to stay up and squeeze even tighter to pull yourself up. Don’t be surprised if you can only do one or two on your first try.
Wrap two towels around a pullup bar. Grabbing a towel in each hand, perform your pullups, keeping your chest up and your shoulders down as you rise. If this is too hard, however, start with just one hand grabbing a towel and the other hand grabbing the pullup bar. Then, alternate sides.
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The next step to big, menacing forearms is to increase how hard your fingers can pinch together. Train this grip by varying the way you hold your weights.
Instead of doing a bicep curl with a dumbbell, use a plate and grab it by its end. Do 5-6 sets of 4-8 reps; if you can do more, use a heavier plate.
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Pinch carries activate your forearms by forcing you to squeeze your fingers so the plates don’t separate. You must actively pinch two plates (or more) together so they don’t slip.
Grab two plates and pinch them together with the smooth-side out—do this in both hands. Stand tall as tall as you can, tighten your core, and walk. To pack on your forearm size, do 2-3 sets for 15 yards.
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Single-arm Bottoms-up Kettlebell Press
Blast your forearms by holding a kettlebell upside down. You’ll have to pulverize the handle just to keep the kettlebell stable and balanced, and as you press overhead, you’ll also tighten all the muscles in your body to drive force from the ground to your arm.
Grab a kettlebell in the bottoms-up position: holding the handle with the round, weighted part above your hand. Squeeze the handle, brace your abs, tighten your glutes and press the kettlebell straight overhead. Do 6 reps on each side for 3-4 sets.
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Fat Grip Dumbbell Rows
Use a thicker bar to build huge forearms because it forces you to squeeze harder just to hold the same amount of weight and elevates your neural drive.
Place a Fat Grip around the dumbbell handle. (If you don’t have a Fat Grip, wrap a small towel around the handle.) Place your right hand and knee on a bench, grab the dumbbell, and pull your shoulder blade inward while pulling your elbow to your ribcage. Do 8 repetitions and repeat on the other side. Do 3-4 sets.
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Plate tosses build a machine-like grip and massive forearms because you’ll have to snatch a heavy, moving target from the air. Not only will you build a strong grip, but you’ll also develop an explosive grip.
In an athletic stance, hold a bumper plate by its end in front of you. Start about waist-high, drop the plate, and reach down to catch it by its end. Quickly repeat with the same hand. Do 10 reps and switch sides. Add 3-4 sets to your workout.
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Unlike the previous exercises—which engage both your forearms and plenty of other muscles—grip crushers isolate your grip and forearms only.
Wrap your hand around a grip crusher and squeeze until the two handles touch. To add this to your workout, warm up with easier resistances first. Then, do 2-3 sets with a gripper than you can fully close 5-10 times. If you can do more, advance to a harder gripper.
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Hammer Cheat Curl
With a dumbbell held tightly in each hand, cheat the weights, like you are doing a clean, and then move the weights to the top position of a curl. You can use the momentum of your hips to get the weight up if necessary. Lower the weights back down slowly for 5 counts.
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Loop a thick towel around a barbell making sure your hands are still able to completely close when you grasp it. Holding the bar with an overhand, shoulder width grip, place the bar in front of your thighs. Without moving your upper arms forward, curl the bar. You must reduce your reps with each set, so add more weight each time.
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Reverse-Grip Barbell Curl
Grabbing the barbell with an overhand grip and, keeping your upper arms pinned to your sides, simply curl the bar. Use whatever width is most comfortable for you.
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Towel Cable Row
Hook a towel to a cable pulley and stand in front and set up to do a row. Hold an end of the towel in each hand. Keep your shoulder blades close together and row the towel toward your rib cage.
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Readjust the seat of your bench so the top of the pad is touching your armpits. Sit and grasp a straight or EZ bar with a shoulder-width grip, extend your arms but don’t lock them. With your upper arms flush against the pad, curl the weight as high as possible and squeeze the contraction. Lower the bar with control without locking your elbows.
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Incline Dumbbell Curl
Set your incline bench to 45 to 60 degrees. Lie face-up on the bench, keeping your feet planted on the ground. Hold a set of dumbbells with your arms hanging straight down and your palms facing forward. With your shoulders back and your arms locked at a 90-degree angle to the floor, curl the dumbbells toward your shoulders. Squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the curl, slowly moving them back to the start position.