You use your forearms dozens of times each day. In most cases, you do not even realize you use them. Think about it, every time you drive, grab a cup or bottle or even hug a loved one, you are using your forearms. Because they are so important, it is imperative to keep them as healthy as possible. In this article we will show you the best forearm exercises! Understanding the anatomy of this part of your body and exercises that will keep your forearms and wrists strong is the first step in ensuring that your forearms are always there to get you through the day. We'll also show how to increase muscle in the wrists so you can look like a real life popeye!
The forearm anatomy is comprised of muscles, bones, other tissues, nerves and blood vessels. Understanding the forearm anatomy is the first step in ensuring that you are properly working the forearm muscles to improve strength and the overall health of your forearm bones. There are two primary forearm bones to know about and these include the
ulna and radius. The radius is on the inner side of your forearm. It runs from the wrist at the thumb side to the elbow. The ulna is on the outer side of the forearm. It runs from the pinkie finger side of your wrist to the elbow.
The humerus is the bone in your upper arm, but it connects to the ulna and radius at the elbow, so when looking at forearm bones, it should be mentioned. The lower ends of the ulna and radius joint the wrist bones. The bones in your wrist include:
Another important element of forearm anatomy is the forearm muscles. There are numerous muscles in this area of the body. The primary forearm muscles include:
• Biceps brachii: This muscle makes it possible for the forearm to flex at the elbow
• Pronator quadratus: Helps the pronator teres
• Pronator teres: Helps with the palm down movement by allowing for forearm pronation
• Supinator: Responsible for supinating the forearm and works with the biceps brachii for this purpose
• Flexor carpi ulnaris: Adducts and flexes at the wrist
• Flexor carpi radialis: Abducts and flexes at the wrist
• Flexor digitorum profundus: Extends the wrist
• Palmaris longus: Helps the wrist to flex
• Flexor digitorum superficalis: Makes it possible for you to make a closed fist
• Extensor carpi radialis longus: Abducts and extends the wrist
• Extensor carpi radialis brevis: Abducts and extends the wrist
• Extensor digitorum: Extends four fingers (no thumb) and the wrist, and it is a digitorum superficialis antagonist
• Extnensor carpi ulnaris: Works with the ECRB and ECRL to extend the wrist
• Extensor retinaculum: Looks like a bracelet of tissue around the wrist to that allows the muscle to work by holding down the tendons
Workout Tools for Forearms
You have a lot of choices when it comes to forearm exercises. You can opt to workout at a gym or even at home. The following are common tools that people utilize:
• Resistance bands and tubing: These are essentially large rubber bands. They are lightweight, and you stretch them to strength train. These tools are inexpensive and easy to find.
• Weight machines: These are the largest and most costly of the tools that you can use. Gyms and health clubs tend to have a large variety of options, but you can purchase them for home use.
• Bodyweight: There are multiple bodyweight exercises, such as pushups, that you can do without any equipment to improve forearm strength.
• Free weights: Tools, such as dumbbells and barbells are examples of free weights.
When you are crafting your forearm exercise plan, you can opt to use one of these or a combination of them, depending on your preferences and goals. It is a good idea to experiment to see which of these works best for you. What is important is that all of your forearm muscles are getting an effective workout.
Big Forearms: A Sex Symbol?
Strong forearms are ingrained as an important trait very early on in our lives - from cartoons, toys, and movies, strong forearms are associated with authority, power, and respect. Additionally, big and strong forearms are often touted by women as a key attractive body part on men - and for good reason. In the primal sense, forearms represent a man's ability to protect the family and hunt for food. In today's world, muscular forearms remain a key sex symbol on men and remain an integral part of any arm workout. The last thing you want to do is to have strong arms and weak forearms as that will make your physique look funny and hurt your ability to properly lift weights.
Workout Techniques for Forearms
You use your forearms every day for an array of tasks, so keeping them strong should be a priority. Strong forearms can also help with hand strength and more durable wrists. What is important is to ensure that you are performing the right exercises and that you are doing them properly for maximum results.
The first step for an effective forearm workout is to ensure that your muscles are warmed up. This step allows better blood flow to the muscles you will be working. It only needs to be five to 10 minutes, so it will not extend your workout too much. Start with some basic cardio, such as jogging, biking or walking. Once your muscles are warm, it is time to stretch a bit. Focus on the arms since this is what you will be working. Ideally, you should hold each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
Forearm exercises need to be done using the proper form to reap the most benefits and reduce the risk of injury. This is one of the most important elements of an effective workout. In addition to injury prevention, proper form also allows for adequate muscle targeting to make sure that the muscles a specific exercise works are actually getting the full benefit of the movement. It is a good idea to have a personal trainer or physical therapist help you with this. They can watch you perform the moves and give you pointers on where you can improve your form. In addition, you should always be using correct posture and breathing properly throughout each exercise.
It is important that you are doing the right amount of repetitions at the right weight. When you are just getting started, doing two sets of each exercise per arm is sufficient. Each set should have eight to 10 repetitions. You want to “feel the burn” per se, but you do not want to work so hard that your arms are in a lot of pain the next day. It is better to start low and work your way up. As for the weight, test out different weights to see which works for you. The weight you choose should be challenging, but not so challenging that it is impossible to complete your two sets of repetitions. You can choose to go back and forth between high weight and low weight once you build some strength and need more of a challenge.
For decades, using heavy weights and working out to failure was what was emphasized. However, more recent research says that it may be better to alternate light and heavy weights to maximize strength. This goes for all areas of the body, including your strength training forearm exercises. Choosing the right weight for you to use is not difficult.
Following a good workout, you want to stretch your forearms. This can be your cooldown process. You stretched a little during your warmup, but it is also a good idea following a cooldown. Stretch your arms for about five minutes. Make sure that the stretches are gentle and do not stretch so far that you start to experience discomfort. With continued stretching, you will notice that you gain flexibility and can do more. Just like with your warmup, hold each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
There are several forearm exercises that can help you to build strength in your lower arms. Popular options include:
There are a number of ways to do a pushup, so start with the type that is comfortable for you and then work toward being able to do a this one if you are just starting out. In addition to your forearms, this will also work your upper arms, back, chest and shoulders. A knuckle pushup variation puts additional focus on the wrist and forearm muscles. You should work on your wrist muscles before doing any high number of pushups as they put strain on your wrists.
Modified Forearm Planks
These will work your abdominal muscles too, but when you do the modified version, your forearms also get a workout. Get into traditional pushup position. Simply hold this for at least 10 seconds. Work toward holding it for two 30-second sets and then expanding to three or four sets.
Forearm Hammer Curls
Stand or sit on a sitting bench (especially if you have lower back problems) using proper posture and hold a dumbbell in each hand. For extra focus, try to rotate your palms so they are facing you at the apex of the movement (while the weights are near your shoulders).
Need dumbbells? Buy a at home set so you can not miss a workout.
Dumbbell Hammer Cheat Curl
Forearm Inward Reverse Curls
Get into the same position you would for bicep curls - but for this exercise, make sure your palms are facing down. However, instead of pushing the barbell up, pull it up toward your upper chest. To target the wrists as well, do a mini wrist curl at the apex of the exercise (while you bring the bar to your chest). This can be performed with a normal barbell, but if possible, use an ez curl bar (shown in photo below) which has angles in the metal to put less strain on your wrists.
The Carry (Farmer's Walk)
This is a very simple exercise and a good one to use a heavier weight for. Simply carry a dumbbell or kettle ball in each hand at your sides and walk with them until you are no longer able to hold them.
Kettle ball weights are useful for a variety of exercises - it is great to have some at home in case you can not make it to the gym
While a dumbbell will work, a cable machine makes it easier to use proper form. Stand with your back to the machine and grab a cable in each hand. Extend your arms behind your back and then pull them forward until your elbow is bent at a 90-degree angle.
Behind the Back Cable Curl
Like a normal cable curl, this uses a bicep attachment (also known as a D-handle). Grab the handle in your left hand and step away from the pulley until you feel tension in the cable and your arm is behind your body. Position your your right leg in front of the left left and execute the curl while keeping your elbow stationary.
This is best with a barbell but dumbbells can also be used. Site at a curling chair and get into proper posture. Hold the barbell/dumbbell in both hands with them shoulder-width apart. Curl the bar or dumbbell up until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
This requires no equipment. Sit on the ground and lift your body up on your feet and hands. Your arms should be behind you. Start walking on your arms and feet. It actually engages many of your body's muscles simultaneously making it a great workout when you are traveling and do not have easy access to a gym or health club.
Any of the exercises that use dumbbells can also be done using a resistance band or tube. Just make sure to anchor the tube or band well so that you are getting the proper level of resistance. The reverse is also true in most cases, so you can replace the tube or band with a dumbbell.
Towel Cable Row
You'll need to a cable station for this one, hook a towel around a bicep attachment, so each end can be pulled each of your arms and stand in front of it. Position yourself so you can perform a row and pull each end of the towel with each hand, squeezing your shoulder blades together while pulling each end towards lower chest.
Towel Roll to Chest
Like the towel cable row, this variation involves you increasing the height of the pulley so the handle is above you. Wrap a towel around the bar of a D-connector (bicep attachment, see the Behind the Back Cable Curl for an example) and hold each towel end in each hand. Extend your arms so that they are at eye level and place one foot on the seat at each time and perform the exercise by pulling the bar to your chest - remember the pull should be angled so it is above you. Switch legs in the middle of each set.
Similar to a towel cable row, this exercise using a towel to change the way your forearm muscles help you perform the exercise. This is useful because its force you use to use muscles in a different manner ensuring all the muscles get worked out. And because each time you do the exercise, the towel will be a in a slightly different position, your forearms will also get worked out randomly. To perform this exercise, just take a standard size towel and wrap it around a pull-up bar, then pull your self up using each hand while holding onto each end of the towel. If you haven't done pull-ups before, you may want to work your way up to this exercise or try just hanging while gripping the towel.
Towel Dumbbell Curl
So if you haven't noticed yet, towels are extremely useful for building forearm muscle, due to the position and muscles engaged with the alternate grip. In this exercise, you simply use two dumbbells with two towels and wrap each towel around a dumbbell (you can use a kettlebell too). You can fold the towel in half if necessary to adjust for length. Hold both end of the towel in each hand and perform the curl while keeping your upper arm still.
There are a number of reasons why you want to ensure that your wrists are strong and healthy. When wrists are strong, it helps to ensure that you can strength train your arms given the important part wrists play in stabilizing your arm for weight bearing exercises, it also reduces the risk of wrist injury and it helps you with everyday tasks, such as carrying groceries or pushing up your body from a sitting position. Getting strong wrists starts with choosing the right exercises for this area of the body. Consider the following exercises:
Hold your arms out in front of you. Ensure your wrists are even with your shoulders. Slowly turn your wrists in circles.
Dumbbell Wrist Curl
This exercise is great to really focus on your wrists! Sit on a chair or bench using proper posture. Rest your forearms on your thighs and ensure that your wrists and elbows are parallel. With your palms facing toward the ceiling, hold a dumbbell in each hand. Slowly curl the dumbbells up using your wrists.
Reverse Dumbbell Wrist Curl
Use the same form and positioning as the regular dumbbell wrist curl. However, face your palms toward the floor. Hold your dumbbells and use your wrists to pull them up.
Barbell Wrist Curl (Wide Grip)
Using a barbell, grip the bar with palms facing up with a wider spacing between your hands than what you would normally use for a biceps curl. This variation engages the wrist muscles more so than in a standard width grip.
Resistance Band Flexion
Sit in a chair and anchor the band with your feet. Make sure it is evenly spaced. Put your forearms on your thighs like with the dumbbell wrist curls. Once the band has the resistance level you chose, face your palms up, grab the band and pull up at your wrist.
Resistance bands can be used for full-body workouts, and are incredibly useful when traveling somewhere where there are no gyms available. You can find these recommended resistance bands on Amazon.com.
Dumbbell Wrist Roll
One of my favorite exercises for the wrists, this little tool really works out your wrists and forearms! Stand up and hold a dumbbell in front of you using the wrist roller. Both hand should be holding it and palms should face your body. Roll the dumbbell inward. Repeat rolling it outward. Many gyms and health clubs will have this tool - you just have to ask for it.
As mentioned above, this is my personal favorite exercise for the wrists and forearms - get your wrist roller on Amazon.com and try it out. You will need a five or ten dumbbell plate. You will definitely feel the burn when doing this exercise! And it can easily be used at home and does not take a lot of space! A perfect addition to your home workout supplies if you workout at home or for when you cannot make it to the gym.
Seated Pronation and Supination with Dumbbell
Sit and rest your arm on a table with your hands extending off the edge with a dumbbell in each hand. Hold the dumbbell with your palm facing down. Slowly rotate your wrist until your palm is facing up. This exercise activates uncommonly used muscles in the wrist and is great for those who use computers often to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
Ulnar and Radial Deviation with Dumbbell or Hand Weights
Sit in a chair or stand, hold a dumbbell and hold your arms out in front of you. Hold a separate dumbbell in each hand. Your palms should be facing each other. Flex your wrist down and then back up.
Tennis Ball Squeeze
Grab a ball that you can squeeze such as a tennis ball. Hold it in your hand with your palm facing up. Squeeze the ball.
Make sure that each wrist gets equal repetitions of each of the exercises. When you are starting out, it is best to workout one wrist at a time unless the exercise requires both. This allows you to better concentrate on your form to ensure that you are doing each exercise properly.
You will choose the right repetitions and weight (for exercises that use weights) for your wrists the same way you choose them for your forearms. It is good to experiment a little to see what works best for you.
Creating a Forearm Workout Schedule
Strength training three to four days a week is generally sufficient. It is recommended that you alternate days so that your muscles have a full 24 hours to recover following a forearm workout before you embark on the next. When you are starting out, go for two days and as you build strength, increase to three to four days, making sure that you have a sufficient resting period in between workouts.
When you are exercising, if you experience discomfort or pain, immediately stop your routine. Allow yourself one to two days to rest and resume. If the discomfort or pain is still present, stop your workout and consult with your doctor to determine if an injury is present.
Nutrients and Strength Training
When you are wanting to perform regular forearm workouts, it is imperative that your bones and muscles have the fuel needed to handle the exercise. This is where the right nutrients come in.
Protein is a nutrient you definitely want to think about when you are working to build lean muscle mass and strength. The general recommendation is consuming approximately 0.8 grams of this nutrient for every kilogram of body weight. This macronutrient is important for helping to build and repair muscles. It is best to get your protein from your diet whenever possible. While protein supplements can be helpful, a diverse diet will always be preferable. You can find sufficient protein in an array of healthy foods, such as cottage cheese, beans, various types of fish, yogurt and chicken and turkey.
To effectively work your forearms, you need energy and this energy largely comes from carbohydrates. The key is to make sure that you are eating the right type. There are simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates come from foods that are generally considered unhealthy, such as white breads and candy. These tend to cause a fast spike in blood sugar followed by a steep crash. This means you will get some energy, but it will decrease rapidly and not last for long. Now, complex carbohydrates help with keeping blood sugar levels stable so that the energy that you get is sustained. Whole grains are a good source of complex carbohydrates.
Ideally, you want the majority of your carbohydrates each day to complex from complex sources. On average, 225 to 325 carbohydrates each day is a solid intake.
Healthy fats and essential fatty acids play an integral role in improving your forearm strength. A Danish study was performed to see how omega-3 and omega-3 fatty acids influence muscle health and strength. When you consume 15 milliliters of these nutrients for every 25 kilograms of body weight, benefits may include:
• An improvement in stamina by approximately 40 to 60 percent
• Reduced risk of overtraining symptoms when working out regularly
• Enhanced healing following an injury
• Recovering faster from training sessions and exhaustion
• Improved muscular development
In addition to the omega fatty acids, there are healthy fats to incorporate into your regular diet. When trying to determine which fats are healthy, you want to look at their production and longevity. For example, trans fats are mostly in processed foods and hydrogenated fats are usually shelf-stable. Both of these are considered to be unhealthy fats that you want to limit as much as possible in your diet.
The right balance of healthy fats is important for your total health, including better body composition. The following are types of fat that are considered to be healthy:
• Monounsaturated fats are those you get from foods, such as seeds, avocados, nuts and olives. They play a role in helping to reduce the “bad” cholesterol.
• Saturated fats are found in tropical oils and animal foods. These may help to contribute to optimal body composition.
• Polyunsaturated fats include your omega fatty acids. They contribute to balanced cholesterol.
Now that you know which nutrients are important, when should you be eating them? The basic answer is daily. The information here describes your body’s daily needs. Now, on workout days, research shows that eating a combination of carbohydrates and essential amino acids immediately before you engage in strength training may have the most positive impact on protein synthesis.
Importance of Strength Training
A good forearm workout provides a wealth of benefits. When it comes to this type of exercise, most people focus on the strength that they will build, and while this is important, it is far from the only benefit. The bones also enjoy improved health when you strength train. It is estimated that in the United States, about two million men have osteoporosis, according to Harvard Medical School. Once you reach your 40th birthday, you start to lose about one percent of your bone mass each year. As bone mass reduces, you are at a higher risk for fractures.
When you strength train regularly, you are helping to reduce the pace at which bone loss occurs. It may even aid in building bone. When someone has osteoporosis, the wrists are among the most commonly fractured areas, so ensuring sufficient forearm strength is imperative, especially once you are age 40 and older.
Around age 30, people start to lose three to eight percent of their lean muscle mass approximately every decade, states the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This is normal and related to aging. It is associated with the natural reduction of estrogen and testosterone levels as people get older. However, with regular strength training, it is possible to build and maintain muscle during all stages of life.
If you have any upper body injuries or medical conditions affecting the arms or upper body, talk to your doctor before starting a workout plan. This helps to ensure that you are reaping the full benefits of your new workout routine and not putting yourself at risk for injury.
The Right Gym to Support Your Forearm Exercise Plans and Overall Well Being
The best gyms offer specialized equipment to help support your forearm workouts with tools to build wrist and arm strength. To help you find a gym, we suggest you use our easy gym and fitness club locator tool, available from the reviewagym.com homepage, or if you are traveling try using the GymsNearMe tool which automatically finds nearby gyms using your computer's location. Be sure to write a review once you have tried the gym and let others know what you think, you can win great prizes!