Your forearms don’t get the respect they deserve. Not only do thicker, fuller forearms give you a more aesthetically imposing look, but they increase your strength capacity in exercises like the deadlift. Your upper body also looks and functions more symmetrically. Simply put: Forearms exercises belong in everyone’s training regimen.
Failing to incorporate targeted exercises can result in weak grip strength. You might not realize it, but grip strength is imperative to everyday tasks like carrying heavy groceries and luggage, in addition to helping you excel in sports (think climbing, baseball, MMA).
If you want to bulk up your upper body, hit your muscles from every angle with these 20 forearms exercises and say sayonara to your skinny arms. There are plenty of curl variations, weighted carries, and even some bodyweight moves (e.g. towel pullups, chinups, crab walks) that’ll help forge that coveted size, shape, and strength you’re seeking.
Not sure how many reps and sets to do? Check out our definitive guide. Word to the wise: Don’t toss all of these exercises into one session. Add a few to the tail-end of a strength workout to burn out your arms, or program a handful into your next arms-day workout to build three-dimensional muscle. Make sure you’re prioritizing form over speed and weight. Also see The 5 Best Muscle-Shocking Methods.
1. Behind-the-Back Cable Curl
Attach a D-handle to the low pulley of a cable machine, grasp the handle in your left hand, and step forward (away from the machine) until there is tension on the cable and your arm is drawn slightly behind your body. Stagger your feet so your right leg is in front. Curl the handle but do not allow your elbow to point forward.
2. EZ-Bar Preacher Curl
Sit at a preacher bench and adjust the height so that your armpits touch the top of the bench. Grasp an EZ-curl bar at shoulder width with arms extended (but allow a slight bend at the elbows). Curl the bar, keeping the backs of your arms against the bench. Take three seconds to lower the bar back down.
3. Reverse Curl
Grasp the bar overhand at whatever width is comfortable. Keeping your upper arms against your sides, curl the bar.
4. Wide Grip Curl
Grasp the bar with hands wider than shoulder width—if you’re using an Olympic bar, your pinkies should be on the outside knurling. Perform curls.
5. Towel Cable Row
Hook a towel to a cable pulley and stand in front of it. Set up to do a row, holding an end of the towel in each hand. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and row the towel to your rib cage.
6. Towel Pullup
Hang a towel over a pullup bar and grasp an end in each hand. Hang from the towel and then pull yourself up until your chin is above your hands. If that’s too difficult, simply hang from the towel for as long as you can.
7. Towel Row-to-Chest
Loop a towel around the bar of a lat-pulldown machine and hold an end of the towel in each hand. Your arms should be extended and at eye level. Brace one foot on the seat of the machine and pull the bar to your chest as in a normal row.
8. Towel Kettlebell Curl
Run the towel through the handle of a kettlebell, or wrap two towels around a pair of dumbbells as shown, and fold it in half. Hold both ends in one hand (for kettlebell), or both ends in each hand (dumbbells) and curl, keeping your upper arm stationary.
9. Farmer’s Walk
Pick up the heaviest dumbbells you can handle and walk with your chest out, standing tall with arms at your sides. Go 40–50 yards—you can walk in a figure-eight pattern if you don’t have the space. At the end of the distance, stop and continue to hold the weights for as long as possible.
10. Hammer Cheat Curl
Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and cheat the weights, as if doing a clean, to the top position of a curl. Use momentum from your hips to get the weights up. Slowly lower the weights back down for five counts.
11. Wrist Curl
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and sit on a bench, box, or chair. Rest your forearms on your thighs and allow your wrists to bend back over your knees so the weights hang down. Curl the dumbbells up by just flexing your wrists.
12. Reverse Wrist Curl
Perform the opposite motion of the wrist curl. Palms face down and extend your wrists to raise the back of your hands closer to your forearms.
13. Grip Crush
Sit on a bench, box, or chair with a dumbbell in your left. Extend your arm toward the floor and brace the back of it against the inside of your left thigh. Allow your hand to open and the dumbbell to roll to your fingertips. Now close your hand and perform a wrist curl, squeezing the weight as hard as possible. Choose a weight you could perform 8–12 normal biceps curls with.
14. Towel Curl
Loop a thick towel around the bar so that it doesn’t let your hands close all the way when you grasp it. Hold the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip, in front of your thighs. Without allowing your upper arms to move forward, curl the bar. Add weight each set so you must reduce your reps.
15. Reverse Curl 21
Curl the bar halfway up and hold for one second. Lower it backand repeat for six more reps. Then curl the bar to the mid point and, beginning there, curl it all the way up for seven reps, using the mid point as the “bottom” of each rep. Finally, perform seven full-range reps.
16. Zottman Curl
Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing your sides. Keeping your upper arms in place, curl the weights, rotating your palms to face your biceps in the top position. Turn your palms to face down, and then lower the weights slowly, as in a reverse curl. That’s one rep.
17. Drag Curl
Perform as you would the conventional dumbbell curl, but stand tall and drive your elbows back as you curl so the head of each dumbbell touches the front of your body throughout the rep. (Keep your palms facing up the whole time.) It should look as though you’re dragging the weights up along your torso.
Grasp the bar with hands shoulder width and turn your palms to face you. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Complete your reps and then come down off the bar.
19. Parallel Bar Hand Walk
Hang from a jungle gym or length of parallel bars. Walk to the end of the row and back with your hands.
20. Crab Walk
Sit on the ground and bridge up with your hips so you look like a tabletop. Walk forward on your hands and feet as fast as you can.