Skinny Forearms? Build Your Lower Arms with These 13 Exercises and Workout! – Fitness Volt

While your biceps and triceps make up the bulk of your arm mass, your forearms are probably the most visible arm muscle group. After all, whether you’re wearing a T-shirt or have your sleeves rolled up, your forearms are on show.

So, why is it that so many lifters pay so little attention to their lower arm development? It’s no wonder that skinny forearms are such a common sight.

As well as being an aesthetic issue, skinny forearms often lead to a weak grip, and a weak grip can affect many aspects of your workout. For example, if you want to deadlift big or do heavy rows, your grip is critical.

Yes, you COULD wear lifting straps to bolster your grip, but that’s a way around the problem rather than a fix. Once the straps come off, your grip will still be weak, and your forearms will still be skinny.

In this article, we reveal 13 of the best forearm and grip exercises and provide you with a workout that’ll turn your skinny forearms into massive, strong bowling pins!

Forearm Muscles Anatomy

Unlike your upper arms, which are mainly made up of your biceps and triceps, your forearms are much more complex. That’s because they control all of your fingers as well as your wrists. Some forearm muscles cross your elbows, too.

Broadly speaking, the muscles of the forearms can be categorized as flexors or extensors. The flexors are responsible for closing your fingers into a fist and curling your wrist downward. In contrast, the extensors open your fingers and pull your wrist upward.

The muscles that make up the forearm are (1):

Flexors: Flexor carpi ulnaris, palmaris longus, flexor carpi radialis, pronator teres, flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor digitorum profundus, flexor pollicis longus, and pronator quadratus.

Extensors: Brachioradialis, extensor carpi radialis longus, extensor carpi radialis brevis, extensor digitorum, extensor digiti minimi, extensor carpi ulnaris, anconeus, supinator, abductor pollicis longus, extensor pollicis brevis, extensor pollicis longus, and extensor indicis.

Do you need to know all these names? Definitely not! But it does illustrate that the forearms are a complicated body part, and you can’t just hope that they’ll get bigger and stronger.

Instead, you need to choose the best forearm exercises and train them hard and often – just like any other muscle group.

Best Exercises for Curing Skinny Forearms and Building a Stronger Grip

Beef up your lower arms and turn your hands into powerful talons with the 13 best forearm and grip exercises!

1. Barbell wrist curls

This classic, old-school exercise is an excellent way to build up your forearm flexors and strengthen your wrists. With no special equipment required, you can easily add this exercise to your biceps workout to finish off your arm training.

How to do it:

  • Grab a barbell with an underhand, narrow grip. Sit on an exercise bench and lean forward. Rest your forearms and the back of your wrists on the bench so your palms are facing upward.
  • Keep your forearms flat on the bench, extend your wrists, and lower the weight toward the floor. Open your fingers and let the bar roll down as far as possible without dropping it.
  • Close your fingers, and then curl your wrists to lift the weight back up.
  • You can also do this exercise with dumbbells.
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    Important note: Rolling the weight down to your fingertips may cause elbow pain, especially if you do this exercise too often or with too much weight. If you experience any elbow pain, stop short of extending your fingers and just focus on the wrist part of the movement. You’ll still get a great forearm workout but without the discomfort. 

     

    2. Behind the back wrist curls

    No bench? No problem! You can still train your forearms even if you only have a barbell to train with. This exercise can also be done in a Smith machine. However, because of the behind-the-back position, some lifters find this exercise a little hard on the shoulders, so skip it if you have a history of shoulder pain.

    How to do it:

  • Hold a barbell behind you using a shoulder-width grip and your palms facing backward.
  • Flex your wrists and curl the bar up and away from your legs/butt.
  • Lower the bar and repeat.
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    3. Reverse wrist curls

    Where regular wrist curls work your forearm flexors, this exercise works the extensors. Training these muscles will not just add size to your forearms; it will also help keep your forearms muscles balanced, which may help reduce your risk of injury.

    How to do it:

  • Grab a barbell with a narrow, overhand grip. Sit on an exercise bench and lean forward. Place the underside of your forearms on your thighs so your palms are facing the floor.
  • With your forearms on your legs, flex your wrists, and lower the weight down toward the floor.
  • Extend your wrists and lift the weight back up. Bend your wrists as far back as you can.
  • Alternatively, you can sit on or kneel behind a bench and place your forearms on the backrest.
  • You can also do this exercise with dumbbells.
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    4. Barbell reverse curls

    Barbell reverse curls are often thought of as a biceps exercise. While this is true, barbell reverse curls are also an effective forearm extensor exercise. Studies have shown that reverse curls target the brachialis and brachioradialis while providing plenty of work for your biceps (2).

    How to do barbell reverse curls:

  • Grip and hold a barbell with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Place your thumb on top of the bar to maximize forearm activation.
  • With your elbows tucked in close to your sides, bend your arms and curl the bar up to your shoulders.
  • Lower the weight and repeat.
  • You can also do this exercise with a cable machine or a thick barbell, which is much more challenging.
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    5. Hammer curls

    Like reverse curls, hammer curls are often thought of as a biceps exercise, but they’re also good for your forearms.

    Hammer curls target the brachioradialis, which is the largest of the forearm muscles, and the brachialis, which is a forearm muscle that also flexes the elbow. It was a favorite of old-school bodybuilding legend Larry Scott, who had some of the best biceps and forearms in the history of the sport. 

    How to do it:

  • Seated or standing, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms by your sides. Make sure your hands are in a neutral position.
  • With your upper arms close to your sides, bend your arms and curl the weights up to your shoulders.
  • Slowly lower your weights and repeat.
  • You can also do this exercise using a cable machine, i.e., hammer cable curls.
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    6. Farmer’s walk

    The farmer’s walk is a popular conditioning exercise that also happens to be a great way to build bigger forearms and a vice-like grip. It’s a very straightforward exercise that requires nothing but a heavy pair of dumbbells and some space to walk.

    Farmer’s Walk Exercise

    How to do it:

  • Lift and hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand. With your arms by your sides, pull your shoulders down and back, and brace your core.
  • Walk around your training area for a predetermined time or distance. Alternatively, continue until your grip gives out.
  • You can also do this exercise using kettlebells or a trap bar.
  • Use just one weight implement to get a core workout as you build your forearms and grip.
  • Read more about farmer’s walks in our in-depth guide to this excellent exercise.

     

    7. Plate pinch

    This unusual exercise is excellent for building bigger forearms and an unbreakable grip. Unlike most forearm exercises, your fingers are kept relatively straight, so it’s a good way to add variety to your forearm-building workouts.

    How to do it:

  • Place two equally sized weight plates back to back.
  • Pinch them together with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other.
  • Pick the plates up and hold them for as long as possible, squeezing them as hard as possible, taking care not to drop the weights on your toes.
  • Continue until your grip gives out.
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    8. Towel pull-ups

    Pull-ups are an excellent lat exercise. But, by swapping the bar for two towels, you can turn this popular bodyweight back builder into a killer forearm workout. This exercise won’t just bulk up your forearms; it will turn your hands into unbreakable vices!

    How to do it:

  • Hang two towels over your pull-up bar and hold the ends together as tightly as possible.
  • Starting with your arms straight and your feet off the floor, bend your elbows and pull yourself up as high as you can. Keep crushing those towel ends together!
  • Extend your arms, and then repeat.
  • Can’t do full pull-ups? Use an assisted chin/dip machine.
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    You can use the towel grip method on other exercises to increase forearm activation, including curls, rows, and pulldowns.

     

    9. Deadlift holds

    This exercise turns one of the best posterior chain exercises into a challenging but effective forearm and grip builder. You may have seen this exercise on the World’s Strongest Man, where competitors lift and hold enormous weights. However, unlike Eddie Hall and his friends, you should NOT use straps for this forearm exercise.

    How to do it:

  • Place a loaded barbell on the floor. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes under the bar. Squat down and grip the bar with a double overhand grip.
  • Straighten your arms, drop your hips, and lift your chest. Brace your abs and slightly arch your lower back.
  • Drive your feet into the floor and, without rounding your lower back, stand up straight.
  • Gripping the bar as tightly as you can, hold it until you feel your hands starting to fail.
  • Before dropping the weight, push your hips, bend your knees, and place the barbell back on the floor.
  • You can also do this exercise with the bar raised up to about knee height in a squat rack or resting on blocks. This will save you from having to perform a full deadlift.
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    10. Dead hangs

    While the deadlift hold (exercise #9) is a great forearm and grip exercise, it’s not necessarily the most practical. For a start, you’ll need access to a barbell and plenty of weights. You’ll also need to be able to do a perfect deadlift.

    The dead hang works the same muscles, but it’s a more straightforward exercise to master. Plus, all you need is somewhere to hang from, such as a pull-up bar or even a tree branch. This is a favorite exercise for climbers, who are renowned for their muscular forearms and fantastic grip strength.

    How to do it:

  • Grip and hold a suitable pull-up bar.
  • Keeping your arms straight, hang from the bar for as long as possible.
  • Drop from the bar just before your grip fails.
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    11. Wrist roller

    Whether you make yourself a DIY wrist roller or use a commercial model, this old-school exercise is a tried-and-tested forearm and grip builder. A few sets of wrist rolls will leave your lower arms pumped and swollen.

    How to do it:

  • Hold your wrist roller with an overhand grip and extend your arms out in front of you.
  • Keeping your arms up, roll the rope around the roller, and lift the weight off the floor. Keep going until all the rope/strap is all gathered in.
  • Without lowering your arms, unroll the rope and lower the weight back to the floor.
  • Take your shoulders out of this exercise by resting your forearms on a barbell set to shoulder height in a squat rack.
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    12. Tennis ball squeeze

    Tennis balls are ideal for grip strength training. They yield slightly when you squeeze them but don’t compress completely. This means you can crush them as hard as you like (or can) to give your hands and forearms a great workout.

    How to do it:

  • Squeeze the ball as hard as possible for five to ten seconds, rest a minute, and repeat.
  • Longer, less intense efforts won’t build strength. Instead, they’ll build grip endurance. This may also be useful if you find your hands get tired fast.
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    13. Rubber band finger extensions

    This resistance band exercise specifically targets your finger extensors. While these muscles won’t add a lot to the size of your forearms, training them may help prevent the imbalances that can lead to problems like carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injuries (RSIs).

    How to do it:

  • With your fingers straight and together, take a large rubber band and loop it around your fingertips and thumb. A standard stationary-type band should suffice.
  • Open your hand and spread your fingers and thumb apart as far as you can.
  • Slowly close your hand and repeat.
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    Workout for Bigger Forearms and A Stronger Grip

     

    Add any of the above exercises to your arm workouts to build bigger, more muscular forearms. Better yet, dedicate one or two workouts a week to forearm training. Add this workout to the end of your upper arm workout, or do it on a separate day.

    However, it’s best NOT to train your grip the day before your back workout, as your fatigued forearms could make your back workout less effective.

    Workout for Bigger Forearms and A Stronger Grip

    #Exercise SetsRepsRecovery 1aWrist curl38-1090 seconds 1bBarbell reverse curl 2Hammer curl310-1260 seconds 3Dead hang2Max’ time60 seconds 4Farmer’s walk1Max’ distanceN/A 

    Exercises 1a and 1b are to be done as a superset. Do 8-10 wrist curls followed immediately by 8-10 reverse curls. Rest for 90 seconds, and then repeat the pairing. Do three supersets in total.

    More on Forearms:

    Wrapping Up

    While the forearms aren’t the most glamorous muscle group, they can be one of the most impressive when properly developed. They’re also the muscle that people are most likely to notice when you are wearing a T-shirt.

    Strong forearms will add a lot to your workout, too, especially during exercises like deadlifts, pull-ups, pulldowns, and rows. The more unbreakable your grip is, the more weight you’ll be able to lift, the more reps you’ll be able to perform, and the better your results will be.

    So, don’t leave your forearm development to chance. Instead, train them hard and often using these 13 excellent exercises and our tried-and-tested forearm workout.

    References:

    1 –PubMed: Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Forearm Muscles  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

    2 –PubMed: Muscular Coordination of Biceps Brachii And Brachioradialis In Elbow Flexion with Respect to Hand Position https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

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