Rock Those Forearms: Tips for Training Success

Key Points

  • Forearm strength plays a big role in performing both exercise and daily physical activities.

  • Use various exercises to help build forearm strength and make whole-body workouts more efficient.

  • Proper form and range of motion are important to consider when training forearms for optimized strength and function.

If you're a serious fitness and weight training enthusiast, there's one surprising thing that may be holding you back from reaching your full physical potential. Your forearm strength is a factor that affects your whole fitness routine.

Wondering how to get bigger forearms? The importance of strengthening and toning this muscle group is the answer to improving whole-body strength and function. Whether you are a newbie to weight training or are well into your fitness journey, take these tips and tricks to see how to get bigger forearms — and perhaps better quality of life.

Why Are Forearms Important?

Begin by understanding the importance of forearm strength. Exercises like pull-ups, rows, farmer carries, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and bicep curls rely heavily on forearm strength. Solid forearms enable you to develop a firm grip, engage more muscles, and generate increased squeezing force during workouts and daily activities.

Weak and underdeveloped muscles, on the other hand, easily tire out, becoming a big limiting factor in exercises like pull-ups and rows. This phenomenon is known as the "weakest link" in the kinetic chain. It hinders the full engagement of the intended muscle groups during your sweaty workout sessions. Prioritizing forearm strength is critical for the overall strength and development of your body.

Woman doing arm exercises

Kinetic Movement

Orthopedic surgeon Art Steindler first introduced the concept of the kinetic chain in 1955. This refers to the collaboration of individual muscles and joints working as a cohesive unit to execute a meaningful and efficient movement.

When performing exercises like pull-ups, it's not just targeted muscles like the back and triceps that you engage, but all other muscles involved in the kinetic chain that contributes to your whole body motion. This includes hands, wrists, forearms, biceps, and a host of other muscles.

If your grip strength is weak while doing pull-ups, your back muscles won't receive adequate stimulation as your hands give out before other muscles are even challenged. Why do some have weak, underdeveloped forearms? Maybe your ancestors can provide some insight as to why current forearm strength fails.

The Evolution of Weakness

Prehistoric women in Central Europe had greater upper arm strength compared to modern female athletes, including professional rowing champions. Bones of Central European women living during the first 6000 years of agriculture were analyzed, and researchers revealed that the average prehistoric woman had stronger upper arms than the female rowing champions of today. It's no doubt that the physical activities of these women contributed to strong muscle and bone development.

Contenders in the study included the Open and Lightweight squads of the Cambridge University Women's Boat Club, who trained rigorously for three weeks prior to a bone scan. The Neolithic women, who lived 7500 years ago, had arm bones that were 16 percent stronger for their size compared to the rowers and almost thirty percent stronger than non-rowing students of Cambridge's population. Bronze Age women who lived 4000 years ago also had strength advantages of 9-13 percent.

Human ancestors had significantly better levels of fitness compared to modern humans. While most don't engage in activities like farming or grinding flour, strong forearms are necessary for daily activities like typing, using a trackpad or mouse, opening jars, driving, and wringing out wet laundry. Many other sports and exercises like tennis, golf, basketball, baseball, and yoga also call for forearm strength.

Forearm Anatomy

As you look at your forearms, you may not realize all of the intricacies that are happening when you engage in various upper body movements. Here are just a few of the muscles you engage as you go about your day.

Flexor Pollicis Longus

The flexor pollicis longus is in the forearm; its primary responsibility includes flexing your thumb. You perform movements like gripping, grasping, and pinching with this muscle. The flexor pollicis longus provides stability for your hand and all of its intricate movements.

Flexor Digitorum Profundus

The flexor digitorum profundus is a muscle located in the forearm that flexes your fingers. Helping the thumb to grip, grasp, and manipulate certain objects and provides the fine motor capabilities needed for writing, typing, and manipulating tools.

Flexor Digitorum Superficialis

Flexor digitorum superficialis is yet another layer of finger motor muscle that provides strength, stability, and coordination for your hands and forearms. Those with an affinity for Chinese food find chopstick manipulation possible, thanks to this efficient muscle. A strong and stable flexor digitorum superficialis also makes it easier to play musical instruments and create beautiful art.

Flexor Carpi Ulnaris and Radialis

The flexor carpi ulnaris and radialis are responsible for flexion and movement of the wrist. The two provide strength and stability for lower arm movements related to the wrist, hands, and palms. Working in tandem with the aforementioned muscles, this larger muscle duo protects smaller muscles and facilitates more demanding movements.


Brachioradialis's primary function is to help with flexion of the forearm at the elbow joint. When the forearm is in a neutral position with the palm facing down, the brachioradialis flexes the forearm and brings the hand toward the shoulder. It also assists with supination (turning the palm up) of the forearm when it's in a pronated position. It's a significant muscle in the forearm that contributes to the overall strength and coordination of the upper extremities.

Woman doing bench press

Palmaris Longus

Interestingly enough, the palmaris longus is not present in everyone; it's considered to be a remnant of evolutionary development that has lost much of its original function. It's significantly weaker than other forearm muscles, but it does have minor effects on grip strength and hand function.

Extensor Pollicis Brevis

The extensor pollicis brevis has the important job of extending the thumb at the MCP joint, which is the joint between the thumb and the first metacarpal bone. This allows you to perform the classic "thumbs up" sign easily. Dysfunction or injury to this muscle results in weakness or limitation in thumb mobility that may impact hand function.

Why Is Strength Important?

You don't have to sport forearms like Popeye to yield benefits from forearm workouts. Here are some of the most significant benefits that fitness enthusiasts report from some dedicated forearm training.

Significant Whole Body Training Benefits

You need your forearm muscles in almost every exercise that you perform. What needs to be stressed is the significance of these muscles and the role that they play in lifting routines.

If you were to use a shovel or rake made from plastic rather than metal, you'd quickly find that the plastic version of these garden tools is not nearly as effective due to the substandard material. If you choose a metal version of these tools — offering you a bit more strength to work with — you might find that your outside work gets done more easily and efficiently.

Consider your forearms as you ponder this analogy. Do you want to be working with the "plastic" or "metal" forearm as you go about your daily activities and workouts? Doing your part to strengthen and tone these muscles helps provide you with the foundation you need for efficient, strong movement.

Stronger Grip, Better Training

You use grip strength constantly in daily activities, from gripping the steering wheel to engaging in sports such as rock climbing and MMA. Despite its significance, many overlook the importance of grip strength.

Your grip has a direct correlation with enhanced performance in exercises like barbell rows, deadlifts, bench presses, and others. A stronger grip equates to more efficient exercise; you'll lift longer and heavier, and you'll reduce the incidents of injury that might otherwise derail your training.

Efficient Daily Activities

Building forearm strength benefits your daily activity list, too. You've seen those grocery warriors heading in from the car with six or seven bags in each hand. They've probably put some work into developing their forearms.

Having robust, strong forearms makes a noticeable difference in various tasks, from home improvement projects to something as simple as grocery shopping. With strength in the forearms, previously challenging tasks become much easier.

Improved Appearance

Well-developed forearms significantly enhance and improve your physique. Even if you have well-built traps, biceps, and chest, small forearms will take away from your girth, making you appear proportionately unbalanced.

Not to worry, ladies; you are not genetically predisposed to bulking up in this area of the body. You'll tighten, tone, and define your forearms without excessive bulk. Strength of any kind is more attractive than perceived weakness, and developing these muscles benefits you in a multitude of ways.

Prevention of Injuries

Having well-developed forearms plays a crucial role in preventing gym injuries. Many exercises involve the use of forearms, subjecting them to significant stress. If your forearms are weak and you attempt to lift heavy weights, there's a risk of your arm snapping or fracturing.

Weak forearms also result in secondary injuries. Weak forearms during a bicep curl session may cause your body to overcompensate by activating back muscles, leading to potential injuries. The neck, back, and hamstrings are all at risk for injury if you attempt exercises with weak forearms. Work out those flexors, and look forward to injury-free workout sessions.

Forearm and wrist pain after lifting weights

Why Are Strong Muscles So Attractive?

What makes a muscular physique so attractive to men and women? There's no denying that a strong, well-sculpted physique leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. Why do we keep ogling over and longing for the same type of strength for ourselves?

Muscles Are Sexy!

In a study conducted by Martie Haselton and Devid Frederick titled "Why is Muscularity Sexy? Tests of the Fitness Indicator Hypothesis", 141 women were asked to rate different male body types in terms of attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 9. The results showed women found built, toned, and brawny body types to be more pleasing. Slender and typical body types received lower ratings, while chubby bodies came in at the bottom of the list.

Separate studies revealed that short-term partners tended to be more muscular than long-term relationships. Researchers proposed that women have fewer requirements for muscular men.

Those same researchers also found that muscular men, regardless of self-esteem, reported a greater number of sexual partners when controlling for age and body fat. Clearly, there is a correlation between physical fitness and sexual success, indicating that fitness is fun in more ways than one.

They Indicate Health and Fitness

Patric Durkee at the University of Texas Austin revealed that both men and women generally find bigger muscles more attractive than smaller ones. Certain muscles in these studies were considered more important than others, however.

The top five muscles rated by women in terms of attractiveness were:

  • Obliques

  • Glutes

  • Shoulders

  • Abs

  • Forearms

Women preferred muscles that are harder to build than those that are easy to maintain. Size wasn't necessarily as important as definition and all-over muscle tone, which many study participants stated was the most attractive attribute a person could embody.

Muscular upper body

Muscles Attract Attention

Men and women alike take greater notice of strong, well-developed physiques. People spend more time looking at those who are formidable and larger in size compared to their average counterparts. When given photos of shirtless individuals, study group participants regularly spent more time viewing those who were considered "fit" and tended to skim past those sporting average or more unpleasant features.

Building a Strong Foundation

So, you want to be ogled at? Feeling the need to stir up a little more attention on the beach? Diving into your forearms may be the key to yielding more efficient workouts all the way around. Here are some training tips to take with you to the gym and into your basement as you blast away at those lower arm muscles.

Farmer's Carry

The Farmer's Carry is a critical exercise for enhancing grip strength and forearm power while also promoting core strength and shoulder stability. To perform the carry, hold a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand, maintaining an upright posture while walking with purpose. Keep abs engaged, chest lifted, and shoulders stable throughout the exercise.

Use the Farmer's Carry as a warm-up routine to activate total body stability by completing two to three sets of 20 yards. Save it till the end of your workout as a challenging finish to a grueling lineup. Aim to carry the weights as far as possible for at least 10 minutes to really test your endurance and strength.

Trap Bar Carry

A Trap Bar Carry allows you to handle significantly heavier weights compared to a farmer's carry, resulting in improved forearm strength and body stability. To perform the Trap Bar Carry, load a trap bar with challenging weight, position yourself inside the trap bar, lift it up, and begin walking.

Stay upright, engaging your abs and pulling your shoulders back throughout your exercise. Strive to stay as tall as possible during the carry to maximize benefits to forearms and total body stability.

Towel Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are effective for developing grip strength and building thicker arms. Take it up a notch by gripping towels instead of a bar to significantly increase forearm demands. You'll need to exert extra effort to crush the towels and maintain a tighter grip to pull yourself up, which may result in being able to do only one or two repetitions at first.

To perform towel pull-ups, wrap two towels around a secure pull-up bar. Grasp a towel in each hand and perform your pull-ups, keeping your chest lifted and shoulders lowered as you ascend. If two towels are too challenging at first, put one hand on the pull-up bar for extra stability, then alternate sides. This allows you to gradually build up your grip strength before attempting the full expression of the exercise.

Plate Curls

Work those digits and develop impressive pinching abilities with the Plate Curl. Instead of performing a traditional bicep curl with a dumbbell, try using a weight plate and gripping it by the end. Aim to complete five to six sets of four to eight repetitions. If this proves too easy, use a heavier weight plate each time to challenge yourself.

Dumbbell curls

Pinch Carries

Pinch Carries are a highly effective exercise that specifically blasts at your forearms by requiring you to maintain a strong grip and actively pinch two plates together to prevent them from separating. To perform Pinch Carries, grab two weight plates with the smooth side out, one in each hand, and pinch them tightly together. Stand as tall as possible, engage your core, and start walking. Try to complete two to three sets of 15 yards each, increasing weight if necessary.

Grip Crushers

Grip Crushers focus solely on isolating your grip and your forearms. To perform grip crushers, grasp a hand grip exerciser and apply pressure until the two handles meet. When incorporating this into your workout routine, start with lighter resistance as part of your warm-up. Try two to three sets with a gripper that you can fully close up to 10 times.

If you find it too easy, progress to a more challenging gripper!

Hammer Cheat Curl

Using a dumbbell in each hand, grip them tightly and perform a movement similar to a clean, where you use momentum to lift weights. Then bring weights to the top position of a curl, with wrists facing inward. Lower the weights gradually, counting to five, as you return to your original starting position.

Reverse-Grip Barbell Curl

Using free weights or a barbell, use an overhand grip and keep your arms pinned to your sides, curling the bar up so that it's parallel to the floor. Use the grip width that is most comfortable for you, and don't be too gregarious with weight as you begin. This is a serious forearm blaster if not performed correctly.

Preacher Curls

As you sit down on your adjustable weight bench to perform Preacher Curls, adjust the seat so the top of the pad rests against your armpits. Sit down and firmly grasp a straight or EZ bar with a grip that is shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms, but avoid fully locking your elbows. Keeping your upper arms in contact with the pad, curl the weight upwards, striving for maximum contraction at the top of the lift. Lower the bar in a controlled manner, avoiding full extension and locking of your elbows.

Avoid These Training Mistakes

As with any weight-training protocol, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement at the thought of creating your new physique. Remember, using proper form and the right equipment are key factors in your continued success.

Avoid the following common forearm training mistakes that could stall your progress.

Forearm Neglect

You should train your forearms as regularly as you would train your biceps. Slide them into a workout where they won't be exhausted, such as after quads or before chest. Work different sets of muscles and switch your grip to encourage muscle contraction and yield maximum growth.

Failing to Vary Exercise Routines

Many trainers rely solely on a barbell for forearm workouts. It's essential to have a diverse range of workout tools in your arsenal, however. Doing the same chest press year after year will soon fail to deliver new results, and the same goes for your forearms. Switch up the game with dumbbells, cables, and other specialized machines to provide additional training benefits and enhance your forearm training routine.

Upper body exercise

No Emphasis on Stretching and Contracting

Many people tend to shorten the already brief range of motion in wrist curls by performing quick reps that only target the midrange, neglecting stretches and contractions that further massage the muscle.

According to Sports Trainer and Coach Craig Cecil this is an inefficient movement. "Half reps may build your ego, but they only build half a physique." To combat this tendency, reduce your weight, incorporate stretches into your movements, and concentrate on contraction at the full expression of your exercise to yield the best, most efficient results.

Let The Forearm Magic Begin!

Well-developed forearms are strong, sexy, and beautiful. They provide strength, stability, and efficiency to all of your daily activities. With this information, you have the tools needed to sculpt and tone your best arms yet. Get ready to reap the many benefits of functional fitness and turn a few more heads as you build beautiful forearms.

For more tips on fitness and nutrition, visit the experts at FitnessCorner. Get started building your best body yet!

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