Forearm Exercises To Build Up Small & Weak Forearms
Not blessed with godly forearms? No problems.
Whether you find your forearm and grip strength to be holding you back when performing deadlifts or perhaps you just want to build up those badass Sylvester Stallone style forearms... the following forearm exercises have got you covered.
1 - Weighted Pull-Ups
Weighted pull-ups are a functional exercise and in my opinion are the best back exercise for upper back mass.
If you can’t perform weighted pull-ups perform bodyweight pull-ups, if you can’t perform body-weight pull-ups perform assisted pull-ups or simply jump up and grab the bar while focusing on the negative portion of each repetition.
The only way to get better at pull-ups is to do them! Don’t skip pull-ups simply because you find them a struggle (I recall repping out sets of weighted dips with a 45lb plate before I could even perform 1 proper form wide grip pull-up, so don’t get discouraged!).
Targets: Back & Biceps
Required: Pull-Up Bar & Weight Belt
Weighted Pull-Ups Form
With Arms fully extended and slightly wider than shoulder-width grasp your pull-up bar and assume a dead hang position.
Use either a dip belt with a weight plate or lock a dumbbell between your legs.
Tilt your head to look slightly upward and maintain a small arch in your back, this will create the slight angle you'll maintain in your torso for the duration of the set.
Drive your arms down and back, pulling through your lats until your chin clears the bar.
Slowly lower yourself back down to the dead hang starting position.
Repeat for the desired number of repetitions with this full range of motion.
Weighted Pull-Ups Variations
Instead of gripping directly onto your pull-up bar opt to hold onto either end of a towel, draping it over your pull-up bar.
The towel pull-up is harder than it looks and is fantastic for developing both grip and core strength as well as smashing the lats.
Form wise the chin-up is the same as the pull-up however you'll be utilizing an underhand, closer grip - placing greater emphasis on the biceps.
Neutral Grip Chin-Ups
Form wise the chin-up is the same as the pull-up however you'll be utilizing a neutral hammer style grip (palms facing inward).
Additional emphasis is placed on the biceps and forearms.
2 - Dead Hangs
"SJ, what's the point of hanging from a bar, shouldn't we just do pull-ups or chin-ups?"
Dead hangs are an exercise that literally everyone can benefit from, whether you're a mass monster, a committed CrossFitter or a weekend warrior...
And here's the best part - In terms of form they're extremely easy to perform and you can reap all the rewards of dead hangs with only 10~ minutes a week!
Chin-ups, pull-ups, muscle-ups, front levers, back levers, skin the cat... the majority of guys want to master these key exercises but fail to do so.
They go through the progressions of the exercise itself but they never go right back to basics.
In order to master pulling exercises you must first master hanging.
Rock climbers and gymnasts, two disciplines that require immense pulling strength recognise this and include a hell of a lot of hanging in their routines, be it from pull-ups bars, rings, rocks or hang boards - the benefits are the same.
Your forearms are under tension for the duration of your dead hang sets, I guarantee you when you're able to hang from a pull-up bar for 2+ minutes you'l never complain about having small forearms.
The pump, vascularity and growth I've noticed in my forearms cannot be compared to that of isolation exercises such a the reverse grip barbell curl.
How To Perform Dead Hangs Correctly
- Begin with a pull-up bar.
- Grasp the bar with a shoulder width (or slightly wider) grip with your palms facing away from your body (overhand grip).
- Wrap your thumb around the bar.
- Ensure your arms are at a dead hang (straight, no bend in the elbow) you should not feel any muscle engagement from your lats.
- Relax your body while you hang for the desired amount of time - no swinging, no fidgeting. Focus.
3 - Farmers Walks
Struggling with underdeveloped forearms and poor grip strength?
Farmers Walks are an old school strongman style exercise for building up your grip strength, forearms and mental toughness.
Required: Kettlebells (or another pair of implements to carry)
How To Perform Farmers Walks
Pick up your kettlebells with a solid grip, drive through your heels and maintain a straight back until you're upright.
Walk for a reasonable distance (50 feet) with small, quick steps - focus on your breathing as you walk.
4 - Reverse Grip Barbell Curls
When curling with your palms facing away from you (as opposed to your palms facing you in a regular curl) you will be targeting your forearms and grip strength instead of the short or long head of your biceps.
Performing The Reverse Curl Correctly...
Stand up straight while grasping a barbell with a shoulder width grip, elbows tucked in and palms facing towards you.
Curl the barbell up by contracting your biceps and moving your forearms, your upper arm should not move at all.
Curl until the barbell is at shoulder height.
Squeeze and hold this contraction for one second.
Slowly lower the bar back down until your arms are extended in front of you.
Every guy in the gym wants to swing around heavy weight on biceps, I get that.
If you want to build big arms you’re going to have to lift heavy, HOWEVER form always have and always will take priority over the weight being lifted.
The bottom portion of a bicep curl is without a doubt the hardest portion of the movement, and when lifting too heavy many gym-goers attempt to swing backwards or hip thrust to attempt to move the weight.
Using momentum to move the weight takes tension off the forearms and biceps, doing you no good.
If you’re swinging and swaying your back on every repetition you’re also placing your lower back at a high risk of injury – not good.