Some Of The Best Forearm Exercises For Mass & Muscle Tone

Generally us guys want to focus on building our biceps in order to make our arms look bigger and our forearms are often overlooked. If you can build some decent mass in your forearms your arms are going to look much bigger … especially with your shirt on. If you think about, your forearm muscles are important and a stronger grip translates into many lifts and movements. With that said, the following are some of the best forearm exercises for mass and for tone.

Best Forearm Exercises - Approved by Popeye

A prime example of someone with small biceps and triceps, yet huge forearms. Notice how buff Popeye looks even though the only large muscles on him are his forearms ;)

Popeye Approved Forearm Exercises For Mass & Tone

Just as Popeye is an oldie but goodie, so are the forearm exercises that I do.

#1 – Barbell Wrist Curl

The best forearm exercise (or at least my favorite because it’s hard to say what really is “the best”) is a barbell wrist curl. Some prefer these seated down so that their forearms are resting on their quads but I actually prefer doing them with my forearms rested on a bench. I feel that this probably comes down to your personal preference. One thing that I would say is not preference though is that your forearms need to be rested on something. This really helps to focus the movement on building your forearm muscles and prevents you from doing any swinging/momentum movements.

Watch this quick video for an example of good technique … done by a funky computer animated dude with a cool voice over.

#2 – Dumbbell Wrist Curl

This is very similar to the barbell wrist curl with the exception that it is done, well … with a dumbbell instead :) I figured I should through thins in here because it is still very effective and depending upon where you are working out and what you have access to this might be an easier option.

Here is another quick video to give you an example of good technique … not done by a computer this time, but it is a little bit boring. I do like and agree with his statement about using a lighter weight and higher rep approach. You really don’t need to be “strength training” your forearms. It is not great on the wrist joint and your grip is strengthened when you handle heavier weights on other exercises.

#3 – Reverse Grip Barbell Curl

EZ Curl BarI wouldn’t actually say that this is number three as far as being effective or as the the third best forearm exercise. I actually really like this exercise and it’s a good way to combine a little bicep and forearm workout into one exercise … great for when you don’t want to spend an hour working your arms in the gym!

The one thing that I do strongly recommend is that you use a EZ Curl Bar … the one with the funky curves in it ->

Guess who’s back … computer dude in this quick video giving us an example of good technique … he isn’t using an EZ Curl Bar but he does provide breathing technique (funny but accurate).

NOTE: I don’t use these for doing palms-up curls because I feel the straight bar works your outer bicep better but I do like these bars for the reverse grip curls.

#4 – Reverse Grip Dumbbell Curl

Again, not necessarily in order from best to worst (worst forearm exercises aren’t even listed here!) but we’ll call it number four anyway. I also really like these as they are another great way to incorporate more of your bicep training into one bicep and forearm workout. Also, a great thing about using the dumbbells is that they allow your arm to bend where it is most natural for you and you can really squeeze and tighten your forearms at the top of the movement … really this is one of my favorites!

You can probably figure out how to do these (you’ve probably already done these) but here is one last quick video showing good form.

A Bit Of Warning About Building Your Forearms

My feeling towards doing forearm exercises is that they are good in moderation but should not be done too often. Many, many, many exercises already work the forearms quite well.

  • Back exercises work the forearms
  • Full body exercises work the forearms
    • Deadlifts, power cleans, burpees, etc.
  • Of course, the most obvious … arm exercises work the forearms.
    • Curls and even tricep extensions

Instead of looking at your forearms as it’s own muscle group like back or chest just consider working them on back day or arm day … however your schedule and split works out.

If you work your chest and triceps on one day and your back and biceps on another (push/pull split) then I’d recommend working your forearms on the back and bicep day.

If you work chest and back on one day and biceps, triceps and shoulders on another then I’d recommend doing your forearm exercises on the “arm” day.

And again, if you work chest, triceps and shoulders one day, back and legs one day and then biceps, triceps one day then this would be the forearm day as well.

Action Steps / Takeaway

  • Do some forearm exercises about once or maybe twice a week. Once is probably enough though!
  • Do one exercise from this list for your entire forearm workout … no need to do them all.
  • Next time you work your forearms do a different exercise. If you like the barbell exercises, that’s great or if you like the dumbbell exercises that’s great too.
  • Do one exercise palms facing up for one workout and one exercise with palms facing down on the next.
  • Use light weights and higher reps when working your forearms. This is easier on your joints and tends to work these muscle fibers more efficiently. Also, this will create that toned look and will help to fill the muscle and give you those strong and cool looking veins popping out of your forearms.

NOTE: Jody Ruttan brought to my attention in a comment below that I did not give any warning for those with RSI (repetitive strain injury). He’s absolutely right too. If you have Tendonitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or other forearm/hand related symptoms you should not do wrist curls.