Eight Best Dumbbell Exercises For Your Forearms

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Here are some of the top dumbbell exercises to pump your forearms.

Why are the forearms so underappreciated? They’re front and center, playing a role in every lift in the gym, to say nothing of everyday movements such as typing, texting, and opening doors.

With the possible exception of soccer, the forearms play a pivotal role in most sports, handling rackets, clubs, paddles, bats, and balls, providing both touch and force. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 7-footer sometimes referred to as the Greek god of basketball, in part because of his physique, relies on his forearms to provide the soft touch on his free throws and power behind his thunderous dunks. 

Michael Phelps won 28 Olympic gold medals thanks in part to a freakish 6-foot-7 wingspan that’s three inches longer than his height. But it’s his forearms that allowed him to pull through the water, unlike any other swimmer. Studies suggest forearm training is especially effective for baseball players, which is no surprise given the importance of quick wrists when swinging a bat.

So, while you might be hitting the forearms in any gym workout, it’s worth spending a dedicated 30 minutes on occasion with a pair of dumbbells to target these unsung heroes which by the way also look damn good bulging from beneath rolled-up sleeves. Just ask Popeye.

In this 30-minute dumbbell workout to build your forearms, we’ll hammer through four sets of these eight moves in a circuit fashion, resting only briefly between sets, to produce maximum results.

Pete Williams is a NASM certified personal trainer and the author or co-author of several books on performance and training.

1. Seated Wrist Curl

What it does: This iconic wrist isolation exercise blasts the forearms.

How to do it: Hold a dumbbell in one hand and sit on a bench, allowing your elbow and forearm to rest on your thigh. Your hand dangles off your knee, palm up, the elbow bent at 90 degrees. With the dumbbell hanging down, curl your wrist so your palm faces your biceps. Lower slowly and repeat for a set of 10.

How many? 4 sets of 10 reps.

2. Bent-Over Row

What it does: Though the movement is initiated from the shoulder and also works the back, the forearms play a key stabilizing role.

How to do it: Stand slightly bent over at the waist holding a dumbbell in one hand, holding onto a bench with the other hand for support. Bring your shoulder blade back and then drive your elbow toward the ceiling, pulling the weight up. Lower to starting position and repeat.

How many: 4 sets of 10 per side.

3. Palms Down Wrist Curl

What it does: This is an everyday movement that’s not used nearly enough in the weight room, thus it’s tougher than you think it would be.

How to do it: Sit on the end of a bench, a dumbbell in each hand, wrists against your knees, and palms facing down. Raise the dumbbells by lifting only your hands, keeping your arms still. Lower after a one-second pause.

How many? 4 sets of 10.

4. Bicep Curls

What it does: It’s simple yet challenging and a mainstay of any bicep workout.

How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and biceps at your sides. Keeping your elbows still, lift the dumbbells to your shoulders as you rotate your palms to the ceiling. Keep your back still and stomach tight. Return to starting position.

How many? 4 sets of 10 reps.

5. Farmer’s Carry

What it does: Ever see a farmer with spindly arms? This lift helps the shoulders and overall core strength, but the forearms are on overload in this lift. 

How to do it: While carrying a dumbbell in each hand, walk 10 yards out and 10 yards back. Don’t hunch over. Keep your shoulder blades pulled back and down and fire your glutes as you walk. This can be a challenging move at first, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you’re able to walk further or increase the weight. 

How many? 4 sets.

6. Hammer Curls

What it does: The neutral grip places more emphasis on the forearms than the biceps.

How to do it: Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, hold a set of dumbbells with a neutral grip so your hands face each other. Curl the dumbbells to shoulder height, keeping hands facing each other. Pause at the top of the lift, squeezing the biceps, and then lower to starting position.

How many? 4 sets of 10 reps.

7. Wrist Rotations

What it does: This move blasts the forearms and is often done at the end of a workout to the point of exhaustion rather than a prescribed number of reps.

How to do it: Hold dumbbells to the side with an overhand grip. Raise the dumbbells in front of you so your elbows form 90-degree angles. While maintaining this position, slowly rotate the dumbbells away from the body so the palms face up. Slowly rotate back so the palms again face down.

How many? 4 sets to exhaustion.

8. Suitcase Carry

What it does:  A variation on the farmer’s carry, this involves picking up just one dumbbell as you might a heavy suitcase. Not only will you strengthen your forearms, but you’ll also improve your grip.

How to do it: Squat at the hips alongside the dumbbell, lift it like a suitcase and walk. Start with an easy distance – 10 to 20 yards – working up to longer distances. 

How many? 4 sets.

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