17 Best Forearm Exercises for Mass & Grip Strength (2019) 

best forearm exercises: farmers carry

If finding the best forearm exercises out there is your priority, you’ve landed in the right place. 

We’re about to cover everything you need to know about building optimal grip strength, and getting your forearms as toned as possible. 

While we know that isolation training is a myth, we can train certain muscle groups in unison for a better chance of achieving what we have in mind. That’s why hitting forearm exercises for mass and grip strength is something we believe in, and we’re going to show you exactly how to do it. 

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Why is it important to work on grip strength?

Chances are you’ve tried a deadlift before, being a fitness enthusiast and all. Even if you haven’t, you must’ve tried to hang from monkey bars at least once in your lifetime!

If you haven’t trained grip strength explicitly, it’s hard. 

best forearm exercises: monkey bars

Try a deadlift or hanging from a bar whilst keeping grip strength in mind, and you’ll soon see what we mean. That feeling of having the strength and endurance within other muscles (such as the biceps and traps) to carry on, but being let down by your grip strength. Your fingers start to slip and it’s game over… 

Enter the best forearm exercises for grip strength. If you practise each of them (or at least a good mix of them) on a regular basis, you’ll be the master of handshakes everywhere! 

Not to mention, you’ll inevitably gain strength and muscle mass in your forearms, as long as you’re completing the forearms exercises alongside a good workout routine. 

Grip strength is invaluable for athletes, powerlifters, those who are into strength training, and fitness newbies. It’s also very useful in everyday life, and can even help you out in emergency situations! 

If you want to find out more about building grip strength to aid your overall strength and body composition, check out the 17 best forearm exercises below. 

#1 - Farmer’s walk 

best forearm exercises: farmers walk photograph

Grab a pair of kettlebells or dumbells and let’s get cracking with some forearm workouts! 

The farmer's walk is known as one of the best forearm exercises for two reasons; its ability to tone the area and the effect that it has on grip strength. 

It can be done two ways depending on your goals. If you’re looking to increase muscle mass and consequently improve the tone of your forearms, you should go with the heavy weight/short-distance approach. This variation is one of the best forearm exercises for mass! 

This falls under the category of high-impact forearm exercises and will put plenty of pressure on the area, consequently improving both its appearance and strength. 

best forearm exercises: farmers carry

In terms of grip strength, the farmers walk places a lot of weight on the hands, wrists, and forearms as well as the shoulders and back which all work together to support it. Not only will this help you out a lot in everyday tasks, but it will boost your endurance when powerlifting or using heavy weights! 

Want to know more about what this exercise can do for you and your body? Click here for our article on the farmers walk benefits. 

#2 - Suitcase carry

suitcase carry photograph

Many people confuse the suitcase carry with the farmer’s walk, but there is one major difference between the two exercises!

As you already know the farmer’s walk involves carrying one weight in each arm, whereas the suitcase carry is all about loading the weight onto one side of the body. 

You guessed it! You carry a single weight with one arm, which undoubtedly brings some variety to the original exercise. 

This is similar to carrying a suitcase in real-life unless you’re unlucky enough to be landed with the whole family’s luggage (which is why it’s best to practice all forearm exercises). 

In terms of being one of the best forearm exercises out there, the suitcase carry is brilliant as the extra weight loaded onto one side of the body makes your muscles work twice as hard to carry the weight and maintain stability. 

Your forearms are included in this as they are working to grip the weight as tightly as possible to ensure that it stays put in your hand and that you complete the workout safely yet effectively. 

best forearm exercises: suitcase carry

One the whole, it’s best done with a short walk duration, loaded with a heavy weight if you’re looking for the best forearm exercises for mass. The more intense the workout, the more results you will see with this one! Just be sure to progressively overload, rather than going too heavy too fast. 

#3 - Flexed arm carry 

flexed arm carry photograph

If weighted carries are what you have in mind when searching for the best forearm exercises, we haven’t quite finished with them yet. 

Each version of these forearm workouts adds something fresh and beneficial for your body, as well as for your forearms specifically. With the flexed arm carry, we can break it down even further into three separate exercises… you’ll have forearm strength for days!  

Performing the exercise with the overhand grip is great for your grip strength during pull-ups, which is when you utilize this type of grip. It also works the anterior areas of your forearms, which will give them a more defined look with regular practice. However, it won’t train them in isolation and your biceps will also gain the benefits of the exercise! 

If you go with gripping the dumbbell in a hammer position or with a neutral grip then you’ll gain strength and tone in the area of the forearms. As well as this, you’ll improve your grip for exercises such as the neutral grip pull-up and dumbbell bench press with a neutral grip. 

best forearm exercises: flexed arm carry

They’re also great to use when your arms are fatigued from the overhand grip but you don’t want to give up just yet! After all, overloading your muscles is what will make them grow. 

Finally, you can also use an underhand grip during the flexed arm carry, which is one of the best forearm exercises for chin-ups. 

The underhand grip will activate the biceps as well as the forearm muscles and improve grip strength, in order for you to perform better during the lifting phase and helping you to remain stable on the descent. 

For best results when performing these forearm exercises, it’s a good idea to alternate which grip you use! 

Not only will this mean that each grip is improved with regular practice, but it will ensure that you gain muscle mass and strength in every arm muscle, including those in your forearms. 

#4 - Overhead carry 

overhead carry photograph

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but proceed with caution! You should only attempt the overhead carry once you’ve got a good grasp on weighted carries, and you should also avoid heavier weights for this one (as it’s more of a lift than a carry). 

You may find it useful to use kettlebells for this one, as they could be easier to grip than a dumbbell and you can let the weight hang rather than supporting it in mid-air! 

best forearm exercises: overhead carry

You can then perform dumbbell and barbell progressions, and load up on weight as you become more stable. 

If you’re a powerlifter or wish to start powerlifting, you should definitely add this to your list of the best forearm exercises to practise regularly. 

Your forearms will gain the stability, strength, and grip needed to assist you in movements such as the overhead press, and therefore become stronger and gain mass as you load up on weights. 

#5 - Dumbbell Wrist Flexion 

best forearm exercises: wrist extension

wrist flexion exercise photograph

As far as forearm dumbbell exercises go, this is the one you want to start with! It’s nice and straight forward for beginners, but can be easily loaded up to feel the burn… 

It can be done with a barbell, but if you want to get as close to isolating the forearms as possible then performing it with dumbbells works as one of the best forearm exercises. 

When trying to build up grip strength, it’s equally as important to work the wrists as well as performing forearm exercises.

Wrist flexion is something we do every day, and it uses the anterior forearm muscles and flexors (such as the flexor carpi radialis) that allow the hand and wrist to move and rotate. When we perform this movement with added weight, these muscles and flexors are strengthened, which means improved grip strength and muscle mass. 

The better your grip strength, the more weight you will be able to lift during other exercises. 

best forearm exercises: wrist flexion

While you can’t fully isolate the forearms, performing strength training regularly alongside wrist exercises will certainly build them up, as well as the other muscles in the upper and lower body, and you will have vastly improved muscle mass all over.

If you build the foundations of your grip strength up through wrist flexion, you’ll be able to hit powerlifting even harder and avoid plateaus. 

This is how bodybuilders gain so much lean muscle; they don’t let any small detail slip during their training, and train grip strength as hard as they train legs!

#6 - Dumbbell wrist extension

dumbell wrist extension photograph

dumbell wrist extension photograph

You can’t have one without the other… 

Out of the forearm dumbbell exercises out there, the wrist extension is certainly one of the best for isolating the wrist and forearms in terms of grip strength and trains the areas that the wrist flexion misses. 

Performing wrist extension exercises will certainly come in handy during daily life, as we typically use this movement hundreds of times per day without even realising. You’ll be less likely to injure yourself, and also better at performing everyday tasks. 

best forearm exercises: wrist extension

While these benefits are worth it, the reason the wrist extension made it onto our list of the best forearm exercises is mainly for its ability to isolate the anterior forearm, hand, and wrist muscles and flexors and strengthen them for the purpose of powerlifting and sports. 

Not only will your improved strength and grip mean that you’ll be less likely to sustain an injury, but you’ll also see a spike in your performance (particularly in lifting heavier weights for longer durations of time). 

Again, your muscle mass will undoubtedly grow as your personal best soars and you’ll thank yourself for practising forearm workouts that most people skip! 

#7 - Dumbbell reverse curl 

best forearm exercises: zottman curl photograph

photograph of the zottman curl

In comparison to your traditional bicep curl, the reverse curl is brilliant for working the forearm muscles (as well as some in the upper arm). These muscles are the brachioradialis, pronator teres, and the brachialis. 

This is definitely one of the forearm dumbbell exercises that you’ll see a difference with if you incorporate it into your routine, especially as you get used to it and start upping the load. 

It’s like an advanced version of the wrist extension that builds more overall mass in your arms and further improves grip strength! 

One interesting fact is that it’s also one of the best forearm exercises for eradicating imbalances between the flexors and extensors in the arm, and is consequently successful in relieving elbow pain. 

#8 - Dumbbell hammer curl 

dumbbell hammer curl photograph

This one is another variation on the bicep curl, especially when you’re looking at switching up the way the arm muscles are worked in your current routine!

With the standard bicep curl, a larger part of the bicep is worked in comparison to the smaller brachialis muscle that the hammer curl focuses on. 

This muscle rests under the other heads of the bicep muscle and is seldom worked effectively during other exercises, making the hammer curl one of the most successful forearm dumbbell exercises. 

As the hammer curl works this muscle, it creates well-rounded strength and tone in the bicep. 

best forearm exercises: hammer curl

This aids the forearms as with time, you will be able to lift heavier weights due to the added strength and build mass evenly throughout the arm. 

Also, the brachioradialis is engaged during hammer curls and will be worked effectively provided you do not use momentum when progressing to heavier weights. 

This is a larger muscle that spans both the upper and lower arms and plays an important role in creating larger and more toned forearms (as well as, you guessed it, grip strength!). 

#9 - Zottman Curl 

Looking for forearm dumbbell exercises that will target both the biceps and forearm grip strength in one single movement? 

This classic curl has stood the test of time with bodybuilders and fitness fanatics across the globe, so it won’t let you down if you’re looking to take your muscle mass and grip strength to the next level. After all, it is one of the best forearm exercises for mass. 

dumbbell hammer curl demo

reverse curl demo

What’s the difference between the zottman curl and a regular bicep curl? 

With the zottman curl, in the second phase (lowering the dumbbells) your overhand grip is loaded up rather than the underhand grip, and this works wonders for your forearms and grip strength.

NOTE: remember to take the second phase slowly to ensure that you fully engage and work your forearms/overhand grip. If you rush this part, you won’t reap the benefits of one of the best forearm exercises out there. 

#10 - Pull Up Bar Hang 

What’s better than forearm exercises that allow you to use your own bodyweight to build strength?

Just in case you haven’t tried it before, it isn’t as easy as you think. Even those who visit the gym every morning at 6 am will tell you that. 

They may be running rings around others in terms of pull-ups and calisthenics now, but ask them to recount how they started and they’ll be the first to tell you that it takes a sheer amount of effort and determination. 

One great thing about the pull-up bar hang (and possibly what makes it one of the best forearm exercises) is that although you may not be able to manage a single pull-up yet, it’s more than likely that you’ll be able to hang for at least a couple of seconds. 

Work your way up to 30 seconds and beyond over a period of a few weeks, and keep attempting pull-ups as you go.

Your grip strength will improve drastically, and this will also add strength and mass to your biceps and forearms. As far as forearm workouts go, it’s one of the best that you can do. 

Already a pull-up master? Try weighted pull-ups, or pull-ups using some of the best pull-up resistance bands. These will place extra pressure on your forearms and grip strength, and build it just the same!

#11 - Subtracting fingers hang 

Here’s a fantastic example of one of the best forearm exercises, whether you’re a pro or not!

As you’ll see in the photographs below, hanging whilst subtracting fingers puts an immense amount of pressure on your grip and forearm muscles in such a short space of time, and therefore strengthens both accordingly. 

subtracting fingers hang demo photograph

subtracting fingers hang demo

Even if you do pull-ups in your sleep, you’ll still find this exercise challenging for the muscles that you don’t work on a regular basis. Alongside other examples of the best forearm exercises, such as weighted carries and curls, the subtracting fingers hang will give you the grip strength of dreams. 

Struggling with the exercise? Find a lower bar, such as a bicycle dock in your local park or a sturdy chair at home, and practise hanging whilst balancing on your heels at a 45-degree angle.

best forearm exercises: inverted row

This progression will allow you to get used to the exercise, and strengthen your grip to the point where it is strong enough to hang from a pull-up bar. What are you waiting for?

#12 - Pull-Up Bar Hang with Towel 

best forearm exercises: towel hang

Want to switch things up in favour of your grip strength? We can’t think of anything more challenging than this!

Next time you head for the pull-up bar (provided you’ve become a master at both of the previous hangs), grab two towels and loop them around the top for one of the best bodyweight forearm exercises out there. 

Use the towels as your grip source rather than the bar itself, and you’ll soon see what we mean when we say that this deserves its spot on the list of the best forearm exercises to try out… 

The alternative grip will feel much different to what you’re used to, and your forearm muscles, biceps, and back will have to work harder in unison to keep your body stable. If finding the best forearm exercises for grip strength is your main goal, you need to give this one a try! 

#13 - Single Arm Hang 

Once you’ve conquered the pull-up bar hang, subtracting fingers hang, and the towel hang, that means you’re ready to tackle the king of bodyweight forearm exercises. 

You need to be sure that you can handle at least 2 minutes of hanging from the pull-up bar with both hands before attempting this exercise, as you’re effectively loading the muscles in each arm with double the amount of weight! 

The added pressure on the muscles in your upper arm and forearm and grip strength will be a big jump, and therefore shock your muscles into reacting as you increase the length of time that you hang for. 

Alongside a protein-rich diet, you’ll gain muscle mass and strength in each area, as well as throughout the upper body. 

best forearm exercises: one arm hang

Once you’ve reached up to 1-2 minutes of hanging with one arm, you’ll be blasting through pull-ups and just about every strength training exercise going! 

It’s vital to follow progressions when looking for the best forearm exercises for muscle mass and grip strength, otherwise, you face a greater risk of injury or making little progress. 

Be sure to take things at your own pace and put emphasis on nailing each exercise before moving to the next, and your biceps and forearms will be as lean as you can imagine. You can also show off your newly improved grip strength next time you and your friends hit the gym! 

#14 - Inverted Row with Towel 

best forearm exercises: towel inverted row

Want to bring your back and shoulders into things, all whilst placing most of your body weight onto your forearms, biceps, and training your grip strength? 

Performing inverted rows with towels will work wonders for you, and they certainly look easier than they are!

One of the main reasons why inverted rows are so difficult to perform when you have limited grip strength is that your range of motion is actually decreased during the movement. However, it works really well as a progression to more difficulty bodyweight forearm exercises, such as the single-arm hang. 

#15 - Wrist roller 

Moving away from the bodyweight forearm exercises (as we seem to have covered all of the best ones!), let’s take a look at one of the most talked-about methods of training the forearms. 

What exactly is a wrist roller?

A wrist roller is a small handle that is attached to a piece of rope, which has either a clip or loop attached at the end. This clip is loaded with weights (such as a plate or kettlebell), and then the user uses the handle to roll the weight up towards themselves, and then back down towards the ground. 

wrist roller demo

What does a wrist roller do? 

Using a wrist roller is effectively a different way of performing wrist flexion and extension, and technically more challenging as the weight increases. 

It works the anterior forearms, flexors, hands, and wrist muscles, and builds strength and power within them to improve endurance during daily activities, powerlifting, and sports. If you expect to see improved performance in any of the above, trying this after mastering wrist flexion and extension and feel the difference! 

wrist roller photograph demo

With regular practice alongside the other listed best forearm exercises, you should start to notice quite a difference in your overall body composition as well as grip strength. 

#16 - Gorilla grip machine

This one is a little less talked about these days, and not every gym has one. However, if you see a machine/contraption that looks anything like the one below, you should definitely take a few minutes out of your routine and give it a go!

Made famous by Bruce Lee and frequently used by him (a slither of evidence that proves its worth as one of the best forearm exercises), the grip machine is another great way of progressively loading the anterior forearms and wrist flexors for optimal grip strength.

As you can see from the video, forearm workouts can be pretty hardcore! Just be sure to progress with caution to avoid injury, and you should be well on your way to leaner and more toned forearms. 

Want to train with a grip machine at home? Don’t sweat, you can actually pick up a Traditional Japanese Hand Grip Machine from Amazon pretty cheap. 

#17 - Plate pinches

Last but not least on our list of the best forearm exercises is the plate pinch. 

Whilst being popular among serious bodybuilders (who clearly know the importance of grip strength or wouldn’t be able to lift the weights that they do!), plate pinches are often overlooked by those who are either new or relatively new to strength training/powerlifting. 

plate pinches demo

It’s easy to get caught up in deadlifts and back squats, but as we’ve stressed multiple times during this article; grip strength is just as important if you want to improve body composition! 

To perform plate pinches, simply ‘pinch’ a plat in each hand with your arms by your side, and feet at shoulder-width apart. Hold it for as long as you can (start with intervals of 20-30 seconds), and your grip strength will soar. 

You should start with a 5kg plate in each hand and work your way up. You should always work in progression, as you do with other forearm exercises, to see the best results.

Want to know exactly how your form should look? See the photograph below:

plate pinches exercise demo

Before you go! 

We hope you’ve got the most out of our article on the best forearm exercises, and that you can start trying some out on your next gym visit. 

Are you interested in a career within the fitness industry? If so, you can always download our latest prospectus here, or take a look at our Personal Training Diploma to get an idea of what you would be learning! 

Written by Chloe Twist

Fitness Content Manager, OriGym

Join Chloe on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Chloe graduated with a BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University and prior to OriGym worked at J&R Digital Marketing Agency on the Liverpool 'Female Founders' series. Since joining the company, she has become a qualified Personal Trainer and advanced Sports Nutrition Specialist. Chloe’s professional interests intersect content-development and the world of online fitness, especially across social media and YouTube, and Chloe has herself contributed pieces on fitness and weight loss to sites including the Daily Star and The Express. Outside her day-to-day role, Chloe enjoys playing the guitar, gaming and kettlebell training. 

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