In very simple terms, the forearm is the part of the arm connecting the elbow to the wrist. Anatomically speaking, this section of the arm has two major bones called ulna and radius and wrapping around these bones are the forearm muscles, responsible for actions like moving the fingers, flexing the elbow, assisting in pronation and supination, and flexing the wrist. Pretty much any action related to the movement of the forearm, the hand, and fingers are done with the help of the forearm muscles.
While weight training, other major muscles of the arm (biceps, triceps etc.) are usually the main target, thinking that the forearms would get enough stimulation during these exercises. While this might be partially true, targeting the forearm muscles has its own benefits, especially in exercises like chin-ups and pull-ups, where a strong grip is needed.
Similar to any other muscle of the body, an outside resistance is needed to strengthen the forearm. But in addition to that, a proper hand position is vital for targeting those muscles. For example, the dumbbell curl done with palm facing up will activate the upper muscles of the arm –biceps mainly, while done with palms facing the ground, called the reverse curl, targets mainly the forearm muscles.
In this respect, two main movements could be used to strengthen the forearm muscles: curl-like moves with palms facing down or each other (hammer grip), and wrist curls. As for equipment, anything that will apply resistance for these exercises will be helpful.
Followed is a list of exercise equipments to strengthen the forearms.
- Dumbbells: Dumbbells are some of the most commonly used equipment in weight training. They are versatile, take up relatively small spaces, and in some cases come with adjustable weight plates. They are more than adequate for exercises to strengthen the forearm. Dumbbells could easily be used for both reverse curl and wrist curl-like movements. And in contrast to barbells, you don’t have to worry about the resistance not getting divided equally between the arms due to the stronger arm’s tendency to pick up more of the weight.
- Barbells: A barbell is a long piece metal bar that can be loaded with weight plates. They are useful when the resistance the dumbbells provide isn’t enough.
- Resistance Bands: Resistance bands take up very small spaces and can easily be carried around. They’re perfect if you want to sneak in a short exercise during the work hours and a great tool when you’re on a vacation. As with dumbbells and barbells the palm position is also important here. One disadvantage of resistance band is that they are not very comfortable for wrist curl moves.
- Pull-Up Bar: Chin-ups and pull-ups don’t directly target the forearm, but they will help improving your grip strength, which can be considered a part of the forearm strength.
- Grip Tools: Grip tools can be anything from hand grippers to a simple ball small enough to squeeze in your palms. A standard hand gripper is a tool that provides resistance with a torsion spring. The handles are attached to this spring and fit in your palm. They are used to increase and test the hand strength.
- Ropes: Rope climbing can be a taxing workout for the whole body. Even with the help of your legs, your arms will get a quite good workout.
- Wrist Rollers: This last equipment is basically a rod attached in its center to weight by a rope. This equipment simulates wrist curl as you roll the rod and wrap the rope around which lifts the weight and provides resistance.
Images and References
Delavier, Frederic. Strength Training Anatomy. Human Kinetics, 2010.
Gest, Thomas R. & Schlesinger, Jaye. Anatomy Tables – Forearm & Wrist. https://anatomy.med.umich.edu/musculoskeletal_system/forearm_tables.html
Robson, David. How to Develop Fantastic Forearms. https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/drobson47.htm