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7 Forearm Exercises for Stronger Arms and Better Grip Strength

Grip strength is an important, yet overlooked indicator of longevity—here’s why.

By Emily LaurenceJune 25, 2024


You’ve probably already heard that the benefits of upper body strength training go way beyond aesthetics. It’s key for maintaining muscle mass, keeping bones strong, supporting good posture, and giving you the ability to do everyday tasks with ease (like lugging heavy groceries from the car). But did you know that upper body strength training—specifically targeting the forearms—is linked to longevity?

It’s true. Forearm exercises are important for building arm strength as well as improving grip strength. According to scientific research, having a strong grip is linked to living a longer life because it seems to be an indicator of heart health. Forearm exercises are important for other reasons too, so if they’re not currently part of your strength training routine, consider this your sign to start incorporating them. 

Not sure where to start? Keep reading to learn more about why forearm strength and grip strength are important, and to learn how to do forearm exercises.  

What Are the Benefits of Doing Forearm Strength Exercises?

Peloton instructor Marcel Maurer emphasizes that forearm strength is important for everyone. “Regardless of sport, trained arms help us in everyday life, for example when carrying shopping bags or lifting objects,” he says. If you want to do everyday tasks like this easily, you must do forearm exercises; your forearms won’t get stronger on their own.

If you do play sports or like to workout regularly, Marcel says that incorporating forearm exercises into your routine can help improve your performance and protect you from injury. “Trained arms help us perform sporting movements even more powerfully and explosively. Trained arms also relieve pressure on joints, making them less susceptible to injury,” he says.

One important benefit of doing forearm strength exercises regularly is that it helps improve grip strength. “If you regularly grip and lift dumbbells, you will strengthen the forearms, which you need for grip strength,” Marcel explains. Tanner Neuberger, a physical therapist at Athletico Physical Therapy adds to this, saying that stronger forearms and stronger grip strength go hand-in-hand; when one gets stronger so does the other, due to the movements that forearm exercises require. For example, using dumbbells to strengthen your forearms requires gripping them with your hands, which is why both get stronger in the process.

The Importance of Grip Strength

Maybe the only time you think about your grip strength is when you’re trying to do a pull-up and can’t hold on to the bar if your life depended on it. (The grown-up version of falling off the monkey bars.) Both Marcel and Neuberger say there are several reasons why grip strength is important—besides being able to hold on longer. 

“If you have weak grip strength, you will eventually no longer be able to grip dumbbells. Movements such as the bicep curl can no longer be performed at some point, not because the biceps are tired, but because the grip strength and forearms are no longer strong enough,” Marcel says.

Then there’s the aforementioned connection between grip strength and longevity. A recent scientific study says that hand grip strength is a way of assessing muscle function and overall physical health, including heart health, in older adults. A weak grip is a sign of fragility, which is linked to a shorter lifespan.

Other scientific research shows a connection between grip strength and cognitive health. People with a stronger grip are less likely to experience depression too, another interesting connection.

7 Forearm Workout Moves For Stronger Arms and Grip Strength

If you’re wondering how to make your forearms bigger and increase both your forearm strength and grip strength, below are the exercises to integrate into your strength training routine.

Man does a bicep curl exercise with a dumbbell

pipat wongsawang/Moment via Getty Images

1. Bicep Curl

This is one of Marcel’s favorite go-to forearm exercises. In addition to strengthening forearms, and the biceps, bicep curls also help support elbow stability.

1. Hold a dumbbell in one hand with your palm facing forward. 

2. Bend your elbow to bring the dumbbell up, keeping your elbow close to your body. Then, lower back down. 

3. Do between 8 and 12 reps and then repeat with your other arm. Over time, work up from one to three sets.

Tunde Oyeneyin doing tricep kickbacks

2. Tricep Kickback

Another forearm exercise Marcel recommends is the tricep kickback, which not only strengthens forearms and triceps, but also targets the core. 

1. Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing inward. Bend forward, bringing your butt back, while keeping a neutral spine.

2. Bring the weights back behind you by bending your elbows. Then, bring them back in front of you, on either side of your chest.

3. Do three sets of 8 to 12 reps.

3. Cable Wrist Curl 

In general, Neuberger says wrist curls are a great way to increase grip strength and target your forearms. If you want your forearms to get bigger, he says cable wrist curls are an especially good exercise to do regularly. For this exercise, you will need access to a cable machine.

1. Sit on the cable machine bench and grab the bar attached to the cables.

2. Keeping your elbows on your thighs, pull the bar toward your chest. Hold for two seconds, then lower back down.

3. Do three sets of 8 to 12 reps.

4. Suitcase Carry

Another forearm exercise Neuberger recommends, the suitcase carry strengthens forearms, shoulders, abs, glutes, and legs, so it’s a great way to increase overall strength, not just forearm strength.

1. Hold a weight or kettlebell in each hand.

2. Walk forward, keeping your back straight and shoulders back—similar to if you were carrying a suitcase in each hand.

3. Continue walking holding the weights for between 30 and 60 seconds.

Man does a lateral raise with dumbbells, dumbbell shoulder exercises

Lateral raises help increase grip strength while targeting the upper arms and shoulders. Marcel recommends incorporating this more into your forearm exercise routine.

1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inward and your feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Engage your core and lift your arms so that they are straight out to the sides. Hold for two seconds and then bring your arms back down.

3. Do three rounds of 8 to 12 reps.

6. High Pulls

If you want to increase your power, high pulls are a great way to do so while also improving your grip strength. It’s a move Marcel recommends doing regularly for bigger, stronger forearms. You will need a barbell for this exercise move.

1. Place the barbell on the floor and stand in front of it. Grab the barbell using an overhand grip.

2. While keeping your arms straight with a slight bend at the elbow, lift the barbell off the ground and pull the bar high. It should be done quickly and explosively.

3. Slowly lower the barbell back to the ground. Do between 2 and 5 reps.

Andy Speer demonstrates a Zottman Curl exercise

7. Zottman Curl

A variation of a dumbbell curl, Marcel likes this exercise as a way to strengthen forearms and grip strength. If you want to increase the size of your forearms, it’s another good exercise to do regularly.

1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing away from you.

2. Engage your core and curl both dumbbells to your shoulders by bending your elbows. Turn your hands so your palms face up as you lift.

3. Rotate your grip so your palms face downward and lower the dumbbells until your arms are extended straight.

4. Do three sets of 8 to 12 reps.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Doing Forearm Workouts

When doing the above seven forearms exercises, Marcel says to make sure that you aren’t overextending your wrists, a common mistake many people make. “Always make sure your wrists are stable,” he says.

Additionally, Neuberger says to make sure you aren’t using dumbbells that are too heavy. Otherwise, you could injure your wrists or forearms. “Your dumbbells don’t need to be particularly heavy to do these movements for them to be effective,” he says. If you find yourself using your entire arm for exercise moves where you should only be using your forearms, Neuberger says this is a sign your weights are too heavy.

How and When to Add Forearm Exercises to Your Workout Routine

In terms of when and how often to do these forearm exercises, Neuberger says they can be integrated into your upper body strength routine, done a few times a week. You can allow the body to rest and recover by staggering your upper body strength training days instead of doing them in a row. 

If you want to do forearm exercises the same day as a cardio workout, like a run or cycling session, Marcel recommends doing them before you do your cardio, which is more effective for building muscle strength. 

Remember, when you strengthen your forearms, you’re improving your grip strength at the same time, an important marker for longevity. So get lifting!


Featured Peloton Instructor

Marcel Maurer

Marcel Maurer

If there’s one thing Marcel cares about, it’s that you have fun during his classes and harness your inner power. Expect motivation and positive vibes in his classes.


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