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August 11, 2021

Best exercises for forearms (Behind Back Wrist Curls is a 3!)

For complete arm development, you need to give attention to your forearms. It doesn’t matter how massive your biceps and triceps are, if your forearms are skinny, you won’t impress anybody. In this article, we identify the best fore arm exercises so you can make the most of your training time.

Forearm Muscle Anatomy

Even though it is a relatively small area of the body, the forearms are a complex set of muscles. There are four muscles that make up the forearms:

 

  • Flexors
  • Extensors
  • Rotators
  • Extrinsic and intrinsic finger muscles

 

The flexors are located on the side of the palm of the hand. The extensors are on the back side of the arm. The flexors bend the hand down and the extensors bend the wrist backward. The rotators supinate and pronate the hand. 

 

The muscles that make up the fingers are very small muscles. Some of them are located within the hand (intrinsic), while others are located in the forearm (extrinsic). 

 

The main job of the forearm is to bend the wrist forward and backward. Secondary functions are to move the wrist in a circular motion and to move it side to side.

 

Many people mistake the brachioradialis as being a forearm muscle. It is actually a biceps assist muscle, even though it looks to be more a part of the forearms. We know this because this muscle crosses the elbow joint. The main job of the brachioradialis is elbow flexion. It assists in the biceps curl. The best way to target this muscle group is with hammer curls. However, the hammer curls is still primarily a bicep exercise, with 70 percent of the work being done by the bicep and 30 percent by the brachioradialis. 

 

It should be noted that the reverse curl, with the palm facing to the floor, is not the best way to hit the brachioradialis. The neutral grip that is used in the hammer curl is the best one for this particular muscle group.

 

Ok, let’s take a look at some forearm exercises.

Barbell Wrist Curls: Rating – 8

The barbell wrist curl targets the flexor muscles of the forearm. These are the muscles that are on the same side as your palm. This exercise will move your wrist through its full range of anatomical motion, so it is an effective worker of the forearm flexors. It is also a good exercise for forearm strength. However, it is important that your forearms are parallel to each other when you do the exercise. This makes sure that they both bend on the same axis.

 

To ensure that each forearm is able to move naturally and freely without being bound by the bar, I prefer to do wrist curls with dumbbells, one arm at a time. 

 

This is the only exercise you need to do for your forearm workout. 

How to do Barbell Wrist Curls

Barbell Reverse Wrist Curl: Rating – 8

The barbell reverse wrist curl targets the extensor muscles of the forearms. These are the muscles on the same side as your knuckles. Because the movement allows you to move through a full range of natural anatomical extensor motion this is an effective exercise for the forearm extensors. 

 

For the same reason as given above, I recommend doing your reverse wrist curls with dumbbells one arm at a time. If you do choose to use a barbell, you will find that an EZ Curl bar will provide you with a more natural hand position as you come up and down.

 

A problem that many people encounter when they use a decent amount of weight on the reverse wrist curl is that their fingers tire out before their forearm extensors do. The fingers are a lot weaker than the forearms. To overcome this limiting factor, it is a good idea to use wrist straps when you do this exercise. 

 

It should be noted that the forearm extensors have very limited growth potential. So, in terms of bodybuilding, you may decide that it is not worth putting your time and energy into specifically working it. Of course, the reverse wrist curl is a valuable exercise to strengthen the forearm extensors for sports rehab or other injury rehabilitation. 

How to do Reverse Barbell Wrist Curls

Behind the Back Wrist Curl; Rating – 3

The behind the back wrist curl is a commonly seen forearm exercise. However, it has a couple of major problems. The first one is that it only allows you to perform only the first half of the wrist flexion movement. That makes it, at best, 50 percent as productive as the conventional wrist curl. As a result, there is no early phase loading, which is the most important part of the resistance curve. 

 

What’s worse, the behind the back wrist curl is a classic example of late phase loading, where the exercise is hardest at the end. This is completely opposite to what you want for an ideal exercise resistance curve. 

 

The behind the back wrist curl is also an unnatural and uncomfortable move to perform. The hand positioning behind your back severely limits your range of motion. This is an exercise that is best confined to the dustbin!

Wrist Roller: Rating – 3

The wrist roller is a popular device that sees you holding a piece of dowel at arms length and winding  a weight up and down on the end of a rope. The big problem with the exercise is that there is no stability to the movement, so it is hard to isolate the working muscles. The conventional wrist curl is a much better exercise.

Hand Gripper: Rating – 3

Hand grippers, which consist of a spring set up that you squeeze in your hand, are marketed as being able to develop huge forearms and increase forearm strength. They will not. This movement will only work the small muscles that control your fingers. Even though some of the finger extensors do originate in the forearms, they are so small and internally located that they will do nothing for your forearm development and very little for your grip strength. Don’t waste your time or money!

Conclusion

We have given you the best exercises to strength your forearms. Try them and feel free to let us know what you think.

 

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Steve (Qualfied Personal Trainer and Nutritionist)


Steve Theunissen has qualified from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He has over 30 years experience in fitness and nutrition and currently working with famous fitness professionals. He is currently living in New Zealand with is wife and daughter.

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