The Eight Best Bodyweight Exercises for Forearms

The Eight Best Bodyweight Exercises for Forearms

The forearms often go overlooked in the gym, viewed as along for the ride on most lifts as opposed to the focal point. Unless you’re looking to produce Popeye-like forearms, the thinking goes, there’s little need to spend time on the forearms. Besides, Popeye’s legendary guns were the product of spinach rather than lifting, right?

The forearms get overshadowed by the chest, shoulders, quads, biceps, and triceps. That’s a shame since the forearms play a key role in every lift, along with the movements of everyday life. Training the forearms improves the power in a swim, golf, or paddle stroke. They give the arms a balanced, symmetrical look, especially when you roll up your sleeves. Plus, in an era when most people spend hours hunched over a computer, studies suggest a link to forearm pain.

That makes forearm training prehab as well as traditional strength training. Forearms respond quickly to training, especially bodyweight training. Here are eight of the best bodyweight exercises for legs. You can use these as part of a regular workout or as a standalone circuit. If you do a circuit, do two sets of 10.

1. Forearm Stretch

What it does: This stretches the forearms, something most athletes rarely do.

How to do it: From a standing position with your right arm raised straight in front of your body and palm up, grab your right fingers with the left hand and pull toward the right elbow until a mild stretch is felt. Hold for two seconds. Relax and repeat.

How many? 2 sets of 10 on each hand with 30 seconds rest between sets.


2. Forearm Plank

What it does: Traditional push-up planks are great, but these put more emphasis on the forearms.

How to do it: Start in a pushup position, with your forearms resting on the ground. Your elbows and shoulders are bent 90 degrees. Push up off your elbows supporting your weight on the forearms. Tuck your chin so your head is in line with your body. Pull your toes toward your shins. Keep shoulders, hips and ankles aligned; your body should form a straight line from ears to heels.

How many? 2 sets of 60 seconds with 60 seconds rest between sets.

3. Forearm Side Plank

What it does: Side planks usually are done with arms extended. Planking off your forearm is more challenging.

How to do it: Start on the ground on your left side with your left forearm and your elbow under your shoulder. Push up off your elbow, creating a straight line from ankle to shoulder. Your hips should be off the ground and only the side of your bottom foot and your elbow should be on the ground. Hold for 30 seconds or do 10 reps of 3 seconds each.

How many? 2 sets of either of the above options.

4. Lunge Elbow to Instep

What it does: This full-body stretch works your groin, hip flexors, glutes, and especially hamstrings, but it’s also the rare movement that requires you to stretch your forearms to the ground.

How to do it: Step forward into a lunge with your left foot. Place your right forearm to the ground and your left elbow to the inside of your left foot and hold the stretch for two seconds. Then place your left hand outside of your foot and push your hips up, pointing your front toes up. Return to standing position and repeat by stepping ou with your right foot. Continue alternating sides.

How many? 2 sets of 10 reps with 30 seconds rest between sets.

5. Crab Walk

What it does: Grade schoolers struggle with crab soccer because they haven’t developed forearm strength. Adults can develop forearms, too, through crab walking.

How to do it: Start by sitting on the floor with feet hipdistance apart extended out. Your arms are behind your back with your fingers facing the hips. Lift your hips off the floor and begin “walking” by moving your left hand forward, then the right foot, then the right hand, and left foot. Take 10 “steps” with each limb and then 10 steps backward to reach the starting position.

How long? 2 sets of 60 seconds with 60 seconds rest between sets.

6. Chin Ups

What it does: Like the overhead pull-up, the chin up is a terrific shoulder and back exercise to build that V-shaped torso. But by doing the underhanded chin up, we place more emphasis on the forearms.

How to do it:  Grab the bar with an underhand grip. Hanging from the bar, pull your shoulder blades back and down to lift your body and build momentum. Finish by pulling up with your arms.

How many? 2 sets of 10 reps (or as many as possible) with 30 seconds rest between sets.

7. Dips

What it does: You use your forearms and chest to lift your entire body weight.

How to do it: Position yourself above and between the bars, grabbing them with an overhand grip. Cross your ankles behind you. Lower yourself slowly and push back up in a controlled manner.

How many? 2 sets of 10 reps with 60 seconds rest between sets.

8. Burpees

What it does: It’s a full-body push-up-like exercise that gives you all the benefits of pushups while also challenging your cardiovascular system and ratcheting up the intensity of your workout. The constant up-and-down of the movement taxes the forearms.

How to do it: From a standing position, squat, place yourhands on the ground, and “jump” your feet out into a push-up position. Perform a pushup and then jump your feet to your hands. Then jump as high as you can, throwing your hands over your head.

How many? 2 sets of 10 reps with 60 seconds rest between sets.

Pete Williams is a NASM-CPT and the author or co-author of several fitness books, including Core Performance and Every Day is Game Day. His work has appeared inpublications such as Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, and USA Today.