20 Forearm Workouts With Dumbbells (Best For Strong Arms)

If you’ve been looking to grow big arms, the last thing you want is to have skinny forearms. Not only does having small forearms affect how your body looks, but they’re a weakness in your chain of movement and will negatively impact your other lifts, such as deadlifts.

This article gives you the best forearm dumbbell exercises to stimulate muscle growth and increase your forearm strength.

1. Dumbbell Wrist Curls 

The dumbbell wrist curl is one of the best dumbbell exercises for forearms. It’s an effortless movement to perform and isolates the forearm muscles effectively, helping to stimulate muscle growth.  

As this movement is performed iso-laterally, you can focus on working each forearm individually, ironing out any muscular imbalances that you might have. This forearm dumbbell exercise is suitable for all ability levels and has easy progressions you can follow to make the exercise more challenging.  

Related Article - Best Adjustable Dumbbells For Home Gyms!

How to do it: 

  • Sit on a bench and hold a dumbbell in both hands with your palms facing up.  
  • Place your forearms on your thighs, so your wrists can move up and down freely without hitting your legs.  
  • Allow the weight to pull your wrists downwards, stretching your forearm muscles, and allow the weight to roll to your fingertips.  
  • Curl your wrists and dumbbells upwards, hold for a second and slowly return to the start.  
  • Repeat to complete your set. 
Dumbbell Wrist Curls

2. Dumbbell reverse wrist curls 

If you want to build forearms with dumbbells, you can’t miss out on the dumbbell reverse wrist curls. This movement is pretty similar to the exercise mentioned above, but you have a pronated grip (palms down) which is the opposite of a regular wrist curl.

The dumbbell reverse wrist curl works all of your flexors and extensor muscles in your forearm, resulting in hypertrophy, giving you thicker, stronger forearms. Even though this exercise is suitable for most people, if you’re performing the movement incorrectly, it can damage your wrists. Always ensure you’re using the correct form.  

How to do it: 

  • Sit on a bench holding a dumbbell with an overhand grip.  
  • Place your forearm on your knee with your palm facing down.  
  • Allow the wrist to bend towards the ground, stretching the top of the wrist.  
  • Curl the dumbbell upwards by bringing your knuckles toward you.  
  • Slowly reverse the movement back to the start.  
  • Swap arms and repeat. 
Dumbbell Reverse Wrist Curls

3. Single Dumbbell Wrist Curls 

This exercise gives you an excellent forearm workout at home with dumbbells. It’s virtually identical to the first exercise mentioned in this article, except for the fact you are using a single dumbbell rather than two dumbbells.  

As this movement works one arm at a time, it allows you to focus your efforts on each arm singly, ensuring maximum effort is put into each side.  

See Also - Dumbbell Cost Guide

How to do it: 

  • Sit on a bench, holding a dumbbell with one arm.  
  • Place your forearm along your leg, leaving your wrist unsupported.  
  • Let the dumbbell hang towards the floor, stretching your wrist and forearm.  
  • Curl your wrist and squeeze your forearm at the top of the movement.  
  • Reverse the movement and repeat to finish your set.  
  • Swap hands and go again. 
Single Dumbbell Wrist Curls

4. Standing Pronated Wrist Curl 

While this move is almost identical to the reverse wrist curl, this movement is far more difficult, and it involves you standing up and holding the dumbbells out in front of you while curling your wrists up and down.

Sounds tough, doesn’t it? – That’s because it is.

The movement requires a lot of shoulder and core strength to keep the dumbbells in front of your body; some gym-goers may struggle.

How to do it: 

  • Hold two dumbbells and stand up tall.  
  • Raise the dumbbells in front of your body, so they are parallel to the floor, and keep your arms straight, palms facing down.  
  • Let the dumbbells draw your wrists downward.  
  • Curl the dumbbells up, squeezing your forearms, and repeat.  
Standing Pronated Wrist Curl

5. Standing One-Arm Palm-Down Wrist Curl 

This is the same movement as above, except it’s using one arm at a time.  

As the movement is working on one side in isolation, it is slightly easier to control the weight, making it easier for beginners.

Read Also - Are Dumbbells Enough To Build Muscle?

How to do it: 

  • Stand up and hold one dumbbell in front of you, so it’s parallel to the floor with your palm facing down. Be sure to keep your arm straight.  
  • Allow gravity to pull the dumbbell downwards, so it stretches your wrist.  
  • Curl the dumbbell up, raising your knuckles and squeezing your forearm.  
  • Slowly lower and repeat. 
Standing One-Arm Palm-Down Wrist Curl

6. Neutral Wrist Curl 

So far, we’ve covered supinated and pronated grip wrist curls, so it would be a shame to miss out on neutral grip wrist curls, which are fantastic forearm builders.  

This exercise helps develop your extensor carpi radialis and abductor pollicis longus (two key muscles in your forearms) and the tendons around your radius. It’s vital that you train your forearms in multiple directions, allowing you to develop overall forearm strength.

How to do it: 

  • Hold the end of a dumbbell (not the handle but the widest part).  
  • Sit on a bench and rest your forearm on your leg.  
  • Place your hand in a neutral position, so your thumb is facing up to the sky.  
  • Slowly tilt the dumbbell towards the floor, stretching your wrist.  
  • Curl your wrist back to the starting position.  
  • Repeat and swap arms.  
Neutral Grip Wrist Curl

7. Rear fronted rotations 

This exercise is straightforward to perform and is hard to get wrong, making this a brilliant exercise option for beginners.

During the movement, the main areas targeted are the brachioradialis, and the extensor carpi radialis, both of these areas are key to maximizing your forearm growth.

How to do it: 

  • Stand while holding two dumbbells (one in each hand) using a neutral grip.  
  • Let your arms hang at your side.  
  • Place your hand in a neutral position, so your thumb is facing up to the sky.  
  • Allow the dumbbells to tilt forward, and curl your wrists upwards until the dumbbells point upwards.  
  • Slowly reverse the movement and complete your set.  
Rear Fronted Rotations

8. Dumbbell wrist rotations 

This is one of the best beginner dumbbell exercises for forearm development, and it can be performed either seated or standing up.

It works best when performed at the end of a workout, with the aim to fully exhaust the forearms, encouraging muscle growth and strength increases.

Dumbbell wrist rotations are performed by many gym-goers as they’re easy to do and difficult to get wrong.

This move is great for boxers. If you're into boxing, check out our complete guide to building a boxing home gym!

How to do it: 

  • Stand up while holding two dumbbells in front of your hips with your palms facing you. 
  • Bend your arms to 90-degrees and hold them in position.  
  • Slowly rotate the wrists, so your thumbs point outwards, then turn them back until they face each other.  
  • Repeat. 

Pro Tip: Don’t let the rotations become erratic, maintain control throughout the movement to maximize forearm stimulation. 

Dumbbell Wrist Rotations

9. Farmers walk 

Farmer’s walks are one of the most underrated forearm and grip strength developers around. Not only does this lift help you improve your forearm size and strength, but it’s an excellent core developer.  

This movement allows you to lift large amounts of weight to place huge loads through your forearm muscles. Overloading the forearms promotes muscular hypertrophy, resulting in larger and stronger forearms. 

Ever seen a skinny armed farmer? Of course, you haven’t. 

This exercise can be hard on the wrists if you're not careful. Review our guide to the best workout and gymnastics grips to prevent wrist strain.

How to do it: 

  • Grab a heavy dumbbell in each hand and stand up tall.  
  • Retract your scapula (shoulder blades) and brace your core muscles.  
  • Walk 10-15 yards, turn around and make your way to where you started from.  
  • Rest and repeat.  

Pro Tip: Try maintaining core stability throughout the movement, no swinging and swaying side to side as you walk.  

Farmer’s Walk

10. Reverse curl 

I couldn’t create a list of the ultimate forearm dumbbell exercises without including the reverse curl.

This bicep curl variation reverses the grip throughout the curl movement to increase the activation of the brachioradialis forearm muscle. By developing this muscle, you’ll take your arm development to the next level.

The reverse curl is one of the best forearm dumbbell exercises around for all ability levels and only requires two dumbbells.  

How to do it: 

  • Hold two dumbbells with an overhand (pronated) grip.  
  • Perform a bicep curl lifting the dumbbells towards your shoulders. 
  • Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement.  
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells until your arms are fully stretched.  
  • Complete your reps and repeat for 2-3 sets. 
Reverse Curl

11. Towel Dumbbell Curl 

This is another fantastic bicep curl variation that increases the amount of work done by the biceps throughout the curl.  

It involves wrapping a towel around the dumbbell handle to thicken the grip, making it more challenging to hold and requiring greater grip strength. You can buy devices out there to thicken the handles on barbells and dumbbells, but using a towel is equally as effective and is a lot cheaper.

The towel dumbbell curl is an excellent overall arm developer, helping increase mass in your biceps and forearm simultaneously. 

How to do it: 

  • Wrap a towel around the handle of a dumbbell.  
  • Grip the dumbbell and towel. 
  • Let the weight hang by your hips.  
  • Curl the dumbbell upwards until it reaches your shoulder height.  
  • Slowly return to the starting position.  
  • Repeat the movement. 
Towel Dumbbell Curl

12. Finger Curls 

Finger curls are relatively unheard of, and you won’t see many people performing this movement in the gym. However, they offer a series of benefits you can make the most of, and they are one of the best ways to develop your forearms. 

The movement works your forearm flexors through a massive range of motion, increasing muscle activation.  

This movement is beneficial if you participate in sports such as rock climbing, grappling, or other activities that require a lot of grip strength.  

How to do it: 

  • Sit on a bench and pick up a dumbbell.  
  • Rest your forearm on your leg with your palm facing up.  
  • Allow the dumbbell to roll down your hands, stretching your fingertips open. 
  • Stop the dumbbell before it falls and curl the weight back up until you’re gripping the dumbbell fully in your hand.  
  • Squeeze your forearms hard and repeat. 
Finger Curls

13. Drag Curl 

While the drag curl is primarily a biceps exercise, it does require your forearms to perform the movement. It’s simple to perform, and if done correctly, it’ll leave your biceps and forearms with one hell of a pump.  

I’m a big fan of super-setting this movement with hammer curls or reverse curls. Performing the two exercises back to back is one of the best forearm workouts with dumbbells for mass.  

Most people will find the drag curl easy to perform, making it an excellent exercise for beginners to try out.  

How to do it: 

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a supinated grip (palms facing up). 
  • Draw your shoulder blades back and down, opening your chest.  
  • Push your elbows back and curl the dumbbells upwards, dragging them up your body (hence the name).  
  • Slowly bring the weights back to the start and repeat.  
dumbbell drag curl

14. Bent-Over Row 

The bent-over row is a fantastic compound exercise that allows you to overload your body with large amounts of weight. By using dumbbells for this movement, you have an increased range of movement, and using dumbbells, increases the amount of work done by your forearms.  

This exercise primarily uses your lats and biceps but requires a large amount of grip strength to keep hold of the dumbbells throughout the movement, much more than is required during a barbell bent-over row.  

While performing this movement is not overly tricky, some beginners might struggle to achieve the correct form. 

Related Article - Dumbbell Row Vs Barbell Row

How to do it: 

  • Hold two dumbbells (one in each hand).  
  • Maintain a straight back and hinge from your hips, letting your arms hang in front of your body.  
  • Draw your shoulder blades back and lift the dumbbells towards your body.  
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells.  
  • Repeat the movement.  
Barbell Bent Over Row

15. Push-Up to Row 

This exercise challenges your forearms and grip strength, and that’s before you start the actual exercise.  

While it’s a brilliant forearm exercise, it’s not suitable for everyone. It requires a lot of upper body and core strength to remain stable throughout the movement, and beginners may struggle to support their body weight on the dumbbells.  

How to do it: 

  • Place two dumbbells on the floor shoulder-width apart. 
  • Assume a push-up position with your hands placed on each dumbbell handle.  
  • Brace your core and slowly lower your body towards the floor. 
  • Pause for a second and push yourself up back to the starting position.  
  • Row one dumbbell up to your chest, supporting your body weight on the opposite dumbbell.  
  • Lower the dumbbell back to the floor. 
  • Repeat on the opposite side.  
Push-Up To Row

16. Hammer Curl 

If you’re looking to build forearms with dumbbells, the hammer curl is an excellent choice of exercise.  

It mainly targets the long head of the bicep, which will help add thickness to your upper arms. However, one of the main secondary muscles it uses is the brachioradialis, a key forearm muscle.  

One of the best things about this exercise is that it’s easy for beginners to learn and doesn’t take too long to master. It’s one of the first exercises I teach my clients who are looking for improved forearm development.  

Jump over to our head to head comparison of hammer curls vs bicep curls to see which one you should do. 

How to do it: 

  • Stand up straight and hold one dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Hold the dumbbells so your thumb is facing forward (neutral grip).  
  • Curl the dumbbells up until your thumbs are pointing at your shoulders.  
  • Squeeze your biceps at the top and slowly perform the negative part of the movement.  
  • Complete your reps, rest, and repeat. 
Band Hammer Curls

17. Zottman Curl 

The Zottman curl, invented by the 19th-century strongman George Zottman, is one of the best bicep curl variations for increasing forearm activation. You’d have to be a fool to leave this exercise out of your dumbbell forearm workout.  

Along with the biceps, the Zottman curl works your brachioradialis, which is responsible for your arm’s flexion and rotation (supination and pronation) during this movement.  

It’s an unusual variation that can have a considerable impact on your forearm development if performed correctly.  

How to do it: 

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand up tall.  
  • Place your hands in a supinated position, with your palms facing away from you.  
  • Slowly curl the weight upwards. 
  • When you reach shoulder level, rotate your hands into a pronated position and return the dumbbells to the start.  
  • Rotate your hands back to a supinated position (palms facing away from you), and repeat. 
Zottman Curl

18. Dumbbell Holds 

Dumbbell holds are a type of isometric hold which involves engaging the muscles without any movement occurring. It follows a similar principle as the farmer’s walk, but minus the walking, making it an ideal forearm developer if you’re working out in a small home gym with minimal space. 

The movement is as simple as it sounds, making it ideal for all ability levels.  

The dumbbell hold has carryover into sports such as baseball, hockey, tennis, climbing, and any other grip-intensive activity.  

How to do it: 

  • Place two dumbbells standing upright on the floor (so the handle is vertical). 
  • Stand between the two dumbbells and place your hands around the top of the dumbbells without hooking your fingers over the edges.  
  • Deadlift the dumbbells up until you’re standing upright.  
  • Hold the dumbbells with your fingers for a set amount of time.  
  • Place the dumbbells back down, rest, and repeat. 

Pro Tip: Ensure your dumbbells are small enough to hold from the top. Hex dumbbells and smaller circular ones are ideal.  

Dumbbell Holds

19. Bicep Curls 

Even though the standard bicep curl doesn’t utilize a modified grip or technique to increase the forearm activation, it’s still one of the best dumbbell exercises for forearm mass development.  

The regular standing bicep curl mainly works your biceps brachii (long head of the biceps) and trains your brachioradialis, brachialis, and forearm flexors, making it an all-round arm blaster.  

It’s one of the first movements most gym-goers learn as it’s not complicated and yields excellent results when performed right.  

See Also - Barbell Curl Vs Dumbbell Curl

How to do it: 

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand tall.  
  • Rotate your hands, so your palms face outward in a supinated position.  
  • Bend the elbows and curl the dumbbells to your shoulder height.  
  • Squeeze your biceps hard at the top of the movement.  
  • Slowly lower the weight.  
  • Repeat.  
Bicep Curls

20. Crush Grip Curl 

The crush grip curl or crush curl is another variation of the bicep curl, which not only destroys your biceps but will put your forearms through their paces too.  

There are two ways to perform this movement, with one dumbbell or with two. I’ll explain both below.  

Each movement utilizes your brachioradialis and brachialis to stabilize the dumbbell throughout the exercise.

How to do it: 

(One dumbbell) 

  • Hold a dumbbell with both hands placed on either side of the dumbbell.  
  • Squeeze the dumbbell as if you’re trying to “crush” it.  
  • Curl the dumbbell upwards to your shoulders while maintaining the crushing pressure.  
  • Lower the weight in a controlled manner and repeat.  

(Two dumbbells) 

  • Hold two dumbbells by their handles with your hands facing outwards. 
  • Push them together in a crushing motion.  
  • Curl the dumbbells to your shoulders while pressing them together throughout the movement.  
  • Control the negative portion of the movement and repeat. 
Crush Grip Curl

Benefits Of Regular Forearm Exercises  

Whether you’re opening a jar, carrying luggage, playing golf, baseball, football, boxing... you name it, your forearms will no doubt be working.  

The forearms are a series of muscles located between your elbows and wrist; they allow you to open and close your hands, rotate, and bend your wrist.  

By training them, you’ll develop more muscle and increase your strength in everyday activities and sports. Plus, developing strength in your forearms provides you with more power during your workouts, allowing you to lift more increasing your overall body strength.  

Undertrained forearms create a weakness in your movement chain and negatively impact the amount of weight you can lift, especially during movements such as deadlifts.  

Training your forearms is for everyone; having increased forearm strength helps protect your wrists from injuries and ensures you remain strong as you age. Everyone from the college football player down the street to your 80-year-old grandma can benefit from training forearms regularly.  

One of the most versatile ways to train forearms is to use dumbbells. You can see from the list above that you aren’t short of options.  


Training Schedule For Forearm Workouts With Dumbbells

If you’re looking to introduce forearm training to your gym routine, you may be wondering how often, how many sets, and how long should you train them for.  

When you first train your forearms, you’ll most likely notice they fatigue quickly, so it’s best to train them little and often to begin with. I’d recommend selecting 2-3 exercises from the dumbbell exercises above and performing a few sets every couple of days. Don’t make it too strenuous to start with, and listen to your body regarding recovery time. 

Depending on whether you're isolating the forearms or training them alongside another muscle group, e.g., Zottman curl, the workout time is different.  

For isolation: 10-15 minutes  

Alongside muscle group: Throughout the workout 

Example workout: 

(Perform each exercise for 10-12 reps x 2-3 sets) 

  1. 1
    Bent over row 
  2. 2
    Farmers walk 
  3. 3
    Reverse curl 
  4. 4
    Drag curl 
  5. 5
    Dumbbell wrist curl 
  6. 6
    Reverse dumbbell wrist curl 

Common Dumbbell Forearm Workout Questions 

Do forearms get bigger naturally? 

Like any muscle, they won’t grow unless you stimulate them for growth. While you don’t always need to train forearms directly for them to develop, there’s only so far they’ll grow. Isolating the forearms using the exercises listed above are the best way to increase forearm muscle mass.

Is it hard to grow forearms? 

While forearms are always thought of as difficult to grow, it’s usually due to lack of stimulus and half-hearted training attempts. Your genetics also plays a massive role in the development of your forearms. Some people will develop huge Pop-eye looking forearms with little effort, while others will struggle to make them grow. To overcome a lack of growth, your best bet is to isolate the forearms.  

Are forearms push or pull? 

Forearms are classed as a pull exercise as they are one of the most important muscles used for pulling movements, such as pull-ups. While your forearms are needed for stability during push exercises, they’re not stimulated enough to create any significant muscle development.  

Do strong forearms help you punch harder? 

While strong forearms don’t always mean you’ll punch harder, they will increase your wrist and arm stability allowing you to hit with a more solid punching technique. Having strong forearms helps you tighten your fist harder, reducing your risk of injury. 


Conclusion

Small looking forearms not only affect your aesthetics but hinder your athletic performance. Luckily, the list above gives you 18 of the best muscle building forearm exercises around that you can perform in your home gym with no more than a set of dumbbells. Try adding a couple of these movements to your workout; your other lifts will thank you for it.

Paul J