Two Do-It-Yourself Methods For Training Your Forearms

The forearms were historically, and to a lesser extent still are, considered one of the benchmarks for a man’s upper body physique. While the uninitiated will still pop a single or double bicep when told to “make a muscle,” the discerning observer with a little knowledge will be more impressed with large, muscled forearms.

And why shouldn’t they? While the biceps have their use in adducting the arm back towards the torso, the forearms and wrists will be used much more in any given day-by definition, anything that gets picked up has to be picked up with the hands (please don’t flood the comments with pictures of yokes and back harnesses in an attempt to “prove me wrong”), and guess what muscles open and close the hands? More specifically, guess which muscles keeps the hands closed while encumbered with a heavy weight?

You will not have a heavy deadlift, overhead press, or bench press if you have weak hands. And for athletes, your punching, wrestling, grappling, throwing, and catching will be ineffectual without proper forearm training. In the words of Thomas Inch and many other pre-20th century strongmen, weak hands makes a weak man.

thomas inch

Thomas Inch

Bad Methods

Most of you were probably familiar with the necessity of training the forearms, and have already begun a program of forearm training. The problem is that most of the forearm isolation training you’re currently doing is bullshit. Things like wrist curls. These are the biggest load of uselessness you can do for your forearms—namely because holding the weight up and against the palm takes away the element of fighting against gravity that other training methods use, and the clenched fist posture takes away any involvement of the fingers (training of the individual muscles of the fingers is a key element of grip training that is often overlooked). But if you want a flimsy muscle pump that doesn’t affect functional strength and risks hurting the tendons in your wrist, be my guest.

The wrist rollers most people see in their gym aren’t a bad choice, but they have the obvious disadvantage of having a fixed weight—you could untie the rope each time and use a progressive amount of weight, but this inconvenience method can be done better with a method detailed below.

Grippers like the Captains of Crush model are also a good choice, but expensive. And if you too are one seeking to “enjoy the decline” with a minimalist lifestyle, then you’ll try to spend as little money as possible. And as luck would have it, there are several adjustable ways to train the forearms that can either be done without any equipment at all, or with easily obtained materials around your home.



Two Worthwhile Methods

Not counting the compound lifts like the deadlift, the first forearm training I mastered, for purposes of building a base of strength in static holds, is the one-handed fingertip pushup. I refer to this as a static forearm hold because while there is obviously movement, the fingers are stationary, only carrying the body’s weight. Before you can do the one-handed fingertip pushup, you of course have to master the two handed finger tip pushup, as shown below.


Fortunately, the steps in this exercise series are identical to the standard one-handed pushup detailed in this article. Thus, there’s no need to go over them in detail.

The next one is a variation of one you might be familiar with—the old version was to take a single sheet of your standard newspaper, and crumple it up solely using the fingers of one hand. This is a decent warm up, but the thin paper sheets will not engage the muscle fibers enough for sufficient strength building. Instead, what should be done is to take a hand towel (roughly equivalent to the size of a newspaper sheet) and crumple that up—the increased thickness and friction of the towel will make it a more difficult exercise. Plus, all of the fingers will be moving and working as individual units to compact the towel. You will feel a great burn in your forearm.


After a few workouts, this will become pretty easy to you, but it can be made more difficult: Poke a hole in one end of the towel (or get a golf towel which already has a hole in it), and loop a string through the hole. Then tie that string around a small bucket (the kind of bucket that kids bring to the beach will suffice). With that, you have created a forearm training device with adjustable weight.

The bucket alone adds weight and resistance, and this will increase difficulty. Once you can crumble the towel up with the bucket, you can gradually begin adding sand, rice, dry beans, water, or anything else to the bucket. It sounds minuscule, but it does make the exercise much more difficult. And if that becomes too easy, try with a full size bucket (bear in mind that I am incapable of doing this with a full size bucket, and the strongest men in the world likely would struggle with it).


The two exercises detailed here are hardly the only effective forearm/grip training methods—hell, they’re not even the only forearm training techniques that I use. But these exercises have been chosen because you should already have the materials to do these highly effective exercises.

And while I will undoubtedly do more forearm related articles in the future (due to the forearms being in my opinion one of the most important muscles to train), these two alone will help all of your athletic endeavors.

Read More: How to Balance Intense Physical Training with Living Life

57 thoughts on “Two Do-It-Yourself Methods For Training Your Forearms”

  1. I’ve done the fingertip push-ups before but never the towel exercise. If you got the equipment, farmers carries/walk are another great exercise for the firearms. A substitute for the farmers walk if you don’t have the weights is to just find a pull-up bar and hang from it as long as you can.

    1. Similar principle: use rope or towels to do your pull-up. Drape them over the pull-up bar (being certain whatever material can support your weight) and use those as your grips.
      It simulates a rope climb – I can do maybe three before I lose all feeling in each hand.

      1. Good idea. Another option is to get some pool noodles to put over the pull up bars. The increased thickness makes your forearms work MANY times harder. I’m doing good just to hold on. You can do the same thing on a weightlifting bar for exercises like the deadlift (just be careful).

        1. Or you could pay 15x that for those Big Grip things…
          (I own a set. They are strong and durable, but not necessary for lower weights. I’d hazard a guess that they pay off when the weight surpasses 250lb, but I haven’t done any appreciable testing vs pool noodles.)

        2. When gas prices go up I scrap metal with my uncle for extra cash and to hear his philosophy on life and women. Dude is intelligent and hilarious.
          I acquired a piece of galvanized pipe, about 6 feet long and about 1.6 inches in diameter. I thought it may be an improvement on my weaker bar, so I kept it. Not only can it handle me doing HEAVY weighted chins & pull ups (that’s sometimes 300+ lbs, closer to 350 sometimes), but I sometimes use it to hang my 100 lb. heavy bag for bag work. And anything you hang a heavy bag from should be able to handle at least 3x, preferably 5x the weight of the bag.
          This result wasn’t anticipated, but it literally destroys my forearms post workout anytime I use it instead of a more conventional sized bar. They look like they are going to explode or something, and before forearms were a weak point for me aesthetically. My grip wasn’t weak before, but now its like I have a vise made of meat at the end of my arms. Added punching power too. If I didn’t own this one or it got busted somehow, I would definitely buy a new one. The only weak point of this thicker bar was that I sometimes found chalk necessary.
          I had never considered pool noodles before. And as for the big grips, spending my own actual money on fitness equipment hurts my narcissism for some reason. Just mentioning the advantages of this in case you fellas or anyone reading this could use the input.

        3. I have two of those “Captains of Crush Grippers”. They are not that expensive. And its fun breaking them out in the office and being the only one who can close them…

        4. It just amazed me that about a 5 inch circumference could completely destroy my forearm muscles. Its like the back and biceps still get fatigued but I understand why dudes are dropping the extra cash for these fat grips and your technique as well, after seeing the results. Its a huge benefit to get this kind of work in.

    2. I’ve been doing farmer carries for a few months now. When I started I struggled to walk around with two 50-pound dumbbells for a minute, now I do two sets of one minute with 65-pound dumbbells. Seems like my grip is dramatically more powerful now, I imagine because it’s something that I wasn’t working on before. I want to move up on the weight, but I’m a little worried that it might be hard on my shoulders and elbows. Seems like I feel a bit of pre-injury pain for a few days afterward now that I’m doing heavier weights.

      1. If you wanna mix it up you can always try something I did for a while to develop my pinching strength, which requires much less weight. If you’re working with hex-dumbbells or weight plates, then you have the tools.
        For hex-dumbbells, I would stand them upright, then pick them up at the top end with my fingers spread while pinching the various sides and then perform my farmer’s walks. In the past, I also did reverse bicep curls with this type of grip. You must use much less weight than ordinary farmer’s walks and I found the results for my grip endurance to be exceptional.
        With weight plates, stack as many 5 or 10 pound plates as you can and pinch them between your thumb and fingers, then do your farmer’s walks or reverse curls or whatever. I’ve never tried this method but it is popular for developing pinching strength.

      2. If you are experiencing pre-injury pain stop what you are doing and find another exercise. Take it from somebody who has already made the mistake. Its not worth it.

    3. Farmer’s walk is much more functional than the towel exercise in my opinion. Just because it causes a burn, doesn’t mean its good.

  2. Big time forearm training will use things like a pipe/pole and using just your fingers move it up and down (like a snake/worm) it gets your arms burning really fast.

    1. I try to train my wrists by moving a 5′ long staff around my body without moving my arms. Full arm extension, rotating only at the waist and wrists (and a very small amount in the shoulders), moving as slowly and smoothly as humanly possible.
      The last minute is grueling.

      1. I kind of picture what you’re talking about, but you wouldn’t have a link to a video would you? It would be interesting to check out.

        1. Nope – it’s something I came up with when I was still at McDojo.
          Basically I try to keep full extension on the staff – it’s a leverage thing. Then, trying to keep the tip absolutely stable, I either hold it out at full length, hold it at length and slowly rotate it, or otherwise move such that the movement is difficult and requires maximum focus and stabilization.
          Moving it around the body is one way to achieve the effect.

  3. Agree 100% on the fingertip push-ups. Pop that into your routine and you will notice it in a few weeks.

    1. Dude needs a couch from this century. One thing at a time, I guess!

    2. A well muscular set of forearms, being necessary to the security of a free man, the right of the people to keep and bear muscular forearms, shall not be infringed.

      1. Anyone who has the forearm strength to lift a gun is a threat to the NWO

  4. If you have an indoor rock climbing gym in your area do that, it’s a great full body workout and I don’t know anything else that’ll give you actual finger strength on top of forearm strength like that will. Also get in a rack and put the safety bars just a few inches below hand length and stack the bar with 4 to 5 hundred pounds worth of wait and just pick it up like a deadlift(without actually having to deadlift) and just try to hold that weight for as long as possible. It’s good for when you can’t do a farmers walk in your gym. Nothing beats holding a lot weight for set periods of time cause even if you can only deadlift 405 if you can hold 500+ for extended sets of time then when you do deadlift your grip won’t be your weak point, and I wouldn’t get to used to straps cause then you neglect your forearm development and can cause elbow issues (at least in my case)

  5. Supposedly this was the secret behind Cuba’s legendary Olympic boxing program. Forearms. They train with a whole series of fingertip pushups, wrist pushups, etc.

    1. If he plays a classical Mexican guitar, fear him. They use absurdly heavy strings and thick necks, and they almost never use straps when they’re playing.

    2. How about metal guitarists? Kirk Hammett is scrawny, but I have a feeling he could crush my skull with his bare hands

      1. Electric is a lot easier to play in most cases. Strings aren’t nearly as tense, especially well built modsrn guitars like PRS.
        Switching over feels like playing butter.

        1. Lol I don’t know them.
          just stay away from any upright bass player in a jazz band.

        2. geez, Taylor is before our time, but you should at least know Ray

  6. I remember watching a workout by Roger Clemens- he was sticking his arm into a garbage pail filled with rice. I think that was a forearm exercise. or maybe thats where he hid the roids. not sure

    1. I know that similar approaches are employed by martial artists to harden their hands and arms. It’s possible he was trying to toughen his arms (bones, primarily) to withstand greater impacts.

  7. Shoulder shrugs fry my forearms. To a lesser extent, so does a typical back workout

    1. Ha, I perform my forearm training after every workout, and without fail my worst days are after training my back. A good back session should do the trick for those uninterested in competing or developing some niche strength.

    1. I was going to raise this as a point. You can do the exercises in the article but pull-ups are much better. They are a compound exercise that hits a lot of muscle groups and tendons (often overlooked by bodybuilders) including your forearms and grip strength.
      Be careful with the Rocky pull-ups though. They can put a lot of strain on the bicep tendon and trust me, that is not an injury you want. It can take years (yes years!) to completely heal and you won’t be doing any pull-ups at all during this time.

    2. Grenade Grips are awesome for forearm development. Same deal as Fat Gripz. Put them around bars and you’re good to go.

  8. One thing I realized is that all the dude mechanics at my work that set up manufacturing line machines have developed forearms. No so much upper body though.

    1. Haha, totally. I’m a machinery and equipment appraiser, so I get to trounce around and inspect all types of factories and machinery. These guys you’re talking about squeeze the life out of my hand when we first shake. It always catches me off guard because they otherwise look like normal middle-aged men.

        1. Heh, “Popeye pump” is real. I thank my lucky stars that I’ve always paid attention to my triceps, because otherwise my forearms would be just as big as my upper arms.

  9. What about wringing water out of a wet towel using both hands? Washing clothes by hand will strengthen them.

    1. In my opinion, that’s an excellent suggestion for those looking to get a great exercise on the cheap and easy. It’s hard to imagine that it could be any less effective than rolling up a weight at the end of some rope that’s attached to a pipe. So long as you observe the principle of progressive overload, it seems like it would work just fine.

  10. Great article Larsen. One of these days I’ll get into strength training, but I’m too wrapped up in bodybuilding at the moment.
    I’d just like to add that some distinctions should be made that might cause confusion unless stated. I can already see some commenters expressing their opinions about these things and it would serve us well to acknowledge that grip “power” does not equate to grip “endurance,” crushing strength is not the same as pinching strength, and muscular forearms do not imply an impressive grip.
    Taking myself for instance, my forearms are one of my better body parts, yet my grip strength is middling (but serviceable). Aside from my forearms being worked throughout the course of my routine, I also perform wrist curls, reverse wrist curls and reverse bicep curls. These have been my goto exercises for developing my forearms and the results are quite satisfactory. I’ve only noticed a slight improvement in my grip, however the mass and the separation between muscles in my forearms have demonstrated to me that these exercises can be beneficial depending on your specific goals.
    I’ll add that the way you described wrist curls is not really the proper way to perform them, rather you should let the barbell or dumbbells roll down onto the edge of your fingertips before curling your fingers up into a tight fist. You can certainly perform them the way you described, but having tried it both ways myself, I’ve found that allowing the weight to roll onto your fingers ultimately reduces the weight used and thus any unnecessary strain that you’d like to avoid (i.e. the potential tendon troubles you mentioned), not to mention that my results seemed to improve as well.
    Finally, I would like to add that a proper routine that deals with grip/forearms should include some finger extension work in order to avoid painful imbalances that otherwise might develop. These exercises might be finger extensions with a rubber band or repeatedly jamming your bunched up fingers into a bucket of sand and then spreading them.

  11. I got a little obsessed with my forearms at 16 and started doing the handle/rope/weight wind ups regularly and beefed mine up young.
    I spent so much time in deep winters I am soft but getting better every day here on Pacific Northwest as the weather is so damned agreeable with me here.

  12. This is all well and good, but until you are “stuck” with your deadlift, you’re better off focusing on that — deadlifts. And the first time you get stuck, add chalk. Then, once you’re really, well and truly tuck, then you can start with the helper exercises. Just my experience. Not that any of the above are bad, per se, just that everyone has limited time, and it’s better, IMHO, to make the best use of that limited resource.

    1. Farmer’s walks are good for grip strength too. I also like to do “monkey hangs” which is hang off the pull up bar for as long as I can. Sometimes I’ll move myself along to one side and back to the other, like you’d do on the monkey bars, but you only have the one bar.

  13. The forearms have more androgen receptors than most other muscles, meaning large forearms will tend to indicate to others that you are testosterone rich. l find regular kettlebell exercises enough to keep mine a respectable size.

  14. I’ve moved up to bigger grippers than in the pic posted above. The cool part about the grippers is that I can do them while watching a movie, youtube vid, or while reading internet articles.

  15. I have always sported buff, manly forearms thanks to many years of Herculean physical labor. As I have gotten older and more desk-bound have taken to keeping a large wad of “kneaded rubber eraser” material by my computer to strengthen my grip between making thoughtful internet comments. I buy packs of 12 and mash them into a large ball. Very therapeutic.

  16. As a man born with tiny wrists and forearms I have been obsessed in changing them. Over time I found this information important:
    1. You can’t change the size of your wrist because it is bone
    2. Do the training at the end of your workout so your grip strength is not compromised
    3. Beware of joints and tendons soreness in the wrist; you can’t hit the forearms that frequently and that heavy
    4. Your wrist bone size will put a limit on how much you can press, how hard you can grip, etc. That’s just genetics
    5. Personal preference , best exercise to put volume is the forearm flexion in any variations. Some men swear for the wrist roller but for me it worked better the forearm flexion.
    6.Finally and most important. The muscles in the forearm will need lots and lots of work to grow. In fact, you should not leave the training session until you have them burning and sore. Forget about counting reps; keep on going until you get that burning pain and you are unable
    to write your name on paper.
    Some good videos of a bodybuilder with small joints look at those from Chris Jones.
    Some good videos on forearm exercises Jeff Cavaliere
    Best article I have read on forearm development:

  17. Pick up a pair of drumsticks.
    Single stroke or double stroke roll until you feel the burn.
    And you can throw in some sick beats here and there for fun; a little less mind-numbing than crumpling a white towel, but still great for the forearms.

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