Training

Efficient Strategies To Thicken Your Wrists & Forearms

Updated April 23rd 2020; January 14th 2020

People who want to thicken their wrists and develop bigger forearm muscles should figure out a proper gameplan.

But what should they believe and what should they disregard?

Should they follow a powerlifting style workout or stick with bodybuilding?

When people think of powerlifters or bodybuilders most times they picture athletes who have massive pecs, Popeye-style arms, or perfectly tailored lats who can lift incredible amounts of weight. 

It’s uncommon for most people to consider the importance of other smaller groups of the body within either sport, however, the forearm muscles enable and enhance most of these critical movements, and having greater forearm strength tends to separate elite athletes from those who are novice lifters. 

Although small, these muscles certainly play a large role in daily tasks with respect to having better grip strength and carrying as well as maneuvering heavier weight. 

The forearm muscles are essential to the major movements of overhead press, deadlifts, clean-and-jerks, and bench presses, and their progressive growth also helps athletes to maintain an overall balanced physique.  

Enhancing the growth and strength of the forearm muscles allows lifters to train much harder, lift heavier, and generate more force. 

In order to better understand how to grow larger forearms let’s first explore the major parts of the forearm and their function. 

Following this, we will discuss three major ways that athletes from all levels of fitness can grow their forearms to their desired size and strength. 

How to get bigger forearms and wrists

In order to figure out how to get bigger forearms and wrists (Yes, it is possible if you have a realistic goal and a plan), you should have some knowledge about your forearm and wrist anatomy.

If this is not what you want to read, scroll on down and get to the sections where I break down how you can grow your forearms and wrists.

Also, here is a video explaining a high-level approach to training your forearms:

Overview of the Forearm Muscles

The major muscles within the forearm consist of the brachioradialis, flexor muscles, and extensor muscles. 

The brachioradialis enables the forearm to flex at the elbow and is essential in bicep exercises such as hammer curls and reverse curls. 

The flexors aid in the extension of the wrist and fingers as well as with the supination of the forearm and serve to bend a joint. 

The extensors assist with flexion and pronation of the forearm and serve to help extend and straighten joints. 

The forearm muscles are mostly composed of slow-twitch muscle fibers which require more time and effort in training to grow. 

The structure of these muscles is much longer and leaner when compared to other muscles in the body and this limits their overall growth. 

Thus, the forearm muscles and those surrounding them near the wrist and hand take years of consistent, high-frequency training in order to develop substantially. 

Most people who lift tend to have stronger extensor muscles then flexor muscles and it is crucial for athletes to ensure that they work both sides of the forearm to maintain a balanced physique as well as enhance grip strength. 

Types of Exercises Needed For Bigger Forearms And Wrists

The muscles within the forearms require movements that incorporate a full range of motion with full flexion and extension from the wrist in order to be actively worked. 

A lot of athletes new to lifting think that the forearms can be trained specifically through lifts such as rows or deadlifts however these movements involve a limited range of motion for the forearms and do not allow for much flexion or extension. 

It is important for athletes to use isolation exercises, especially those with dumbbells or lighter weights, to target the major muscles of the forearms. 

The following lifts are extremely helpful in the development of the forearm muscles:

 

  • Dumbbell/Barbell Wrist Curls- Targets the Flexors and Brachioradialis

 

    • Behind the Back Cable Wrist Curl - Targets the Flexors and Brachioradialis

 

  • Wrist Rollers- Targets the Flexors and Extensors
  • Reverse Wrist Curls - Targets the Extensors
  • Hammer Curls- Targets the Brachioradialis
  • Reverse Bicep Curls- Targets the Brachioradialis

 

When training the forearms and selecting which lifts to incorporate it’s important to keep in mind the four major movements of wrist flexion, wrist extension, forearm pronation, and forearm supination in order to work all ranges of motion and maintain muscular balance throughout the forearm. 

It is generally recommended to use dumbbell isolation exercises development since they are easier to control and allow more flexibility with certain movements. 

Compound Movements for The Forearms and Wrists?

This section would not be complete if you did not include some of the most standard exercises in the lifting world. 

Beginners should be aware that lifting weights in the gym creates an integrated process of pattern and strength. 

With that said, the deadlift will be one heck of an exercise to work on your forearms. 

Really, any compound movement that requires you to grip the barbell and to squeeze - allowing your forearms to contract. This includes farmer’s carries and a lot of static holds as well with the barbell.

Timing of Lifts, Repetitions, and Frequency

In addition to the specific lifts selected for training forearms, it is also essential to properly time these lifts and choose the correct amount of repetitions during the exercise. 

The forearms are made up of very dense muscle tissue which requires frequent training in order to grow. 

It is generally best to train them 2-3 times a week or every other day if possible, depending on the athlete’s rate of recovery. 

Forearm training should not be done directly before upper body workouts and instead should be trained either at the end of back and bicep training sessions or during sessions that are separated from major upper body lifts by at least 48 hours. 

Additionally, it is best to train forearms with repetitions that are much higher than other lifts. 

Forearm exercises are generally broken down into 3 – 4 sets of 15 to 25 reps with no more than 1 minute between sets. 

Proper Recovery for Enhanced Growth 

A final strategy for maximizing forearm growth is obtaining proper recovery. 

Since the muscles within the forearm will need to be trained multiple times throughout the week it is vital for athletes to not only consume enough carbohydrates prior to their lift but to also consume enough protein following your workout and sleep at least 7.5 – 9 hours per night. 

Frequent training of the forearms will prove useless or of little value unless it is combined proper recovery. 

If an athlete combines high-frequency forearm training along with proper food selection, meal timing, and sleep they will reach their desired look much quicker and most likely crush their goals.

How to get bigger forearms and wrists at home

Without using weights, it is a difficult task to grow your forearms and wrists at home.

One reason for this is because you do not have enough stress in order to force your muscles and tendons to grow.

Unless you live in a rural area and have chores to do, you will rarely need to exert the force necessary to break your forearm muscles apart.

But you do have some opportunities at home, nevertheless.

How to get bigger forearms and wrists without weights

Calisthenics 

Doing any exercises that involve your grip will strengthen your forearms but they may not necessarily puff up your forearms as you desire.

Pullups, levers, chin-ups, L-sits, etc. are just some of the many exercises that can strengthen your forearms.

In addition to that, here are a bunch of exercises you can also do at home that do not involve a pull-up bar:

  • Finger pushups
  • Wrist pushups
  • Opening and closing your hand in rice/sand

You might also wonder how often you should do any exercise to grow your forearms and wrists.

The answer is highly dependant on your goals.

You can train your wrists and forearms every single day if you can cover.

You can train your wrists and forearms once a week as well if you are diligent in your approach.

How to get bigger forearms and wrists with dumbbells

If you have dumbbells at home, you can definitely grow your forearms and wrist circumference by doing a ton of wrist curls.

Do not also forget about other ranges of motion as well:

  • Wrist rotations
  • Dumbbell static hold (You grip the dumbbells on its ends using only your fingertips)
  • Neutral grip wrist curls (Your palm is facing left/right)

Summary of Forearm Training

Athletes who are trying to develop stronger and larger forearms should select exercises within their training session which work all ranges of motion of the forearm, train their forearms several times a week with high repetitions and less rest, and they should ensure that they are staying on top of recovery in all aspects. 

Having stronger forearms will enable athletes to lift heavier weights and have better control over various movements as well as balance out their physique. 

Although the forearms can be targeted during major compound lifts it is always best to have days dedicated to isolated forearm training to maximize growth and strength. 

References

  1. Abe, T., & Loenneke, J. P. (2015). Handgrip strength dominance is associated with difference in forearm muscle size. Journal of physical therapy science, 27(7), 2147–2149. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.2147
  2. Muscles in the Posterior Compartment of the Forearm. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://teachmeanatomy.info/upper-limb/muscles/posterior-forearm/.
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