How To Workout Forearms With Dumbbells (10 Exercises) | (2023)

How To Workout Forearms With Dumbbells (10 Exercises) | (1)

Forearm training is commonly neglected, with many lifters leaving their forearms as a weak point in their physique, or causing deadlift grip issues.

There are many options for forearm training, but which exercises are best when it comes to using dumbbells?

The 10 best dumbbell exercises for forearms are:

  • Supinated Wrist Curl
  • Pronated Wrist Curl
  • Neutral Wrist Curl
  • Dumbbell Pronation
  • Dumbbell Curl
  • Hammer Curl
  • Reverse Curl
  • Zottoman Curl
  • Dumbbell Holds
  • Finger Curls

At the end of this article you will understand how to perform each of these, along with how best to incorporate them into your workout.

I will cover:

  • An overview the forearm muscles
  • How to perform each exercise and how to programme them
  • The benefits and drawbacks of using dumbbells for forearms

Forearm Muscles: Overview

The forearm is made up of a large group of muscles. This is due to the complexity of movements available by the hand and wrist.

When considering these for training, it is best to think of them as wrist extensors and wrist flexors.

Wrist extension is the action of bringing your knuckles closer to your forearm.

How To Workout Forearms With Dumbbells (10 Exercises) | (2)

The wrist extensors comprise of the brachioradialis, the three extensor carpi muscles (radialis longus, radialis brevis and ulnaris), the extensor digitorum and extensor digiti minimi and the 6 deep muscles.

Wrist flexion is the action of bringing your palm towards your forearm.

How To Workout Forearms With Dumbbells (10 Exercises) | (3)

The wrist flexors comprise of the flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, the pronator teres, palmaris longus, flexor digitorum superficialis and the 4 deep muscles.

When training the forearms it is important to train both the extensors and the flexors.

Read our article How To Increase Forearm Size (Complete Guide) for the full overview of the forearms and how best to train them.

10 Dumbbell Exercises For Forearms

1. Supinated Wrist Curl

Wrist curls are a staple in any forearm training plan.

Supinated refers to a hand position with the palms facing upward. By doing this you will target the wrist flexor muscles.

These are best done seated with your forearms resting you your thighs. Holding a light dumbbell, with your palms facing upwards, flex your wrist towards you as far as you can and then allow your wrist to fully extend.

Work through this full range of motion in a controlled motion while squeezing the dumbbell.

Given that these require very limited load I recommend working through a broad range of rep schemes. This will allow for continued progression rather than sitting at the same load and rep schemes for excessive periods of time.

(Video) How to Train Forearms with Dumbbells - 10 of the Best Exercises

I recommend 3-4 sets of 12-20 repetitions – start with a load you can do for 12 reps and look to progress the reps until you hit 20, and then look to increase load.

Given the small loading used for these the 2.5kg jump between dumbbells can often be a large jump and therefore manipulating rep schemes allows you to continue overloading the muscle session to session.

2. Pronated Wrist Curl

Pronation refers to a hand position with the palms facing downward. By doing this you will target the wrist extensor muscles.

Set these up the same as above, but this time, hold the dumbbells with your palms facing downwards., Extend your wrist towards you as far as you can and then allow your wrist to fully flex back to the bottom of the rep.

Work through this full range of motion in a controlled motion while squeezing the dumbbell.

I recommend 3-4 sets of 12-20 repetitions – start with a load you can do for 12 reps and look to progress the reps until you hit 20, and then look to increase load.

3. Neutral Wrist Curl

Neutral is a hand position with the thumbs up and palms facing each other.

By performing wrist curls in neutral position, you are targeting the brachioradialis more, which is the biggest muscle in the forearms and thus contributes largely to their overall size and strength.

Most lifters can perform these with a load slightly heavier than a supinated or pronated grip.

I recommend performing these for 3-4 sets of 10-15 repetitions. Look to progress the load as you reach 15 reps each set.

4. Dumbbell Rotation

Setting up in the same position as a pronated wrist curl, holding the dumbbell palms down with the forearms rested on the thigh, rotated your hand to a supinated position, palm facing upwards.

This will also train the deeper muscles in the forearm responsible for supination and pronation.

These require a lighter load to be used and therefore I recommend using a higher rep scheme – 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps. These are best done as a secondary exercise or at the end of a session.

5. Supinated Dumbbell Curl

While dumbbell curls are predominantly a bicep exercise, they are also great for the forearms as well.

During a bicep curl the wrist flexors are working isometrically, without movement, throughout the lift to maintain the wrist position.

This enables us to load the forearms with heavier weights than possible through wrist orientated exercises.

To maximise forearm recruitment, you should squeeze the dumbbell as hard as possible and look to curl the wrist at the top of the movement – think of it as a supinated wrist curl to complete each rep.

I recommend these 3 sets for 8-12 reps – allowing us to get a heavier and slightly lower rep stimulus than the above exercises.


6. Hammer Curl

The hammer curl is another exercise typically used for biceps but is actually a great forearm exercise.

The brachioradialis, the forearm’s largest muscle, is also responsible for elbow flexion and this neutral grip in the hammer curl helps to load it further.

Hammer curls allow you to shift more load than other exercises and to capitalise on this I recommend using 6-8 reps.

These are great to start your forearm training with before doing other more isolated exercises with higher rep schemes.

7. Reverse Curl

Reverse curls are a dumbbell curl performed with a pronated grip.

As with a supinated curl, these are primarily a bicep exercise, however the wrist extensors will be working isometrically to stabilise the wrist position and the brachioradialis will be working to cause elbow flexion, much like a hammer curl.

These will require a lighter load than either the hammer curl or supinated curl and so I recommend slightly higher reps to maximise their effectiveness; 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps.

8. Zottoman Curl

The zottoman curl is another way to increase the forearm loading of bicep curls.

Starting in a supinated position, curl the weight up as per a normal bicep curl, at the top of the movement you then rotate your hands into pronation and control the weight back down from this position. At the bottom of the movement, rotate your hands back to supination and repeat for the next rep.

This is effectively combining a supinated curl, pronated curl and dumbbell rotation all into one exercise – it works both your wrist flexors and extensors as well as your pronator and supinator muscles.

These are great when short on time and looking to target as much of the forearm as possible with just one exercises.

I recommend performing 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps. These get challenging fast so expect to use a load that may feel easy for the first half of the set.

Related Article: 6 Fat Gripz Alternatives (That Will Save You Money)

9. Dumbbell Holds

Isometric training, where we load a muscle without movement, is another way for us to load the forearms.

Dumbbell holds are as simple as they sound – hold a dumbbell for a timed period (usually 10-20 seconds).

These are great for forearm strength and have great carry over to your grip strength in other exercises, such as the deadlift.

To maximise loading of the forearm muscles, use a fully closed hand and squeeze the dumbbell as hard as you can for the full time period.

To maximise carryover to grip/forearm strength, hold the dumbbell in the same position in your hand as you would in the deadlift (likely lower down than a fully closed hand).

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For forearm muscle size I recommend performing 3-5 sets of 20-30 second holds, to focus on grip strength I recommend 3-5 sets of 5-15 second holds. When you hit the top end of the ranges, look to progress load.

Looking for more advice on how to improve your grip strength? Read our articles:

How To Use A Grip Strengthener For Max Results (Full Guide)

10. Finger Curls

Holding a light dumbbell, allow you hand to open until the dumbbell is in your fingertips, and then close your hand fully again, squeezing the dumbbell at the top.

This will load the muscles responsible for movement and strength in the hand, which are often neglected.

These are particularly challenging and require a light load to be viable and therefore suit higher repetitions rather than trying to chase load with lower reps. I recommend 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps at the end of your forearm training.

If you are interested in maximising your hand strength and the best kit to do so, I recommend reading our articles:

  • Will Grippers Build Forearms (Yes, Here’s How)
  • 7 Best Hand Strengtheners Reviewed: Are They Worth It?

Benefits of Using Dumbbells To Train Forearms

There are 4 benefits to training the forearms with dumbbells:

  • They are versatile
  • They are unilateral
  • They allow variable loading
  • They are quick

They Are Versatile

Dumbbells are incredibly versatile and allow for a range of movements to be performed.

This article includes 10 options that can be performed using only dumbbells allowing you to effectively train the forearms in every way needed.

Even one pair of dumbbells provides multiple movement options to train both the flexors and extensors.

They Are Unilateral

Unilateral, one side at a time, loading is important for training in general, but even more so for the forearms.

Typically, most lifters will have one hand and forearm that is stronger that the other. When performing bilateral, both sides together, exercises the stronger side can end up compensating for the weaker.

Unilateral movement allows us to train each side independently and potentially even the gap between each forearm more easily.

They Allow Variable Loading

Most gyms will have dumbbells over a vast range of loads, usually in 2.5kg jumps, and ideally 1kg increments from 1-10kg.

This allows us to progress more easily as we are not having to wait until we are strong enough for that next 5kg jump on the cable machine or stuck using a 20kg barbell for an extended period as it was just too heavy in the first place.

Related Article:

They Are Quick

Dumbbells are quick and easy to use. There is no set up process, finding the right cable attachment or collars for your barbell.


You simply get the set you want to use and get straight on with you training.

This is important as forearm training is often not the most exciting and left until the end of your session.

It is far less tempting to skip it when it’s quick and easy to do.

Drawbacks of Using Dumbbells to Train Forearms

There are 2 drawbacks to training the forearms with dumbbells:

  • It can get boring
  • Grip training is harder

It Can Get Boring

Much like any other training, restricting yourself to one pool of exercises can get stale.

You would not want to work out your chest only using dumbbells, you want a barbell, and machines or cables as well.

Rather than just using dumbbells, many lifters may enjoy their training more by incorporating barbell exercises or by using grippers as well.

Looking to maximise your progress in a short period of time? Read our articles:

  • Can Forearms Be Trained Every Day? (Yes, Here’s How)
  • How To Increase Forearm Size (Complete Guide)

Grip Training Is Harder And Not As Effective

Your gym will have a heaviest dumbbell.

In some gyms that may be 30kg, 50kg or even more if you are lucky.

What do you do when the dumbbells are no longer heavy enough for you to do difficult holds with?

You have to start looking at other options – typically a barbell.

Grip training with a dumbbell is also less specific than using a barbell, from variable handle widths and knurling to how and where you hold it.

Grip training is best done using a barbell as this is more specific and also allows for further loading beyond what is viable with a dumbbell.

Other Dumbbell Exercise Guides:

  • 9 Best Lat Exercises With Dumbbells (With Pictures)

Final Thoughts

Dumbbells are a great way to training your forearms, allowing for great movement variability, unilateral training and they are often quicker than other options.

Lifters should focus on training both their wrist flexors and extensors as well as their pronator and supinator muscle groups.

The main drawbacks of using dumbbells for forearm training is that they can become boring and their lack of specificity and longevity with grip training.



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