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Strengthening Your Forearms Is the Key to Finally Mastering Pull-Ups, Push-Ups, and Planks—Here’s How to Do It

Tehrene Firman

Tehrene FirmanMay 28, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/Cavan Images

Your forearms don’t get the attention they deserve. Most people don’t even notice the area until it gets sore from typing away on a laptop all day, every day. The muscles in your forearms are responsible for your grip strength, allowing you to open that jar of pasta sauce or carry a heavy bag of groceries. And your can specifically target your forearms with strengthening exercises to make these every day tasks less of a burden as you age.

When you do forearm strengthening exercises, you’re also setting yourself up for better push-ups, planks, and pull-ups. “Let’s take pull-ups, for example. More often than not, it’s not that our arms and back aren’t strong enough to execute them—it’s simply our grip strength that goes first,” says Sam Tooley, online personal trainer and running coach in New Jersey. “From pull-ups to deadlifts and beyond, our grip can be a limiting factor in how well we perform certain strength-based exercises.”

If you want to improve your forearm strength in order to keep those muscles strong enough to benefit your daily life, workouts, and beyond, these are the best forearm strengthening exercises to get the job done.

The best forearm strengthening exercises

1. Dead hangs

  1. Find a pull-up bar, set the timer, and hang on tight with your palms facing forward. Your feet should not be touching the floor. While you’re holding, make sure your core is engaged.
  2. Start with 5 sets of 20 seconds with 40 seconds of rest, then work your way up from there.

2. Farmer’s carry

  1. Start with a dumbbell or kettlebell of equal weight in each hand by your sides. The weight should be challenging, but not so much that it hurts your form.
  2. Walk across the room with good posture, standing tall with your shoulders back and abs tight.
  3. Pause, turn around, and walk back to your starting position. Repeat two more times.

3. Dumbbell reverse curl

  1. Stand with a dumbbell of equal weight in each hand. Your palms should be facing down.
  2. With your elbows glued to your sides, curl the dumbbells to your shoulders, then lower them to your thighs.
  3. Perform 3 sets of 12 reps.

4. Towel dead hang

  1. Once you master normal dead hangs, up the challenge by adding a towel to the mix.
  2. Loop two small towels around a pull-up bar—one for each hand. Hold on tight, and hang.
  3. Start with 5 sets of 20 seconds with 40 seconds of rest, then work your way up from there.

5. Cherry pickers

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Raise your arms so they’re straight out on each side of your body in a “T” position with your palms facing down.
  3. Stretch your fingers out as far as you can, then squeeze your fingers as tight as you can.
  4. Do 3 one-minute sets with a 30-second rest between each.

Now work the rest of your arm muscles with this 10-minute workout:

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