Although the muscles of the forearm are certainly small, they’re no less important than the major muscles of the body. Sadly, many people (men especially) train their so-called “beach muscles” at the expense of more important body parts like their forearms, a muscle group that's highly active during everyday tasks.
Since we use our forearms for holding a phone, typing, and playing with the kids (or grandkids), it’s very important to strengthen them. The dumbbell wrist extension is one of the best exercises for the job because it’s easy to learn, and you can do it virtually anywhere.
I recommend pairing it with the dumbbell wrist flexion so that you build strength on both sides of the forearm.
1. Dumbbell wrist extension over a bench
The gym—specifically, over a weight bench—is the most obvious place to perform the dumbbell wrist extension if you like working out. However, as you’ll soon learn, you can do this exercise on any flat surface that allows you to hang your hand off the edge.
While you can do this drill with two weights, I’m going to show you the single dumbbell wrist extension because it allows you to focus more on the working muscles because there's less for your brain to think about when you're just using one dumbbell.
- Grab a light dumbbell and place the underside of your forearm flat on a weight bench.
- Allow your hand to hang off the edge.
- Bend your wrist downwards to stretch the top of your forearm.
- When you feel a nice stretch, bring the weight back up by extending your wrist.
- Be sure to squeeze your forearm extensors, and don’t be afraid to bring the dumbbell higher than the starting position to get a good contraction.
- Repeat for 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps.
2. Dumbbell wrist extension on a table or desk
If you’re an office worker or just prefer to exercise at home, then you can also do a wrist extension with dumbbell equipment on a table or a desk.
This drill is particularly convenient if your forearms get tight from typing because you don't even need to leave your seat to do it. It’s definitely one of the easiest forearm extensor strengthening exercises for anyone to do.
- Find a table or desk that allows you to comfortably hang your wrist off the end.
- While holding a light dumbbell, bend your wrist downwards until you feel a good forearm stretch.
- Curl the weight back up by extending your wrist. Aim to bring the dumbbell higher than where your hand and forearm are level for the best results.
- Repeat for 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps. Use lower reps for general strengthening and lift closer to failure with higher reps (these muscles are slow-twitch) if you’re trying to make your lower arms more muscular.
3. Dumbbell wrist extension on your knee
If you don’t have a gym membership or if your boss doesn’t appreciate you exercising at your work desk, then this is the best variation of the dumbbell wrist extension for you.
- Sit in a chair with a light dumbbell in one hand.
- Place the underside of your forearm on your thigh and let your hand hang over your knee.
- Stretch the top of your forearm by bending your wrist towards the floor.
- Descend until you feel a nice stretch and then come back up by extending your wrist.
- Squeeze at the top for a split second and then repeat for 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps.
Conclusion: Why is the dumbbell wrist extension important?
In our modern lives that involve non-stop use of phones and computers, more people than ever are suffering from wrist and forearm problems. Of course, manual laborers, for example, are also prone to such issues.
The point is, if you perform repetitive motions without taking a break, then you may eventually have problems with your lower arms.
You might rightly have pointed out in your head that weightlifting is a repetitive motion. And while it’s certainly repetitive, we’re taking breaks between every 10 reps or so.
Compare this to something like using the computer (or even worse, the smartphone), which people often do for hours on end, and you can see how the dumbbell wrist extension is a great strengthening exercise.
By building up those small muscles in your forearms, they’re becoming more resistant to stressors from everyday life.
Also, as mentioned, I highly recommend paring the dumbbell wrist extension with some kind of flexion exercise for the fastest and best results.
- Phillips, B. Z. (2013, June 11). Wrist Joint Anatomy: Overview, Gross Anatomy, Natural Variants. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1899456-overview
- Wrist pain - Symptoms and causes. (2020, October 20). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/wrist-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20366213