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Forearm extensor exercises for strengthening your lower arms and wrists

Most people overlook their extensors—but you don't have to.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 1st March 2021
Man performing a reverse wrist curl with a barbell

Forearm extensor exercises strengthen your wrists and lower arms by working the muscles that sit on top of your forearms. Compared to the flexors, which are located on the underside of your forearms, the extensors are generally very underdeveloped.

Leaving them this way is a mistake because underdeveloped muscles are less resistant to strains and other sorts of injuries. Thankfully, performing forearm extensor strengthening exercises isn’t time consuming or complicated.

In fact, you can do this forearm extensor training as long as you have a few spare minutes and some basic equipment.

Related post: forearm supination exercises

Top 5 forearm extensor exercises

1. Dumbbell wrist extension

A man doing a reverse dumbbell wrist curl

If you have access to a dumbbell and flat surface, then the dumbbell wrist extension is one of the most convenient forearm extensors exercises that you can do.

Just make sure to pair it with a dumbbell wrist flexion for the best results.

  1. Hold a light dumbbell with an overhand grip.
  2. Place the underside of your forearm on a flat surface like a weight bench or a desk.
  3. Let your hand hang off the edge.
  4. Lower the weight towards the ground by bending your wrist.
  5. Keep going until you feel a comfortable stretch in the top of your forearm.
  6. Come back up by extending your wrist and keeping going until your hand is higher than your forearm.
  7. Repeat for 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps.

2. Barbell wrist extension

A person doing a reverse barbell wrist curl over a bench

Unless you have access to free weights at home, this exercise will need to be done in a gym. The benefit of it are that you can save time by training both arms together. The downside is that you can’t as easily focus on one particular side of your body, which isn’t ideal if you have muscle imbalances.

As you can see, the technique is largely the same.

  1. Hold a light barbell with an overhand grip, just inside shoulder-width.
  2. Place the bottom of your forearms on a weight bench.
  3. Allow your hands and wrists to hang off the edge.
  4. Bend your wrists to lower the weight towards the ground.
  5. Descend until you feel a nice stretch in your forearms.
  6. Come back up by extending your wrists and squeezing your forearm extensors.
  7. Again, make sure to bring your hands higher than your forearms for the best contraction.
  8. Repeat for 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps.

3. Eccentric wrist extension

A man doing a dumbbell wrist extension over a desk

If you don’t yet have the forearm strength to perform full repetitions, doing eccentric forearm extensor strengthening exercises like this can really help bridge the gap by working the key muscles. [1]

The catch is that you have to use a dumbbell. This is because you’ll be using your other hand to assist your working hand during the concentric (on the way up).

We have a guide on various other eccentric forearm exercises if you want more training variety.

  1. Grab a light dumbbell with an overhand grip.
  2. Place the underside of your forearm on a flat surface. A desk of table is ideal.
  3. Bend your wrist and lower the dumbbell towards the floor.
  4. Keep going until you feel a good stretch in the top of your forearm.
  5. Use your spare hand to help your working hand lift the weight back up.
  6. Alternatively, lower the weight and then take the dumbbell out of your working hand with your spare hand to make this a 100% eccentric exercise.

4. Resistance band wrist extension

A man doing resistance band reverse wrist curls

If you don’t fancy flooding your house with free weights, then resistance bands are a great space-saving tool for training your whole body. And the forearm extensors are no exception.

  1. Attach two handles to the end of a light resistance band and then stand in the middle of the band.
  2. Hold each handle with an overhand grip and position your hands at either side of your waist.
  3. Extend your wrists upwards by contracting your extensors. Avoid turning it into a bicep exercise by keeping your forearms still. Only your wrists/hands should move.
  4. Lower the handles under control until your hands dip below your forearms.
  5. Do an another 1-2 sets and keep the reps high. 15-25 reps is ideal.

5. Bodyweight wrist extension

If you are doing rehabilitation work or just have weak extensors, [2] then doing weightless extensions is a great place to start. Plus, they’re not actually 100% weightless because you're still lifting the weight of your hands.

Once this becomes too easy, you can use dumbbells or, for more comfort, wear some simple wrist weights.

  1. Sit upright in a chair and place your hands—palms down—over the edge of a desk or table.
  2. Lower your hands down until you feel a decent forearm stretch.
  3. Bring them back up by extending your wrists until you feel a strong contraction in your forearm extensors.
  4. Repeat for 20 total reps.

The verdict: How important are forearm extensor strengthening exercises?

If you perform resistance training for your arms, then your flexors already get a great workout. However, this naturally leads to muscles imbalances, so it’s more important than ever to performing forearm extensor strengthening exercises to regain some symmetry in your lower arms.

The forearm extensor exercises that I showed you will increase your injury resistance by getting all those small muscles used to handling stress. Doing a forearm extensor workout regularly will also help to protect against conditions that can emerge from doing too much computer work, and other such activities.

References

  1. Mitchell, B., & Whited, L. (n.d.). Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Forearm Muscles. The National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536975/
  2. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (n.d.). Extensor muscle | anatomy. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/extensor-muscle
Liam Brown
Liam Brown has been coaching clients as a personal trainer for more than 12 years. Raised by his athlete mother and physiotherapist father, he understands the critical importance of learning the proper technique for both avoiding injury and building muscle.
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