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Forearm pronation and supination exercises for rotational strength

Do these simple supination and pronation exercises for stronger lower arms.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 4th March 2021
Woman with her palms down

The forearm is a critical body part because it allows us to perform everyday tasks like cooking, walking the dog, and using the computer. Crucially, we need to be able to rotate our lower arms so that we can grab and hold certain objects.

This involves what’s called forearm supination and forearm pronation, both of which refer to rotating the forearm, as you’ll learn shorty.

Regular resistance training exercises usually work one of the other functions, like flexion or extension. They don’t have you switch between pronation and supination, or vice versa. As such, if you're having trouble with the rotational strength of your forearm, it’s a good idea to do some direct forearm pronation exercises to strengthen these essential muscles.

Related posts: forearm extensor exerciseseccentric loading forearm exercises

Top 5 forearm pronation and supination exercises

You can do these forearm supination exercises anytime that you have a spare 10 minutes because the movement is so simple. [1] Some of them require a dumbbell, another a resistance band, and one doesn’t require any equipment at all. So there’s definitely an exercise for all circumstances.

1. Palm rotations

If you want to work your forearm supinator muscles, this is where you should start. You can do this drill at the gym, but you can just as easily perform it at your work desk, or while sat in a chair at home.

  1. Place your hands, shoulder-width apart, on a table in a palms-down (pronated) position.
  2. While keeping your upper arms and shoulders still, slowly rotate your hands to a palms-up (supinated) position.
  3. Then, rotate your hands back to their original palms-down position. This is one rep.
  4. Repeat for 15-20 reps in total.

2. Single arm forearm supination

Out of all the supination exercises for forearm development, this weighted drill is the trickiest to perform because you have to resist a dumbbell during the entire range of motion (ROM). Therefore, it’s wise to start off with simple bodyweight palm rotations before moving onto this exercise.

Also, make sure to really control each rep so that your forearm supinator muscles do all of the work and thus get the full benefit.

  1. Hold the end of a light aerobic dumbbell in one hand. If you have adjustable weights, you can also take the plates off one side and just hold onto the end of the handle.
  2. To begin with, hold the dumbbell in a semi-supination position (i.e., palms facing slightly up)
  3. Then, rotate the dumbbell until your palms are facing completely up.
  4. Now, rotate the dumbbell in the other direction until your palms are facing down. This is one rep.
  5. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 reps in total.

3. Dumbbell forearm supinations

A demonstration of a forearm pronation and supination exercise
Move from palms down to palms up

This forearm pronation and supination exercise drill is easier than the one above because we’re now holding the dumbbells firmly in the middle rather than in an off-balance position at the end.

It’s essentially the weighted version of the simple palm rotations that I showed you in exercise one. It’s a great strengthening movement to do if you can’t grab the end of a dumbbell, as in the above exercise.

You can also do a simple supinator stretch if you want to relieve tightness in the muscle, which may build up during your workout. (This list focuses on dynamic exercises rather than static stretches).

  1. Hold 2 light dumbbells with your palms facing down.
  2. While keeping your shoulders completely still, rotate your hands until your palms are facing up.
  3. Then, rotate your hands back into their palms-down starting position. This is one rep.
  4. Do 2-4 sets of 10 reps in total.

4. Full dumbbell curl

Man doing seated Zottman curls

Many people don’t realize this, but simple bicep curls—with a couple of easy modifications—are actually one of the great supinator exercises that we have available to us. And you’ll soon learn why.

Of course, everyone has different ability levels and states of injury, so start light before using the heavy weights. [2]

  1. Hold 2 dumbbells by your sides in a pronated, palms-down position.
  2. As you curl the weights up towards your shoulders, rotate your hands into a supinated, palms-up position.
  3. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the rep.
  4. Then, slowly lower the weights back down. But, as you do, rotate your palms back into its original pronated position.
  5. This exercise is often called a Zottman curl, and I recommend doing 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. Also, feel free to use just 1 dumbbell and train one arm at a time if it's easier.

5. Resistance band forearm supination

Like the others, this drill is one of those forearm supination exercises that you can do anywhere. And this time, you don’t even need free weights. All you need is a light resistance band and a comfortable place to sit.

  1. Sit in a chair or on a sofa and hold one end of the band in your hand.
  2. Put the other end securely under your foot.
  3. Stretch the band ends away from each other slightly, so that there’s some tension (i.e., move your foot away from its opposite arm).
  4. Begin with your forearm in a palm-down position.
  5. Then, while keeping your shoulder still, rotate your hand to a palm-up position. You should feel some band tension as you perform this action.
  6. Once again, rotate your palm back to its original pronated position.
  7. Repeat this motion for the other arm and do 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps for each arm.

Related post: wrist extension with a dumbbell

What is forearm supination?

Forearm supination refers to the rotation of the lower arm. It involves turning your hand, wrist, and forearm from a pronated, palms-down position into a supinated, palms-up position.

What are the main forearm supination muscles?

Diagram of the pronator teres muscle
The pronator teres muscle

The pronator teres and the pronator quadratus muscles are responsible for forearm supination and pronation, as well as the brachioradialis and biceps brachii.

Are the forearm pronation muscles the same as the supinators?

Yes, the muscles that supinate the forearm are the same as those that pronate it.

Read more: wrist flexion with a dumbbell

Conclusion: Which forearm pronation exercises are the most effective?

There are many excellent forearm pronation exercises that you can do to improve the rotational strength, function, and balance of your lower arms. [3]

For beginners, simple palm rotations are a great starting point because they allow you to develop control over your forearm supinators without placing too much stress on the connective tissue of your lower arms.

Begin with simple palm rotations to learn the correct movement patterns. Then start using dumbbells to increase your supination strength.

If you have access to dumbbells, then you can also try one of the two weighted forearm supination exercises. These drills are more challenging—there's no doubt about that—but they can quickly improve your strength if you haven’t done them before.

And finally, the resistance band rotation is also a helpful forearm pronation and supination exercise drill because the muscles receive constant tension. Moreover, you can perform it absolutely anywhere, which means that you don’t need a gym membership or expensive equipment.

References

  1. Kapandji, A. (2001). Biomechanics of pronation and supination of the forearm. Hand Clinics, 17(1), 111–122. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11280154/
  2. Allende, C. A., & Gilbert, A. (2004). Forearm Supination Deformity after Obstetric Paralysis. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 426, 206–211. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.blo.0000141900.85203.ce
  3. Kerschbaum, M., Maziak, N., Böhm, E., & Scheibel, M. (2017). Elbow flexion and forearm supination strength in a healthy population. Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, 26(9), 1616–1619. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jse.2017.05.031
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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