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How to do the dumbbell wrist twist exercise for your forearms

The ideal forearm finisher.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 26th May 2021
Man holding dumbbells

The muscles of the forearm are highly active in our everyday lives. As such, they respond excellently to high rep weight lifting. Moreover, by training with higher repetitions, you avoid putting too much tension through your vulnerable wrist joints.

The forearm twist exercise is a great finishing movement for adding muscle to and improving the endurance of your lower arms. Plus, you can do the dumbbell wrist twist at home or in the gym, so it’s a very versatile exercise.

Related post: good forearm workoutsforearm dumbbell workouts

Wrist twist exercise details

The start and end positions for the forearm twist exercise
Start and end positions
  • Main Muscles: Forearm flexors and forearm extensors
  • Exercise Type: strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: 2 Dumbbells

How to do the forearm wrist twist exercise

To do the dumbbell wrist twist, you’ll first need to hold a moderately heavy dumbbell in each hand.

  1. Hold the dumbbells in a neutral hand position.
  2. While keeping your shoulders still, rotate your wrists back and forth (to a pronated position and then to a supinated position).
  3. Perform 20-30 reps, or go until you close in on the point of muscular failure.

Dumbbell wrist twist benefits

This dumbbell twist forearm drill has some undeniable benefits for bodybuilders and those seeking to improve their lower arm endurance.

Better forearm work capacity

Man doing farmer's carries

The db wrist twist is generally performed until failure to burn out your forearms. Or, at the very least, it’s done for very high reps. Therefore, you’re getting your forearms used to handling successive repetitions.

Not only will training with high reps improve your endurance, which is great for sports that require extensive usage of the arms, but it also improves your work capacity. [1]

Work capacity is your ability, or your capacity, to handle training volume. Training volume is basically the total amount of weight that you lift during a given session or week (reps x sets x weight).

So, the more volume that you can handle, the more weight you’ll lift overall, and the more forearm muscle you’ll gain.

Potent muscle pump

A bodybuilder showing his big vascular forearm

A strong pump is one of the perks of doing the dumbbell forearm twist. After a few sets, you’ll feel your forearms inflating and your skin getting tighter. This is the pump in action.

Improved vascularity is a great “side-effect” of this. It’s anecdotal, but when I do high reps and high volume training for a particular muscle group, the vascularity tends to noticeably improve even when I’m not actually in the gym.

Read more: palms-down wrist curl over a bench

Greater workout efficiency

An image depicting efficiency in the gym

The forearm twist works virtually all of the muscles in your forearm. Specifically, it constantly challenges the flexors and extensors.

As such, you save significant time because you’d typically have to do separate wrist flexion and wrist extension exercises, which, admittedly, is still best practice for maximizing hypertrophy.

Improved mind muscle connection

Fitness model flexing his forearm

As you learned in the wrist twist tutorial, you need to keep your shoulders and upper arms stationary to get the most from this exercise. In other words, all the movement should come from your wrists and forearms.

The benefit of adhering to this strict form is an improved mind muscle connection. [2] Because it’s an isolation exercise, you’re forced to hone in on the forearms. Otherwise, you won’t feel them working as much.

This improves your ability to mentally switch on your forearms. Doubtless to say, this will carry over into your heavier exercises like standing forearm curls or palm up barbell wrist curls over a bench.

Wrist twist workout ideas

While the forearm twist exercise is a killer finishing movement, you need to do more than a dumbbell wrist twist if you want to build great lower arms.

Workout 1: Size

1: EZ bar forearm curl — 3 x 10-15 reps

2: Dumbbell reverse wrist curl — 3 x 15-20 reps

3: Cable forearm curls — 2 x 15-20 reps

4: Wristtwist — 2 sets to failure

Workout 2: Strength

1: One arm dumbbell wrist curl — 3 x 8-10 reps

2: Standing reverse wrist curls — 3 x 8-12 reps

3: Plate forearm curls — 2 x 12-15 reps

4: Wristtwist — 2 sets to failure

Forearm twist alternatives

Man doing a behind the back wrist curl

The wrist twist exercise sure is a good one. But one of the best things about working out is the variety that you can have in your training regime. There’s nothing like adding in and swapping out movements to maintain your motivation by keeping things fresh.

For example, the behind-the-back barbell wrist curl is a great mass builder because you’re basically forced to channel all your attention into working the target muscle because you can’t actually see the weight moving. The downside is that, unlike the db wrist twist, the setup is a little bit tricky if you don’t have a partner.

Ideally, start your workout with moderate rep, regular wrist curls. Then finish off your forearms with high rep dumbbell twists.

To work your extensors, you can do prone forearm curls over a bench with yor palms facing down. This is called the reverse grip barbell wrist curl, but you can also use dumbbells for a similar effect. Just make sure to go light because the extensors are very slow-twitch. Believe it or not, an empty barbell weighing 10-20lbs can provide a good stimulus for the extensors.

The forearm roller is similar to the dumbbell wrist twist exercise, but it gives your forearms plenty of time under tension. And while the forearm twist is undoubtedly easier to set up, I prefer the wrist roller because it also works your grip more intensely.

See our guide on how to do wrist curls to learn more about the variations on offer.

The verdict on the forearm twist exercise

Whether you’re using it as a finishing exercise in your bodybuilding program or during a general strength workout to get some extra forearm stimulus, the dumbbell wrist twist exercise is a great option.

It’s a safe and effective lower arm drill that improves your endurance and muscle mass. You can do the forearm twist at the gym with dumbbells, but you could also do it at home with similar weighted objects—your muscles don’t know the difference.

References

  1. Fryer, S., Stone, K. J., Sveen, J., Dickson, T., España-Romero, V., Giles, D., Baláš, J., Stoner, L., & Draper, N. (2017). Differences in forearm strength, endurance, and hemodynamic kinetics between male boulderers and lead rock climbers. European Journal of Sport Science, 17(9), 1177–1183. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2017.1353135
  2. Paoli, A., Mancin, L., Saoncella, M., Grigoletto, D., Pacelli, F. Q., Zamparo, P., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Marcolin, G. (2019). Mind-muscle connection: effects of verbal instructions on muscle activity during bench press exercise. European Journal of Translational Myology, 29(2). https://doi.org/10.4081/ejtm.2019.8250
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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