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Forearm workout for women: Discover the best exercises for ladies to gain lower arm strength

These fantastic workouts will sculpt lean forearms and strengthen your wrists.
Written By  Tiana Walker
Last Updated on 3rd March 2021
Woman holding pink dumbbells

Whether or not we desire muscular arms, the forearms are still an incredibly important muscle group to strengthen. After all, we use them at our jobs, when we’re cooking in the kitchen, and when we’re scrolling on our smartphones.

So if we want to keep our lower arms strong and healthy, then it’s important to train them with weights. This guide covers the most effective forearm exercises for women who want to build muscle and for ladies who just want to improve their general lower arm strength.

I’ll also reveal my favorite forearm workout for women, which you can perform at the end of your back, arm, or leg session (or whenever you have a spare 10 minutes).

Related posts: forearm dumbbell exerciseshow to tone your forearms

Best forearm exercises for women

These exercises generally require dumbbells. However, you can also use barbells, weight plates, kettlebells, or similar exercise equipment and get the same results.

1. Dumbbell wrist curl

Lady doing wrist curls with dumbbells

You can do the single dumbbell wrist curl at home or in the gym. All you need is a moderately light dumbbell and a flat surface. So since not everyone has a gym membership, I’ll explain this tutorial with a desk/table rather than with a weight bench.

Sit upright in a chair and place your forearm—palm up—on a flat surface like a table. Then, with the dumbbell in the palm of your hand, bend your wrist and lower the weight towards the ground. Descend until you feel a deep yet comfortable stretch, and then bring the dumbbell back up by flexing your wrist. Repeat for 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Alternatively, you can use a barbell to train both forearms together and save a bit of time. However, in order to avoid getting muscle imbalances, I'd stick to dumbbells so that you can focus on giving each individual forearm the best possible strengthening workout.

See also: seated dumbbell palms down wrist curlkettlebell forearm workout

2. Reverse wrist curl

A lady doing a reverse forearm curl

This dumbbell wrist curl variation is exactly the same as the first, except that you'll be starting the exercise in a palms-down position to work your extensors.

Also, try and use a slightly lighter dumbbell if you can. This is because the forearm extensors are naturally a bit weaker than the forearm flexors.

So, to begin, hold a light dumbbell in the palm of your hand and rest the underside of your forearm on a flat, stable surface such as a desk. Then, bend your wrist until you feel a nice stretch in the top of your forearm. Come back up by extending your wrist, and aim to raise the dumbbell above where your hand and forearm are level for the best contraction possible.

You can also check out our backpack forearm exercises guide if you’re working with limited equipment and need some fitness inspiration. Alternatively, you can do some forearm calisthenics as part of your general strength training routine.

3. Plate pinches

A lady grabbing a weight disc

Plate pinches work what weightlifters would call your pinching strength. This kind of strength is very similar to regular grip strength in that it’s incredibly functional for use in everyday life. However, the main difference is that you’re specifically working the muscles in your fingers and thumb.

Also, if you don’t have access to weight plates, then you can literally use any household object that you can hold between your thumb and fingers.

So, as I just alluded to, hold a moderately light weight plate between your thumb and fingers. Aim to squeeze it for 30 seconds but feel free to shoot for 60 seconds and use a lighter plate if you want to improve your endurance specifically.

You can also do plate forearm curls in much the same way that you’d do them with a dumbbell.

4. Farmer's carry

Woman performing a trap bar deadlift

Like the plate pinch, the farmer's carry works all the major forearm muscles with a specific focus on your grip strength. This naturally makes it one of the best overall forearm exercises for women who want to build functional strength because it works your hand muscles as well as your forearms.

If you have space, I recommend doing this drill while walking to increase the cardiovascular benefits. But if you’re doing this drill exclusively for your forearms, then you can also do it stood still.

Loaded carries develop fantastic forearms and great grip strength. Plus, they also work your legs, core, and back muscles.

Essentially, you want to hold 2 reasonably heavy dumbbells by your sides for between 30-45 seconds. Aim to keep the dumbbell handles in the palms of your hands initially. But don’t worry if your fingers naturally take the strain as the exercise progresses.

Do between 2-4 sets in total. If you’re training for general strength, and if you’re not in rehabilitation, then you can actually get fantastic strengthening benefits by just doing the farmer's carry. In other words, unless you want extra muscle mass, there’s no need to do wrist curls or other pure isolation exercises.

Read more: forearm and bicep workoutsforearm exercises at home

Full forearm workouts for women

Select from maximum muscle growth, general strength, and rehab.

Workout 1: Muscle growth

A muscular woman holding a dumbbell

If you want visibly more muscular forearms, go with this workout. We begin by strengthening the grip (which improves our strength on all forearm drills) before moving onto some isolation work.

Also, because there’s plenty of exercises, this routine naturally burns quite a lot of calories, which can even help you to reduce your fat forearms if that’s a problem area for you.

1: Plate pinch — 2 x 30 second holds

2: Reverse curl — 3 x 8-12 reps

3A: Dumbbell wrist curl — 3 x 10-12 reps

3B: Reverse dumbbell wrist curl — 3 x 12-15 reps

4: Farmers carry — 3 x 30-45 second holds

Workout 2: Rehab

Senior woman with forearm pain

If you’re getting back into exercise after an injury, then start with this manageable workout. We focus on simple movement patterns to build functional strength that will help us feel fitter and healthier.

1: Wrist supination/pronation — 3 x 20 rotations

2: Wrist curl — 3 x 10 reps

3: Reverse wrist curl — 3 x 12 reps

Workout 3: General strength

A smiling senior woman holding two dumbbells

If you want to strengthen your forearms without building too much muscle, then this general fitness routine is the best choice. You can easily do it at the end of a bicep tricep and forearm workout or as part of any other training session.

1: Forearm curl — 3 x 10 reps

2: Reverse forearm curl — 3 x 12 reps

3: Dumbbell hold — 3 x 30-45 second holds

FAQ

Why do I see veins in my arm after a forearm workout?

Man with his arms behind his back

Lifting weights increases blood flow to the working muscles, which in turn makes your veins more prominent.

For both men and women, this vascularity is most commonly observable in the arms because the veins there are very close to the skin and also because the arms tend to hold less body fat than other areas.

Why should women do forearm exercises?

Lean woman lifting red dumbbells

Women who want functional strength that can benefit their everyday lives should do forearm exercises because by strengthening these lower arm muscles, you naturally make them more resistant to injuries.

Also, by building up your forearms, you’ll improve your strength on other compound pulling movements like deadlifts and rows. [1]

Is general strength training enough for the forearms of women?

In most cases, yes. Performing back and bicep exercises offers plenty of stimulation for both the forearm flexors and the extensors. If, however, you want to reach the next level of strength or muscularity, then I recommend doing isolation exercises for your forearms.

Read more: resistance band forearm workoutforearm and shoulder workout

What makes the most effective forearm workout for women?

I think simplicity is the way to go. When it comes to selecting the best forearm exercises for women, it can be overwhelming to choose the right movement. However, if you do loads of different exercises, then you’ll be sacrificing quality for quantity.

Focus on quality sets that really challenge your forearms. And remember to use strict form to keep the tension on the working muscle.

It’s way better to do a few hard sets that challenge you than loads of sub-par sets that are too easy. So I recommend picking one flexion exercise (like a wrist curl), one extension exercise (like a reverse wrist curl), and one grip strengthening exercise (like a farmers walk).

Additionally, you can do a reverse curl if you want to work the brachioradialis, which is actually one of the most prominent forearm muscles, and which sits under your biceps.

Ultimately, consistency in your exercise selection makes for the most effective forearm workout for women because regular exercise gives you room to progress in strength from session to session in strength and fitness. [2]

References

  1. Augestad, L. B., Schei, B., Forsmo, S., Langhammer, A., & Flanders, W. D. (2004). The Association between Physical Activity and Forearm Bone Mineral Density in Healthy Premenopausal Women. Journal of Women’s Health, 13(3), 301–313. https://doi.org/10.1089/154099904323016464
  2. Kingsley, J. D., & Figueroa, A. (2011). Effects of resistance exercise training on resting and post-exercise forearm blood flow and wave reflection in overweight and obese women. Journal of Human Hypertension, 26(11), 684–690. https://doi.org/10.1038/jhh.2011.82
Tiana Walker
As a personal trainer, Tiana Walker has been coaching women in the Chicago area for 6 years. She's helped countless ladies to lose weight and then keep it off with her sustainable exercise and nutritional regimes. She's also an experienced health and fitness writer whose enthusiasm helps her to connect with a worldwide audience of fitness enthusiasts.
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