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Wrist curl alternatives: Top 7 replacements for your forearms

These 7 wrist curl alternatives will blast your forearms—not your joints.
Written By Liam Brown
Last Updated on 19th March 2021
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Man performing a wrist curl

The lower arm muscles are a stubborn body part for many people; even when they do direct training for their forearms, some individuals don’t seem to grow or strengthen their forearms at all.

So in this guide to wrist curl alternatives, you’re going to see something a little different. If you’re fed up with traditional bodybuilding movements that only seem to work for the pros, then you’ll like these replacement exercises a lot.

Related post: Are wrist curls bad?

Top 7 wrist curl alternatives

This list covers the best reverse wrist curl alternatives as well as substitutes for regular wrist curls.

1. Hand gripper

Man using a hand strengthener

If you don't want to trek to the crowded gym just to train your forearms, then using a hand gripper at home is an effective solution for increasing your lower arm muscularity and strength.

The hand gripper is a genius invention that carries a very low injury risk potential. Unlike wrist curls, you can’t suddenly lose control of the bar and hurt yourself. Plus, with many different levels of adjustable resistance, these devices are great for both beginners and advanced athletes alike.

2. Farmer’s walks

Man doing farmer's walks

The farmer’s walk should be a staple exercise for those seeking a stronger grip. [1] It challenges the entire forearm—flexors, extensors, brachioradialis—and can also build titanic traps if you lift heavy enough.

For those who often find that their grip gives out prematurely during compound movements like pull-ups and rows, I highly recommend incorporating some kind of loaded carry into your routine.

3. Strapless deadlifts

Powerlifter getting ready to deadlift

Two things are certain: More people than ever are using straps these days, and the general forearm strength of the population is declining.

Now, I’m not saying that the former is a result of the latter.

However, if you can pull big numbers strap-free, you’re going to have the forearm size to match your strength. And while going strapless might temporarily decrease your 1RM, you’ll soon surpass your old maxes when you develop rock-solid lower arm strength.

Read more: wrist curl machine

4. Pull-up bar hangs

Athlete doing pull-ups

Pull-up bar hangs are the ultimate test of forearm endurance, and they’re a great wrist curl alternative. This exercise really pumps up your forearms and tests your mental toughness, so you might want to do it at the end of a session or before a leg day because this bad boy will put your forearms out of action for a while!

5. Reverse curls

The start and end positions for the dumbbell reverse curl

Out of all the reverse wrist curl alternatives, the reverse arm curl is the best choice because it works the same muscles—the forearm extensors and the brachioradialis.

You’ll also feel some slight bicep activation due to the elbow flexion component of the movement. But due to the pronated wrist position, this underrated training drill is most definitely a forearm builder.

6. Plate pinches

The plate pinch grip

When’s the last time that you pinched a heavy object?

If you’re anything like most people, then the answer is probably “never.”

Plate pinches are actually very popular with strongman athletes and people who are really into grip training. This is because the exercise really strengthens the small muscles of your fingers and hands, as well as those of your forearm. [2]

To do the exercise, position a reasonably light weight plate (or plates) on its outer rim with one hand, and then grab it between your thumb and fingers of the other hand. Then, hold the disc for 30 seconds before releasing it.

You’ll feel muscles working that you didn’t even realize you had. And that’s because, in traditional bodybuilding style training, we’re simply not used to developing powerful pinching strength. I guess the meatheads just don’t need it to flex their muscles on stage.

7. Fat Gripz curls

Fat Gripz - The Simple Proven Way to Get Big Biceps & Forearms Fast (Winner of The Men’s Health Magazine Home Gym Award 2020) (2.25” Outer Diameter)

Fat Gripz are sure to be a great conversation starter with potential gym buddies, but they’re also one of the great fitness inventions of recent times.

It’s well known in strongman and grip training circles that fat bars help to build a firmer grip. Well, the same holds true for Fat Gripz. The only difference is that fat bars are expensive, and Fat Gripz are relativity affordable.

You can also use these on forearm curls, but you’ll definitely need to reduce the wrist curl weight and focus on your form.

The verdict: Which wrist curl alternative is the most effective for forearms?

For me, the most effective wrist curl alternatives are farmer’s walks, the hand grip trainer, and Fat Gripz.

If I could do only one exercise, though, it would be some kind of weighted carry because you’re simultaneously building big lower arms while strengthening your grip. Plus, picking up heavy weights and walking around the gym always gets the blood pumping.

Grip trainers are a great wrist curl replacement because they're so convenient. You don't even need a gym membership to use them.

I also like the hand gripper because it’s fun to progress and close heavy grippers with ease while watching your friends struggle to even budge the handles. In particular, the fact that you can use these devices anywhere is a major plus for those who train at home like me.

And who could forget Fat Gripz? This convenient forearm-building attachment has revolutionized lower arm training for many lifters. While you might have to decrease the weight temporarily with them attached, thick bar training will challenge your forearms and hands in a very unique way that's sure to produce some serious gains with a good enough diet.

References

  1. Beller, J., Miething, A., Regidor, E., Lostao, L., Epping, J., & Geyer, S. (2019). Trends in grip strength: Age, period, and cohort effects on grip strength in older adults from Germany, Sweden, and Spain. SSM - Population Health, 9, 100456. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmph.2019.100456
  2. Stack, H. G. (1962). MUSCLE FUNCTION IN THE FINGERS. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. British Volume, 44-B(4), 899–909. https://doi.org/10.1302/0301-620x.44b4.899
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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