Your forearms are an important muscle group. For one, it looks very odd if the rest of your body is well developed and defined, yet your forearms are still weedy. Stronger forearms also help with your grip strength in many gym exercises and in everyday life, like when you're carrying groceries. You don't need a gym to torch your forearms though -- body-weight exercises can do that just fine.
The common pullup is probably the most well-known of all the body-weight moves, and while it's regarded as a great back and biceps exercise, few people realize its effect on the forearms. You need great grip and forearm strength to knock out a set of pullups. If you can't perform full pullups, then stand on a chair, grab the bar, jump up and lower yourself slowly, advises trainer Charlotte Andersen in "Shape" magazine. Traditional pullups use a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip with your palms facing away from you, but you can also try chinups with a narrower than shoulder-width grip and palms facing toward you. For an added forearm challenge, loop a towel around the bar and do your pullups hanging on that.
Inverted rows aren't nearly as common as pullups, but they're just as effective. Women tend to struggle with inverted rows, as they have less relative upper-body strength than men, notes strength coach Eric Cressey, but by hitting them hard you can become an inverted row queen. Set a bar in a power rack to chest height and sit underneath it. Reach up and grab it with a shoulder-width grip, lift your butt off the floor so only your heels are on the ground then pull up until your chest is just below the bar. Pause briefly, then lower yourself down.
Pushups may not necessarily seem like they'd work your forearms, being predominantly a chest, shoulder and triceps exercise, but with a few subtle changes you can really work those lower arms. Instead of placing your hands on the floor, try putting them on an unstable surface, such as a BOSU ball, Swiss ball or pair of dumbbells. You'll have to work harder to keep balanced, which draws your forearm muscles into play.
You don't need a forearm-specific session every week, as all of these exercises work other body parts too. Put pullups and inverted rows in your back workout and unstable pushups with your chest and shoulder work. With body-weight exercises the key is to master the technique before worrying too much about sets and reps. Even if you only do sets of two or three reps, that's fine. Once you're confident with the movements, start with three sets of six reps and gradually try to increase it. Always use perfect form on every rep and ask a qualified trainer for assistance if you're unsure on any techniques.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.