Rope Weight Exercise for Forearms

The rope weight exercise, or the wrist roller, was one of Bruce Lee’s favorite drills to strengthen his forearms. The exercise was derived from Chinese grappling, according to “Bodhi Building,” an article by Fernando Pagés Ruiz in “Yoga Journal.” Using your wrists, you wind a weighted rope around a dowel. If you do the exercise correctly, the muscles in your forearm will feel like they’re about to pop out of your skin.


    If your gym doesn’t have a wrist roller, it’s easy to make one. Gather a piece of rope about 5 feet long and a wooden pole about a foot long. Drill a hole through the middle of the pole and thread the rope through the pole. Tie a knot on one end. Attach a weight of 4 to 8 pounds on the other end of the rope. You can also use a bag of sand.

The Form

    Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart. Hold the roller with both hands, turning your palms down. Fully extend your arms in front of you so they’re parallel to the floor. Open the palm of your right hand. Turn your wrist back and grasp the underside of the pole. Rotate your right wrist forward until your knuckles are pointing to the ground. Repeat this curling movement with your left hand. Continue alternating hands and exercising your wrists through the full range of forward and backward movement. Wind the rope around the dowel with a slow controlled motion, breathing deeply. Once the weight reaches the dowel, reverse the movement and unwind the weight back to its starting position. Repeat the exercise three times.


    You strengthen your forearm flexors during the clockwise wrist motion, and then your extensors during the counterclockwise motion. You also increase your grip strength and deltoids. If you find the exercise too difficult, you can perform the exercise with your elbows bent at 90-degree angles and pressed to your sides. As you grow stronger, you can gradually increase the weight. To maximize the benefits of the exercise, you should rotate the dowel as much as possible. Avoid twisting the bar in small increments, which often results from forearm and wrist fatigue.

Alternative Methods

    You can use different methods to do the wrist roller exercise, and the variations can be as effective as the standard method. Stand on a raised platform, such as a chair or a box. Allow your arms to hang in front of your thighs. Use the same grip and movement as the standard wrist roller exercise. If you don’t have access to a dowel, rope and weight, roll up a newspaper from the top of the page to the bottom. Keep your arms extended in front of you. Keep rolling sections of the newspaper until you feel the burn in your forearms.

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