Getting your forearms as sleek and toned as the rest of you doesn't have to mean hours in the gym. Your hand, wrist and forearm muscles work together as a group, which gives you a wide range of weight-bearing exercises to choose from. The resistance from the weights strengthens your muscles and bones, which can reduce your chances of osteoporosis later, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Varying your wrist curl routine means you work the muscles all around the arm. Using a dumbbell in your hand, rest your forearm on your thigh while you're sitting down and move your hand up and down, moving only your wrist. You can do this exercise palm up or palm down to work different muscles. Turn your hand to the side with your palm facing in for side curls. These work best if you slide your hand as far down as you can on the dumbbell, lifting and lowering it so that the longer side is moving up and down. Your pinkie finger should be touching one end of the dumbbell, while there should be plenty of space between your thumb and the other end. For all the curls, start with one set of 10 and work up to two sets as you can.
When you squeeze your hand to work your grip, you're engaging muscles throughout your lower arm, not just in your hand. Using a wide handle when lifting free weights gives your grip more of a workout, but you can target your grip with some simple exercises. Using heavy dumbbells or weight plates -- start with at least 10 pounds in each hand -- hold them down by your sides while you walk forward, backward and in a circle. Squeeze the weights as tightly as possible. Start with 30 seconds, then move up to two sets of 60 seconds. Plate finger lifts need lighter weight plates since you're moving them instead of holding them still by your sides, starting with about 2 pounds. Hold a weight plate down in front of you with your fingers wrapped around the lip for a secure hold -- your palm should face out. Bend your wrist to lift the plate up and in toward your body. You might need a spotter with this move at first to make sure you don't drop the weight. Keep the reps short -- two to three sets of five is enough.
Instead of hunkering down for regular pushups, make a fist and do the pushups on your knuckles. This puts much of your weight on your arms, and your lower-arm muscles work to hold the wrist straight during the move. Start off with one set of 10 and add another set when you can. Pullups aren't a favorite exercise of many women, but you can hang by the pullup bar instead of trying to lift your body and still get a lower-arm workout. The arms are holding your weight, but your hands must grip tight. When you can hang for two minutes, let go with one hand and do one-arm hangs for 30 seconds on each arm.
It's best to do wrist curls separately from biceps curls. Your biceps muscles are larger than those in your wrist, meaning they can move more weight. Drop the weight you lift with your biceps by at least 30 percent to use with wrist curls. The weight should be high enough to challenge you, where the last couple of repetitions in each set are super tough. Dumbbells often work better for lower-arm development because most people have a dominant, or stronger, arm that can compensate for the weaker arm if they're both holding the same bar. If you go one at a time, you're pushing them both the same.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Weightbearing Exercise for Women and Girls
- ExRx.net: Forearms
- Training for MMA Fitness: Strengthening Your Forearms, Wrists, and Hands Without Fancy Grip Strength Equipment
- ExRx.net: Kettlebell Farmer's Walk
- ExRx.net: Dumbbell Radial Deviation
- American Council on Exercise: Dumbbell Wrist Curl - Extension
- ABC Bodybuilding: 8 Weeks to Bigger Forearms II – The Workout
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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- Bodyweight Exercises That Develop the Forearms
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- How to Work Out With Dumbbells Every Day