Skinny wrists are fantastic for three reasons: Every watch fits, they make your biceps and triceps look massive, and you can get your hand to the bottom of a Pringles can for crumbs!
But they’re not much of a hot commodity at the gym where physique is everything.
It’s time to stop blaming lousy genetics, so keep reading to find out why your wrists are so skinny and five of the best ways to make bulky forearms a reality.
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The Real Answer
Since your wrists are joints, there’s nothing you can do about the size of them. But that doesn’t even matter since your wrists aren’t the problem here — it’s your forearm muscles.
Unless you’re hitting them directly, you shouldn’t be surprised that they’re scrawny. No amount of bicep curls or close grip bench presses will bulk up your forearms the way you want.
Unfortunately, genetics can be another factor.
Just like the calves, the forearms can be a bit stubborn when it comes to growth. But it’s not fair to chalk it up to genetics when you haven’t even tried to take the problem into your own hands.
So, what are the best ways to build your forearms?
You want to add forearm-specific exercises to your routine, load up on the protein, and work to build grip strength in your hands.
1. Do Wrist Curls, Reverse Wrist Curls & Hammer Curls
There are three exercises you need to be doing if you genuinely want big forearms: Wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, and hammer curls.
Here’s what you need to know about each.
Barbell (or dumbbell) wrist curls are considered the quintessential exercise for any forearm routine. To target nearly every fiber in your wrist flexors (front part of forearms), let the weight roll down your fingers before curling it back up.
Barbell (or dumbbell) reverse wrist curls target the opposite side of the forearms, also known as the wrist extensors. It’s not unusual for your wrist extensors to be half as strong as your flexors, so be sure to use a lighter weight with this exercise.
Dumbbell hammer curls target a muscle called the brachioradialis, known for boosting muscle growth in both the biceps and forearms. You want to make sure that you’re keeping your elbows parallel to the body (not angled) when doing this exercise to hit the right muscles.
Keep in mind that you’ll see the best results by using proper form for each exercise.
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2. Aim for 10 to 20 Reps Per Set
The calves and the forearms are similar in another sense: They both seem to respond better to sets with higher repetitions.
That means you’re looking at somewhere between 10 to 20 reps per set at a lighter weight.
But the intensity is just as important as the number of reps that you’re doing.
So if you’re pumping out 20 reps of wrist curls with ease and feel you have ten more reps left in the tank, you’re not lifting heavy enough.
Most serious lifters would advise doing each set at 60% to 75% of your 1RM for each exercise.
3. Eat 0.8 to 1.5 Grams of Protein Per Pound of Bodyweight
Weightlifting and powerlifting will cause invisible muscle tears after every workout.
That’s where your diet comes in — protein will help fix these tears and help your muscles return bigger and stronger than ever.
But dinosaur chicken nuggets aren’t the meal of champions (though, they do taste good).
You want to be fueling your body with protein throughout the day. In general, you should be taking in at least 0.8 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.
Having a low appetite will ruin your vision of massive forearms before your journey even starts.
If that’s the case, you’ll want to think about adding protein or mass gainer shakes to your diet. These are high in calories, protein, and even micronutrients to help build muscle.
And if you struggle with your macro intake, consider downloading a die journal app (like MyFitnessPal) to see which macros you need to work on most.
4. Consider Farmer’s Walks, Grip Strengtheners, and Pinches
Grip strength is about much more than building up your forearms. The stronger your hand grip is, the more plates you can expect to add to your deadlifts and bench presses in the future.
It’s a win-win situation.
Grip exercises usually help to build the wrist flexors, just like wrist curls do. The other benefit is that these exercises target the muscles in your hand that extend into the wrists and forearms.
So what are the best exercises for maximizing hand grip?
We recommend farmer’s walks, grip strengthener exercises, and plate pinches (Jeff Nippard recommended!).
All make great finishers for forearm workouts — just burn whatever energy you have left. Some can even be done while you’re at home and watching TV on the couch.
Each either focuses on high reps or isometric movement (aka, holding a position).
Keep in mind, farmer’s walks are a full-body exercise and won’t just work your forearms. Consider a weightlifting belt with back support when performing an exercise like this.
5. Hit Your Forearms 2 to 4 Times Per Week
What’s great about the forearms is that you don’t have to dedicate an entire workout to them. There’s no need to pump out six sets of wrist curls per workout to see the most growth.
Instead, end your workouts with wrist and forearm exercises.
For example, let’s say you go to the gym four days per week (every other day). You can do one or two sets of each of the big three exercises at the end of every workout.
Or you can do four sets of wrist curls on Monday, four sets of hammer curls on Wednesdays, and so on.
That calculates out to seven forearm workouts every 14 days (it’s seven, we checked, that Bodybulding.com thread was a nightmare we’d like to leave behind us).
Frequency is critical here!
Stop moping around about how your wrists are skinny and do something about it!
- Head to the gym more often.
- Crank out exercises that hit the forearms and wrists.
- Make sure you’re getting enough protein.
- Work on grip strength.
- Hit your forearms frequently and at high repetitions.
Most importantly, understand that biceps and triceps exercises won’t cause magic growth in your forearms just because they’re nearby.
That only works for so long!
Want to discover more ways to gain more muscle and draw more attention? Check out our best resources to gain muscle here!
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