Top 8 Calisthenics Forearm Exercises: Bulletproof Your Wrists

Whether you’re a calisthenics enthusiast or someone looking to enhance forearm strength, incorporating these exercises into your routine can lead to improved grip strength and aesthetic forearms. Keep reading to find out how!

Anatomy and function of the forearm muscles: How to target specific muscles

Before getting into the exercises it is good to have a basic understanding of the anatomy and function of the forearm muscles, that way you will know how to target and isolate specific muscles.

The forearm is the region of the upper limb between the elbow and the wrist. It contains a complex network of muscles responsible for various movements of the hand, wrist, and fingers. The forearm muscles can be broadly categorized into two groups: the anterior (flexor) muscles and the posterior (extensor) muscles.

The anterior muscles perform wrist and finger flexion, so every time you curl your wrist or grip something, you will be training the front of your forearm.
The posterior muscles are primarily responsible for performing wrist and finger extension.

The brachioradialis, one if not the most prominent muscle of the back part of the forearm, flexes the forearm at the elbow, especially in a neutral grip.

8. Best Calisthenics Forearm Exercises

Know you have a understanding of the anatomy and function of the different parts of the forearms, it is time to get to work. Therefore I have compiled a list of the 8 best exercises you can do for stronger and bigger forearms!

1. Towel Pull Ups

Towel pull-ups are an effective way to add variety to your pull up routine and provide a unique challenge to your forearm muscles and grip strength. You also work the brachioradialis through elbow flexion when performing towel pull ups.

How to perform towel pull ups:

  1. If you have two of the same towels you can hang them over the bar at shoulder width. However, if you only have one towel throw the towel over the bar and make sure the towels are even on both sides of the bar.
  2. Perform pull ups like you normally would (good form and full range of motion)
  3. Hang in a dead hang to challenge the forearms extra, when you can not do any more reps.

As your grip strength improves, you can increase the difficulty by using a thicker towel.

2. Rope climbing

Rope climbing is an excellent exercise for strengthening the forearms, along with the back and biceps, as it requires a strong grip and engages the muscles in the hands, wrists, and forearms.

How to perform rope climbs: 

  1. Grab the rope with both hands using a hand-over-hand grip.
  2. Start ascending the rope, by pulling yourself up by using a hand-over-hand motion to pull, as one hand moves up, immediately follow with the other hand.
  3. Continue climbing until you reach the top or desired height or the top of the rope.
  4. To descend, you can use a hand-over-hand motion and slowly lower yourself down, the eccentric part of the movement is very important for hypertrophy so don’t just let yourself fall.
  5. Once you have descended, rest for 2-5 minutes and repeat the climb for sets.

Ensure that the rope is securely anchored and that you have a soft landing surface in case you need to descend quickly or fall.

3. Wrist Roller

A wrist roller is a simple yet effective piece of exercise equipment used to strengthen the muscles in the forearms, wrists, and hands. The exercise involves winding the rope around the rod and unwinding as well, thereby targeting both the muscles responsible for wrist flexion and extension (if you do the exercises up and down, not just the up part!).

Don’t hold you arm out straight like in this picture, bend the elbows instead otherwise you shoulders will fatique before your wrist!

How to make a wrist roller DIY style (the easy way)

  1. Find a bromstick or something similar.
  2. Find a strong resistance band and a appropriate weight.
  3. Loop one end of the resistance band through itself and tie it securely around the weight.
  4. Next secure the resistance band to the broomstick by looping one end of the resistance band around the broomstick, once or serval times.

Check out this video, for a more visual explanation.

4. Palm Pulses

The palm pulse aka palm lift is a great exercise for strengthening the forearm extensors. If you do a lot of push-ups or other wrist-stressing exercises, this exercise can help you build strong, pain-free wrists.

How to perform palm pulses:

  1. Begin in a push-up position or on your knees depending on your strength level, with your hands directly beneath your shoulders.
  2. Lift your palms off the ground, while keeping your fingers flat on the ground.
  3. Slower lower back down to the starting position and repeat for reps.

5. Wrist Push Ups

Wrist push ups are another great body weight exercise for the forearm flexors, to perform the exercises you switch the position of the hands between the knuckles and wrist. This will help you build a strong and mobile wrist.

How to perform wrist push ups:

  1. Begin in a plank position with your hands placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Make fists with your hands so that you are on your knuckles.
  3. Lower your wrists as far as comfortably possible, feeling a stretch in your wrists and forearms.
  4. Press through your palms to extend your wrists back to the starting position.

6. False Grip

A false grip is a specific hand positioning technique often used in ring exercises but also on the bar. It involves placing the wrist above the object you are gripping, In gymnastics movements like muscle-ups, the false grip allows for a smoother transition from below the rings to above the rings. Maintaining the false grip requires active engagement of the muscles in the forearms, particularly those responsible for wrist flexion.

How to perform and train false grip:

How to Achieve a False Grip:

  1. Bring the base of your palms (the area near the wrist) on top of the rings, allowing your wrists to be above the rings.
  2. Your thumbs will be pointing toward each other, and your fingers will be gripping the bottom of the rings.

How to train the false grip:

  1. Warm up: Before attempting the false grip, warm up your wrists with gentle mobility exercises. Perform wrist circles, flexion and extension movements, and side-to-side stretches.
  2. False grip holds: Hang from the apparatus with an false grip start with your feets on the ground, and gradually place less weight on the feets until you are hanging without support.
  3. Use false grip in exercises: Start with rows and move to pull ups, this helps you get used to the feeling of the false grip while engaging other muscle groups and will help you learn the ring muscle up or slow bar muscle up.

Pro tips for false grip training:

  • The false grip is a technique that requires practice and may initially feel uncomfortable for those new to it.
  • Use chalk to improve your grip and help you maintain the false grip position.

7. Backpack Wrist Curls

Wrist curls with a backpack can be an effective way to strengthen your forearm muscles, including the wrist extensors. This exercise is simple and convenient, requiring only a backpack and some books to create resistance.

How to perform backpack wrist curls:

  1. Place the desired amount of weight into the backpack. You can use books, water bottles, or any other items that add resistance.
  2. Sit on a bench or a chair, or kneel down in a comfortable position. Keep your forearms resting on your thighs (if seated) or on a surface to isolate the movement to the wrists.
  3. Lift the backpack as high as you can by flexing your wrists. Focus on contracting the muscles in your forearms.
  4. Lower the backpack back down by extending your wrists in a slow and controlled manner.

Gradually increase the weight by adding more books to your back, as you become more comfortable with the exercise.

8. Backpack Reverse Wrist Curls

Performing reverse wrist curls with a backpack is an effective way to target the wrist flexor muscles, which play a crucial role in maintaining wrist stability and preventing imbalances.

How you can perform reverse wrist curls with a backpack:

  1. Place the desired amount of weight into the backpack
  2. Sit on a bench, or a chair, or kneel down in a comfortable position. Keep your forearms resting on your thighs (if seated) or on a surface to isolate the movement to the wrists.
  3. Grasp the backpack handle or straps with an underhand grip, palms facing up.
  4. Start with your hands hanging down, and the backpack held in your hands.
  5. Lift the backpack by curling your wrist upward, until fully flexed.
  6. Lower the backpack back down by extending your wrist.

Perform the exercise with controlled and deliberate movements and focus on the mind-muscle connection to maximize muscle engagement.

Final thoughts

Strength is not the only factor when it comes to building strong and pain-free forearms, flexibility and mobility are also important. Performing various stretches for both the forearm extensor and flexor muscles will help to improve your range of motion in those positions and avoid pain.

Well-conditioned forearms can help prevent injuries such as strains, sprains, and overuse injuries. This is particularly important for calisthenics athletes where there is a lot of stress placed on the wrist.

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