5 Forearm Exercises To Improve Grip Strength

This workout strengthens your hands and forearms so you can ride longer, stronger, and safely.


Amy Schlinger |

While grip strength may be an innate ability that you don’t think about often, it isn’t something to be taken for granted. As cyclists, forearm exercises might be one of the last things we think to do in the gym, well after training our legs and cores. But hand fatigue can be a very real problem both on the road and trail.

In fact, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that grip strength may be a predictor of muscular endurance and overall strength. And for us, it’s even more important. “There are three different types of grip strength – crush, support, and pinch grip – and crush and support are the most important when it comes to cycling,” explains Luke Lombardo, IronMan Triathlete, and Schwinn-certified cycling instructor, in Los Angeles.

“Crush grip is the actual ability to squeeze something – the handlebars or brakes in a cyclist’s case. And support grip is the ability to hang or hold onto an object for a lengthy duration. Usually when hopping on a bike, you’re on it for a while, so you’re going to need to keep your hands on the handlebar for a decent amount of time.” If you’re a mountain biker, grip strength can be even more important as you shred over rocks, roots, and trail.

If you notice your hands and forearms experience fatigue sooner than you’d like, you need to work on your grip strength. “Forearm strength exercises will help you gain strength in all three types of grip strength,” explains Lombardo.

Forearm Exercises for Grip Strength

How to use this list: The moves below are curated and demonstrated by strength coach Meghan Hayden, NCSF-CPT, trainer at Performix House in New York City, so you can learn the proper way to do them. Add these forearm exercises into your weekly fitness routine once or twice a week to reap the benefits. You will need a kettlebell, a tennis ball, and a pull-up bar.

1. Farmer’s Walk/Carry

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a kettlebell in left hand at side. Bend right arm to counterbalance. Keeping back straight, chest high, and shoulders down, walk forward for 30 seconds without allowing weight to cause an imbalance in your posture. Turn around, pass the kettlebell to right hand, and walk back for 30 seconds with balanced posture. That’s 1 set. Repeat for 3 sets total.

Make it harder: Walk with high knees.

2. 90-Degree Kettlebell Hold

grip strength

Stand with feet hip-width apart, slight bend in knees. Pick up kettlebell by handle with right hand. Keeping elbow next to body, bend elbow to 90 degrees, extending kettlebell out in front of you, forearm parallel to floor, palm facing inward with thumb up. Hold for 20 seconds. Switch hands and repeat. That’s 1 set. Repeat for 3 sets total.

Make it harder: Rotate palm up and down slowly for 20 seconds.

3. Ball Squeeze

Hold tennis ball in right hand. Squeeze as hard as possible for 30 seconds. Switch hands and repeat. That’s 1 set. Repeat for 3 sets total.

Make it harder: Hold for 30 seconds, then perform 15 pulses before switching hands.

4. Dead Hang from Bar

grip strength

Grab bar with pull-up grip, palms facing away from you. Dead hang without rocking or dropping from bar for 30 seconds or as long as you’re able to hold before dropping. Rest for 30 seconds, then repeat for 3 sets total.

Make it harder: Depress shoulders in a reverse-shrugging motion and hold.

5. Alternate Dead Hang from Bar

Grab bar with pull-up grip, palms facing away from you. Loosen grip in right hand as you shift all weight to left hand and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Then shift weight to other hand and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. That’s 1 set. Continue alternating for 3 sets total. If you need to drop and rest, rest 20 to 30 seconds in between sides.

Make it harder: Remove inactive hand from bar entirely and hang from one hand.

Images: Julia Hembree Smith

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