Ever gone out mountain biking on technical trails and ended up with sore forearms? Or maybe you did a lot of standing climbing on your last road ride, and your forearms are feeling it?

Forearm strength is not a top priority for cyclists, but your forearms do come into play during certain situations. Having strong forearms will come in especially handy during mountain biking, with the constant steering and lifting the front wheel. Not to mention holding on during white-knuckle descents!

So if your forearms ever do get sore from riding, that’s a good sign they need some training. Here are three ways to work them:

3. Wrist Curls

This is a basic, boring exercise for the weight room, but it will directly work your forearms.

To start, get some light dumbbells (one for each hand.) What you do is sit down on a bench and place your forearms flat on the bench or on your quads. Then you simply curl the weight up using your wrist. (It’s the same concept as a regular bicep curl.)

I recommend doing both pronated (palms facing the ground) and supinated (palms facing up) curls.

2. Twist Ups (with a Wrist Roller)

I don’t know if there’s a true name for this exercise or device, but it’s something my football coach showed me years ago.

Basically it’s a weight plate tied onto a 5′ section of rope, with the rope then tied onto a 1′ section of dowel rod. (It’s easy to make one at home.)

To work your forearms, you hold your arms out straight in front of you with both hands on the dowel rod. Start with the rope unraveled and the weight plate resting on the floor. Moving the dowel rod with just your hands/wrists, roll it up so the rope goes around the rod and the weight gets pulled up to shoulder level.

Then, even though your forearms probably hurt like mad, turn the dowel rod in the other direction to slowly unravel the rope and get the weight plate back to the floor.

1. Weighted Pull Ups

Here’s my favorite way to work your forearms, and it doesn’t require a separate workout.

Start doing weighted pull ups! These are regular pull ups, but you use a dipping belt to hand weight plates off your waist.

This exercise will work your arms, shoulders, and back a little more than a normal pull up, but it really works your grip! Your hands and forearms are likely to give out simply from holding up the extra weight.

Unlike during a simple wrist curl, your forearms will really feel the effects of a weighted pull up!

A similar concept is doing heavy deadlifts. As you add weight, chances are your hands and forearms will crack long before your hips do! They’re tough, but the increased forearm strength will be worth it!

Try one or all three of those exercises and I doubt your forearms will get sore from bike riding anymore! (And if you’ll be swimming or kayaking in some triathlons, it wouldn’t hurt to build bigger arms for that.)

2 Comments
  1. Hey Levi, I know this article was posted over a year ago, but I just found this out a few days ago. My question is: how many sets and reps would you recommend to perform for each of these three exercises?

  2. @Kevin

    That really depends what your goals are (strength gains vs muscle mass gains, etc.)

    For endurance athletes, something like 5 sets of 5 reps (a 5×5 program) is a good starting point for the pull ups and wrist curls.

    For the twist ups, who knows, just doing one complete “rep” with a 5lb weight plate is pretty tough! Usually I’d throw an exercise like this in at the end of a workout and just do it continuously till failure.

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