Why Do I Feel Pull Ups in My Forearms? 10 Things To Consider

why do i feel pull ups in my forearms

Why Do I Feel Pull Ups in My Forearms? 10 Things To Consider

Have you ever wondered why you feel pull ups in your forearms, and not just in your back and biceps? Well, you’re not alone. It’s a common question that many fitness enthusiasts ask, and there are several reasons why this might be happening.

In this article, we’ll dive into the muscles used during pull ups, the importance of proper form and body positioning, and how grip type and strength can affect your forearms. We’ll also discuss ways to change your training approach to minimise forearm fatigue and maximize your pull up performance.

Why Do I Feel Pull Ups in My Forearms?

Feeling pull ups in your forearms is a common experience due to the crucial role your forearms play in gripping the bar and stabilising your wrists during the exercise. Several factors can contribute to this sensation, including improper form, body positioning, gripping the bar too tightly or having a weak grip, and the type of grip you use. Additionally, forearm fatigue, wrist flexion, and being new to pull ups can also lead to discomfort in the forearms. To alleviate this strain, it’s essential to focus on proper form, engage your core and maintain tension throughout your body, find the right grip strength, and consider trying different grip variations. Incorporating grip-specific exercises, using assistance bands, and adjusting the order of exercises in your workout can further help minimise forearm strain and improve your pull up performance.

The Muscles Involved in Pull Ups

Pull ups are an exceptional compound exercise that engages several muscle groups at once. The primary focus is on the latissimus dorsi (lats), the prominent muscles in your back. Let’s not forget that pull ups also target the biceps, shoulders, and as you may have guessed, the forearms.

Indeed, your forearms have a vital role in grasping the bar and providing wrist stability throughout the exercise.

The Significance of Correct Form and Body Alignment

Feeling pull ups in your forearms might be a result of improper form. To execute a perfect pull up, adhere to these guidelines:

  1. Position yourself beneath a pull-up bar and hold it with your palms facing away from your body. Your hands should be placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Suspend yourself from the bar, with your arms fully extended and feet off the ground. Engage your shoulder blades to stabilize your shoulders.
  3. Elevate your body toward the bar, ensuring your chest leads the movement while keeping your elbows close to your body.
  4. Keep pulling until your chin surpasses the bar.
  5. Gradually descend to the initial position, maintaining control throughout the process.

By adhering to the correct form and ensuring proper body alignment, you can more evenly distribute the workload across your muscles, ultimately lessening the stress on your forearms.

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Gripping Too Firmly or Possessing a Weak Grip

One explanation for sensing pull ups in your forearms might be holding the bar excessively tight or having an insufficient grip. Gripping the bar too firmly can lead to overworking your forearm muscles, resulting in premature fatigue. On the other hand, if your grip is too weak, your forearms will need to exert more effort to sustain your hold on the bar. In either situation, you could encounter discomfort or exhaustion in your forearms.

To determine the appropriate grip strength, hold the bar securely without applying excessive pressure. Activate your lats and biceps during the exercise to alleviate some of the tension on your forearms.

Grip Variation

Your choice of grip can also influence forearm fatigue during pull ups. The three most prevalent grip styles are overhand (pronated), underhand (supinated), and mixed grip. The overhand grip, often referred to as the standard pull up grip, generally emphasizes the forearms more than the underhand grip. If your forearms tire rapidly when employing an overhand grip, consider switching to an underhand grip, which focuses more on the biceps and could alleviate forearm stress.

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Combatting Forearm Fatigue and Enhancing Grip Strength

If your forearms tire swiftly during pull ups, it is crucial to concentrate on augmenting your grip strength. To achieve this, include grip-focused exercises in your routine, such as farmer’s walks, dead hangs, and plate pinches. These exercises will aid in reinforcing your forearms, consequently enhancing your pull up performance and minimising discomfort. You can also use one of the various grip strengtheners on the market, that will help improve your grip and the length of time in which you can grip for.

Wrist Flexion

Wrist flexion involves bending your wrist so that your palm approaches your forearm. Excessive wrist flexion during pull ups can contribute to forearm discomfort, as it adds undue stress on the forearm muscles. To lessen wrist flexion while doing pull ups, concentrate on maintaining a neutral wrist position throughout the exercise. This approach will help evenly distribute the weight across your upper body, thereby easing the tension on your forearms. You may naturally flex your wrists trying to get your chin above the bar for that last part of the exercise, but be conscious and resist the urge to do this.

Related: How Long Does it Take to See Significant Lat Development? 

Starting Your Pull Up Journey

For those new to pull ups, it’s quite common to initially experience the exercise in your forearms. As you persist in practicing and building strength, your body will adapt to the movement, leading to a decrease in forearm discomfort. It’s essential to be patient and allow yourself time to adjust to the exercise. Let’s not also forget that the pull up is a very difficult exercise, so don’t be too hard on yourself and give it time.

Complete Range of Motion

Executing pull ups with a full range of motion (ROM) is vital for optimal muscle activation and injury prevention. When doing a pull up, make sure your arms are entirely extended at the movement’s bottom, and your chin rises above the bar at the top. By utilising a full ROM, you’ll effectively engage all the involved muscles, including your lats and biceps, and alleviate the stress on your forearms. If you aren’t doing this, you may find that other muscle groups may take over the movement to enable you to complete the lift.

Adjust Your Pull Up Training Approach

If you’re encountering forearm discomfort during pull ups, think about altering your training methods. For example, you could use assistance bands, which help lessen the burden on your muscles and enable you to concentrate on the proper form. Another option is to perform negative pull ups, which require you to descend slowly from the top position. This technique will assist you in developing strength and control while potentially minimising forearm fatigue. Holds also work well to build strength doing pull ups, similar to negatives, simply stay at the top of the movement for as long as you can, until your body fatigues, then lower yourself down.

Body Not Braced

Properly bracing your body during pull ups can alleviate the tension on your forearms. To brace your body effectively, activate your core, tighten your glutes, and sustain tension in your legs throughout the exercise. This technique creates a stable foundation for your pull up, enabling your upper body muscles to function more efficiently and diminish the pressure on your forearms. If you aren’t using your body as one solid unit, you may find pull ups difficult and other body parts (like the forearms) may have to work harder to finish the lift.

Rearrange the Sequence of Exercises in Your Routine

The sequence in which you execute exercises in your workout can influence the fatigue experienced in particular muscle groups. If you notice pull ups causing discomfort in your forearms, think about rearranging the order of exercises in your routine. For instance, if you usually perform pull ups after other grip-demanding exercises, such as deadlifts or rows, consider incorporating pull ups earlier in your workout when your forearms are less worn out. Mixing things up is always a good way to keeping things fresh and reduce the likelihood of the dreaded plateau. Give it a go and see if this helps alleviate the forearm issues you’re having when doing pull ups.

Related: Are Shrugs, Bent Over Rows, and Deadlifts Enough to Build the Back?


Should you feel pull-ups in your forearms?

Feeling pull-ups in your forearms is not uncommon, as your forearms are responsible for gripping the bar and stabilising your wrists during the exercise. However, excessive strain on the forearms may indicate an issue with form, grip strength, or wrist positioning. By focusing on proper technique and making adjustments, you can minimise forearm strain and maximise muscle engagement.

Why do I feel my arms when doing pull-ups?

Pull-ups engage multiple muscle groups, including the arms, particularly the biceps. It is normal to feel some tension in your arms as they work alongside your back muscles during the exercise. If the sensation in your arms is overpowering or causing discomfort, consider revisiting your form and technique to ensure a proper distribution of workload.

Where are you supposed to feel pull-ups?

Pull-ups primarily target the latissimus dorsi (lats) in your back, but they also engage the biceps, shoulders, and forearms. Ideally, you should feel pull-ups in these muscle groups, with the most significant activation in your lats. Proper form and technique can help distribute the workload evenly across these muscles.

Is 5 pull-ups decent?

Yes, being able to perform 5 pull-ups is a respectable accomplishment, as pull-ups are a challenging bodyweight exercise that requires significant upper body strength. As you continue to practice and build strength, you may be able to increase the number of pull-ups you can perform in a single set.

Why don’t I feel my lats during pull-ups?

If you’re not feeling your lats during pull-ups, it could be due to incorrect form, insufficient range of motion, or overemphasis on your arms and forearms. To engage your lats more effectively, focus on proper form, including engaging your shoulder blades, leading with your chest, and maintaining a full range of motion throughout the movement.

Final Thoughts…

Feeling pull ups in your forearms is a common occurrence due to several factors, such as improper form, body positioning, grip strength, and type of grip. Ensuring proper form, maintaining a neutral wrist position, and finding the right grip strength will help reduce forearm strain during pull ups.

Additionally, switching up your grip style, working on grip-specific exercises, and rearranging your workout sequence can further alleviate forearm discomfort. Remember to be patient with yourself, especially if you’re new to pull ups, as it takes time for your body to adapt and build strength. By focusing on these aspects and making the necessary adjustments, you can continue to progress in your pull up performance while minimising the strain on your forearms.

Have you felt your forearms more when doing pull ups and have these tips helped? Let me know in the comments below.

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Until next time, all the best…

Beginners Upper Body Kettlebell Workout


Founder – Sport CBDs

Featured Image Attribution – Image by fxquadro on Freepik

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