Every serious lifter would love to have massive forearms. It just adds to an already good physique, and would seemingly increase all of your other pressing lifts as well. The problem that most people have is that they aren’t sure how to attack their forearms. Either that, or they are not as consistent with their forearm training.
Forearms should be trained just as often as any other muscle. It shouldn’t just be something you work every couple of months whenever you are bored. Take your forearm training seriously, and you will be on the right path to adding some size on them.
How to Get Big Forearms
Many people think they have to do only direct forearm exercises such as wrist curls, and those will work to an extent, but with forearm training, you have to think outside the box and dumb things down. What is the one major exercise that requires you to have some strong ass forearms? Did I hear someone say deadlifts? That is correct.
Deadlifts, just like they work every other muscle in your body, they also work your forearms. Many people don’t get this much work because they decide to use straps whenever they go heavy. If you can deadlift a ton of weight without straps, then you are sure to have a great grip and huge forearms.
Aside from deadlifts, which you will read about more in a minute, I want to introduce you to 5 other exercises and a variety of techniques that you can use to build great size and strength in your forearms.
Anatomy of the Forearms
The forearm comprises around 20 different muscles, but it contains two main ones: the flexors and the extensors. The flexors are on the side of the palm of the hand and the extensors are on the opposite side.
Anatomy of the Forearms
Function of the Forearms
The flexors and the extensors both regulate the movement of the wrist, fingers, thumb, and they can also control which way the hand faces. The muscles of the forearms are pretty much responsible for controlling the whole hand.
The Top 5 Best Forearm Exercises
Combined with the top 5 best grip exercises, you have all the tools you need to get big forearms and a crushing grip. I tried to avoid duplication as much as possible by focusing strictly on muscle building forearm exercises in this article, and grip training exercises in the grip article.
For those of you looking for deadlifts in order to gauge my credibility, I opted to put them in the grip training article instead.
Ok, this is another exercise where you may be wondering how this would do a great deal of more benefit than some type of wrist curls. It’s simple people. You will be holding a ton of weight for a prolonged period of time. Will your forearms be getting more work curling a 10 lb dumbbell or holding 400+ lbs? Exactly.
The lift: Start by equally loading two shorter barbells, or some other odd object implement, with however much weight you wish. Once you do that, then you will pick up each bar, one with your right arm and the other with your left arm. Next you do the Walk – you will walk a certain distance or for however long you wish.
You can try to keep adding weight while going the same distance each time. By doing this, your forearms and grip will continue getting stronger.
You can try to walk further distances with the same weight, which will improve your stamina.
You can try to walk the same distance with the same weight for time, which will improve your endurance.
Ever wonder how the old tyme blacksmiths had arms the size of watermelons? What do they do day after day after day? They swing 50 lbs sledgehammers with one hand for about 20 hours a day. You only have to do it a couple times a week but in short time you’ll have forearms and biceps like an iron worker.
The lift: Grab yourself a set of heavy dumbbells. Hold them at your sides with palms facing each leg. Now curl the weight up to your either your shoulder or your chin, but keep your elbow tucked in at the side and pointed straight down. At no time should your elbow move underneath your wrist, as that would take the tension off your arms.
Lower the bar back to your side to complete one rep. You can choose to perform this exercise with one arm, alternating arms, or both arms simultaneously.
Reverse Grip Barbell Curls
Yeah, this is mainly a biceps exercise, but it will work your forearm extensors out great. What better way to build both your biceps and forearms up at the same time? Except of course for hammer curls.
The lift: You will need a barbell or EZ Curl bar to start with. After that, you will grip the bar the opposite way that you normally would during a regular curl, with palms down. Your forearms should be facing outward rather than inward. After that, you will just curl the bar up like you normally would with barbell curls. It’s the same movement, but you are performing it so your forearms are being worked. Simple enough.
By now, you are starting to wonder, “What is this, a back workout?” Well, it pretty much is. If you have some strong back lifts without using straps, you are sure to have some strong forearms and an awesome grip. It’s mainly the straps that kill people.
The lift: Start by grabbing a dumbbell of your choice. You will then rest the opposite leg of the hand you are using the row the dumbbell on the bench. The other foot will be placed back on the floor in a comfortable position. Using your back, you will pull the dumbbell up into your hip and then lower it back down to its starting position. Repeat with the other arm.
Here is a video demonstration to help you better understand this exercise. I really couldn’t find a good video of this on YouTube. Everyone was either using a sissy ROM, straps, far too much weight, far too little weight, or just looking like a lunkhead performing them. Therefore, here is a video of Westside Elite powerlifter Matt Kroc using a whole bunch of weight and performing the dumbbell row purely as an accessory exercise. This is no criticism of Matt by any means, but you’ll probably want to be a little more strict with your form, pull the weight up higher, and hold the dumbbell parallel to your body rather than slightly vertical.
Barbell Wrist Curls
I kind of feel like a slug for posting this exercise, but it is a pretty good way to directly target ONLY the forearm muscles, and you can use both a pronated and supinated grip in superset to really trash the bastards at the end of a workout.
The lift: You will need a barbell to start off with. You may not want to start off with as much weight to begin. Once you get the bar, you will need to find a bench on which to rest your forearms. Position your arms so that you are resting your forearms on the bench with your wrists and hands hanging over the side.
To perform regular wrist curls, your forearms should rest on the bench palms-up. You will slowly lower the bar by extending your wrists backward, stretching your flexors. Once you reach a full stretch, you should flex your flexors and curl your wrists so that the bar moves up and towards your face. For an extra finger workout, some people like to uncurl their fingers slightly at the bottom of the movement, letting the bar slide down to the tips, then curl the fingers back up tight before starting the wrist curl. I personally prefer the added finger curl.
To perform reverse wrist curls, your forearms should rest on the bench palms-down. You will slowly lower the bar by curling your wrists forward and stretching your extensors. Once you reach a full stretch, you should flex your extensors, curling wrists up and back towards your face. Try not to extend your wrists so far back the the weight goes over or in back of your wrists, as this would remove the tension from the top of the lift. I’m not that flexible anyway, so I don’t have to worry about it. =)
Integrating Forearm Training Into Your Workout
Pick one exercise that isolates the forearms and pick another exercises that also targets the biceps. Use those exercises in one workout, then choose a different pair of exercises for your next workout. Try to repeat each exercise at least once a week. Just remember the forearms can still be overtrained if you incorporate too much direct forearm work into a routine with a ton of pulling and rowing.
Additional Forearm Training Strategies
Aside from incorporating the top 5 best forearm exercises into workout routine, you can improve your forearm training simply by using these additional techniques on other exercises.
- Resist Using Wrist Straps
Wrist-straps will take the stress off the forearms and short-change the trainer in this area. In order to fully stimulate the forearms, they require maximal squeezing.
Straps compensate for a weak grip and it follows that they will negate any form of forearm stimulation, as they prevent optimal squeezing. Those with the strongest grips tend to have the biggest forearms.
- Use A Thick Bar
This will increase the difficulty associated with gripping the bar and will contribute to significant increases in forearm size. If you don’t have a thick bar, wrap a towel or a piece of rubber around the bar to make it thicker.
- Use A Wrist Curler
Essentially a wrist-curler is a heavy plate (which can vary in weight) attached to a small bar via a thin rope. To execute this movement, hold arms straight out in front whilst gripping the bar.
Slowly roll bar with one hand at a time until weight has been raised to shoulder height. Then unwind it and repeat, reversing the way in which the bar is rolled (change from working the flexors to the extensors).
Repeatedly punching a boxing bag requires a tremendous amount of forearm strength and periodically structuring boxing sessions into ones routine may provide an edge when it comes to developing these muscles to their fullest.
Personally I have found that uppercutting the heavy bag with 50-punches, each arm, works wonders as far as developing the flexors goes.
- Train Forearms Before Biceps
By training the forearms first, you will be able to use more weight with the direct forearm exercises. This may impact your biceps training a bit, but you’re focusing on forearms right now anyway, so you’ll do what you have to do. Right? RIGHT?!