There are many guys, who even after years of following a strenuous workout routine, suffer from embarrassingly skinny forearms. This is especially true for ectomorph body type folks who may also have a similar issue with skinny calves. Luckily there are forearm exercises that can help correct this problem, although it’s important to learn as much as possible to make the most of them.
Aesthetics and Grip Strength
It’s easy to be jealous of individuals who naturally have large forearms and calves without having to work for them. Unfortunately there isn’t much anyone can do to increase bone density, but where there is muscle, there is opportunity to grow. On this front, if you have skinny wrists there isn’t much you can do, but as your forearm develops your wrists will become less noticeable – perhaps to the point where they don’t look skinny at all. Building the forearms will also lead to the arms becoming more symmetrical as a whole.
Another important factor to consider is grip strength. In fact, some jobs count grip strength as an asset that could mean the difference between life and death – and that’s not in relation to the heroic moments when your wife asks you to open a jar of pickles. For instance, grip strength is absolutely vital among police officers for self-defense purposes while making arrests. Grip also plays a factor in a variety of sports, not least of which includes weightlifting.
Anatomy of the Forearms
To better understand how to build the forearms, it’s important to know that they comprise of a number of muscles. These include the flexor of the elbow (brachioradialis), supinators and pronators which turn the hand to be palm up and palm down, and the flexors and extensors which make up the bulk of the muscles. In order to see optimal muscle growth, it’s necessary to focus on a variety of forearm exercises rather than relying on just one. Taking a single minded approach is a mistake that many people make and as a result, fail to see good progress.
Forearm Workout Tips
- Like the calves, the forearm muscles are resilient from constant use and need to be targeted more frequently to see growth. Hit them hard and often. Once a week won’t work here unless genetics are on your side.
- If you rely too heavily on wrist wraps (such as for the deadlift), you may be hindering results. Try to use the wraps as little as possible, and only when your lack of grip strength would otherwise hinder the exercise.
- Following on from the last point, work up so you can lift heavy. Doing so will mean you stimulate the forearm muscles more, although this alone isn’t enough.
- Remember that if you aren’t eating enough macronutrients, your forearms (along with other muscle groups) aren’t going to get bigger.
- Don’t try to lift more weight than you can. Be progressive by working up. With strength comes size.
- Don’t buy into the gimmicks. Hand grippers are often ineffective at building muscle mass in the forearms.
- Avoid training during any forearm injuries (such as forearm splints). Doing so will only hinder progress. If you routinely suffer from forearm splints, once you recover, building up the forearms should help prevent this.
Recommended Forearm Exercises
- Towel Exercises – Before discussing specific forearm exercises below, one great tip that many people follow is to use hand towels during deadlifts or pull ups to improve grip strength. Just loop the towels around where your hands would be and grip the towels while performing the exercise.
- Rope Climbing – If you’re not lucky enough to have a rope at your local gym, it’s always possible to rig one up to a tree in your yard. Rope climbing regularly is a great way to increase grip strength.
- Plate Pinching – This is an old time favorite. Using a pinch grip with one hand, try to hold two or more weight plates together for as long as you can. Gradually work up the weight.
- Thick Bar Training – An old school technique for building forearm strength and size is to use thicker barbells and dumbbells. To this effect, some trainers use three inch barbells and two inch dumbbells. Doing so makes it much harder to complete reps and puts more emphasis on the muscles. If you aren’t able to use thick bars, there are products available such as ‘Fat Gripz’ which slip onto regular bars that are very effective.
- Reverse Barbell Curl – This exercise involves curling a bar just as you would normally for the bicep curl, but with your palms facing away from you. For variation you can also use an EZ bar instead of the barbell.
- Barbell Wrist Curl – To perform this exercise, choose a barbell with a suitable weight. Kneel alongside a bench. Hold the barbell with your palms facing you, rest your forearms on the bench. Curl your wrists towards you and back down for one rep. You can also perform this exercise with your palms facing down, with dumbbells, and sitting using your thighs to rest your forearms on if you prefer.
- Barbell Wrist Rotations – This exercise involves holding a barbell with two hands spaced shoulder width apart with palms facing down. Taking turns with each hand, roll the bar just as you would a newspaper. After a set amount of time, reverse the motion.
- Bonus Tip – Don’t forget about certain sports and activities that can assist with your forearm development. These include rock climbing, tennis, polo and polocrosse, (even canoe polo), lacrosse, gymnastics and more.
These are just a few recommended forearm exercises and tips to improve your grip strength and muscle size. Remember to always have at least one day rest between forearm workouts to allow a chance for them to recover. By varying your exercises and rep ranges you’ll see improvement in your forearms in no time.