Build bigger forearms with these three key exercises
Forearms are the new abs...
OK, that might be a bit of a stretch - but there's an argument to be made that your forearms are the most underrated muscle group.
They are functional but also look the part too, making their development a vital part of any training programme.
Take Popeye, for instance. The guy was jacked, make no bones about that - but he was all forearms and no bicep.
He claimed to build them from just eating spinach, but we know there is probably more to it than that. So which exercises should feature in your forearm-building programme?
Here is the pick of the bunch:
1. Pull-Ups (and dead hang pull-ups)
Most commonly billed as a back exercise, pull-ups work a whole host of muscle groups in addition to your lats. Regularly performing pull-ups will also build your biceps and forearms.
Where your forearm comes into play is through grip strength. Failure on a pull-up is usually due to grip, rather than a specific muscle issue.
Strong forearms improve your pull-up performance, but they're also developed by performing pull-ups in the first place.
- Begin by grasping the pull-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart
- With your arms straight, cross your lower legs over and take a slight bend at the knees
- Focus on keeping your abs tight
- Pull your body up until your chin is in line with the bar
- Slowly lower to the start position and repeat
To increase the tension on your forearms, occasionally add dead hangs into your routine. These can be done by holding the bottom portion of the pull-up (as depicted above) for anywhere from 45 seconds to a few minutes.
2. Farmers Walk
Farmers walks are a feature of strongman events, and there are plenty of reasons why. For example, they'll help you develop a strong core and upper back while also aiding balance and coordination.
These attributes are vital in everyday life - not just at the gym. While keeping the weights in check relies a lot on core strength, your forearms will feel it too.
- Hold the weights at your sides, parallel to your hips
- Keep your chest up, back straight and core tight
- Retract your shoulder blades
- Walk with short but quick steps forward
If your gym has a lot of floor space, walk a couple of lengths. If it doesn't, pick a certain distance and go back and forth with time as the target instead. Progress by adding more weight or increasing the duration and timing.
World's Strongest Man competitors manage to make a couple of hundred kilos look a walk in the park - literally. While it may prove difficult to lift this kind of weight, performing the Farmers Walk with half your bodyweight on each side will add some serious size to your forearms.
3. Wrist Curl
Wrist curls are probably the most popular forearm exercises as dumbbells are all you need. Exercise scientist Dr. Jim Stoppani offers a solid explanation in this YouTube video of his:
Here are the basics:
- Rest your forearm on a bench or your leg
- Eliminate all swinging and momentum from the movement
- Roll the dumbbell to the tips of your fingers
- Then curl the dumbbell up
- Focus on keeping your forearms straight and still so the tension remains there
If you're really struggling for forearm size you could try adding one of these exercises to the end of each workout.
Either way, aim to hit the muscle at least twice a week. Popeye-like gains are hard to come by, but this is a sure way to progress.