Muscle is a mind-game.
Put another way, the most impressive physique you see at the gym is rarely the largest or the leanest. Or even the largest AND the leanest.
Instead, it’s typically the one with the best proportions. No muscle group too big or too small, and nothing “out of place.”
Most physique-minded guys eventually figure this out. As such, they’ll switch from just training what they see in the mirror to hitting their weak points harder and heavier while putting their stronger (larger) body parts on relative maintenance.
But one body part that never seems to get its fair share of attention is the forearms. And that’s a shame.
So why should this even be on a guy’s radar?
Aesthetics – Muscular forearms look impressive even in shirtsleeves, something that helps if you don’t wear a tank top to the office. But their effect on the overall look of the physique is even more significant. In that way, forearms join the shoulders and calves – when those 3 bodyparts are developed (and in proportion) the physique simply looks “polished.”
Stronger Grip, Better Workouts – Many lifters “lose” their deadlifts and rows at the grip first, and as such fail to sufficiently challenge their back and hamstrings. To address this, most will resort to a potentially dangerous mixed grip or bust out their favorite pair of Sheik lifting straps.
While there’s nothing “wrong” with either of these measures, relying on them isn’t ideal, especially when a stronger grip is easy to build.
Bigger Biceps – Training your forearms and grip will allow you to curl more weight, thereby helping you build bigger biceps. In fact, 6 weeks of no direct biceps training, just intensive grip/forearm work combined with heavy chin-ups, can be an awesome biceps plateau buster.
Cool Factor – Freaky, vascular forearms look cool. They’ll also earn you high praise from nurses and health care workers who’ve grown weary of having to spend half an hour locating veins on their chubby patients.
The How To’s
When it comes to building a big set of bowling pins, you need to hit a few simple targets.
- Train them often. The forearms and grip can be trained every day and recover just fine. Just ask any mechanic who pulls wrenches for a living. The trick is to have a variety of exercises and use a different one every day.
- Train them for high reps or longer time. Sets of 12-20 reps work best for wrist curls and reverse wrist curls while sets over 20 seconds work best for holds and carries.
- Use fat-grip barbells and dumbbells. Or slap on a pair of Fat Gripz or Grip Force attachments. Using fatter handles will improve grip and increase forearm girth almost overnight. It can also greatly reduce shoulder pain during pressing exercises.
- Variety! As stated, it’s best to use a variety of movements that address different functions of the lower arm.
My favorites include:
- Wrist curls
- Reverse wrist curls
- Brachialis work (reverse curls, hammer curls).
- Timed holds (Double overhand grip deadlift holds for time)
- Loaded carries (Farmers walks)
- Stability work (bottoms-up kettlebell shoulder presses)
- Crushing grip – (Captains of Crush, rope climbing).
- Pinch Grip – (Hexagon dumbbell holds for time)
There are others of course. The key is to pick one and bang it out at the end of your workout.
Put It All Together
Here’s how this would play out with a typical guy who lifts 4 days a week:
Day 1: Chest & Back – After the workout is finished, do 1 set of high-rep dumbbell rows to failure (no straps); do 1 set towel pull-ups with a 20-second hold at the end.
Day 2: Lower Body, Hamstring dominant – End the workout with 3 sets of double overhand grip deadlift holds for time.
Day 3: Shoulders & Arms – Perform Zottman curls or reverse curls for biceps. End the workout with 3 sets of wrist curls supersetted with 3 sets of reverse wrist curls for 15 reps each.
Day 4: Lower Body, Quad dominant – End the workout with 10 “sets” of Farmer’s walks for 20 yards per set with the heaviest dumbbells you can handle.
Look, a rocking set of forearms alone isn’t going to convince the world that you mean business when you also have a big beer gut and dress like a hobo. But a little extra lower arm size might just add the finishing touch to your “masterpiece” – and help you pull manlier weights to boot.