Struggle to open 20-ounce drink bottles? Feel the need to wear long-sleeved shirts even in the summer? Maybe your forearm training needs an overhaul. Follow these 4 rules:
Rule 1: Train your forearms at the end of your workout
Since the forearms act as an accessory to major muscle groups (similar to how the triceps accessorize the chest during the Bench Press), exhausting your forearms early in the workout inhibits your ability to move maximal loads on your major lifts. For example, if you train your forearms prior to doing heavy Deadlifts, your Deadlift could suffer due to lost grip strength. Same goes for Rows, Bench Presses and other major lifts.
One way to really tax your forearms is to use drop sets. In a drop set, you perform an exercise to failure, reduce the weight enough to get in another set, then continue until you reach failure again.
Rule 2: Change your grip to build muscle
When doing traditional exercises like the Bench Press, change your grip after you finish your working sets. Instead of doing Palms-Up Barbell Curls, try them with your palms facing the floor. This will target your forearms more. Or perform Deadlifts with an open grip (both palms facing you) instead of a closed grip (palms facing away from you).
Rule 3: Leave the wrist wraps at home
A simple enough suggestion. I see this far too much, and it reminds me of how people overuse the weight belt. In all honesty, the only time you should use wrist wraps (or belts) is when you are at near-maximal effort on major compound lifts such as the Deadlift or Squat.
Rule 4: Use conventional exercises to build your forearms
Among the conventional exercises that are effective are Pull-Ups, Barbell Curls and even the Bench Press. However, try doing Towel Pull-Ups, Reverse-Grip Barbell Curls, and even wrapping a towel around the bar during a Bench Press. By increasing the diameter of the object you are grabbing, you force your wrist and forearm muscles to become more engaged.
Sample chest day with forearm work added in:
- Barbell Bench Press: 3x10,8,6
- DB Incline Chest Press: 3x6-8
- Standing Cable Chest Flys: 3x15,12,10
- Towel Bench Press (wide grip): 3x8-10
Sample back day with forearm work added in:
- Barbell Deadlift (closed grip; alternating hand directions each set): 4x5-7
- Barbell Bent Over Rows: 3x12,10,8
- DB Single-Arm Row drop sets: perform two sets each arm and do 3 consecutive drops on each set
- Pull-Ups: 3xfailure
- Towel Pull-Ups: 3xfailure
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