The forearms are the calves of the arms
You can have everything working up top but it’s a shame if it tapers off to spindles

Forearm training serves a purpose greater than vanity, too

It builds your grip strength, which is vital for progressing on your major pulling movements like the row and deadlift. It can help you progress faster in your chest and shoulder pressing as well

To see why, hold your arm out in front of you and squeeze your hand into a fist as hard as you can

Notice how all the muscles in your arm and your shoulder engages

Well, in this way, training your forearms with the exercises in this article will also train your arms and shoulders

The bottom line is the bigger and stronger your forearms are, the better your arms are going to look and the better you’re going to progress in your weightlifting

And in this article, I’m going to show you exactly what you need to do to get forearms that would make Popeye jealous

The Best Forearm Exercises

Given the function of the forearm muscles, the exercises that train them best are the exercises generally used to increase grip strength

Let’s take a look at each

Hand Exercisers

An extremely effective way to train your forearms is to train your “crush grip

This involves nothing more than hand flexion–closing your hand around an object and squeezing–but it’s great for building strong forearm flexors, wrists, hands, and fingers

One of the easiest ways to improve your crush grip is to use a hand exerciser…if you use it properly

You need enough resistance to allow for a full range of motion but not so little that it barely challenges you or so so much that you can barely budge it

Here are the two hand exercisers that I like most and recommend

Gripmaster Hand Exerciser

The Gripmaster is a good place to start training your crush grip

It comes in several tension levels (I started with medium and worked my way up to black) and I also like that it allows you to train each finger independently. This is great for strengthening the weaker links in your grip like the pinky and ring fingers

Captains of Crush Hand Exerciser

Once you’ve defeated the black Gripmaster, you’re ready for the big-leagues

And in grip trainers, that’s the Captains of Crush gripper

They’ve been on the market for about 15 years now and are quite popular in bodybuilding, powerlifting, and strongman circles

You have 11 strength options to choose from, ranging from 60 pounds to an incredible 365 pounds, and a good place to start if you’re coming off the Gripmaster is 60 or 80 pounds

If, however, you’re an experienced weightlifter that can overhand deadlift 300+ pounds without straps, you can probably start with the 100-pound model

Use Proper Form

If you’re an experienced weightlifter, you know how important proper form is

The difference between doing an exercise correctly and incorrectly can be night-and-day in terms of progress and results

As silly as it may sound, hand squeezes are the same way

Full squeezes are far more effective than partial squeezes. And no twisting your arm or body to gain additional leverage!

How to Structure Your Hand Exerciser Workouts

A hand exerciser workout is fairly simple

Do 5 to 6 sets of squeezes per workout and shoot for 8 to 10 reps per set
Rest 1 to 2 minutes in between sets
Ultimately, your goal is to successfully do 5 to 6 sets of 8 to 10 squeezes per set
Once you can do this, you’re ready to move up to the next level of resistance
You can also increase the difficulty of your sets by including squeeze-and-hold” reps
You do this by fully squeezing the hand exerciser and holding it closed for 10 to 20 seconds (start with 10 seconds and work up from there) rep

Barbell Hold

The barbell hold is a brutally simple forearm exercise that’s easy to include at the end of a workout

Shoot for a hold time of 10 to 20 seconds per set and once you hit 20 seconds, raise the weight by 10 pounds

Work with that weight until you can hold it for 20 seconds, raise, and so forth

Plate Pinch

The plate pinch is another simple forearm exercise that only requires a couple weight plates

Start with two 10 pound weights and, like the barbell hold, go for a hold time of 10 to 20 seconds per set, and once you hit 20, add weight to the pinch

The most common way to do add weight isn’t to jump up to a 25 pound plate, though–it’s adding another 10 pound plate to the pinch (for a total of 30 pounds

You can stack 10 pound plates like this until you run out of hand room and then move on to heavier plates

Oversized Grips

Thick bar training has been “a thing” for decades and oversized grips are an easy way to incorporate it into your training

They’re popular because you don’t have to add or change anything about your workout routine–you simply snap the rubber grips onto the barbell or dumbbells and you’re ready to go

That said, the marketing tends to be hinky, so take it with a grain of salt

No, oversized grips aren’t “powerful muscle builders”…but they are a cost-effective way to train your forearms and grip

I’ve used them quite a bit and found that I like them best on my pushing and curling but not my heavy pulling

The reason for this is simple: you can’t pull nearly as much weight with them than without, and the amount of weight you have to strip off the bar just isn’t worth it

You can, however, use them when you warm up for heavy pulls (and then take them off when it’s show time

Dumbbell Farmer Walk

This is an old school strongman exercise that will never lose its place in the pantheon of forearm builders

Shoot for 30 to 40 feet walked per “set,” and once you’re able to move a given weight for that distance, move up

The Ultimate Forearm Workout Routine

The forearm muscles are very resilient, but training them too frequently becomes counter-productive. And especially if you’re also doing a fair amount of heavy weightlifting as well

That’s why I recommend you follow these guidelines

Use oversized grips on your push exercises and curls and when you warm up for heavy pulling

End one of your regular workouts with 2 to 3 sets of barbell holds

Personally I did these after my weekly back workouts

End one of your regular workouts with 2 to 3 sets of plate pinches

Put a couple days in between these sets and the barbell holds

I did my plate pinches after my weekly leg workouts

Do 6 sets of the hand exerciser per week
I did these on the the 2 days per week that I don’t lift weights

The Bottom Line on Forearm Workouts

In many ways, forearm training is like ab training

If you follow a sensible weightlifting routine and have good genetics, you may never need it

If, however, you’re struggling to gain size in your forearms and your grip strength is lacking, this article can help

Like abs, you don’t need to get fancy to build your forearms. You just need to get stronger in the handful of simple exercises outlined above

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About Tamer El Sheikh

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
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