Muscle Talk: Forearm Muscles 2

Hello, and welcome back to the second day of Muscle Talk: The Forearm Muscles. If you are a fan of muscle function and the amazing machine that is the human body, then reading the first article is a must. The forearms to me are like looking under the hood of a seriously modified car built for speed, and power. There is so much going on, but it all serves a specific function designed to work together to make the machine run the best that it can. Our forearms are exactly like that. They themselves have little to do apart from griping a bar, dumbbell, or kettlebell during a lifting session, but that simple task is actually a complicated one when you factor in fingers, thumbs, wrists, and elbows. Hence the intricate piece of machinery that is the human forearm.

The forearms, and the muscles that make them up, are numerous in number as well as function. These muscles help extend and flex the wrist, as well as supinate and pronate the forearm. We covered them all in vast detail in the first post. Today we will take things a step further and get into some exercises, and techniques that will help our forearms become functionally stronger. This in turn will grow allow us to perform bigger lifts, which then will directly lead to bigger forearms.

As we have repeated countless times here at MattToronto.com, our body is intended to work as a whole, and as such we are only as strong as our weakest link. Forearms are one of those links, and because we use them to grip in almost every exercise, they are arguably a more important link. Especially in terms of functionality, as they are called upon thousands of times a day. Everything we do from eating, to answering the phone, or driving just to name a few, relies heavily on our forearms. You’re probably thinking what does this have to do with lifting. It means that if we strengthen our forearms, then everything we do becomes that much easier. In the gym this is even more true, and especially relevant on pull days.

When we are training in the gym we are for the most part performing exercises with either a pushing, or a pulling motion. Our forearms are extremely active in the pulling exercises, as they have to be capable of holding onto the heavy weight being used. As such, the strength of our forearms will have a direct impact on the weight we are able to lift. We may be capable of barbell rowing a greater weight for instance, but the amount of weight that we load on the bar may be limited to our forearm strength. If  our forearms are weak, then the entire rowing motion will be compromised.

To break it down even further, we are talking mostly about grip strength. When we do a single arm dumbbell row for example, we are intending to working our back muscles. Due to the fact that we are using a pronated, overhand grip, our forearms are forced to work very hard just to hold onto the weight. When we are training efficiently, we are also performing exercises that indirectly train other muscles. When we are doing that then we are becoming more well-rounded as a lifter.

Changing the subject for a minute, I’d like to discuss lifting straps. You may or may not use them yourself for lifting heavy weights. I’m not saying they are wrong to use per se, but for the typical weight lifter they are unnecessary. Usually when straps are used, the weight being lifted isn’t heavy enough to actually justify using them. Often they are used for just about any exercise, and these are the times where we would be better served to indirectly train our forearms.

When we aren’t forced to use our grip strength we are losing out on potential strength gains, and muscle growth. Some of the exercises where we can potentially increase our grip strength include the deadlift, chin-up, pull-up, hammer curls, reverse grip biceps curls, upright rows, and farmers walks. There are countless more, but I just wanted to give you an idea of the exercises that indirectly train the forearm muscles.

Let’s take a look at some exercises that we can perform to directly train the forearms. The most common forearm exercise is the barbell wrist curl. Grasp a barbell with your palms facing up (supinated). The exercise consists of flexing at the wrist to curl the bar. You can do it standing or kneeling while your forearms rest on a bench, and your wrists hang over the side. The second exercise is very similar, but instead grasp the bar with your palms facing down (pronated), and extending only at the wrist in order to curl the barbell. Another variation of this is to hold a barbell behind your back, and let it roll down your fingers somewhat before wrist curling it back up. Any of these three will hit the bulk of the forearm muscles.

Some other exercises that also are great to develop the biceps are reverse grip curls. This can be performed with either a barbell or an EZ curl bar. Try both as they both feel very different from each other. One exercise I find effective is using the rope on the cable machine to perform hammer curls. The rope forces my forearms to grip harder than dumbbells do, and the pump I get is evidence enough for me. Another exercise that is not so commonly seen anymore, and to be honest I’m not even sure what it’s called, but it consists of a plate (usually five to ten pounds) tied to a stick. Start with the plate at a dead hang from the end of the stick, then roll the plate up until the rope is completely wrapped around the stick. Lower it back down slowly, and repeat for several reps.

While training the forearms directly can definitely serve to strengthen the muscles, and will then allow our grip strength to be more effective in the bigger pull lifts, it is not necessarily a must do. If you routinely challenge your forearms with the various pulls, chances are they are being tested regularly. If however, you find that your grip gives out before the rest of your muscles, then doing some direct work is then a requirement.

That is enough to get anyone in need of stronger forearms, or anyone who desires larger forearms for that matter started. Tomorrow is of course the return of the Fat Loss Facts series. This series has practically developed a cult like following, and that is encouraging me more every week to continue my intention of giving you all the information you will ever need to develop your own fat loss plan. I look forward to seeing you here tomorrow my friends, but until then,

Happy Lifting!

This article was researched and co-written by Carlos Flores – @_FloFitness

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2 comments for “Muscle Talk: Forearm Muscles 2

  1. August 16, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Another great post, Matt! We train forearms with wrist curls, pronated wrist curls and hammer curls with the triceps bar, but only train them directly once every 4-6 weeks, since they get so much indirect work from every workout. I used to have an issue with them cramping badly at night on the days we trained them directly, but found that doubling our water intake that day ended those painful sessions.

    • August 16, 2012 at 5:39 pm

      Thank you Doug! Funny you should say that about cramping, I was up a lot last night with the very same problem. Yesterday was full body day, so lots of cleans, kettlebells, squat thrusts-everything involved a lot of grip/pull so not really surprised. I’ll try your water increase plan. Thanks for the tip Doug! Please keep posting them, you’re a great resource for information my friend!

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