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Forearms: The ONLY THREE Exercises You Need For Growth!

Plus Bonus Grip Specific Exercises!

Posted by Scott_Herman - February 20th, 2020
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Today we’re going to continue the “ONLY TWO” series and focus on building bigger and stronger forearms. But TWO exercises isn’t going to cut it this time because when trying to increase the overall size of your forearms, just hitting exercises that involve bending your wrist forward and back isn’t enough. 


Also, for a lot of you, I know that GRIP STRENGTH is super important and I want to show you a few grip specific exercises you can do as well. After all, a lack of forearm strength can very well be the limiting factor keeping you from progressing on other lifts which require a certain level of grip strength (such as the double overhand grip deadlift). 



Is Forearm Specific Training Necessary?

However, let’s be clear on something. Yes, if you’re forcing yourself to GRIP a barbell as hard as you can and are always pushing through the pain of the burning sensation in your forearms while performing exercises like deadlifts or barbell rows or even weighted pull-ups, your grip strength WILL improve over time. But the key word there is “time” and if you’re trying to improve your grip strength NOW, you’ll need a faster solution. So we’ll cover that as well in today’s article. But for now, let’s talk forearms and how we can make them bigger. 


To keep things simple, we are going to divide the forearms into three parts. The forearm flexors, forearm extensors...



 and the brachioradialis and targeting them specifically is actually very easy.



Exercise #1 – Reverse Curl (Brachioradialis) (3 SETS: 10 Reps – 60 To 90 Seconds Rest Between Sets)


Let’s start with the brachioradialis and the best exercise to target this muscle is the reverse curl. Unlike the forearm extensors and flexors, the brachioradialis doesn’t cross over the wrist joint so to target it properly we need to involve forearm flexion and extension. Now you can perform this movement with a barbell or dumbbells, but I prefer the barbell. The key to this movement is to pronate the wrists and gripping a barbell with a shoulder width grip will allow you to pronate your wrists as much as possible during your reps.



Once in place, keep your core flexed and bring the barbell up to your chest. Then control the negative and repeat for a total of 10 repetitions. Now it’s OK if your elbows track forward a bit, but just do your best to keep them slightly in front of your hips the entire time and remember that one COMPLETE rep involves a full extension at the bottom. So if you have a hard time with full range of motion, do a hard TRICEPS FLEX at the bottom of the movement.


Exercise #2 – Dumbbell Wrist Extension On Bench (Extensors) (3 SETS: 15 – 20 Reps – 60 To 90 Seconds Rest Between Sets)

Now I’m sure most of you are used to seeing this exercise done with a barbell. Well, you can do if that’s all that’s available to you and you have great wrist mobility. But if you don’t, a barbell will limit your range of motion and we don’t want that.



So to perform the movement you’re going to use the edge of a bench to support the forearm allowing you to move a bit more weight when compared to the standing variation and reduce external help from momentum or swaying the arms as you fatigue. Once in place, extend your wrists as high as you can, then control the negative and repeat for a total of 15 – 20 reps.  


When doing this exercise, you should feel an intense burning sensation in your forearms and this is probably one of the only few times an intense burning sensation is a good thing!


Exercise #3 – Dumbbell Wrist Curl On Bench (Flexors) (3 Sets: 15 – 20 Reps – 60 To 90 Seconds Rest Between Sets

For this exercise you’re going to follow the exact same movement pattern as the wrist extension, except now your forearms are supinated. Once in position simply flex your wrists as much as you can, then control the negative and repeat for a total of 15 – 20 reps.  



However, for this exercise if you have tight wrists, it may be more beneficial for you to use a barbell this time because holding the barbell will force you into full supination of the forearms.


Now I know some of you are going to comment below about performing these movements standing and the short answer is yes of course you can. But if you have access to a bench or any surface that can offer you some support, in my opinion, you can make these exercises more efficient.


Grip Strength Specific Exercises

Now as for grip strength specific exercises, I’m going to go over a few you can try right now.


Exercise 1: Suitcase Barbell Hold

This exercise is actually very cool because not only does it allow you to improve your grip strength, but because you have to balance the barbell, you’ll activate your forearm abductors and adductors as well to keep it from tipping forward or backwards. Just start with a barbell first and as you get stronger you can easily progress the movement by adding more weight. The goal here is obviously to hold it for as long as you can.



Exercise #2 – Dead Hang

This is actually one of my favorite ways to increase my grip strength and I think it’s because even as a kid I always loved climbing. All you have to do to get this done is get into the pull-up position, or more, specifically the bottom position of the pull-up and then grip bar as hard as you can, then literally just hang for as long as you can.

 


As you get stronger and you can hold yourself in place for several minutes at a time, you can progress the movement by adding weight, try hanging by your fingertips, or you can even try hanging by one arm! Then you can REALLY increase the intensity by trying to hang with a towel!



Exercise #3 – Fingertip Push-Up

This might not seem like a grip specific movement, but finger strength is very important and if you’re doing all this work to increase the strength and size of the muscles involved when gripping, strengthening the ligaments and tendons of the fingers shouldn’t be ignored.


Start off with a basic push-up against a wall, then as you get stronger, try a decline push-up on a bench and then make your way to the floor, starting with your knees first if needed. Or, if you have the strength, just jump right into a knees locked out and core super tight push-up.



You can also look into investing in some elastic bands for your fingers which are pretty cool, or go old school with a hand gripper – just ask your Dad, I’m sure he probably has one in a drawer somewhere!



Conclusion

Lots of great ways for you to build bigger forearms and increase your grip strength, however, I do have one more technique you can try. All you need is a weight plate – ideally a 45lb weight plate, but if that’s too heavy, that’s OK, just grab a 35lb plate, a 25lb plate or a 10lb plate, whatever you can do. Once you have it, all you have to do is pass it from front to back using only your fingertips as many times as you can until you can’t hold the plate any longer!


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