What is the one muscle group that lags for most people, but plays a huge role in grip strength? Forearms. The old saying "your forearms will build with the rest of your body", may hold true, but for many the forearms are hard to build since they are used daily in most actions you perform. They help you push, pull, and are a huge factor with grip strength. If you really want to build a good set of Popeye forearms and increase your grip strength to help you add more weight to all of your lifts, you need to pay a little extra attention to them. There are many exercises that hit your forearms, both compound and isolation, but I am going to talk about what I feel are the top three, and why giving an extra day to really concentrate on them each week will help increase your forearm size as well as your forearm strength.
Since these are isolation exercises, I like to keep it to 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps for hypertrophy and strength. Leave the low, heavy reps for compound lifts such as deadlifts and pullups, which also hit those forearms hard.
There are many muscles in the forearm. In the anterior compartment, they are split into three categories; superficial, intermediate and deep. In general, muscles in the anterior compartment of the forearm perform flexion at the wrist and fingers, and pronation.
The muscles in the posterior compartment of the forearm are commonly known as the extensor muscles. The general function of these muscles is to produce extension at the wrist and fingers. They are all innervated by the radial nerve.
- Dumbbell/Barbell Wrist Curl
These can be done a few ways with either a dumbbell or barbell, one arm at a time or both together. These will hit the whole forearm, but really target the forearm flexor muscles. I like to sit on a bench with my legs at 90 degrees, and with the top of my forearms resting on the top of my legs with my hands hanging over my knees (palms facing up). Just like biceps curls, use full range of motion (ROM) and curl your wrists, starting in the bottom position before bringing them up to the top.
- Dumbell/Barbell Reverse Wrist Curl
These are similar to the exercise I outlined above, but you will have your palms facing down this time. These will hit your entire forearm, but target more of the extensors, and can also be used with barbells or dumbbells.
- Reverse Barbell Curl
I don't see many people use these, but it is as it sounds, a bicep curl with a reverse grip. These are a nice way to change up from a traditional bicep curl and hit your biceps differently, as well as hit your extensors. Start with your arms at a hang with your palms facing you. Perform a curl up to your collar bone, then back to a hang. Remember to keep your elbows directly at your side.
- Farmers Walk
I'm going to throw in this fourth just because I think it is a great compound lift for your entire body, and I believe it is the most underused lift for your typical gym goer. This will target the hell out of your forearms. Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells, heavy enough to walk with them for 20-60 seconds. Do 2-3 sets of simply walking across your gym for time. These will hit your legs, and upper body, and really work those forearms to build some great grip strength.
There you have it Nation. If your forearms have been a weak spot in the past, you can go to the gym from now on knowing exactly what you can do in order to make them grow. Now go get those Popeye forearms!