A good lifter will implement all of your typical body parts- chest, back, quads, biceps, etc.- but a great lifter will implement EVERY muscle group. There are some muscle groups that are overlooked, at least in regards to direct work. The forearms are a prime example. This is why I have made conscious effort to hit them much like any other muscle. This doesn’t mean 1-2 sets at the end of an arm workout.This means several sets of several workouts, emphasizing each muscle and each angle. I’ve actually fixed wrist pain with clients and myself, by implementing direct work. In addition to strength/functionality, I have received more compliments on my forearm muscle than any other group (100% serious).
The forearm is made of 2 primary muscle groups, the extensors and flexors. These groups are fundamentally opposing groups, and therefore, should be treated as so. In this weeks workout, we will attack each and every point.
Typically when working forearms, I would suggest following a larger upper body muscle group, so a warm-up is not really needed. However, I would suggest the lifter to perform a lighter set of each movement before getting to it.
Standing DB Wrist Curls: 3 sets x 20 reps; 60s rest
Set-up: You will need a pair of dumbbells that you would normally bicep curl with moderate ease.
Part-A: Stand and hold the dumbbells at your side, and slowly unroll your grip until the handle rolls to the middle joint of your finger. Then, in a somewhat explosive manner, curl your fingers and wrist back up until you can no longer. – 10 reps
Part-B: After completing the first 10 reps, immediately begin this step. Instead of opening your fingers, keep your grip tight. With the tight grip, curl your wrist inward, much like the top half of the first part– 10 reps
Tips: This is not an ego lift. So grab a pair of dumbbells you can control efficiently. Due to the high rep nature, its easy to just go through these curls mindlessly, but you should avoid that. Instead, make each and every rep count!
Barbell Forearm Preacher Extensions: 3 sets x 15 reps; super-set with next exercise
Set-up: you will need a preacher curl, or a bench. I would highly suggest the preacher curl in a busy gym. If you use a flat bench during busy hours, EVERYONE WILL HATE YOU lol. You will also need a barbell with non-rolling plates- this is crucial. I usually use those pre-set bars most decent gyms have. You should place your forearms so that there is as little wrist overhang as possible, but still allowing the fist to move completely up and down.
Execution: Grab the bar with an unwrapped thumb grip. Allow your tightly gripped wrists to drop as low as possible. Then, extend them until neutral or SLIGHTLY above. Repeat
Tips: This does not require much weight at all. Even at my strongest, the most I would ever use is 40lbs, and even that was a struggle. To crank the intensity, pause for 1-2 seconds at the peak of each extension.
DB Wrist Twists: 3 sets x 30 second bouts; 90 seconds rest
Set-up: You will need a lighter pair of dumbbells. Usually somewhere in the 5-20lbs range. You want to stand with your arms bent at 90 degrees, and elbows tight to your sides. Your thumb should be tight to the top of the DB for maximal results.
Execution: While keeping your arms at 90 degrees, twist your wrists inward and outward as if you were continually showing someone the top and bottom of your wrists. Emphasize the squeeze in each direction, do not just haphazardly spin around.
Tips: This exercise is more so for the inward twist, than the outward. I find it more beneficial if I focus on that direction to a much greater degree. Your biceps will also receive some indirect work, so expect it.
Pipe 2-Way Roll-ups: 2 sets of both direction; 90s rest
Set-up: This is a trickier set-up, and may not even be possible for some. You will need a bar/pipe and a rope/string of some sort (I-1). Ideally, you should thread the rope through a hole in the center. If not possible, you can just tie it around; you will just need to pre-roll to keep it from slipping. You would be surprised with how many gyms have these set-ups, so ask first
(if they think you’re crazy, sorry in advance). This may sound ridiculous but it is my absolute favorite forearm exercise.
Part-A: With your arms straight out, begin winding the rope up in the same direction as the preacher extensions. Continue to wind it until the top. Then, reverse the direction in the same controlled manner.
Part-B: With your arms straight out, wind the rope up by curling your wrists inward. Control it all the way up, and all the way down.
Tips: When rolling it up, do not simple “shuffle”. Instead, each wind should be done by grabbing as far as you can, and twisting back as much as you can. Imagine an “X” is drawn at the top of the bar, and each wind should bring the “X” all the way around.
This concludes the forearm workout. If the pump is so great that you can only feel your fingers; you’re welcome. This is a great workout to pair with back, biceps, and calves.
Perform each stretch 2-3 times for 10-20 seconds.
God gave you another day, and another healthy workout.
Kyle Blair, BS Exercise Physiology, CPT, SPT