Forearm Strength Training

by Kilo on August 21, 2010

Every single guy who struts into the gym where I train people–most of them do strut, even though they would walk normally if they were outside the gym–wants bigger arms. When I ask them about their goals, here are the sorts of things they say:

  • I want to be hardcore!!!!!!
  • I want to test myself
  • I want to gain weight
  • I want to lose weight
  • I want to look good naked

And when I’m talking to men, here is what I hear behind their questions:

  • I want bigger arms
  • I want my arms to be seriously hyooooooge!!!!!!!
  • Endless riffs on the theme

I suspect that abs get just as much mental space as arms, but it doesn’t come up as much. Not once has someone asked me how to deadlift more, or how to make their bag really strong, or how long a good old farmer’s walk should last for.

Oh well.

The arm is more than the biceps

Getting bigger and stronger arms is actually pretty simple. Most guys should start with the parts of their arms that they neglect the most. Contrary to popular belief, the arm is actually more than just a place for the biceps to hang out. A lot more. It even has some other muscles.

triceps pulldowns

Have you seen this man? I have.

Most guys have heard about the triceps. They do get a fair amount of press in between ads on Muscle and Fitness. The loudest I have ever heard someone scream was in a Gold’s Gym where a guy was doing triceps pulldowns with the rope machine. Wow, he was loud. When I rushed over to see if he was okay, I was stunned to see that nobody had been jabbing his eyes with darning needs or flaying the skin from his body–he was just doing some pulldowns.

His arms weren’t very big, but he had powerful lungs. Tinnitus is an awesome word, by the way. It means ringing ears, in case you’ve never heard it.

So, those forearms

Even if a guy is putting in a lot of work (and howling) on his GUNZ and triceps, he may be neglecting his forearms. He probably is. This is a mistake if you want strong and imposing arms.

I’m no math wiz, but when I eyeball my arm, my forearms seems like it’s at least .05% of the real estate. Or is it .50%?

I train my forearms every single day. I’m a grip enthusiast, but I also want to be strong everywhere. I made a goal to do axle curls with 175  in 2011 (still a long way off). My biceps are not currently my greatest limiting factor–my forearms and wrist strength is.

Training the wrists dynamically

If you ever do see someone working their wrists at Gold’s Gym, they’re probably doing wrist curls with an EZ bar. Here’s how you do the exercise:

  • Grab a bar and waggle your wrists up and down while keeping your eyes peeled for popping veins. When a vein appears, you start screaming so people notice your SICK VASCULARITY!!!!

This can be satisfying to the ego, but even when I’m training for wrist size, I haven’t had as much luck with training the wrist dynamically.

Training the wrists with leverage

I have much better results locking my wrist into position and then moving it against resistance, using a movement like the plate curl. Adam Glass is now curling a 45 strictly, and to my knowledge, he doesn’t even need to scream and yell while he does it.

The plate curl is great, but it’s not the only wrist exercise worth doing. The leverage is the key. Whatever tool you’re lifting, putting it in a position of disadvantageous leverage that forces your wrist to hold its position will dramatically increase your overall arm strength with time.

I’m currently able to curl a 35. I reached that point almost solely through curling 25 lb plates.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Smith August 21, 2010 at 12:12 pm

So how long should a good farmer’s walk last?


Kilo August 21, 2010 at 2:34 pm

at least one year through mountains.


Chris Smith August 21, 2010 at 7:39 pm

And I’m guessing the only acceptable weight is two buick skylarks or more!


Philipp August 24, 2010 at 2:10 am

Great post, especially because I’m just recovering from the forearm training I finished ten minutes ago.
For forearm/arm training I also love:
- thick bar curls and reverse curls(more or less the only curls I still do), plate curls are also great, but I’m so bad at them it is frustrating…
-pull-ups (only with my fingertips on the bar)
-wrist rollers
These are my favorite exercises, but I do several more. I had/have quite weak hands and became obsessed with hand/forearm training some time ago.
“Mastery of Hand Strength” was one of the best investments in the last year…


Philip September 10, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Over the last 3 years of training, the only muscle lagging are my arms especially my forearms. I have always stuck to the big compound exercises such as squat, chins (yes, even chins – must try a thicker bar), bent-over rows, bench press etc. Now finally over the last 6 months of doing wrist curls I have seen some improvement. Forearms are important because they are always on show and they look so cool when they are a decent size. Just scouring the internet for more info about the subject, learn more, experiment and someday write about it on my forearms workout website ( Currently doing wrist rolling and hammer curls instead of wrist curls in my workouts.


Kilo September 10, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Thanks for dropping in Phillip.


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