How to Build Fantastic Forearms

Forearms are one of the most useful body parts to develop because we grab things with our hands every day.  They’re also on display any time you wear a T-shirt.  Don’t be embarrassed the next time you’re asked to open a jar or the weather gets warm and your little baby forearms are dangling from your short sleeves!  Let’s get to work and give Popeye a run for his money!

Best exercises for the forearms:

  1. Pull ups without straps – in my experience, the simplest and best way to build your forearms is to do heavy upper back work and pull ups in particular without the use of lifting straps.  The simultaneous actions of hanging onto a heavy weight and dynamically bending the arms seems to stimulate the forearms better than anything else.  So ditch the straps and make sure you’re using a challenging weight on your upper back exercises.  If you can do more than 10-12 pull ups, you should hang weight from your waist when you do them.
  2. Farmer’s walk – I’ve mentioned this exercise before in my posts on Strongman and building your traps. Use farmers walk handles or a trap bar, pile on the weight, and walk with the weight until your grip gives out.  50 to 200 feet is a good range of distance.  Do 2 or 3 sets to grip failure.
  3. Alternate dumbbell curls for high reps – curls are normally considered a bicep exercise, but when done one arm at a time in alternating style they also act as a great forearm builder. That’s because the forearms get extra work from holding onto the weight in between each curl.  Do them for high reps and you’ll find your forearms pumped and burning as much or more than your biceps.  3-5 sets of 12-15 reps are recommended.
  4. Behind the back wrist curls – this is my favorite isolation exercise for the forearms. It’s done standing with the bar held behind your back and palms facing backwards.  Lift the bar a few inches by flexing at the wrist only.  Do 3-5 set of 15-20 reps.  The easiest way to set up for the exercise is with the bar in a power rack, squat rack, or Olympic bench with the bar set a little below waist height.
  5. Reverse preacher curls – this is a great way to hit the wrist extensors and brachioradialis muscle. Grab a straight bar or EZ curl bar with an overhand grip and do curls on the preacher bench for 3 set of 10-15 reps.
  6. Wrist roller – this little contraption consists of a short bar or stick with a rope attached to it and a weight suspended from the rope. Twist the stick repeatedly in one direction to wind the rope, thereby raising the weight.  This is another great exercise to pump up your forearms and will more actively work your finger strength than the others I listed. I recommend 2 sets of these in each direction to work both the flexors and extensors of the wrist.  Each set should involve 30-60 seconds of winding with a challenging weight.

Don’t try to do all the exercises I listed in one session.  Pick 2 or 3 and work them into your weekly routine to get your forearms growing.  No more baby arms!

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