The Forearm Solution
Keys to adding size and strength to the lower arms
By Strength Sensei CP
If your upper arm growth has stagnated, I’ve found that the best way to get your progress back on track is to prioritize forearm training. And giving credit where is due, this idea was also championed by Nautilus founder Arthur Jones — in 1970!
In the July issue of Muscular Development magazine that year, Jones discussed the interrelationship of the forearms and biceps, noting that “…when you develop forearms near their maximum size this growth will also influence growth of the upper arms.” He’s right, as forearm muscles such as the flexor carpi radialis contribute to elbow flexion.
The importance of forearm development is such that I’ve designed arm specialization workouts with minimal elbow flexion training to devote more energy to forearm training to achieve structural balance. Likewise, I’ve often seen the need to have athletes in many sports focus on grip training, especially those in combat sports. And as evidenced by the effects that straps have on how much powerlifters can deadlift and weightlifters can snatch, specialized grip strength has benefits to Iron Game athletes.
A strong grip is essential to Iron Game athletes. (This photo by Ryan Paiva, LiftingLife.com. Lead photo by Miloš Šarčev photos)
As with the calves, forearm and grip training is often neglected. The good news is that forearm and grip training can quickly be resolved by using thick-handled equipment. I especially like 3-inch diameter barbells and 2- to 2 1/2-inch dumbbells. If your gym hasn’t invested in such equipment, pick up a pair of Fat Gripz®, the brainchild of one of my students, Werner Brüggeman.
These rubber-like devices wrap around the handles of barbells, dumbbells, cable handles, and many other types of equipment to increase their diameter. These come in various thicknesses — the thicker the grip, the more challenging the exercise. Variety is a key to stimulating progress, so purchase a variety of Fat Gripz sizes to change the grip diameter with each training cycle. The catchphrase that applies here is “The best workout is the one you’re not using!”
With that background, I’d like to share a workout that targets the flexor digitorum profundus and the flexor digitorum superficialis, which are forearm muscles that flex the wrists and bend the fingers. It’s a superset that requires a one-arm, low-pulley machine.
Grasp the pulley handles and perform a set of 8-12 reps of conventional wrist curls, resting your forearms on your thighs and leaning slightly forward. After achieving muscular failure, don’t let go of the handles. Instead, stand up and back away from the pulley. Lock your elbows and position your arms at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Continue performing wrist curls to failure.
The reason to combine the two exercises is that the conventional wrist curl only works the flexor digitorum profundus, which is smaller than the flexor digitorum superficialis. Thus, you pre-exhaust the weaker muscle, then extend the duration of the set by introducing another, stronger muscle group. The effect is you involve a higher proportion of motor units in your forearms, resulting in more muscle growth.
If impressive arm development is important to you and your progress has stalled, it’s time to prioritize forearm training.