Hello and welcome to Muscle For Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today to learn about forearm training. Something that I’ve written about, but I don’t think I have spoken about here on the podcast, so I thought I would do that. Why forearm training? Forearms are the calves of the arms, right?
You can have great biceps, triceps, shoulders. The look, let’s put that in scare quotes. It’s just not complete. If your forearms also aren’t up to the mark and strong forearms, do more than just massage your ego too. They also make your grip stronger, and that’s vital for progressing on pushing and pulling exercises like the bench press, Overhead press, and especially any type of deadlift, any type of.
And research actually shows that people with stronger forearms live longer too. Grip strength is associated with all cause mortality, and it would probably take a little mini episode to share why that is exactly. I’ll make a mental note of that, but just a little factoid. Anyway. So in this podcast, I’m gonna teach you everything you know about working out your forearms.
I’m gonna share some of my favorite forearm exercises, and I’m gonna share some example workout programming. If you want to put this information into use right away. Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, and if you want to help me do more of it, please do check out my sports Nutrition company Legion, because while you don’t need supplements to build muscle, lose fat, or get healthy, the right ones can help.
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It happens every year. We can never forecast these things. Exactly, or before the sale ends, and it’s too. Alrighty, so let’s get into it, starting with some anatomy. So your forms are composed of many different small muscles, and each of them have slightly different jobs. I don’t think we need to dig into the biomechanical minutia for our purposes here, but we can divide these muscles into.
Broad categories. We have flexors and we have extensors. So what flexors do is they bend your palms towards your inner forearms, and extensors do the opposite. They straighten your wrist, they bring the back of your hands closer to your outer forearms. Now, flexors are also responsible for pronating your forearms, so that means rotating your palm downward.
Whereas extensors do the opposite. They supernate your forearms so they rotate your. Upward. Now, why do we want to have strong flexors and extensors in our arms? Firstly, these muscles will help you lift more weight. So when you’re doing exercises that demand a lot of grip strength, like a dead lift or a barbell row, or a dumbbell row, or a pull up or a chin up, you will struggle to get the full benefits of the exercise.
You will struggle to perform at your maximum capacity if your forearms. Cut the mustard. Because what happens is you have to end your sets when your forearms give out, when they become too fatigued. That’s it. And anybody who has done a lot of deadlifting has experienced this. It’s almost a little bit strange that once your grip starts to fail, your entire body starts to fail on the lift.
And once you can no longer maintain a strong grip on the bar, that’s the end of the set. And that of. Partially defeats the purpose of the exercise. We are doing something like a deadlift to improve our grip strength, yes, but we also are really trying to train all of the muscles on the backside of our body, and we don’t want our grip strength to limit our progression on the exercise.
So by improving your grip strength, you can make sure that your forearms are not a weak link. Now, if you have been listening to me for some time, you might be remembering now an episode I did on deadlift grip and what type of deadlift grip is best for you. And you might know that I use a double overhand grip with straps on my heaviest sets.
And if you’re wondering now, Do that. You can listen to that episode. You can find it in the feed. If you search my podcast for deadlift Grip, it will come up. Or if you’d rather read, just head over to legion athletics.com, search for deadlift or deadlift grip, and you’ll find the article that episode is based on.
And I explain why at a certain point, I think it’s smart to. Use straps. You can also use a hook grip, if you don’t mind, the thumb damage and the thumb pain. I generally do not recommend a mixed grip, which is what many people do. Once the weight simply gets too heavy for a double overhand grip, which happens to basically everyone, even if you have a very strong grip.
You are not gonna be able to double overhand 450 pounds for sets of five or six. You are going to have to do something, hook, grip, strap, mixed. And again, my preference is strap and I explain why in that podcast episode slash article on deadlift. Gripping. Okay. Another benefit of having strong forms is they increase the stability of your wrists, and practically speaking, when you are lifting weights, what that means is your wrists will not bend or tremble at least nearly as easily under heavy loads, and that’s beneficial when you are doing pressing exercises in particular because it ensures that you can transfer maximum force from your body into the bar or into the dumbbell, which of course improves your performance.
Strong forearms also can help reduce your risk of elbow injury. Research shows that, and that’s a common injury among weightlifters, elbow problems, shoulder problems, knee problems, back problems. And so by strengthening your forearms, you can reduce the chances of hurting your elbows. Okay. Now let’s talk about how to train your forearms.
First and foremost, the best way to get strong forearms is just to get a strong body to follow a well-designed strength training program that includes a lot of heavy pressing, a lot of heavy deadlifting, rowing, curling. For most people, that’s probably all they need to build strong, muscular. Forearms That said, some people find that is not the case.
Some people get pretty strong on some of those exercises that I mentioned and are still running into limitations in their grip strength, in their forearm strength, and some people want to just accelerate their forearm development. Some people really like. Look of having beefy forearms. And in both of those cases, then it’s worth including a few exercises in your training program that are aimed at improving your forearm strength.
Isolation exercise is basically for your forearms. Now, despite what many fitness grooves might suggest, you do not need to do a billion different, All right? I won’t be so sensational. A hundred or even dozens of d. Forearm exercises to get those Popeye arms. In fact, just a handful of good exercises, carefully selected exercises, we’ll get the job done.
So let’s talk exercises. Let’s talk some of my favorite forearm exercises. One is the dead hang, great forearm builder. Doesn’t put wear and tear on your joints can actually improve your shoulder health. Just doing dead hangs every day. And it’s also a good test of your forearm strength if you are not sure if you have strong forearms or weak forearms or something in between.
If you can’t hang for at least 30 seconds, you are. Pretty weak. Your forearms are pretty weak, but that’s okay because you can just get stronger. You can make them stronger. With something like the dead hang, if you can grip for at least 60 seconds, you are above average. You have strong forearms, and if you can maintain your grip for at least two minutes, that’s impressive.
You are basically in a ring ofan. Okay, next up on my list of forearm exercises is the forearm curl. Simple exercise directly trains the forearms. It doesn’t fatigue anything else in your. Really. So it’s not going to interfere with anything else in your workouts. It doesn’t require much equipment. You just need some dumbbells.
It’s comfortable. Good exercise. Now we have the plate hold, which is also an effective way to isolate your forearm muscles, and it also strengthens your forms in a similar position to what you would use. Different weightlifting exercises, which is beneficial like a deadlift, for example. Certainly deadlift variations like a trap bar deadlift.
Next we have the one arm dumbbell row, which is not an isolation exercise for the forms, of course, but is a fantastic. Exercise for building your grip strength, building your forum strength. Of course, it’s also great for building your upper back, your lats, your biceps. One of my favorite pulling exercises.
Another fantastic pulling exercise. Compound exercise is the Romanian deadlift, and that should be included any. Barbell forearm workout because it trains all of the same muscles as the conventional deadlift, but it’s even more challenging for your forearms because you don’t set the weight down between each rep.
Number six on my list is the Zot men curl, which sounds funky, but it gives you a great bicep. And forearm workout in one exercise. Cause it emphasizes the biceps during the concentric, the contraction, the lifting phase, and then the forearms and the grip during the eccentric, the lowering or lengthening phase.
Lastly is the farmer’s walk. Something that you don’t see many people doing, but it really should be more popular than it is, and the reason is it of course, trains your forearms. You gotta hold the weights. But it also is great for improving your whole body’s strength, your whole body coordination, your ability to work, your body’s ability to just work hard and.
Effort, which of course can translate into improved performance in really every major muscle group, and particularly on the most taxing exercises. On your squat, on your deadlift, your bench press, your overhead press, and those are the key exercises, the key movements that you most want to improve on to keep gaining muscle and.
Okay, now let’s talk about workout programming. How might we take some of those exercises and insert them into workouts and make a program that makes sense? As I am a big proponent of doing a lot of compound weightlifting and doing your compound work. Early in your workouts and doing isolation work later in your workouts.
And as we have some compound exercises to choose from that train our forms, in addition to many other muscle groups, it’s pretty easy to assemble workouts that do a good job training your forms and everything else. For example, a. Push workout could be a barbell bench press followed by maybe an incline barbell bench press.
And if you want to do even more push work, you could do some dumbbell bench pressing, followed by maybe some triceps work, and then you could end with for on curls. For example, if we wanted to do a pull workout, we could start with a barbell deadlift or a variation on that. It could be. Bar deadlift, or maybe even a Romanian deadlift, depending on how you want to emphasize the muscles on the backside of your body.
If you really wanna focus in on those hamstrings, maybe it’d be an rdl. We could do a couple sets of that. We could then do some one arm dumbbell rows. Again, a great pull exercise. And in those two exercises, we’ve also really blasted our forearms. Then maybe followed by a vertical pole, like a LA pull down.
And if we’re still hungry for more a horizontal pole like the seated cable row. So in that workout, we have racked up a lot of volume for all of the muscles on the backside of our body. And our forearms. Maybe you wanna do an upper body workout. How might that look? You could start with some pressing, maybe a seated dumbbell press, A shoulder focused press.
Then you could do the zoman curl that I mentioned, followed by some side raises. It could be dumbbell, it could be cable. It could be machine, followed by some rear raises again. Dumbbell cable machine, and then you could end with some plate holds a lower body workout. That could start with a squat. It could be the barbell back squat.
It could be the barbell front squat. It could be a belt squat. It could be the safety bar squat. Plenty of great squat variations followed by a leg press, followed by a Romanian deadlift. If you didn’t already do that, if your lower back is up to it. Fantastic hamstring exercise. Difficult, and then you could do some calves if you want, followed by some farmer’s walks at the end.
So maybe three sets of farmer walks 30 to 60 seconds, resting a couple of minutes in between each set, and finally something else you can do that is extremely easy and that I would recommend doing, even if you have strong forms and you are basically training like how I just outlined and that is.
Daily dead hangs, or at least every day you are in the gym. Do three or four sets of dead hangs. Start with 30 seconds and just work your way up as your grip gets stronger. I’ve been doing this for months now, not because I wanted to improve my. Grip strength, but because I wanted to help out my shoulders and my right shoulder in particular because I am or was prone to getting a little bit of biceps tendonitis, I would feel it in the bi groove in my right shoulder and just a few weeks of dead hangs doing them five to seven days per week.
I’m not in the gym seven days per week, but I. Would do these hangs five to seven days per week. Just three weeks of that completely resolved. The little bit of biceps tendonitis that I was running into. It went from maybe a six out of 10 in terms of pain or discomfort when pressing, in particular to basically a one or two, and now it’s.
Between a zero and a one. Sometimes I feel absolutely nothing heavy pressing, and sometimes I feel a little bit when I’m warming up maybe a little bit on my heavy sets, and then it just goes away. Direct result of the regular dead hangs. And so what I do is when I am doing my normal workouts and I am resting in between sets of exercises that don’t require my grip strength, I just go and hang and I’m up to probably.
A minute to a minute and a half now per set. And I also added a little bit of swinging, so I swing a little bit back and forth just to get an even deeper stretch. And it has again, helped my shoulder a lot. And it’s recommended for people who have healthy shoulders too. It can help keep your shoulders healthy and pain free.
Okay, so one other thing. Comment on, because some people are probably wondering, Forearm workout tools, special equipment for training your forearms, like weights that shake, plates that vibrate fat grips to put on bars wrist rollers, hand exercises, and so forth. Skip. The shake weights, skip the vibrating plates.
However, fat grips certainly can help you improve your grip strength. Those are extra thick rubber grips that you put on the barbell. I guess you can use them with dumbbells to most people, at least. I’ve seen use them on barbell exercises sometime ago. I use. Them for a bit, just to give them a go. And I found that I actually liked them on my pressing exercises because it encouraged me to squeeze as hard as I possibly can.
And that’s a good way to just improve your performance on basically any exercise. Squeeze the bar, the machine, the dumb belt really hard. And the fat grips were nice for that. However, I did not like any sort of pulling exercise with them because it just limited my performance on the exercise.
I couldn’t lift enough. To do what I needed to do with the fat grips on. So what you could do with pulling exercises is use them on your warmup sets and then take them off on your working sets. That’s what I ended up doing, at least now as far as a wrist roller goes. That’s good. That works. You don’t have to do that as a special isolation exercise.
You could just stick to what I’ve shared with you in this episode and you’ll do fine. But some people do like the wrist roller and it certainly does challenge the forms so valid. Piece of equipment there as well as hand exercisers, like the Captain’s Crush series. I used to play around with those as well.
And I liked the Captain’s Crush products the most. And they range from week to very strong. So they range from about 60 pounds of resistance to 365 pounds of resistance. Would love to meet somebody who could crush the 365 pound captains of. I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes.
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Shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f o r life.com and let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future. I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode and I hope to hear from.