You wouldn’t want huge quads with skinny calves; the same applies when it comes to your arms. It just wouldn’t look nice having huge biceps and triceps without thick forearms to complete them. Strong and big forearms not only complete your arms aesthetically but they also boost your lifts on heavy compound moves such as rows, deadlifts, or power cleans. Your Forearms are involved in almost every upper-body exercise you do. They help you grip barbells and dumbbells and also assist in pulling and pushing exercises. So what’s the best way to work them? Well, there are four factors you need to consider in your forearm training: how often to train them, where to put them in your training split, what exercises to do for them, and how many sets and reps to perform.
How often to train them?
Since your forearms are involved in almost upper body movements you do, you don’t want to overtrain them. That said, if your forearms are weak or tend to give in, especially on pulling exercises such as deadlift or lat pulldown, you might need to hit them twice a week and giving them 3-4 day rest before training them again. Otherwise, hit your forearms once every 5-7 days.
Where to put them in your training split?
This can vary. First, if forearms are a weakness, dedicate a specific day to training your forearms only or train them with legs, when they won’t be tired from previous exercises. Second, it wouldn’t make sense to train forearms first on days when you plan on doing lots of pulling exercises because you will need all strength for those pulling moves. So it’s prudent to hit forearms after biceps since they’ll already be warmed up by the time you get to them.
What exercises to do for them?
The best forearm exercises are compound exercises that allow the use of heavyweights. These basic exercises are great for strengthening and building muscle in the forearms. These compound movements consist of barbell and dumbbell wrist curls performed with a straight bar, EZ-bar, cable or machine, either standing or on a preacher bench. You can also perform them in the front or behind-the-back and with a supinated or pronated grip. Below we have listed some of the best ones:
This exercise targets the forearm flexors and allows you to work each forearm individually, thus helping to develop balance and proportion between both forearms. Sit and hold a dumbbell with an underhand grip. Rest your forearm on the bench between your thighs with your wrist just beyond the edge of the bench. Allow the dumbbell to roll down the palm towards the fingers. Curl the dumbbell back up and flex your wrist. Once you perform the desired number of reps for one arm, switch and repeat with the other arm.
- Barbell Wrist Curl:
This is a basic forearm exercise that works the forearm flexor muscles. Sit on a flat bench and lay your forearms on your lap while holding a barbell palms up. Using only your hands and wrists, curl the barbell up toward the ceiling as high as possible, keeping your forearms flat on your lap. When you return to the start position, allow the barbell to roll all the way down into your fingertips and then repeat.
- Barbell Reverse Wrist Curls:
Sit on a flat bench and lay your forearms on your lap while holding a barbell palms down. Using only your hands and wrists, reverse curl the barbell up toward the ceiling as high as possible, keeping your forearms flat on your lap. Lower the barbell down as far as you can, then repeat.
- Reverse Barbell Curl:
The reverse barbell curl works both the biceps and forearm extensor muscles. Grip a barbell with a shoulder width overhand grip. Stand straight up with your back flat and head up. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides, curl the bar up towards the top of your chest. Pause for a second to fully contract the forearms, then slowly lower the barbell back down
How many sets and reps to perform?
Since your forearms are very small muscles and incidentally used in many exercises, you don’t need to do as many sets for them as you would do for bigger body parts. Six to eight total sets should suffice, using any of the above exercises. As for reps, high-rep sets (12-and- above rep range) tend to produce the best results for most people, but don’t just go light on all sets. You want to stress your forearm muscles with a fairly heavy weight to get them stronger or they’ll never grow, so mix in heavier weights and lower reps sets (10-and-below rep range).