When we think of upper body functionality, the arms are the first thing that comes to our mind. That’s because the arm, located between the shoulder and elbow joints, is responsible for executing all imaginable movement patterns. That being said, it’s kind of fascinating that the forearm, which makes up 50% of the arm, is not a particularly popular body part to emphasize within a training program.
This can be considered as somewhat irresponsible, because having strong forearms offers some major benefits in terms of upper body performance, since the forearm muscle is a flexor of the elbow joint responsible for movements such as bicep curls and it has the ability to put our arms in a supinated or pronated position during exercise. In fact, developing your forearm muscles can be the key to success in breaking through training plateaus and taking your performance to the next level.
Here are some of the ways in which individual forearm training can improve your size and strength gains, as well as polish up your athletic performance:
IMPROVED GRIP STRENGTH
The fact that training your forearms will result with tremendous improvements in grip strength is almost a no-brainer, because when you perform movements that target the forearms, such as forearm curls, your wrists go through all possible ranges of motion and thus earn greater strength and stability. These gains are directly linked to a better performance of compound lifts such as the bench press, deadlift and all rowing variations, all of which demand a great deal of grip strength and are vital to any training program. And naturally, an improved performance translates to greater gains almost immediately.
IMPROVED DAY-TO-DAY MOTOR ACTIVITY
Besides its influence on athletic performance, the above mentioned grip improvement has its useful effect on your daily routines as well, since a great number of day-to-day activities depend on the grip and stabilization supplied by the forearm. Stronger forearms and more stable wrists will inevitably lead to easier and better execution of all motor activities of the arms and hands, such as gripping, pushing, pulling, writing, carrying stuff around and of course, jar opening.
Perhaps the most important benefit of forearm training is its ability to reduce the risk of injury, which is critical for bodybuilding success. Adding exercises such as the wrist curl to your training routine can help you prevent both minor and severe upper body injuries by strengthening your wrist flexors and thereby enabling the wrists to withstand the stress they get placed under in most compound movements. This also means that having stronger forearms will help you hold more weight in your hands in a safe way and increase the overall effectiveness of your upper body training.
Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of forearm training, the only remaining question is which specific exercise can help you take your forearm and wrist strength and condition to the next level. And the answer is: the barbell wrist curl.
BARBELL WRIST CURL
Here is how to perform it correctly for optimal gains:
- This exercise can be performed in a standing or seated position. Most lifters prefer the seated version, so to begin, sit upright on a bench with your arms resting on your thighs.
- Grip the barbell with a supinated grip (palms facing up) and hands placed at shoulder width apart.
- Place your feet flat on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder width apart, for maximum stability.
- Lean a bit forward and place your forearms on the top of your upper thighs.
- As you inhale, lower the bar as far as possible, maintaining a tight grip.
- As you exhale, flex your forearms and curl your wrist upwards and bring the bar up as high as possible. Only your wrists should move and all other parts of the arm should remain stationary.
- Hold the peak contraction for a second, then inhale and slowly release your wrists back to the starting position in a controlled manner. If you perform this portion of the movement in a careless way, you are at increased risk of spraining your wrist or causing other ligament injuries.
In addition, to ensure maximum effectiveness of your forearm training, do your best to avoid these common mistakes:
NOT TRAINING YOUR FOREARMS ENOUGH
If you weren’t born with a set of massive forearms, you’ll need to hit them hard with heavy weights and high-volume work on a regular basis. Include two forearm exercises in your bicep training day or train them on days when your focus is on lower body movements. In addition, since the forearms are used to performing low-intensity movements all throughout the day, you will have to ensure that your forearm workouts don’t lack the intensity and versatility required for optimal growth. Change your rep range every week in order to shock the muscle and prevent adaptation.
NOT TRAINING BOTH FOREARMS EQUALLY
Always opting for bilateral exercises could leave you with muscle imbalances where one forearm is stronger than the other or an unbalanced grip. On top of that, most people naturally have a more dominant arm, and bilateral exercises can further accentuate this discrepancy. To avoid such asymmetry, emphasize unilateral forearm training with dumbbells to adequately isolate both forearms and make them perform an equal amount of work.
USING TOO MUCH MOMENTUM
You’ve probably noticed that the forearm curl has a very short range of motion. Because of this, it’s easy to rely on momentum or get away with poor form while performing the movement, which causes the range of motion to become even shorter, reduces the contraction and ultimately diminishes the effectiveness of the exercise. To prevent this from happening, focus on achieving maximal contraction instead of allowing momentum to do the work and chose a weight that will allow you to perform the full range of motion in a slow and controlled manner.
If you haven’t seen Warrior, you should. It’s awesome. Once you do see it, you’ll probably wonder how the star Tom Hardy got so ripped for his role.
Unlike many other actors who put on fake skins to achieve a muscular look for their roles, Tom Hardy actually built himself one fantastically ripped body for the movie Warrior.
His most significant features, the massive traps, are the result of some intense workouts.
He added around 30 pounds of lean mass in a relatively short period of time by training four times a day – when he woke up, at lunch, before dinner and before going to bed. And besides training hard, he managed to maintain an astonishingly low percentage of body fat.
TOM HARDY’S WARRIOR WORKOUT ROUTINE
How did he gain so much muscle so fast? His trainer Pnut has a technique he calls “signaling.” He says this to Men’s Health:
Throughout the day you need to send constant signals to your body, so that it adapts in the direction you point it in. It’s better to do 10 press-ups every hour than 100 in a single burst. If you do things often enough, your body adapts for the task you set it, and you evolve.
Pnut says to do the exercises four times a day: when you wake up, at lunch, when you get home from work and before bed. They should take about 20 minutes per session but you shouldn’t rush. Focusing on form is the most important thing. You should use light weights and move slowly.
He recommends starting two sessions at first — the morning and evening. You can add the later two in at a later period when you get comfortable. Gaining muscle quickly requires you to workout little, but often. He also says there are no shortcuts to getting ripped quickly.
TOM HARDY’S EXERCISES
Warning: This is tough. It will not be easy. It will be worth it. You’re going to have to perform the first three exercises back to back to back.
Your sets will be in reps of 10, then 7, then 5, then 3. No recovery time between each movement.
Your first set should see your hands shoulder length apart. You should form a diamond with your forefingers and thumbs for the second set. Your third set will require you to put your hands wider than shoulder-length. Your final set will see you balling your fist and doing the press-ups on your knuckles.
Stand with your feet shoulder-length apart and get 8 kg(about 17 lbs) dumb bells in each hand. With your palms facing forward raise your hands 180 degrees until they meet above your head (somewhat like a snow angel movement). Lower to start position and repeat. To up the difficulty use heavier weights or stand on one leg (good luck).
Grab a chair for this one. Sit on the ground, legs in front of you with the chair behind you. Grab the seat of the chair with your hands so that your fingers pointing towards your body. Keep your back straight and push up so your backside is off the floor until your arms are extended. Lower yourself until you’re ALMOST touching the floor and you’ve completed a rep.
This one is a monster. There are multiple stages and if you’re not comfortable you probably shouldn’t move on to the advanced ones as it could result in a neck injury. This exercise is going to give you back flexibility, a powerful neck and a lot of core strength.
Lie on a mat with your feet on the ground and knees bent. You’re gonna lift your hips off the mat — bring your hands to your ears with palms on floor and fingers pointing towards your feet as you do this. You’re gonna do the 10-7-5-3 rep routine for this two. At the top during the 7 reps count to 1 second at the top, at the top during the 5 reps count to 3 seconds and at the top during the 3 reps count to 5 seconds.
Here’s the next stage, if you’re comfortable with stage 1. Push to the top position from stage 1. But this time, push harder. Push through your hands, lift your shoulders off the ground and allow your head to tilt back so the top of it rests on the floor. Push from your heels to your toes as well. All your weight should rest on your hands and toes, not your head. Same rep count as Stage 1.
When you’re comfortable with Stage 2 (AND YOUR FLEXIBILITY IS GOOD) you’re going to do the same things but allow your head to carry some weight. Start by allowing your head to carry 10% and increase as your neck flexibility increases. Do not rush this. Take your time, go slowly. Increase pressure on your head as you feel comfortable. Be careful as this could lead to a possible SEVERE neck injury if you’re not careful.
When you’re comfortable with Stage 3 and your flexibility is up put all your pressure on your head in the bridge position. Be sure to keep your hands near your head in case you need support. Same rep count as the rest of the Bridges.
This is insane, so be warned that you should only do this when Stage 4 is like drinking water. Assume the extended bridge from Stage 3 but hold a light barbell or very small dumb bells in your hands and do 5 reps at the top with the weights. Increase weight as it gets easier.
This is gonna give you core strength and increase the size and power of your abs. Like the Bridge, start with Stage 1 and move on as you get comfortable.
Lie on a mat with your legs pressed together. With your hands clasped behind your head lift your head and shoulders and hold. Then tighten your abs and lift your legs. Lower to start position and repeat. 10 reps, then 7, then 5, then 3.
Perform Stage 1 then at the top of your position bend your knees and pull them in so they touch your elbows. Straighten your legs and lower to starting position. Same reps as Stage 1.
Do the same thing as Stage 1. At the top of the position pull your legs in to touch your elbows but DON’T bend your knees. Yeah, it’ll hurt. Lower legs back to start and repeat. Same reps as before.
Get a 8 kg kettlebell (about 17 lbs) and insert your left shoe in the handle. Wrap your right leg on top of your left leg and foot to hold it in place and do the Stage 1 exercise. Increase as needed.