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.
The “Adonis belt”, also known as “Apollo’s belt” is the area where 2 abdominal muscles form a V-shape alongside your hips and end at the crotch. This ab muscle feature takes its name from the Greek god of youth, fertility, and beauty, Adonis. The grooves that form the Adonis belt, are not actually muscles, but ligaments. That’s why getting a visible Adonis belt does not require gaining more muscle tissue, but simple fat loss.
Let’s list several facts about the Adonis belt:
1. It is not a muscle. Its shape comes from the inguinal ligament.
2. There is no special food or supplements you could take that will make you get an Adonis belt faster, though drinking protein shakes might help you feel fuller for prolonged periods and increase muscle size.
3. Having an Adonis belt that is visible does not necessarily mean that you’re physically fit or healthy overall.
4. Every person has ab muscles and an inguinal ligament.
We have already stated that the two grooves that form the Adonis belt are not muscles, but ligaments. They’re a thick connective tissue which goes through the external oblique ab muscles and the groin and into the front part of the iliac spine. Individuals who are physically weak might have a clearly visible inguinal ligament, while those who are fit and strong might not.
Most of the time, having a visible Adonis belt is related to your body fat levels. People who have a lower body fat percentage are more likely to have this shape. That means that someone could spend a couple of hours everyday training abs and still not have a visible Adonis belt or any other sign of ab strength, for that matter. In order for someone to have visible abs, their body fat percentage needs to be below fifteen percent. For a visible Adonis belt, that body fat percentage may go as low as 7-13 percent, which is very difficult to achieve.
HOW TO DEVELOP THE ADONIS BELT ?
Eating a diet protein rich diet increases the feeling of fullness and aids in losing weight. To get the Adonis belt, at first you might think it’s a good idea to train the hip and ab muscles. However employing this strategy will simply not work. Fat spot reducing, or the notion that it’s possible to reduce the amount of fat in a specific part of your body with specific isolation movements is a big lie.
Making a muscle stronger and increasing its size won’t make it visible if you’re covered in too much fat. Proper dieting and exercising are the biggest contributors to fat loss. Since genetics play a big role when it comes to how much fat you can gain or lose, it’s easier for some to get an Adonis belt. Eating a lower number of calories than your body requires for energy can greatly increase fat loss. This means lowering your total daily caloric consumption.
It’s also helpful to reduce the consumption of sweets, candy, and fast carbs. There are also some food products that require a greater amount of energy to be burned in order to be digested. One such example is protein. Protein will make you feel full for longer periods and it is the perfect choice for those who don’t want to overeat. And since protein is a crucial nutrient for optimal muscle growth, increasing your protein consumption can make the process of getting visible abs much quicker. Exercises which involve multiple groups of muscle and that get the heart pumping, expend a lot more calories than isolation movements like sit-ups or crunches.
Some of the most popular examples of intensive cardio activities are: swimming, sprinting, jumping rope, punching-bag workouts, football, tennis, soccer or other athletic sports. The longer you perform an exercise and the more intense and exhaustive it is, the greater the number of calories you burn, which means increased fat loss. We already mentioned that having a visible Adonis belt is not a great indicator of how fit someone actually is.
However, if you do want to get the look you can do certain exercises that will make the process faster. Building new muscle tissue will make the body burn more calories, which, again, means increased fat loss. Additionally, making the muscles around the inguinal ligament stronger can make the area look a lot more defined and aid in fat burning. Here are some exercises you can try:
Planks are an excellent exercise to stabilize and strengthen the back and abs. Lie on your stomach with your elbows bent and your forearms on the floor. Raise your torso off the floor while keeping a constant tension in your abs. Hold this position for about 5 seconds, and strive to hold it longer each consecutive try.
Once you get more advanced, you can try the side plank variation. Lie on the ground on one side with your legs placed one on top of the other. Rest your torso on your bent elbow. Engage the abdominals by squeezing them and raise your torso and hips off the ground. Again, hold the position for 5 seconds, and strive to hold it for a longer period each consecutive try.
With your torso straight, take a very deep breath. Then, exhale as much as you can, while drawing your belly in. Imagine that the belly button is moving towards your spine, sucking your stomach in as far as you can. Hold this position for about 5-10 seconds, and do it for several more breaths. Once you master this exercise, it will be possible to do it while lying or sitting.
LATERAL HEEL TOUCHES
This movement engages the oblique abs, the muscles that complement the appearance of the Adonis belt. The way you do it is by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Extend the arms out and parallel to the floor. While squeezing the ab muscles, lift your head, neck and upper back off the floor. Bend to the right to touch your right heel, then to the left to touch the left heel. Do this for 5-10 reps.
EXERCISE BALL CRUNCHES
Exercise ball crunches tend to engage your abs a lot more effective than standard crunches. The way you do this exercise is by lying on an exercise ball in a way that the ball is positioned under your lower back. Squeeze the abs and with your feet flat on the floor, do a crunch by lifting your head, neck, and your upper torso. You can place the arms across the chest, behind the head, or you can extend them in front of you, but you should not swing them and use the momentum to help yourself when doing the crunch. Do 5-10 reps for 3-5 sets.
ASSOCIATED RISK WITH GETTING AN ADONIS BELT
In today’s culture obsessed with thin bodies, it’s quite easy to see body fat as a bad thing. However, this tissue often has a protective function. Every individual needs at least a certain amount of body fat to be healthy. Women are especially negatively affected when they lose too much fat since they generally have higher body fat percentages compared to men. Women who have a very low amount of body fat may not menstruate, which can seriously interfere with fertility and cause all kinds of issues.
Women under 15% body fat are at risk of developing several negative health conditions. All this means that, for women, developing an Adonis belt and retaining their health at the same time can prove to be quite difficult, if not outright impossible. For men, health issues arise once body fat gets below 8%, which means that the majority of men can develop the Adonis belt without any serious worries.
When talking about upper body workouts, you can’t forget to mention the pull-up. It’s so important that people literally call it the upper body squat and there is no way anyone will take you seriously until you’ve mastered it. In comparison, the lat pull-down exercise isn’t even close in importance to the pull-up, even though it can add great variety to your workout. It’s supposed to be used on occasion but it’s nowhere as important as the pull-up, which is by far the most effective upper back developing exercise. It’s the best because it achieves the maximum possible neuromuscular activation, unlike all the other exercises which don’t have this effect on your back.
The pull-up is a test of your mettle, both physical and mental, but it’s mostly regarded as an exercise that can test exactly how much functional strength you have. This is because it measures strength to weight ratio in a better fashion than every single other exercise for your back. However, when you look at the numbers you will see that most people, men and women, can’t even do a single pull-up, since you can only do them if you’re strong. Sorry to say it, but if you can’t do pull-ups, you have a long way to go until you’re actually considered strong. If you want to build muscle mass on your upper body and boost your upper body strength as much as possible, you want to look at these five tips that you can use to achieve your goals.
1. RESISTANCE BANDS
Doing pull-ups is really basic when it comes to the level of strength you need to have to achieve them, so this means that women, heavier people of both sexes and physically weaker folks may not be able to do more than one rep, if any. While this doesn’t mean that I’m saying that you should use any assisted pull-up machines, I am saying that you should get some resistance bands. When you use assisted pull-up machines, they don’t make use of your upper back muscles which have a role to stabilize your body, but when you use resistance bands they help you recuperate, adding momentum to the upward movement of the pull-up (concentric part), which is the hardest.
Sometimes, that little momentum is all that you need to complete your pull-up. When buying resistance bands, know what you want – you can discern them by color, which indicates different tension. Yellow is the weakest, with least resistance, while blue, black and orange offer the most tensile strength. If you want something I between, go for red and green, but if you’re just starting now, make sure to pick one that will let you do at least five pull-ups. When you reach the ability to do 12 of them, get a lighter resistance band and start over until you can do them without bands.
2. FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH
If you want to be able to do a consistent number of reps, you will need to learn to do them on your own! This means that you actually have to become stronger instead of stagnate in one place. Building strength can only be come when you’re exercising at the very least at 80% of your maximum effort. Try some bent-over or inverted rows or some TRX rows to pump up your intensity and build more strength. You can also try some other varied exercises.
Eccentric pull-ups have also been observed to be a great path to building strength. To do them, lower yourself slowly until you straighten your arms, then jump up and do it again. Your muscles will always have more power when you’re going down so it shouldn’t be too hard. I suggest you start with three to six seconds of descending and increase that time as you continue your workouts. When you can do at least six eccentric pull-ups with decent control over your body, you should now be able to do a full pull-up by yourself!
3. GRIP VARIATION
Your back has a lot of muscles, and they are all differently activated. However, when you switch up your grip, you can activate as many of them as possible, and it will also help you prevent overuse injuries as well as burn out. There are a lot of grips to choose from and they all do something better than the others. The pronated grip has your palms facing away from you, but you can also use a supinated grip to do chin-ups, which will have your palms facing towards you. When using a supinated grip, the area on your upper back which has been targeted will be changed and the intensity will also transfer on the biceps brachii.
The supinated grip is also one of the best for activating the latissimus dorsi and upper arms, even if it is the most basic method of them all. Sometimes, you might get tired or your grip might get sloppy. To remedy this, get some chalk or some wrist straps. This is a favored method amongst trainees since it lets them lift more and finish their sets even if their forearms are becoming tired before their upper backs. If you’re doing a lot of exercising, using chalk or some wrist straps will help you get to your goals and even surpass them.
4. REP RANGE VARIATION
You need a lot of strength and endurance to do pull-ups, and both of these things are created with vastly different rep ranges. Strength requires low reps, whereas endurance needs high reps to be built. This means that you should be getting some dip belts, resistance bands and weighted vests to help out. To build strength, exercise for about four weeks with a dip belt, ranging from four to six reps per set. To build endurance, get some resistance bands and exercise with 10-15 reps per set. You will need the resistance bands, and a variety of them because using the different tensile strengths correctly, you can achieve results and increase your rep numbers with incredible speed.
5. TECHNIQUE AND FORM MATTER
Get your technique straight in order to make any progress, and this counts for any exercise. You should begin from a dead hang position, where your shoulders are close to your ears and with your arms completely straight, with retracted shoulder blades. When you start pulling, squeeze your abs, keep your eyes on the bar above you and push your chest up. Pull towards the bar and keep your chest in the driver’s seat, while your legs should be in a straight line with your torso as much as possible. If your chin passes the bar or your chest reaches it, stop and observe the contraction. Then, start lowering yourself with as much control as you can muster, until you reach the point that you started from, with your arms straight and you shoulders retracted. Finally, make sure that your shoulder blades are tight because if you try to do a pull-up with a loose shoulder girdle, you might get yourself a rotator cuff injury.
These five tips ought to help you do pull-ups as much as you want, like they’ve helped countless others before. Just make sure to train with consistency and you will be well on your way to doing some great pull-ups. Also, you might want to explore the possibility of taking some supplements to aid your recuperation and progress. There are a bunch of different combinations out there, but I’d suggest something which is a mix of high quality protein, creatine and amino acids. When combined, these three make a post-workout shake that refuels you as easy as you refuel your car at the gas station, and you will recover much more quickly, but you will also hurt less.