When the sun comes out, the guns come out. But what’s the point in having bulging biceps if your forearms are the size of twigs?
Often forgotten, the humble forearm is just as essential as any other body part, and needs to be treated with respect.
So here are 8 ways to build forearms like Popeye, with not a drop of spinach in sight.
1. Wrist curls
Wrist curls are easy to do and there are a tonne of variations you can do to keep them interesting. Whatever the variation, they are the best exercise for actively working your forearms; similar to the bicep curl for building biceps. Here are two of the different variations and how they help:
Seated Wrist Hammer Curls: While seated, place your forearm on your thighs, keeping your back straight and thumbs pointed up. Then, using a 2.5kg – 20kg dumbbell in a hammer position, lift it back and forth for 3 sets of 20. This helps build the brachioradialis muscle which is the point at which your wrist joins the forearm, otherwise known as the “distal aspect”.
Seated Reverse Wrist Curls: With a similar weight, or with a barbell, place your arms on your thighs downwards, so your hands overhang your knees. Then grab the weight and flex your wrist up fully. Again, 3 sets of 20. This exercise helps to build your extensor muscle in the forearm.
2. Finger curls
Similar in style to wrist curls, but even easier. This will help improve aspects of your forearm, as well as your grip, which in turn can help you build your forearms and beyond. Simply place your hands, palms upwards, on your thighs. Then place a weight in your hands, let it roll to the end of your fingers and pull it back.
3. Farmer’s walk
Fans of strongman will know what this exercise is. Simply grab the heaviest thing you can, whether it be a dumbbell, a kettlebell or a bag of sand, and walk. Stand as tall as you can, keep your chest straight and walk in control.
This exercise helps you build your overall body stability, as well as improve the strength of your forearms. It also helps to work supporting muscles groups, like your hands and shoulders.
4. Pull ups
Pull ups inadvertently help to build your forearms. The movement doesn’t actively work the muscle group, it is how you are supporting your weight where the benefit is. By holding on to the bar you are also improving your grip.
You can make a game of this exercise and hold on to the bar for as long as possible. Indeed, seeing as the “holding” of the bar is where the forearm benefit is, it is a good game to play.
5. Rope climb
Rope climbing can cause some brutal DOMS so it’s a good idea to take an easy to drink recovery supplement and also to prepare correctly. Make sure you have adequate strength in your shoulders and biceps, as well as a decent core. If you end up swinging all over the place, then you could cause yourself an injury!
The actual basics of climbing the rope is simple. Climb it, and stay steady. The benefits are similar to that of pull ups, and if you are struggling with rope climbs, carry on with pull ups till you are comfortable.
6. Use a big bar grip or bigger bar
A bigger bar means you have to stimulate more muscles in your hands and forearms. This in itself has further benefits as you also eliminate your weak link. If your grip is weak, you won’t be able to effectively build your forearms, and this in turn has an impact on how you can build the muscles in the rest of your body.
7. Get graftin’
Chopping wood, carry bags of sand, drilling, we could go on. These exercises are all need you use your forearms. They are also natural movements, so you will feel benefits elsewhere, that’s your back, your shoulders or your legs. So get landscaping, mix up some quality whey protein powder and feel the muscles grow.
8. Play a racquet sport
Cardio, fun and strength gains. What more could you want? Squash, tennis and badminton all require the repetitive use of both your wrist and your forearms.
Rafael Nadal is known for having very large forearms and it is through hours and hours of playing and training that he has got them. He also clearly lifts!
If you struggle with knee pain, then maybe give this one a miss, as squash in particular can be very unforgiving on the joints.
If you can think of any other ways to build your forearms, let us know