Even the most committed gym-goers will often neglect to work on their forearms. It’s a hard part of the body to target and, much like your calf muscles, one that requires a lot of training to add muscle mass to.
It’s worth putting in the time, though, because working on your forearms will improve your grip strength and also make your wrists more resistant to injury, both of which will pay dividends when tackling all manner of other lifts.
Add these three exercise to your training schedule and you’ll quickly reap the benefits in the form of stronger forearms and a powerful grip sure to impress every time you have cause to shake someone’s hand.
Why If you only have time for one curl and want to beef up your biceps as well as strengthening your forearms, the Zottman curl will get the job done because you rotate your grip on the dumbbell halfway through the move.
How Hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing each other. Slowly curl the weights up to your shoulders, rotating them as you do so your palms end up facing you. At the top of the lift, pause and rotate your hands 180° so that your palms are facing away from you. Then lower the weights slowly – try counting to three or five as you lower to ensure you’re not rushing this stage of the exercise.
Thumbless overhand preacher curl
Why Removing your thumb from the equation means that the exercise becomes a great forearm-builder and grip strengthener. This exercise is Welsh bodybuilder Dan Yeomans’s top pick for increasing grip strength, and he is a man you would absolutely not want to get into a handshake squeeze-off with.
How The best way to do this exercise is with a preacher bench and an EZ-bar. You can also use dumbbells or a standard barbell in a pinch. Use a weight that you could do 15 standard preacher curls with and do make sure you’re well acquainted with the standard exercise before attempting the thumbless version.
Sit on the preacher bench and set it up so your armpits are in contact with the top of the sloped section. Hold the bar in a thumbless overhand grip and curl it up until your forearms are vertical. Pause at the top of the movement and squeeze the bar hard with your fingers, then slowly lower the weight back to the start.
Why By turning your palm over, you deactivate the biceps and place the emphasis on the brachioradialis, which links the biceps to the forearm, and the upper forearm muscles such as the carpi radialis.
How Hold the bar with your hands hip-width apart. Keep your palms facing down throughout the lift. Curl the bar up slowly, keeping your elbows close to your sides. Pause at the top of the lift, then lower the bar slowly under control.
Dumbbell forearm rotation
Why This exercise strengthens the stabilising muscles in the wrist, making it vital for anyone keen on avoiding injury during weights workouts – so everyone.
How Holding a dumbbell in each hand, kneel down and rest your forearms on a bench. Relax your shoulders and rotate the dumbbell outwards, keeping your hands in line with your forearms. Then rotate the weight inwards.
Barbell wrist curl
Why This move targets the wrist flexors. You need these muscles to be strong in any move that involves holding a bar or dumbbell – in other words, a lot of what you do in the weights room.
How Holding a barbell, kneel down and rest your forearms on a bench. Curl the barbell towards you, moving only your wrists, and pause at the top of the curl for a beat or two. Lower the bar slowly and open your hands so that the bar rolls onto your fingers. Make sure you keep your shoulders back throughout the move so that your wrists stay in line with your forearms.
Richard worked as a features writer in 2013 and 2014 for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated and later shared a website with Coach. Richard went on to a career as a professional journalist and editor, working for brands like Red Bull, Total Film, Den of Geek and others.
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