From an anatomical standpoint, the forearm is your arm's most complex muscle area. Unlike your biceps and triceps, which essentially have the single function of flexing and extending your lower arm, your forearms contain many intricate muscles and tendons that control individual flexion and extension of our fingers, thumbs and wrists. In fact, the forearms are so complex that this article could easily become overrun with anatomical and medical jargon. But since this article is about building muscular forearms rather than dissecting them, I'll limit my discussion to training techniques for developing your major (i.e., most visible) forearm muscles.
Understanding the Forearms
As noted above, your forearms control flexion and extension of your fingers, thumbs and wrists. Indeed whenever you squeeze or release an object, your forearms are at work. Your forearms also control your ability to bend your hands forward and backward. Since your hands are involved in every aspect of any upper-body exercise program, your forearms automatically get secondary training in all of your arm workouts.
For example, the forearm's "flexor" muscles which flex the fingers and wrists are active in all biceps curling movements. On the other hand, the "extensor" muscles in the forearm affect your ability to complete such triceps exercises as EZ Bar extensions, cable press-downs, seated dips and straight-armed pushdowns. Since the forearms control flexion and rotation of your fingers and hands, developing this muscle area will certainly increase your grip strength.
Such power is particularly important to bodybuilders and power lifters when doing pulley rows, barbell rows or deadlifts. Wrestlers and martial artists need powerful forearms and hands to grip and throw competitors to the mat. Line-backers and defensive linemen in football have this same need in order to win their battles with behemoth offensive linemen. Powerful forearms mean powerful hands - and grip strength is an important aspect of all power sports.
Since your forearms receive so much secondary work during your biceps and triceps workouts, you may be wondering why it is necessary to train them separately. The simple answer is completion. Your forearms are part of your "total package" and should therefore get the same attention as your biceps and triceps in a complete arm building program. Additionally, building massive and powerful forearms will improve your grip strength and ensure symmetrical development of your arms. While secondary training benefits are nice, targeted bodybuilding works best. This way, you won't have any weak or lagging body parts, especially among the ones hanging from your shoulders!
The most visible portions of your forearms consist of the outer section dominated by the brachioradialis and various finger extensors, and the large flexors on the inside of each arm that run from your wrists to your elbows. When these inner and outer portions of your forearms are fully and equally developed they'll look like upside down bowling pins - and you'll definitely be throwing strikes when it comes to making a visual impression! The key to getting this type of symmetrical forearm development is balanced training of both the inner and outer muscle groupings of your forearms.
Weight-free Forearm Workout To Do At Home
As we have already mentioned, strong forearms enhance hand and arm strength, important for day-to-day tasks like grasping objects. Gaining strength in your forearms also enhances throwing and swinging actions during organized sports. Working your entire arm is also a good way to prevent muscle
imbalances that might lead to injuries. Many people overlook the area during their normal strength-training routine, but exercises to work the forearms don't require a lot of time and many can be done without weights, making them an ideal addition to your workout program.
Include kneeling forearm stretches into your routine two to three times per week. This exercise mainly works your forearms rather than your entire arm, making it a good choice for strengthening the area. To do a forearm stretch, kneel on the floor on your hands and knees. Point your palms and fingers back toward your body. Lean back until you feel a stretch in your forearms (keep your palms flat on the ground). Stop and hold the move for 20 to 30 seconds.
Do five pull-ups on a rope, two to three times per week. If you prefer to work out without weights, using a rope is a good alternative for forearm strength. Secure a 3-foot rope that is 1-inch thick over a chin-up bar and use it to do pull-ups. Grip the rope securely and pull yourself up, hold the move for several seconds and return to the starting position to complete one repetition.
Do two to three sets of 12 to 15 wrist circles. This is a good exercise for beginners and can be done anywhere. To do the move, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms outward at shoulder level. Without moving the rest of your body, rotate your wrists forward as if drawing circles in the air. One circle equals one repetition.
An exercise that is especially helpful to rock climbers is the thick handled pull-up. If you do not have a 2 inch diameter pull-up bar, 2 inch PVC pipe can be slipped over the 1 inch bar. After doing as many pull-ups as possible with the thick handled bar, you can hang onto the bar until you slip off. If unable to do pull-ups on the thicker bar, just hang on the bar until you slip off.
After slipping off, you can tire your forearm flexors even further by using wrist straps to help you stay a bit longer. A few seconds after falling off the bar, wrap the straps around the bar and grab on until you feel the right amount of fatigue in the forearms. Use the open straps that do not encircle the wrist. The straps with a loop that go all the way around the wrist can impede blood flow out of the hand and should not be used.
Squeeze hand grips 15 to 20 times during each upper body strength-training session. These items are available at most sporting goods supply stores. Grasp the handles and squeeze together to benefit your forearm muscles.