How to grow your forearms

Posted by Dayne Hudson in Muscle Building

Estimated reading time: 4mins

How to grow your forearms | Bulk Nutrients Blog

The anatomy of the forearms

Let's begin by discussing forearm anatomy. 

The main two categories we need to divide our forearm muscles into are the flexors and extensors. 

Take a look at your flexors below:

Superficial flexor muscles of the anterior forearm

Now, your extensors:

Muscles in the superficial layer of the posterior forearm

Our flexors are used for flexing our fingers and wrist (bending) whilst the extensors are obviously for extending.

And when we perform something like tricep pushdowns with our palms facing down, in what's called a pronated grip; our flexors are responsible for that getting our hands into that position.

And our extensors are responsible for our palms facing up in a supinated grip when we do something like barbell curls. 

And how much forearm training we need really depends on a few things, notably genetics.

If we're naturally born with large forearms, training them doesn't seem to make much sense, as they get worked when we train our back, shoulders, arms, and chest heavily. 

Biceps curls, dumbbell rows, military presses and bench presses will all work your forearms.

But it's critical to remember this; adopting the principle of progressive overload with your back, chest and arm training will do you wonders. 

Forearms aside, doing this will help you grow those muscles a whole lot faster.

Progressive overload directly drives muscle growth. It is simply increasing the workload for your muscles beyond what they're currently used to.

For example, bench pressing 100 kilograms last week and 105 this week is progressive overload in action.

Research shows we can practice progressive overload in the following four ways:

  1. Increasing the amount of weight we lift.
  2. Increasing the training volume by increasing the number of reps, sets, or exercises performed.
  3. Altering rest periods.
  4. Increasing rep speed during lighter loads.

Additional research reveals number one is the most popular progressive overload method. 

So, by training properly, your forearms should be growing with respect to the rest of your upper body.

But chances are if you're reading this article, it's because you're looking for forearm exercises to get you to a better place than your current training has achieved.

The best forearm exercises for muscle growth

The first one is the barbell hold.

As you can see below, hold the bar for up to 20 seconds (or longer if you can!) with a challenging weight.

Rest for up to 2 minutes before starting another set. You'll find your strength might increase from month to month quite quickly, so don't be shy to load up the bar more, and practice the aforementioned progressive overload! 

Offset barbell holds are great for training your forearms

The other great exercise is the dumbbell farmers walks, as seen below. 

Dumbbell farmers walks are great for training your forearms

Be sure to choose a very challenging weight and walk for around 10-15 metres (one set). You can lift much more weight than you think here.

After walking, you'll find your forearms will get very tired. Increase the weight more and more as time goes on to ensure growth.

The other strategy that works your forearms is training your hand grip. 

And we can do that by using a hand exerciser, as seen below:

Hand grips are great for training your forearms

You can be watching TV and performing reps with this exercise!

You simply squeeze the tool for five or six sets for around 10-12 reps. Rest for the usual 1:30-2 minutes between sets afterwards.

Lastly, plate pinchers are another great way:

Plate pinchers are great for training your forearms

Once you can comfortably hold the plates for twenty seconds, grab another plate the same size and keep pinching!

Three sets are a good start here.

The bottom line is that forearms are largely genetic, but focusing on training your upper body properly with the principle of progressive overload, will give you your best chance at achieving large forearms. We're talking about back, shoulder, chest and arm training. If that's not quite cutting it, then dumbbell holds and farmers walks are a great strategy. Just ensure you aren't shy about lifting a heavy amount of weight; you're stronger with these exercises than you think! The other way to train your forearms is by training your handgrip; with a hand exerciser or by plate pinchers.

References:

  1. Goldberg AL, Etlinger JD, Goldspink DF, Jablecki C. Mechanism of work-induced hypertrophy of skeletal muscle. Med Sci Sports. 1975 Fall;7(3):185-98. PMID: 128681. 
  2. Lorenz DS, Reiman MP, Walker JC. Periodization: current review and suggested implementation for athletic rehabilitation. Sports Health. 2010;2(6):509-518. doi:10.1177/1941738110375910
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