There are 4 types of people when it comes to forearm training:
1) We all know the guy with 10 inch wrists who has never trained their forearms in their life. Yet they seem to have huge forearms. More power to them but most people have bad forearm genetics as far as i’m concerned. Having a small muscle group should be reason enough to develop that muscle!
2) Then we have the guys with decent forearms who don’t do any direct work for them.They do heavy deadlifts, rows and shrugs without straps and their forearms still grow.
3) Then you have the third camp of people who do heavy deadlifts and shrugs without straps but still have lagging forearms, these are the people who should be training their forearms with direct work and making it a priority.
4) No matter what you do, don’t be the fourth group who doesn’t even care if they have small forearms.
BASIC FOREARM ANATOMY
Most people who train their forearms end up getting elbow pain due to unbalanced training. When training the forearms there should be about a 1:1 ratio of extension and flexion work. Way too many people do too much flexion work while neglecting the extension component. There has to be balance in your training with every bodypart. For example, most people get a lot of shoulder pain because of too much front delt work while neglecting the rear delts.
THE KING OF FOREARM EXERCISES: THE WRIST ROLLER
The Squat is known as the king of lower body exercises, the bench is the king of chest exercises and the Military press is the king of shoulder exercises. Well I believe that the wrist roller is the king of forearm builders. The reasons for this are simple:
1) The wrist roller isn’t an isometric exercise so the wrists move in their full ranges of motion unlike the farmer walk. Not to say that isometrics are bad because I include some in my training such as the front lever, but honestly, what do you think would be better for building up bigger biceps: a hammer curl where the biceps go through their full range of motion or a bicep isometric hold? Both are great for bicep development but I would go with the full range of motion curl.
2) With the wrist roller you can hit the forearms more directly without worrying about the traps, core, lower back and other muscles that might get in the way of you building bigger forearms. When you are doing wrist curls you are able to fully isolate your forearms which is exactly what we want to do.
3) Get more out of less weight. When I was doing farmers walks I was doing 2x my bodyweight for long distances with a trap bar and my forearms still remained puny. With the wrist roller, I never really went over 25lb, I focused on higher reps while getting good squeezes and a good pump because it’s a smaller muscle.
COMMON WRIST ROLLER QUESTIONS
Do I have to do a front raise with the wrist roller when performing the exercise like in the picture above?
No. I used to do this and would notice that my front delts would fatigue faster than my forearms which wasn’t what I wanted and it also limited the weight that I was able to use in the exercise as well. So I switched to doing it the way Bruce Lee did it in the picture below.
Not only are you able to use more weight to hit your forearms, but this way also hits the biceps very well in an isometric fashion so you can kill two birds with one stone.
What is a good rep range to do for wrist roller forearm work as far as hypertrophy is concerned?
This is a good question and there isn’t only one answer because different rep ranges have different effects on different people. People like Elliott Hulse say that they grow very well when doing 5×5 while I personally found that I grow the most when I do 4×8, you have to see what works for you. Since the forearms are a small muscle I would advise that you go with higher reps. I NEVER recommend doing reps below 8 on small muscles such as the neck, calves and forearms. I actually rarely ever go under 10 reps on direct bicep, tricep, rear delt and medial delt either. The smaller muscles are somewhat more sensitive to a certain degree and I don’t like to go ultra heavy. I like to get better squeezes, a good pump and go for higher reps. So one rep on the wrist roller would be when the weight is at the top, goes down and then comes back up. There isn’t one answer because some wrist rollers have very long strings or chains. I would recommend that your set lasts 45 seconds to a minute and 30 seconds at the very least. Time under tension is very important for building size and it’s even more important when doing isolation work.
How many times per week should I do forearm work?
I would start with once or twice per week just to get used to it and then I would slowly increase the volume and frequency from there. It all depends on what the rest of your program looks like. The forearms can take a lot of abuse, but the wrists can‘t so don’t go too crazy on the volume and frequency. You know you’re better than I do so if you see that 8 sets 3x per week is hurting your elbows then try only doing it twice per week or lower your volume and frequency on your direct arm training.
When exactly should I do my forearm work, on off days, at the end of a workout or at the beginning?
It depends on how much of a priority it is for you. If you want bigger forearms then do some dedicated work after your workout. If you are VERY SERIOUS about getting bigger forearms than you could train them on an off day for half an hour or something. Another good idea would be to do it a few hours after your workout so you can do it while you are fresh. An example would be let’s say that you hit your upper body at 2pm in the afternoon, you then get home, rest, do what you need to do and at 10:30pm you can get a forearm workout in until 11pm. This way you were able to get some rest between the 2 workouts and you can hit your forearms while you are fresher, hit them first and really focus on them. The choice is yours, you have a million options. It all comes down to priorities at the end of the day, focus mostly on what you have at the top of the list, simple.
10 MORE TIPS FOR BUILDING BIG FOREARMS
1. DO HIGH REP ROWS, PULL-UP/CHIN-UP, SHRUGS WITHOUT STRAPS.
This is good for your forearms because they have to work hard on holding onto the bar without straps.
2. INCLUDE HAMMER CURLS, REVERSE EZ-BAR CURLS OR PINWHEEL CURLS.
The 3 curling variations above all hit the forearms in different ways and a lot more than the conventional curl, make sure that you include one or two of them in your programs for overall forearm and bicep development. If I had to pick one it would be the hammer curl because it’s the easiest on the elbows and wrists.
As a bonus, you should do your curls on a preacher bench to avoid cheating as well!
3. DO ALL OF YOUR CURLS WITH FATGRIPZ.
If you happen to have fatgripz then consider yourself lucky, they are great for direct arm work because they force your forearms to work harder when holding onto the bar.
4. OLYMPIC LIFTS WITHOUT STRAPS.
My forearms rarely ever grew or got sore but when I started incorporating high pulls (without straps for warm-up sets) I noticed that they would get sore and my forearms didn’t look like I was twelve years old.
5. STRETCH YOUR FOREARMS AT THE END TO PREVENT INJURIES.
This is a very important tip to help avoid wrist and forearm injuries. I know that stretching is boring but I think we can all take a good 5 minutes to stretch those forearms at the end of the workout, you will thank me in the long term.
6. FOCUS ON PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD BUT ONLY TO A CERTAIN DEGREE
I am all for progressive overload, but there comes a certain point when you start loading the joints instead of the muscle. A neck curl or wrist curl with 3 plates doesn’t sound safe to me. There is no one weight that is labelled as dangerous, but if you keep progressing on wrist curls in the next few years you will eventually reach a point where it will be enough weight and then you can focus on getting even higher reps. Let’s say that you eventually reach to 185 on wrist curls for 10 reps, it might be a good idea to just get better contractions and go for higher reps than trying to get to 225 on a wrist curl. By the time you get to a 225 wrist curl you will probably have screwed up wrists anyways so what’s the point? If you want to go extremely heavy on forearm exercises then do farmers walks or deadlifts without straps.
Nobody cares about how much you wrist curl!
7. GET SOME SOFT TISSUE WORK DONE ON YOUR FOREARMS FOR INJURY PREVENTION
Every now and then it would be a wise choice to get some soft tissue work done by someone who knows how to do it properly. If you never do this then you will accumulate joint pain and it won’t be pretty in the future.
8. DUMBBELL WRIST CURLS & EXTENSIONS CAN BE INCLUDED BUT GO LIGHT FOR HIGH REPS
I’m not the biggest fan of wrist curls and wrist extensions because they are extremely boring which is why I chose the wrist roller over it. In the bodybuilding community people such as Chris Jones from POG say that the wrist curl is the king of forearm exercises and he has good forearms so he isn’t saying it for nothing, they work. Generally speaking, the wrist roller and wrist curl are pretty similar, just pick the one you can see yourself doing. If you choose to do both then do the one you are able to go heavier on first.
9. HIGH FREQUENCY WORKS WELL FOR FOREARMS IN MOST CASES
Smaller muscles like the neck, calves, biceps and forearms generally recover pretty fast so you should hit your forearms directly at least twice per week to really make progress.
10. ARM WRESTLE WITH FRIENDS FROM TIME TO TIME
Arm wrestling isn’t only fun friendly competition but it will work your hit your biceps and forearms in a different way known as manual resistance.
Big forearms are a beautiful thing but remember that the important thing is that you train them.
“Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do”