Many weight trainees, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts have great success in building their upper arms, but their forearms won't budge. In this training age of all sorts of lifting straps, machines, and other aids, many lifters are able to build the rest of their physiques to large proportions without heavily taxing their forearms or grip. Unfortunately, many people don't know how to properly train them. Here are some of the best forearm workouts to build your lower arms and grip:
1. Lose the Straps:
While lifting straps can be a great aid for training your back without worrying about your grip giving out, they can severely limit your grip strength and forearm development if you abuse them. One of the worst things you can do for your forearm development is to use straps for every set of every back exercise.
Instead, use straps only when absolutely necessary for your back work. Tax your grip on your warm-up sets and certain exercises by not using straps for those at all. You will see your grip and forearm strength rapidly improve.
2. Do High-Rep Lats Work
In addition to using straps only sparingly for back work, you should pick one or two back exercises on which you will not use straps at all. Have these movements be more about grip and forearm work than for building your lats and upper back.
My favorite movements for this purpose are seated cable rows and pull-ups. When I perform these exercises primarily for my forearms, I like to use high reps. Though the weight isn't as heavy, your forearms will grow from having to hold onto the weight (or your bodyweight) for so long.
Like any other movements, establish personal records for your high-rep back work, and try to break them every time you do them. I like to stay in the range of 20-30 reps, and increase the weight once I get past that.
3. Deadlift Heavy
The deadlift might be the best exercise for developing your grip. You can use the heaviest loads with it, and as long as you leave the straps at home, your grip will be taxed to the limit. Use a mixed grip (one hand over, one hand under) to ensure that you can keep holding on to the bar when the weights get very heavy.
The best way to perform the deadlift to help your forearm strength and size is the same way to perform it for the most overall muscle growth. Use low reps in the 4-6 rep range and as heavy a weight you can handle. If your grip gives out before the rest of your muscles, throw on straps for a second set.
4. Do Forearm Curls
Though the aforementioned strategies are going to give you the most growth in forearm strength and size, you should still do some direct work for them. After your biceps workout (or at the beginning if your forearms are really lagging), do some hammer curls, wrist curls, and reverse curls.
My favorite forearm curl is the rope hammer curl. Take a rope attachment and connect it to a pully set at the bottom position. Curl the weight up, keeping your fists in the hammer position around the ends of the rope. This will give you a good burn in your forearms and greatly assist your grip.
Another great grip exercise is the reverse EZ bar or barbell curl. It is performed exactly the same way as a regular barbell curl, but your hands are pronated over the bar. You bring your back hand up toward your chest, rather than your palms.