The perfect forearm workout should consist of exercises for not just wrist extension and flexion but other important forearm actions as well. That said, even that doesn’t make the forearm workout complete. In order to round out your forearms with a well rounded workout you need to fill in the gaps of what is lacking on those popular forearm exercises and put science back in your training. That is what we do in this video.
The problem with wrist curls and extensions isn’t just that they train simply a fraction of what the forearms are capable of but also in that many people do these two exercises incorrectly. For instance, if you look at the wrist curls for the palm side of your forearms you will see two major errors in performing them either with your elbows rested on a bench or standing with the bar in front of your thighs.
First, the gravity loaded nature of both will tend to push the bar further into the fingers as you fatigue. This is very problematic given that we have already identified in great detail how the strain on the distal finger tendons is one of the most common causes of medial elbow tendonitis and flare ups. The second major issue, particularly in the standing curl variation, is the tendency of the biceps to want to contribute to the curl and take over for the forearms. This will result in an understimulated and underdeveloped forearm muscle.
Instead, you will want to turn your hand over and perform the prone wrist curl shown in the video. The advantages of this are not only that they eliminate the contribution of the biceps to the exercise but it also prevents strain on the elbow. Remember, forearm work is often done multiple times per week given their high tolerance to volume and predominance of slow twitch muscle fibers. Accumulating high volume in a compromised setup will be magnified here and must be avoided.
In between all sets of this perfect forearm workout you are going to do one of the best slow twitch forearm muscle activators – the farmers carry. Grab a pair of heavier dumbbells and walk one lap around the gym back to the starting point to perform your second and final set of each exercise. If you are just starting out you can perform just one carry per exercise when you are splitting up right and left sides to ease into the overall volume.
Next you want to perform your reverse wrist extensions for the top sides of your forearms standing as well. This is because when performed on the edge of a bench you often times will remove the tension from the forearms in the peak contracted state (not what you want to do if you are trying to build bigger forearms). When done in standing, I prefer to do them as a reverse wrist roll for time paired up in ladder style with a reverse barbell curl to hit the brachioradialis (another prominent muscle in the forearm).
A complete forearm workout will also not forget to include exercises for radial and ulnar deviation as well as supination and pronation to hit all of the key functions of the area. Deep finger flexors are also integrated to be sure not to overlook the importance these muscles play on the overall size of the forearm given all of their muscle bellies lie within the forearm itself.
Here is how to construct the perfect forearm workout:
- PRONE WRIST CURLS – 2 x 12-15RM **
- WRIST CURL LADDER – 2 x LADDER FAILURE **
- REVERSE WRIST ROLLS x 1,2,3,4, etc seconds
- REVERSE BARBELL CURLS x 1,2,3,4 etc reps
- RADIAL / ULNAR DEVIATION – 2 x 12-15RM **
- SUPINATION / PRONATION – 2 x 12-15RM **
- CLIP GRIP COMBO – 2 x SUPERSET TO FAILURE **
- CLIP SQUEEZES TO FAILURE
- CLIP SQUEEZE WRIST ROCKS TO FAILURE
- DEAD ARM HANG BURNOUT x 1 MINUTE
When you put this together in the format as I’m suggesting here, you not only now hit the forearms through their full range of motion but you hit every function of the this multi joint influenced muscle group as well. The supersets and ladders allow for an intensification of the workout to ensure that you are creating enough overload to spark growth in these muscles.
This is just one example of how to apply science to your forearm workouts. If you want to train like an athlete you want to put science back in every workout you do. You can do that with the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs available at http://athleanx.com or click the link below and get started right away on building a ripped, muscular, athletic body.
For more forearm workout videos that also hit the brachioradialis and help to build bigger arms, be sure to subscribe to our channel here on youtube at the link below and don’t forget to turn on notifications so you never miss one.
Build Muscle in 90 Days – http://athleanx.com/x/my-workouts
Subscribe to this channel here – http://youtube.com/user/jdcav24
the 5 FUNCTIONS OF THE FOREARM
There are 5 important movements that the forearm muscles are responsible for.
I’ll demonstrate the different types of forearm movements so you can visualize how these muscles work and you’ll see that I chose exercises for my Perfect Forearm Workout that target each of these important forearm functions.
THE best FOREARM WORKOUT: step by step
For each of the elements on this Perfect Forearm Workout, I’m going to show you some of the most commonly done forearm exercises and why they’re problematic. Then I’ll show you a better way to work the same forearm function that will help you make better gains and avoid common injuries.
1. WRIST FLEXION AND ENDURANCE: prone wrist curl and farmer’s carry
The typical forms of the Wrist Curl can cause elbow problems and prevent you from maximizing your forearm gains.
Let’s take a look at two main problems that typical wrist curls can cause. Then we’ll look at a better way to do this exercise, and we’ll cover ways you can do this exercise both in the gym and at home.
There are two major issues with this common variation of the Wrist Curl.
- We all know our bodies are masters of compensation. So when you begin to fatigue, your biceps begin to take over, which isn’t what we want if we’re trying to build our forearms.
- The gravity loaded nature of the wrist curl strains the distal finger tendons and is one of the most common causes of medial elbow tendonitis and flare ups.
As we begin to fatigue we’re allowing the bar to sink down into the distal metacarpals of our fingers. That is a lot of load for those distal finger tendons and it’s the number one cause of medial elbow pain that we deal with.
This is even the case when we grip the bar during rows, but it gets magnified when we do forearm work. Since many of us train forearms three to four times a week, this problem is even worse especially if they’re a weak point of ours.
Some people believe that if you do the wrist curl standing behind your back it solves the biceps problem, but you can see that the distal finger tendons are still strained against gravity, putting you at risk for elbow problems.
Other people will say that doing wrist curls on the bench is better, but you can see that once again, those finger tendons are being stressed and you’re on your way to an elbow injury.
To counteract this problem, use a cable instead and turn the hand over to perform a Prone Wrist Curl. Not only does this eliminate the contribution of the biceps to the exercise but it also prevents strain on the elbow.
prone WRIST CURL
I’ve bent my elbow here and am taking the biceps out of this movement. Also, as I’m pushing away I’m getting a more intense contraction of the forearm muscles with this variation.
If you don’t have access to a cable machine, you can replicate the same movement using a resistance band.
The handle is sinking deeper into my palm as opposed to my fingers, helping take all the stress off the medial elbow.
You can do one of these two variations three to four times a week to train the forearm without those negative side effects to the elbow.
EXERCISE NOTES: Perform 2 sets of 10-15RM of either the Cable Prone Wrist Curl on the Banded Prone Wrist Curl with a set of Farmer’s Carry after each set (see below).
In between all sets of this Perfect Forearm Workout you are going to do one of the best slow twitch forearm muscle activators – the Farmers Carry.
You’re going to be doing a lot of them and there’s a reason for it. The forearms need to have endurance capabilities to grip and hold for a long period of time. Not only do we use them constantly throughout the day, but they could completely save us in a survival situation.
We’re going to train the forearms with a set of carries in between every, single exercise we do in this workout today.
EXERCISE NOTES: Grab a pair of heavier dumbbells and walk one lap around the gym back to the starting point after each set of every exercise in this workout. If you are just starting out you can perform just one carry per exercise when you are splitting up right and left sides to ease into the overall volume.
2. WRIST EXTENSION
Moving over to the opposite side of the forearm, wrist extension is a critical function we need to train.
But there is a major problem with typical Wrist Extension exercises!
They take tension off the forearm as we get closer to the top which prevents us from getting the activation we’re going for. Let’s look at this problem in more depth and see what we can do to fix it.
When we perform the Wrist Extension on the edge of a bench, it removes the tension from the forearms in the peak contracted state (not what you want to do if you are trying to build bigger forearms).
When we look at the physics of the performance of this exercise, we can see that when the hand gets up to the top into full extension, gravity is acts down through the wrist. There’s less force here than there is when gravity is acting perpendicular to the wrist, so the closer we get to the top, the less tension on the forearm.
We could fix the issue by performing the Reverse Wrist Extension standing with an opposite roll. You can see that even at its peak into full extension I’m still completely perpendicular to the force of gravity.
This means my forearm is doing a lot of work to hold this, which is what we are looking for.
reverse WRIST EXTENSION
When done in standing, I like to do the Reverse Curl with opposite roll aired up in ladder style with a Reverse Barbell Curl to hit the brachioradialis (another prominent muscle in the forearm).
EXERCISE NOTES: Do one second of Reverse Wrist Extension with opposite roll followed by one rep of a Reverse Curl. Then do two seconds of Reverse Wrist Extension followed by two reps of a Reverse Curl. Work your way up a ladder as high as you can until you reach failure. Then do a Farmer’s Carry around the gym.
3. RADIAL AND ULNAR DEVIATION
Radial deviation and ulnar deviation are the two ways the wrist bends in the frontal plane.
These represent two more functions of the wrist which activate the forearm muscles, and you don’t want to neglect them in your training.
You may have seen people recommend using a sledgehammer down at their side to work on radial deviation and ulnar deviation.
What’s the problem with this?
Well, you might not have a sledgehammer handy!
We can do something to work radial and ulnar deviation in the gym with a rope, which most people DO have access to. To work ulnar deviation you’ll stand close and put your hand down at your side, going from neutral (or a little bit of radial deviation) down into ulnar deviation.
rope RADIAL AND ULNAR DEVIATION
Then you move to Radial Deviation and perform a similar movement but pushing with the pinky side of our hand into radial deviation.
EXERCISE NOTES: Do a set of of Ulnar Deviation using the rope followed by a set of Farmer’s Carry and repeat on one arm. Then perform the same sequence on the other arm. Then do a set of Radial Deviation using the rope followed by a set of Farmer’s Carry and repeat on one arm. Then perform the sequence on the other arm.
4. SUPINATION AND PRONATION
Supination and pronation are the twisting movements of the wrist and yet another function of the forearms.
The exercise some people use for working supination and pronation just isn’t very effective. Let’s take a look at why that is and explore a much better way to get activation in these positions.
You’ve probably seen some people at the gym doing these dumbbell twirls to try to work pronation and supination. The problem with this is that you’re falling into pronation and supination instead of resisting the motion, which isn’t good for building forearm strength.
Again, we can use the rope at the gym to work pronation. I’m pushing my fingers into the rope to pronate my forearm. From a supinated position, turn the forearm over, and push out with this finger into the rope, and you’ll get that resisted pronation on every, single rep.
rope SUPINATION AND PRONATION
You can see how the underside of the forearms are working hard as I go down into pronation.
To work Supination with the rope I’ll take my hand to the side and position myself facing out, back toward the machine.
Now, we know that the bicep is obviously a supinator, but it’s not the only one. We’ve got a supinator muscle in our forearm that you can see working to accomplish this.
These particular muscles are almost never trained with resistance, so they’ll respond pretty quickly to these exercises to add size to your forearms.
EXERCISE NOTES: Do one set of Pronation to failure and then a set of Farmer’s Carry around the gym. Then return to do a set of Supination to failure and another set of Farmer’s Carry around the gym. Repeat on the opposite arm.
5. INTRINSIC HAND STRENGTH/GRIPPING
We now want to work those intrinsic hand muscles that I talked about. You’re probably wondering, “Why does that really matter? We’re talking about my forearm, Jeff.”
As you saw earlier, the activation of our fingers dramatically influences what goes on in our forearms because all of those tendons and muscle bellies run down through the forearms into our fingers.
We can work intrinsic hand strength by doing some hand squeezes with a clip from the gym. We’re taking our fingers and moving them from a straight to a flexed position to get activation of the forearm.
I do a set to failure and then back off the tension a bit and begin to move the wrist into extension and flexion to work these two functions.
CLIP SQUEEZE WRIST ROCKS
I’m shortening the flexors in my forearm as I do this, and it gets hard to maintain tension here in flexion, but that’s what I’m trying to work on. I’m trying to maintain the ability to contract and generate force, even in a shortened state.
EXERCISE NOTES: Perform the clip squeezes until failure and then go back and forth into extension and flexion at the wrist until you can’t control it anymore. Do this on each side with a set of Farmer’s Carry in between each one.
6. FINISHER: DEAD ARM HANG TEST
We’ve got one final grueling test to put the finishing nail in this coffin. It’s the Dead Arm Hang.
You already probably know how much of a fan I am of this exercise. What we’re doing here is trying to hold on for as long as we can. When we’re fresh, 1:40 is a good average time. But we’ve exhausted our forearms at this point. So, what I’m looking for here is to see if you can hold for one minute.
The bar is going to start to slide into your fingers. Try not to let that happen because of the strain on the distal fingers metacarpals we talked about earlier and the stress it puts on the elbow.
DEAD ARM HANG
EXERCISE NOTES: Try to do the Dead Arm Hang for one complete minute as a killer finish to this Perfect Forearm Workout. Really squeeze, hold and activate the forearms.
So here is the entire Perfect Forearm Workout, step by step, all sets, all reps for you guys to follow.
perfect forearm workout
**IMPORTANT NOTE: INTERSET EXERCISE – DB FARMER’S CARRY (ONE LAP)
1. PRONE WRIST CURLS – 2 x 12-15RM **
2. WRIST CURL LADDER – 2 x LADDER TO FAILURE **
A. REVERSE WRIST ROLLS x 1,2,3,4, etc. seconds
B. REVERSE BARBELL CURLS x 1,2,3,4, etc. reps
3. RADIAL / ULNAR DEVIATION – 2 x 12-15RM **
4. SUPINATION / PRONATION – 2 x 12-15RM **
5. CLIP GRIP COMBO – 2 x SUPERSET TO FAILURE **
A. CLIP GRIP SQUEEZES TO FAILURE (SUPERSET WITH B)
B. CLIP SQUEEZE WRIST ROCKS TO FAILURE
6. DEAD ARM HANG BURNOUT x 1 MINUTE
When you put our forearm workout together in the format as I’m suggesting here, you not only now hit the forearms through their full range of motion, but you hit every function of the this multi-joint influenced muscle group as well.
- The forearms are made up of lots of muscles, all of which are influenced by the wrists, hands and elbows. Doing wrist curls and extensions alone is not enough.
- There are five major functions of the forearms that the Perfect Forearm Workout should cover: ulnar deviation, radial deviation, wrist flexion, finger flexion and pronation.
- There are major problems with the typical forearm exercises done by most people. This Perfect Forearm Workout teaches you why they’re problematic and better ways to more effectively work all of the major forearm functions.
This is just one example of how to apply science to your forearm workouts. If you want to train like an athlete and you want to put science back in every workout you do check out our ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and get started right away on building a ripped, muscular, athletic body.