Strong and powerful forearms are key to your success, no matter if you have goals of competing in the “World’s Strongest Man” competitions, or if you are simply interested in increasing your grip strength so that you can use more weight on your lat pulldowns and deadlifts. Most bodybuilders have developed decent biceps, but their forearms are often underdeveloped by comparison.
Weak forearms prevent a bodybuilder from holding on to a heavy bar until the muscles of the back and trapezius are completely fatigued. Although hand straps help maintain contact with the bar during heavy deadlifts, rows and pulldowns, excessive use of straps will also reduce the need for the forearms to improve their strength. This will contribute to forearm underdevelopment relative to the upper arms. If this is your experience, then you need some specific attention to both the anterior forearm muscles.
Anterior Forearm Muscles
The superficial group of anterior forearm muscles includes the pronator teres, flexor carpi radialis, palmaris longus, flexor carpi ulnaris and flexor digitorum superficialis. These all attach to a common flexor tendon, which is attached to the medial epicondyle of the humerus. These five superficial muscles cross the elbow joint. Three deeper muscles of the anterior forewarm, the flexor digitorum profundus, flexor policis longus and pronator quadratus, do not.
The long flexors of the digits (flexor digitorum superficialist and flexor digitorum profundus) attach to the metacarpal bones, and distally on the ulna and radius bones near the wrist. these muscles flex the wrist (i.e./ move the palm of the hand toward the anterior surface of the forearm) and also flex the first joint of the digits. The deep flexors attach to the phalange bones of the digits more distally, and cause flexion of each of the fingers and the thumb.
Anterior Wrist Curls
1. Pick up a barbell with your hands supinated (palms facing forward) and about six inches apart.
2. Sit on the bench and place the posterior side of each forearm on the corresponding lower part of your thigh. Your wrists should hang over your knees and your palms should be facing upward as you grip the bar in this position.
3. Lower the weight toward the floor by extending your wrists. Try to exaggerate the depth to which you lower the bar because this wil increase the stretch that occurs across the muscles of the anterior forearm. Stretching the muscles against tension is an excellent stimulus for muscle growth.
4. At the bottom position, loosen your grip on the barbell so it rolls to the midpoint of your fingers.
5. Flex your fingers as you bring the bar back into the palm of your hand and tighten your grip around the bar. Lift the bar by raising your hands and flex your hand at the wrist joint. Bring the bar up all of the way possible, but do not lift your forearms from your thighs.
6. Immediately begin the descent of the weight, but do this slowly. Remember to control the weight and resist the weight as it returns back toward the floor. As you fatigue through your sets, you will have the tendency to reduce the range of motion and the amount that you move the bar in each. You should make every effort to keep a full range of motion, but rather than stopping prematurely, continue your sets with either forced reps with the help of a training partner, or complete 5 to 10 partial reps at the end of your full-rep sets.
Remember to lover the weight above twice as slowly, as each of your partner-assigned forced reps in your set. You should not drop the wrist into the extended position, or this could “jam” the wrist. This is because the tendons crossing the wrist from the anterior portions of the forearm muscles can be injured easily if the exercise is not controlled in both directions. In addition, this will result in soft tissue damage and swelling around the wrist joint. This type of injury and the associated pain will adversely affect almost every upper-body exercise in your routine. If your wrists give you any problems, or if you have a prior wrist injury, you might wish to try using an E-Z curl ba, rather than a straight bar. However, it is a little more cumbersome to loosen the fingers and retighten them on the E-Z bar.
The muscle bellies of the flexor digitorium muscles and each of the other deeper extensors of the forearm will slowly begin to thicken and strengthen as they adapt to each workout. You should not expect this to be a rapid or overnight explosion in your forearm mass. Rather, the progress in your forearms will be slow, but it will be worth the additional mass and strength that you will display between your wrist and elbows. In addition to the dded forearm thickness, your grip strength will become like clamps each time you grasp a bar.
Training forearms with the goal of developing a veiny, rock-like mass ensures that you must light fires inside your lower arms in each workout. If you have been doing the exercise correctly, your forearms will be burning after 5 reps. Of course, if that is not the case, you may be lifting the forearms of your thighs and/or you may be using a weight that is too light. On the other hand, don’t use a weight so heavy that you are only doing partial reps, rather than full movements. The long muscle bellies of the anterior forearm muscles should heave and slither like the cables on each full-wrist flexion. Don’t let the forearm pain affect your resolve to reach your goals, but rather allow affect your resolve to strengthen your desire for huge and crushing forearms and superhuman grip strength!