A lot of guys with average to above average genetics will never need to do any direct forearm work and their forearms will grow just fine from presses and pulls. The rest of us won’t be so lucky.
It’s funny because the common message preached to skinny hardgainers is to forget isolation training and only focus on compound lifts. This is true at the beginning, but after training for many years isolation work for small bodyparts like the neck, forearms and calves actually becomes more important to the hardgainer than it does to everyone else. Genetically average little dudes with tiny joints will never build up those the forearms and calves to any appreciable size with training them directly and with quite a lot of volume.
Over the course of many years I went from 147 pounds to 231 pounds yet my calves and forearms showed less progress than any other part of my body. I’ve seen this time and time again over the years. It wasn’t until I started hammer my forearms hard and with high volume and frequency that they actually got anywhere above the size of a teenage girls.
And that’s the first rule of building bigger forearms… That the forearms can tolerate and will need a lot of work to show dramatic improvements.
Train them three to four days per week for anywhere from 4-10 sets per day. If you do three full body workouts per week include them at the end of each workout. If you do an upper/lower split four days per week, again hit them every day.
I recommend breaking forearm training down into the following components:
Wrist Flexion and Extension
These are wrist curls and reverse wrist curls. Do 3-4 sets in each direction for 10-20 reps. My favorites are:
• Behind the Back Barbell Wrist Curls
• Dumbbell Wrist Curls
• EZ Bar Reverse Wrist Curl
• 1 Arm Dumbbell Reverse Wrist Curl (with arm straight and supported on an incline bench so that your wrist is higher than your shoulder)
Radial and Ulnar Deviation
Think of an air traffic controller holding batons and waving the plane in, but without bending his elbows or allowing any movement at the shoulder. So basically all that’s happening is your thumb is moving back toward you. That’s radial deviation. The opposite motion is ulnar deviation. The easiest way to train this is with a sledgehammer. Simply hold one at your side with your elbow locked and cock your wrist up. Hold it for a second or two at the top and repeat for 10-20 reps, then do the other arm. After completing a set in that direction spin the sledgehammer around so that the head of it is now behind your body instead of in front and flex in the opposite direction so that your pinky comes toward your forearm (ulnar deviation). Repeat for 10-20 reps. Three to four sets will be a good starting point.
Supination and Pronation
Again you will use the sledgehammer for this. Sit down on a bench with you palm facing up, forearm resting on your quad and a sledgehammer in your hand. Simply rotate your wrist 180 degrees so that your palm is now facing down. Then reverse the motion and go back the other way. Three to four sets of 10-20 reps in each direction will do the job. This can also be done on an adjustable cable column. Start by attaching a rope to the pulley, setting it slightly higher than belly button height and standing with your side to it. Now bend your arm 90 degrees and grab one end of the rope attachment with your palm facing up like the midrange position of a curl. Now simply turn your palm over so that’s facing the ground. Repeat for 10-20 reps, do the other arm and the repeat by starting with your palm facing down and supinating in the opposite direction.
For these you can use a fat bar or Fat Gripz placed on a regular bar. Simply hold the weights for 30-60 seconds while trying to crush the bar. Do three to four sets with a minute in between, or 15-30 seconds if you’re alternating it with something like neck or calves.
If you do crushing grip work it’s usually a good idea from an elbow health standpoint to do something in the opposite direction. I recommend getting some Expand Your Hands Bands from Ironmind and doing timed sets of 30-60 seconds for as many reps as possible. However long you go on the holds, do the same with the bands.
Wrist roller work is awesome for building bigger forearms, especially if your wrist roller has a thick diameter. I like to do these for reps instead of time as well. Three to four sets of 30-60 seconds in each direction will give you a massive pump and spark some nice growth in the forearms.
Fat Grip Work
For some people just doing curls with Fat Gripz will be enough to build bigger forearms. Hardgainers will need to do direct work as I mentioned above. However, I still think using the Fat Gripz is a good idea and should be part of your forearm building program.
So, not counting the fat grip work I listed five different ways that you should be training your forearms. Pick one each day you train and stick with it for a month. Then rotate and use some of the other methods.
Another option would be to just rotate through each of them like this:
Day 1- Wrist Flexion and Extension
Day 2- Radial and Ulnar Deviation
Day 3- Wrist Roller
Day 4- Supination and Pronation
Day 1- Static Holds
Day 2- Wrist Flexion and Extension
Day 3- Radial and Ulnar Deviation
Day 4- Wrist Roller
If you train three days adjust accordingly. Or just hit a separate forearm session before or after your day four conditioning workout.
As always, strive to get stronger and do more weight or more reps over time.
And stretch the hell out of your forearms when they are fully pumped after your final set for the day.
One word of caution regarding direct forearm work, though…
The forearm muscles may be able to tolerate an inordinate amount of work. The wrist joint, however, can not.
Joint stress is a major limiting factor in training volume from head to toe and the forearms are no different. So ease your way into forearm training very slowly and build up the volume gradually over many weeks and months. Hit them hard for 4-8 weeks then back off and do no direct forearm work for the next 1-3 weeks. That approach should help you pack on size while avoiding wrist problems.
If you have any other questions about how to build bigger forearms please let me know in the comments section below.